Wednesday, May 12, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Clerk:It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker.
Deputy Speaker takes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers. I would ask members to bow their heads in a moment of silent reflection.
Deputy Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Canada Health Day
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to join me in recognizing what is being referred to as Canadaís premier health event, Canada Health Day.
Across the country, this day is dedicated to recognizing new developments in health technology and health care. It is a time for reflection and a time to show appreciation for the people who deliver our health care services. It is also a time to consider our future needs and to review our capacity to meet those needs. It comes during National Nursing Week, which is appropriate in helping us focus our attention on our health care professionals.
Much has been said recently in this House and elsewhere about the need to work collaboratively with various levels of government to ensure the best health care system for all people. No one recognizes that more than this government.
Today is the actual birthday of Florence Nightingale, who, throughout her life, demonstrated commitment and sacrifice to improving the health and welfare of all people. She is an example of a true health care professional. Around the world we are indeed fortunate that our health care professionals live up to the standards she set, creating one of the best systems in the world here in Canada.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: It gives me great pleasure today to rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute on this Canada Health Day, May 12.
On this day, we would also like to extend our heartfelt thanks to those health care workers who work so diligently to provide us with excellent care. All Canadians recognize the importance of health care, and it has been said that it is the one issue that brings us together as a nation.
We are honoured to be members of the political party that was instrumental in establishing universal medicare for Canadians. It is said that medicare distinguishes us as a nation across the globe, in contrast with private systems that exist in other countries.
A leader in progressive health care, Roy Romanow headed the royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. This historic report has created a blueprint for health care in Canada. After extensive consultation across Canada, the Romanow report recommended a federal cash infusion to expand medicare. It stated that Ottawa should fund insured health care services in provinces and territories at a minimum of 25 percent, and that we must start building a national home care program.
Most importantly, there are many recommendations in this report toward the prevention of illness. We must work toward a preventative rather than a curative model of health care by integrating healthy lifestyles if we are to reduce health care costs.
I am proud to announce that we have fully endorsed the Romanow report and Iím grateful for this opportunity to talk about the health platform we announced yesterday. We do not endorse privatization of health care, which all Canadians are beginning to realize has many pitfalls. We are calling on Ottawa to change the law to stop public money paying for private, for-profit delivery of health care and we want to increase federal funding for health care to 25 percent. We are preparing for an ageing population by relieving the burden on hospitals and families through a national home care program, and we endorse pharmacare.
On this Canada Health Day, thank you for this opportunity to bring these important concepts to this House and the Yukon public.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus. Today marks Canada Health Day, and I would especially recognize Yukonís health care system and our health care providers.
In Canada, a country that prides itself on our health care, the Yukon system is second to none, if not the very best, in the country. We have since the days of the YHCIS ó the Yukon health care insurance services in the 1960s ó to the introduction of medicare, to the challenges in health care today, enjoyed a publicly funded, readily accessible health care, and Yukoners will proudly tell you itís the best.
We have innovative programs like Healthy Families, Healthy Children, a First Nations health centre at the hospital, which has sparked interest throughout the country when visiting health ministers and premiers have had an opportunity to view it. Our innovative programs have shown results. The "Style: It Takes Two" program that made condoms available reduced our teenage pregnancy rates. Our home care is publicly funded and by and large available and increasingly invaluable to the sandwich generation finding themselves caring for ageing parents. Not having to pay for your flights Outside for medical treatment and the care we receive Outside because we pay our bills have lessened the worry for the family of the ill and enhanced the pride that Yukoners have in our system.
Our drug programs, modeled on the Saskatchewan formulary, are the envy of Maritime Canada. To the Yukonís health care system, the employees who make it work, our health care providers, we offer our tribute and our thanks.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the incorporation of Watson Lake, Mayo, Teslin, Haines Junction and Carmacks
Hon. Mr. Hart:I rise today to pay tribute to five Yukon municipalities that are celebrating their 20th year of incorporation this year. In 1984, the following Yukon communities were recognized officially as legal corporations: the Town of Watson Lake on April 1; the Village of Mayo on June 1; the Village of Teslin on August 1; the Village of Haines Junction on October 1; and the Village of Carmacks on November 1.
These communities were established long ago and the areas have been the home of Yukon First Nation people for centuries. They were the gathering places that developed as trade and service centres. In recent history they continued this growth through Yukon development in mining, transportation and tourism.
Incorporation was another step in the evolution of modern Yukon communities. Incorporation came with many advantages and, no doubt, many challenges. Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are all proud of the development of our communities and how they individually and together through the Association of Yukon Communities rise to meet modern day challenges. The mayors and the councils of these municipalities have worked diligently over the years to continue to provide their local residents with improved services, facilities and programs. They work hard to better the lives of the people they serve. On behalf of Yukon residents, I thank them.
Life in the Yukon has its challenges, and though we are often fixated on the problems the communities must face, often out of necessity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, itís important to remember just how far we have come. Watson Lake, Mayo, Teslin, Haines Junction and Carmacks have made many positive changes in the last 20 years. These communities have grown and developed municipal expertise and staff professionalism. It is the dedication of the current and past mayors and councils, together with the hard work of the present and previous administration and staff, that has raised the quality of life for residents in these communities.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to thank the residents of these communities that have served on municipal councils over the years. The care and effort of the municipal leaders has changed life in rural Yukon. We must also recognize the citizens of each of these communities for their role in the electoral process and their continued involvement to assist their elected officials in delivering their mandate. The Yukon government very much values the advice and local knowledge that our municipal partners provide us on many issues.
Municipal governments face many challenges. It is the level of government that most touches the day-to-day lives of our residents through the provision of fire protection, water and sewer services, waste management, recreation, local roads and more.
The Yukon government works proudly with our municipal partners to assist in meeting these challenges.
This weekend, the Association of Yukon Communities will hold its annual general meeting in Haines Junction. This is an opportunity for the association to conduct its business and for all the municipalities to meet face to face to address priority issues and to discuss current areas of general interest. I will be there and I look forward to hearing what Yukon municipal leaders have to say about current issues.
Once again, congratulations to Mayo, Teslin, Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Carmacks.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise also on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the 20th anniversary of the municipalities of Watson Lake, Teslin, Mayo, Carmacks and Haines Junction. These communities have a rich heritage and have made important contributions to the development of the community we all know as Yukon. They are an important part of the cultural, social and economic fabric of our territory, and their accomplishments are many.
To mention only a few, Watson Lake has always been a welcoming gateway to the Yukon for our visitors and a gracious host to them. Teslin has shown leadership in their collaborative approach to administering their village with a First Nation government. Carmacks continues to be a central player in conjunction with the Yukonís mining industry and river travel. As well, Mayo has played a historic and central role in the mining industry and river travel as well, and is also ó going back to when we were there last summer for the centenary of the community ó the heart of the Yukon. Haines Junction has worked closely with Parks Canada and the First Nation to establish a tourist destination of national importance.
The strength of their people, the beauty of their land and the traditions of their culture have given these municipalities a great legacy. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many citizens who have provided leadership and service to their communities by serving on their elected councils.
This volunteer contribution to democracy is often taken for granted and not sufficiently recognized. Many hours are spent by these men and women working to benefit their communities and our territory. Haines Junction is hosting the annual meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities this weekend. Members of the official opposition will be in attendance and we wish them well in their meeting.
I would encourage members of this House to visit Watson Lake, Teslin, Carmacks, Mayo and Haines Junction this summer to see the accomplishments of these municipalities first-hand.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I ask members of this House to join me in welcoming our visitors in the gallery today who are government employees doing orientation. I believe they are here to witness the good, excellent behaviour of the elected politicians.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Taylor:I have for tabling the Yukon Law Foundation report, fiscal year ending October 31, 2003.
Deputy 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
Mr. Hardy:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) torture conducted by military and civilian personnel in an Iraqi prison under the control of the United States forces has shocked and angered Yukoners, as well as citizens worldwide;
(2) torture is humiliating, degrading and physically harmful, and is unacceptable in times of peace and in times of war;
(3) all Canadians have a responsibility to take urgent action and to be loud and clear in our condemnation of torture; and
THAT this House condemns torture in any form and supports efforts to hold torturers accountable by urging authorities to conduct thorough, independent and public investigations of the situation in Iraq and to bring offenders to a fair and impartial justice.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House condemns the callous assertion of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources that shooting a large number of healthy animals is a matter of personal choice, and calls upon the Government of Yukon to adopt and enforce policies that are respectful and reflect responsible stewardship of our animals.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the kids recreation fund assists the participation of young people throughout the Yukon in structured and unstructured recreational activities;
(2) these recreational activities are vital to incorporating a healthy, active lifestyle and some activities such as swimming lessons are essential to the health and safety of our children;
(3) the kids recreation fund is funded by donations from Yukoners, recreational organizations, businesses and the Government of Canada through a transfer to the Government of Yukon; and
THAT this House recommends that the Government of Yukon increase the level of funding to the kids recreation fund.
Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I rise in the House today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to cooperate with the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to develop and implement mechanisms for improving the economic development opportunities in the northern territories, including cost- and revenue-sharing initiatives, a pan-northern economic development agreement and tax incentives.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm, animal purchase
Mr. Hardy:The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources made a statement yesterday that any caring person would consider callous and irresponsible. I have reviewed the Blues and this is what the minister had to say: "To publicly shoot the animals on a farm is a decision that I guess the owners would have to make on their own." From my perspective, this suggests that the minister condones such actions.
My question is for the Minister of Environment, who is responsible for enforcing the Wildlife Act. If the owners of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm go ahead with their plans to shoot their reindeer in the next few days, will they be charged under section 98 of the Wildlife Act?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: First letís get something straight for the record. This government has the utmost respect for animals and will continue to do so.
The government has been working on the reindeer issue and we are very concerned about the welfare of the animals. We are talking to the owners about possible options to ensure the animalsí needs are met.
Here is a bit of background to consider: this farm was established with taxpayersí dollars in the mid-1980s. The contribution included $173,000 and 269 acres of land. Since then the owners have operated their farm by selling animals as needed. The process they have used to sell their animals has not changed. Over the years, around 38 export permits have been issued for some 139 animals. Nothing has changed on the governmentís end to prevent the export and sale of these animals. Other factors out of our control in the market have changed and may be affecting their sales.
Mr. Hardy: Those are very interesting statistics. I hope that minister can prove them.
Now the real problem weíre facing is the wealth of misinformation and inaccurate information the minister put out for public consumption yesterday. Itís obvious heís practising the Peter principle, Yukon Party-style. Hereís something else the minister said yesterday: "The agriculture branch is working very closely with the reindeer owners to make sure the animals donít suffer any undue stress." Fact: the agriculture branch hasnít been working with the owners at all until 5:00 yesterday. Thatís when the director of agriculture branch phoned them at the request of his deputy minister and Deputy Minister of Environment and promised to request immediate funds to feed the animals. Why did the minister make the statement yesterday and will he now correct that statement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís very important to put things into context in the Legislature here. The reindeer situation is an agricultural operation that has been running for the last 17 years. As the Education minister said, there has been funding given to the operators of the reindeer farm, to the tune of $179,000 in grants and free title to over 200 acres.
We in the agriculture branch are very concerned if animals are neglected, and we have an Animal Protection Act. Mr. Deputy Speaker, we will monitor if those animals are neglected and then, at that point, the agriculture branch will move in and work with the reindeer herd, understanding that the owners have a responsibility to make sure theyíre not neglected. We in the agriculture branch are monitoring that.
Once those animals are neglected, we will have to make a move. Those animals will have to be fed and those animals will have to be taken care of and protected by the Animal Protection Act. Itís no different from if the animals were on the road and were hit by a vehicle, or were at large.
The agriculture branch would have to step in and impound the animals or whatever we have within the Animal Protection Act to make sure the animals are not neglected.
Mr. Hardy: Twice now Iíve asked two questions; twice now I havenít received answers ó instead, a deviation. I really have to wonder how this government defines neglect. It will be very interesting to see what stage the animals have to get to before this government actually steps in and does the right thing.
This minister got quite agitated when I informed him that caribou and reindeer were virtually the same animal. I have for tabling some documents from the Canadian Wildlife Service and the USDA Forest Service that prove this minister wrong.
The reindeer has been a domestic animal for hundreds of year; they are not caribou ó thatís what the minister said. Perhaps he also believes domestic horses and wild horses are not the same species either. The Wildlife Act says this: "A reference in this act to a species includes a reference to any subspecies of that species and to any other lower taxonomic classification."
For the ministerís information, both reindeer and caribou are of the genus Rangifer and the species tarandus.
Deputy Speaker: Would the member please ask the question?
Mr. Hardy: Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Why did the minister provide information in the House that is contrary to scientific fact?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite isnít making the issue any better by debating the fact between caribou and reindeer. Reindeer are animals that were brought to North America. These reindeer came from Finland originally. Their ancestors came from Finland. They are a herd animal. They have been herded for thousands of years in northern Europe. They were brought to the Inuvik area, and that herd came from the Inuvik area.
So to say that they were originally caribou or that they could be let back into the wild is irresponsible.
The argument that we have in the House today is that we have an issue with the reindeer farm outside of Whitehorse, and there is an issue. My department, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, which has the agriculture branch in it, has an Animal Protection Act. The question about neglect is very important. In the Animal Protection Act, I imagine there is a process on how we monitor and how we professionally judge whether an animal is being neglected or not.
The comment from the member opposite that somebody goes out there from this House and decides the animals are neglected is again irresponsible, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The question is done in the agriculture branch at a very professional level. So as far as the member opposite ó
Deputy Speaker: The memberís time has concluded. The leader of the official opposition, new question.
Question re: Northern Splendour Reindeer Farm, animal purchase
Mr. Hardy:I have another question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. I realize the minister is not responsible for the Wildlife Act, but I would encourage him to read it before he makes the kind of uninformed statements that he made yesterday. The misinformation coming from the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is astounding.
Deputy Speakerís statement
Deputy Speaker:Order please. The Chair is very uncomfortable with the term "misinformation," as it denotes that the member was intentionally putting forward information that was incorrect, and that is out of order in this Assembly.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you. Yesterday, he said the owners of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm could export their animals. Will the minister correct that statement for the record?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Nothing has changed since devolution. In fact, thereís a process where they can export the animals and thereís a process where they can sell meat at the gate. There is nothing changed in the process of that reindeer farm.
Now, what has changed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is the financial climate outside of our jurisdiction that says the same for the farmer in Alberta ó is he exporting beef to America today? No. There are issues that are outside of our jurisdiction that reflected on the reindeer farm. We have no control over it. But as far as insinuating that we as a government changed any rules ó the rules are exactly the same. The paperwork is the same, the export is the same and meat sales are the same. The problem is there is no market out there for reindeer, as there is no market for Alberta beef in Montana. This is the nature of the agricultural industry. The reindeer farmers are in the same situation as a rancher in southern Alberta. The market isnít there for their product.
Mr. Hardy: Once again this minister stands up and proves that heís lost in space and he knows not of what he speaks. Thereís no point in pursuing this matter much further with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. He wonít correct his statements.
Reindeer are caribou. Caribou are wildlife, not game-farm animals ó get it into your head. Because of a legal glitch that is not their fault, the owners of Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm are in contravention of section 96(1) of the Wildlife Act for keeping wildlife in captivity without a licence. Itís the Minister of Environment who has to solve this dilemma. Itís time for that minister to stop using false excuses and do his job.
Will the minister now instruct his deputy to negotiate a permanent solution to this issue that is in the public interest and is fair to the people who have spent the last 17 years looking after these animals?
Deputy Speakerís statement
Deputy Speaker:Order please. Before the member answers the question, I would like to remind all members that it is inappropriate to make specific comments to specific members. All comments should be directed through the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Obviously, the issue is not getting through that memberís head. The issue is an economic issue with the reindeer farm in Whitehorse, Yukon. The animals are owned by the people who own the farm. The animals are not native to the Yukon. Nothing has changed in the process. The only thing that has changed is that the market isnít there.
Again, getting it through the member oppositeís head, there is no market outside our jurisdiction for reindeer ó no more than there is a market in Saskatchewan for dairy cows in Montana. This is called agriculture. These are the ups and downs of agriculture. This is called farming. There are good years for products and there are bad years. This happens to be a bad year for Yukon in the reindeer business.
We will work with the components ó the agriculture branch ó to make sure that the animals are not neglected. And for the members opposite to insinuate that the government owns the herd is in fact a falsehood. It is not true. They are privately owned.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker: Opposition House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Again, members across the way are lowering the bar of decorum in this Legislature. Uttering words like "falsehood" is clearly in contravention of the House rules. The member should apologize.
Deputy Speakerís statement
Deputy Speaker:I will review the Blues in this matter and examine the context in which it was used. Please conclude.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The issue is there. The issue is that from the agriculture branchís point of view ó
Deputy Speaker: The memberís time has expired.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Speaker: The memberís time has expired.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm, animal purchase
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Environment, and itís about the double standard the Yukon Party government created by purchasing the Yukon game preserve.
Now, Yukoners know all too well that this government only recognizes their friends of the Yukon Party. Yukoners also know that the MLA for Lake Laberge and the MLA for Porter Creek Centre both promised during the election campaign that they would buy out the game farm if the Yukon Party was elected. Sure enough, once they got elected, they used public money to keep their political promises.
Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the decision to buy the game farm has created a double standard. You only get bought out if you are in the Yukon Party line. The reindeer farm across the road from the game farm has not been purchased, and the government has said a flat out "No". The game farm was purchased for $2 million.
My question for the minister is this: is the reindeer farm just on the wrong side of the road or do the owners have to buy a Yukon Party membership before they get bought out?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again for the record, I want to state very clearly that this government has the utmost respect for animals.
And again, to make the record clear here, there is a very distinct difference between the game preserve and a reindeer farm. The reindeer farm was run as a business for export and food whereas the game preserve was for the viewing of the animals by tourists and to see animals in their natural habitat. They are wildlife in a natural habitat.
Again, I will state for the record that this government does have the utmost respect for the animals.
Ms. Duncan: Respect for animals ó absolutely. Respect for people means treating all people fairly and equally. The government is partway there in that they have agreed to provide feed for several months. They have bought themselves some time ó only after they were publicly shamed into doing so in this Legislature.
What is needed now is a permanent solution. The Yukon Party, lead by the MLA for Lake Laberge, cut a special deal for the owners of the Yukon game preserve. They were purchased for, and cost Yukon taxpayers, $2 million. Now theyíve turned around and told another farm, "Sorry, the special deal is not for you."
The minister created this mess. The Minister of Environment created this mess; now he has to fix it. When will the Minister of Environment begin negotiating with owners of the reindeer farm to purchase their animals? When is that going to happen? Do they have to purchase a Yukon Party membership?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I would like to correct the record regarding the statements made by the member opposite. It wasnít a decision by the Member for Lake Laberge. In fact, I believe it came from Cabinet. It was not a decision by the member.
Again, I would also like to state for the record that there was no preferential treatment here. The contribution of $173,000 and 269 acres of land justified the statement Iím making, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Again, I must say that this government has the utmost respect for the animals and for people. The statement made by the member opposite that this government doesnít respect people is, in my opinion, very, very inaccurate. I would like to state for the record also that, if by any means or stretch of imagination, this government did show disrespect for anyone, I would apologize on behalf of this government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, yes, an apology. This government has shown theyíre very selective about who they choose to help and who they choose to ignore. They are playing favourites. The owners of the reindeer farm want the same deal that was offered to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve across the road. The Yukon Party created the double standard, and the Yukon Party needs to fix it. Yukoners have to ask why the MLA for Lake Laberge is willing to go to bat for some constituents and not others. Will the minister start treating people equally, with respect, and negotiate a buyout with the owners of the animals? Will the government do that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to reiterate the statement I just made. There is no need for an apology, because this government never showed disrespect to anybody. And I said that if it were the case, we would be government enough to do that. I would also like to repeat that although the jurisdictional control over reindeer has changed from the federal government to the Yukon government, nothing has stopped the owners from exporting their animals. The same procedures are in place as they have used in the past. What has changed is the market condition, making it more difficult to find buyers. As any farmer knows, awareness of market demands is key to responsible farm management. Given these market conditions, if the welfare of the animal is being threatened, assistance will be found to ensure the animals are fed.
Again, I repeat to this House that efforts are being made to deal with this situation to ensure the well-being of the reindeer.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Question re: Violence in schools
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Education. A number of Yukon schools have clear policies against violence. Does the minister support a policy of zero tolerance of violence in Yukon schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I state for the record that violence of any sort is not accepted in the schools, period.
Mrs. Peter: Over the weekend, an annual girlsí graduation party, known as the hen party, was held. Part of the tradition of this party is for the older girls to beat the younger girls with paddles. While this is not an officially sanctioned school event, I would like to know the ministerís position. What is the departmentís policy toward this violence?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím aware of the departmentís policy on bullying that no bullying is accepted in any school. I believe that, with this particular issue, the RCMP handled that issue very well.
Mrs. Peter: We would like to think that a civilized society has no tolerance for this kind of treatment of young women by their peers or by anyone else. The violence prevention forum, which was sponsored by the Womenís Directorate in February, came up with many recommendations to help create safe, violence-free communities for women. A first priority of their recommendations was early education in the schools to prevent totally unacceptable violence toward women. Will the minister direct his department to respond to these recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As a minister, I have no doubt whatsoever that the department would be mandated to ensure that the safety of all students is paramount and that, of course, number one, students are safe within the school environment.
Question re: Trapline utilization
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Environment.
The new Wildlife Act amends the trapping regulations for group trapping concessions. Will the minister tell us if these changes will apply equally throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Any of our laws or regulations would normally be applicable throughout the Yukon. But the member opposite brings up a very good point about the under-utilization of traplines ó the number that are unallocated or are allocated to individuals who donít make full use of them. The Yukon Trappers Association has instituted ó and we continue to sponsor in this budget ó the Yukon soft gold program, which promotes Yukon furs into the international market. The biggest problem with that program now is that we donít have enough furs to adequately contribute to this program. In other words, we can sell much more than what we have.
So, with that in mind, I have given instructions to the department to do what they can to increase allocations. That has been a very high topic in the one-on-one meetings with each individual First Nation weíve met with.
Mrs. Peter: I hope the minister has read the Vuntut Gwitchin final agreement. If not, I suggest he do that, because it is the law.
Section 126.96.36.199 reads: "The Vuntut Gwichíin First Nation shall retain the Vuntut Gwichíin group trapline." The final agreement supersedes any other acts, including the Wildlife Act. Will the minister give us his unconditional commitment that his department will honour the spirit and the letter of our First Nationís agreement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Actually when I mentioned that laws were applicable throughout the Yukon, I believe that does imply that it is the law, so I agree with the member opposite on that.
In terms of the Vuntut Gwitchin specifically, I have had meetings with chief and council on this issue. Iíve also had several meetings with the North Yukon Renewable Resource Council on the issue and encouraged them to allocate whatever traplines they can and to get them working. It makes no sense to have the trapline there and not working when we could market furs wider. So anything to that effect, clearly the direction to the department and suggestion to the First Nations is that they get these traplines working and take full advantage of the economic opportunities and lifestyle opportunities they present.
Question re: Electrical cogeneration
Mr. McRobb:I want to follow up with the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation on his secretive project in Watson Lake. So far the minister has admitted that heís looking at developing a cogeneration plant in that community, but we donít know much more about it. What we do know raises some serious questions. There are reports that the plant could use merchantable timber as fuel. There are also reports that the minister wants to haul a 20-year-old cogeneration plant all the way from Newfoundland to Watson Lake. Whatís missing from this picture? Sober second thought.
Will the minister agree to avoid making a knee-jerk reaction and order a review of this matter by the Yukon Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are not contemplating moving a cogeneration unit from Newfoundland to Watson Lake, so Iíll make that very clear. As far as sober second thoughts, we certainly are open to economic situations for southeast Yukon. Weíre looking at the timber resource in that area in partnership with the Kaska First Nation. But as far as cogeneration is concerned, itís part and parcel of something that might happen in the future. Weíre not planning anything at the moment. So as far as a cogeneration unit is concerned, it doesnít exist at the moment.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Deputy Speaker, thereís a need to do whatís right for the territory. The minister has the power to order a review. We need to carefully consider all options in an open process. What about the possibility of extending our power grid to Watson Lake and locating a cogeneration plant where there is an inexhaustible supply of fuel in beetle-kill country? Again, will the minister call for a review of all options before the regulator?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At this moment, there is nothing to review. So we as good government are open to suggestions, and thatís where it is at the moment, Mr. Chair.
Question re: Wildfire prevention
Mr. McRobb:The Yukon Territory has made the national news yet again this past week. Like so many of the recent headlines, this one also had an ominous tone. A forest health technician with the Canadian Forest Service has warned that the beetle infestation in the Kluane region has left in its wake a tremendous fuel load that, if ignited, could quickly lead to a conflagration. We need to address this situation in a responsible manner. It poses a threat to lives, property and resources within the town of Haines Junction and several subdivisions and settlements in the region.
Can the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, now that he has been briefed by the Premier, tell us exactly what he has done to combat this hazard?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, I would remind the member opposite that he voted against the $250,000 that we allocated in our supplementary to address the issue in the Haines Junction area. So I donít know where the member opposite is coming from. This is good news for us in the Yukon. This was a statement made on the national park issue. We are trying to get the national park together with the First Nation and us so that they can be part of the decision-making on how we roll out control of the beetle kill in the Haines Junction area. We have been working with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. We are working with NRCan and weíre working with DIAND, and now the national parks, with that article, are hopefully going to come onside so that we can address the issue of the beetle kill in that area. Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is very serious, and weíre taking it very seriously.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Deputy Speaker, what we voted against was the Yukon Partyís totalitarian use of special warrants, which clearly averted the democratic process of review in this Legislature, and thatís disgusting.
Now last September, I called for action from this minister. The disastrous situation south of our border should have driven home the need for urgent action. In keeping with the practice of proposing solutions, we asked him to prioritize forest management and specifically to: (1) expand the FireSmart program to reduce fuel loading outside community boundaries; (2) create a support program to help homeowners make their property and adjacent greenbelt areas more fire resistant; and (3) use controlled burns in late winter to reduce fuel loads in high-risk areas.
Can the minister tell us whether he has followed any of those suggestions?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The fact is that he voted against $250,000 for his community. On this side of the House, we can debate why he voted against that issue, but the fact is that he voted against the $250,000 that we are putting into one of the issues in Haines Junction to solve that exact problem. That is what our government was elected to do. Thatís what our government is doing.
The member opposite has to explain to his constituents why he voted against the resources to do exactly what that man is asking us to do.
Mr. McRobb: That response can be explained by the need to attack when one doesnít have an answer.
Now, the minister keeps mentioning the agreement with the First Nation. But you know, what it does not really do is provide any action, because there is no money in the budget. We hope that itís just not another memorandum of understanding in search of a photo opportunity. This government is already notorious for doing that. This minister had the opportunity to take on-the-ground action by now and chose not to. Letís hope this situation doesnít become analogous to the saying, "He fiddled while Rome burned." The agreement excludes other jurisdictions in the high-risk area that should have been considered. This government is not looking at the whole picture.
What has the minister done with Kluane National Park, the Village of Haines Junction and the renewable resource council to reduce the risk of wildfire this summer?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again I remind the House that that member has to explain to his constituency why he voted against the resources to solve the problem in his riding. We have put the money forward. We have worked with the local First Nation, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Weíre working out there right now with NRCan, DIAND and now with the backup of that article about the national park situation, where hopefully we get the national park onside. Weíre working with the town of Haines Junction. Weíre covering all the bases, but without the voting for the resources we couldnít do any of the things.
So the member opposite voted against his own riding, the protection of his own riding. The $250,000 was in the supplementary. Itís out there working to get a plan put together on how we, this government, can address the problems in the Haines Junction area with spruce beetle kill. The member opposite voted against the resources to do exactly that.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hassard:I would ask all members to join me in making welcome Mrs. Michelle Vainio, a member of the Faro town council who is here today. Welcome.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue with the Department of Highways and Public Works. Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue on in general debate on Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works.
Bill No. 10 ó First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Department of Highways and Public Works ó continued
Hon. Mr. Hart:Iím pleased to rise today to present the budget for Highways and Public Works. Itís one of the largest budgets that is being presented to this House, and Iím looking forward to putting many Yukoners to work over the next couple of months. I anticipate spreading that throughout the Yukon, not in just any one particular area.
Iím also looking at assisting in other areas Iím developing, i.e. the airports. Weíre looking at making improvements overall to the local airport in Whitehorse. Weíre also looking at generating improvements in other airports throughout the Yukon.
In addition, weíre looking at making some large improvements under IT. Weíve gotten together with the local IT community. We made a commitment to provide some secure funding over the coming years to ensure that we can enhance the local training for those particular jobs and also provide better service to this government. I think these are items that weíre looking at.
Weíre also looking at making many improvements in our buildings throughout the Yukon ó improvements on behalf of other departments, i.e. school libraries and things like that throughout the Yukon and also improvements in rural areas on secondary roads and improvements to small areas that require a small amount of money in order to make the roads passable.
As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy the aspect of putting forth an aggressive budget for this year, and Iím looking forward to seeing the benefits of it by this fall. In the meantime, I would ask that members opposite look at this particular budget very closely so we can get into line-by-line debate and demonstrate these issues as we go through it.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this particular element of the budget, which is a significant employer in the Yukon in terms of the construction work. I have often said in the House that our road builders and pavers are among the finest in the world, which they have proven time and time again, and I welcome the opportunity to debate the contracts that will put these individuals to work.
We discussed a number of areas of technology yesterday with the minister, including the information communication technology, the broadband pipe going south. I understand Iím to direct that question to the Minister of Economic Development.
We closed off yesterdayís debate with a very good discussion of the replacement of the multi-departmental mobile radio system, the MDMRS, and I appreciate the ministerís frank answers as to where the government was in these discussions.
Another element that was raised with previous governments is that it has been a struggle to replace the computer systems that employees use to do their jobs. The Department of Highways in particular has not seen a replacement of the computer systems at the very front-line level of staff.
Iím wondering if in the enhanced budget, in the enhanced working relationship with Yukonís IT sector, we have also dealt with the technology that the front-line staff were able to use. To put it in a more straightforward manner, the people on the front line were using the old 386s and were always getting short shrift and cut from the budget when it came to replacing their computer systems. Has that been corrected?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, Iíve been working on ó I donít even think my particular computer has a number on it, not that I use it that often. But an aspect is that we are, under the new process, looking at upgrading all of our equipment across the government. That is why there has been such a large increase in the IT funding. We are looking at making that commitment on a regular basis to improve that particular facility right across the government. It is made on a priority basis, depending on which department has a higher priority need. But in essence, we are looking at bringing up all of the computers across government so that they can talk to each other and be compatible. That is one of our objectives.
The other aspect of our IT aspect, also, is to reduce our turnover in our computers from the current 12- to 13-year period and get it down to seven or eight years or even less than that over the next couple years. That is our goal.
On that particular aspect, the current industry level is five years. We wonít be able to get it down to that particular aspect, but we are hoping to get it down to the seven-year aspect.
Ms. Duncan: I am taking it from the ministerís comments that we are also maximizing where possible the Yukon employment opportunities from this investment by the Government of Yukon in terms of purchasing locally where we can and supporting where we can locally as well.
There is another issue with respect to the road construction that I would like an update from the minister on. Our road contractors and the busing contract in the Department of Education, as all Yukoners, experience significant hardship when the fuel prices go up, as they have done in recent days. That can impose a particular difficulty for individuals who have bid on a road contract, factored in the price of fuel and then seen a significant increase. That is also the case for the busing contract.
Now, there was work being done prior to the Liberal government leaving office on working with the contracting community to deal with that with the road construction companies. Could I have an update on where that policy work and initiative sits? Has the Yukon Party followed up on the initiative started by the ministerís predecessor in that department? If so, where does it sit?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíve had discussions with members in the construction industry on this particular issue, and we havenít really followed any further from the process that was done. Weíve encountered some difficulties in trying to enact that particular aspect. Weíve had some discussions with our neighbours in Alaska trying to determine the situation theyíve had in trying to deal with the fuel situation.
I will advise the member opposite that we have had an increase in our contract prices this summer, and we believe a good portion of that is due to the fluctuation in the fuel prices.
Ms. Duncan: Is the problem with our legislation, or is the problem with some policy? Whatís the holdup? The construction industry, as I understood it, was onside with this. Itís a matter of political will and working through regulations and so on. Is it the regulations? Is it the legislation? What do we need to do to have this very good initiative happen?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It basically comes down to a huge administration problem of trying to track the fuel, trying to determine how the fuel gets used, who uses it, when they use it, and if in fact it is used for the purpose it was intended. It would cost a substantial amount of, as I said, administration time to actually track where the fuel is being dealt with and how itís being dealt with.
Ms. Duncan: Well, maybe with the enhanced computer capabilities and so on we could get through some of these administrative problems. This is a good idea that came to the government from the construction industry. Itís a reasonable idea. Theyíre not looking for relief from the government. What theyíre looking for is protection for the taxpayer in the sense that if the prices go up, theyíre able to build that price in. If the prices go down, theyíre subsequently able to rebate the government, should that, of course, happen, and we are all hopeful.
So I would encourage the minister to work with the construction industry and apply some common sense and figure out a way to work this out. We can figure out a way to provide fuel oil tax rebates to golf courses, to sawmills, to wilderness tourism operators, to farmers, to trappers. Surely we can work with the construction industry and the school busing contract to figure out a way so that they can find some relief from the rising costs of fuel and operating their businesses.
Iíd like to address the issues of the Yukonís bridges with the minister. In particular, there are a number of bridges that are being rebuilt. The Teslin River bridge is one example. As I understand it, the Teslin River bridge reconstruction is continuing. Hopefully, that project will be completed. Would the minister provide a completion date? The cost estimate is $3 million. Am I correct that 50 percent of that is funded by the Government of Canada infrastructure money? And exactly what are the repairs and/or enhancements that are being undertaken to the Teslin River bridge?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at finishing off the seismic work on the bridge this year. Thatís the strengthening of the bridge itself. We hope to finish that off this year. The majority of that funding is going to be held under the infrastructure, and we expect thatís going to be around $2.95 million this year.
Weíre also looking at doing some work on the piers this year. Completion of the project is expected in 2006, with the final process being the deck ó thatís the widening of the deck. So, between 2005-06, weíre looking at widening the actual deck base and replacing the deck in 2006. That, of course, will require us moving down to one lane for most of that season in 2006 ó one way or the other ó while we work on that construction.
At the moment, the bridge deck is ó a kind way of saying it is ó "in disrepair", and we will be doing what we can to patch up that process while we await the widening of the deck and the completion of the work. Weíre also expecting to finish the bearings this year, providing the contractor gets his work done on the seismic this summer.
Ms. Duncan: Just for the benefit of the listeners, weíre referring to the bridge at Johnsons Crossing. I see nods from the minister.
What about the bridge in Teslin over Teslin Lake? There was a significant request for a walkway on that bridge, or there has been in the past. Depending on the motorist, the decking on that bridge isnít a favourite of people either. What other bridge repairs are on the ministerís radar screen? I understand there is also significant bridge replacement as part of the Shakwak project.
I would ask the minister to outline the other bridge repairs under the Canada infrastructure funding agreements, any bridge repairs that are being solely funded by the Government of Yukon and an outline of the bridge repairs done within the Shakwak envelope.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For that question, itíll take a little time to dig that information out, but I ask the member to bear with us.
Ms. Duncan: If the minister wishes to provide me with a legislative return, thatís fine.
Hon. Mr. Hart: On the first part of the member oppositeís question with respect to the bridge in Teslin, the estimated cost for a walkway across that bridge was between $700,000 and $800,000. A traffic study was completed on that particular aspect for pedestrians. We had a very limited amount of pedestrian traffic along that process, and it was not deemed economically feasible to put the process in.
On other bridges, we anticipate making bridge repairs to the Little Ranch and the Big Creek this year under the CSIF. Under the Shakwak project, weíre looking at completely replacing a bridge at Beaver Creek that currently has a wood deck. We have monies in this yearís budget to take care of that particular bridge and are looking forward to getting that one done. Weíve had a few accidents in the past during the rain, so hopefully when that one is completed, it will alleviate that problem.
Ms. Duncan: The Duke River and Donjek River bridges on the north Alaska Highway were also a significant concern. Are they scheduled for future Shakwak funding?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are three additional bridges that are scheduled for rehabilitation under the Shakwak project. Both of those the member indicated are on that list. We had Commissioner Barton here last summer, along with his officials. We went out and inspected those bridges. We got his support on the need for their replacement and weíre basically looking forward to the continued funding coming from the U.S. government in the Shakwak project. We anticipate that hopefully by the time the House sits next time we will be in a position to know where we stand on that particular issue. We recently got news that an extension was provided to June 30 and that additional monies were provided through the Alaska state for the Shakwak project. Weíre looking forward to their continued support on that particular project.
Ms. Duncan: This extension to the Shakwak funding and the extension of the time frame and additional funding ó how much more was it that was granted? I believe from what the minister just said that it would be an extension of what used to be called TEA-21, the Transportation Equity Act, is what I believe itís called in the United States. So this bill was extended and we got an additional $7 million ó I believe the figure was $7 million ó and then weíve had another extension to June 30. How much more money?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíve had an extension until June 30 of this year with the equivalent of about $3.2 million less their holdback of 15 percent.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís $3.2 million U.S., if Iím not mistaken. So there is an extension to June 30. Where are we in terms of discussions of a renewed Bill TEA-21 in the United States? This is where the Shakwak funding is ó itís in that American bill. So where are we now with discussions with the Americans on renewal of that? The difficulty, of course, being American legislation ó we could be in a bill that contains all kinds of provisions, but specifically the Shakwak. What U.S. bill is it in, and what have we done to lobby to continue that bill? Is there any written correspondence? Has the minister been to Washington? What have we done?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, the bill that weíre putting our money through in the Shakwak under the U.S. process is called a transequity account legacy user. Itís a six-year program that is being done, and weíre looking at $20 million per year under that particular aspect.
Ms. Duncan: Where is that bill in the American process? Is it before the House, before the Senate? What is its current status?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Currently we expect that this bill will be before President Bush on May 31.
Ms. Duncan: For signing into law. Have we made the resolution or done anything to approach the ó in terms of facilitating the enhanced presence of the Yukon at the Canadian embassy in Washington? Has the minister written and made the Canadian ambassador in Washington aware of our position, and has he worked with the Canadian embassy in Washington on support for this particular bill?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working directly with embassy staff, and we have been encouraged not to write to them on a constant basis, but we are in touch with them, constantly meeting with the embassy staff on a weekly basis and they are fully aware of our situation.
Ms. Duncan: While weíre on the subject of Canada-U.S. relations and our relation with Alaska ó the Shakwak funding and so on ó is there any documentation between the minister and the Alaskans on keeping the Top of the World Highway open year-round?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is no documentation between me and the State of Alaska and/or Commissioner Barton with respect to keeping the Top of the World Highway open on a year-round basis. Our conversation with respect to the Taylor Highway on the U.S. side discussed ways and means for them to upgrade their particular section of the highway, which has about 20 miles of particularly difficult terrain. It seems that whenever money is cut in the Alaska transportation budget, itís usually cut on the Taylor Highway.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís very apparent to members of this Legislature. In the past, weíve had to lobby them to even open the Taylor Highway in a time frame thatís amenable to our tourism industry, as well as our mining industry.
The previous attitude in Alaska was ó either the Taylor Highway was the subject of budget cuts or it was a "Well, weíll wait until spring thaw and let nature take its course." So, there is no commitment in writing. There have been discussions, according to what the minister has just said. Is there any documentation at all about Alaskaís intent with respect to the Taylor Highway? Is there a bill before the Alaska State Legislature? Is there anything that Yukoners can look to, other than these conversations between the minister and the Commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite previously mentioned, we are in conversation with them on a regular basis about opening the Taylor Highway close to when we open our Top of the World Highway and trying to coordinate that particular aspect. We have sometimes been very successful, and sometimes not. But there is no specific written correspondence with respect to maintaining the highway on a year-round basis or upgrading the Taylor Highway.
What weíve expressed to them on several occasions is that there is a need to upgrade that particular section. As I mentioned previously, they understand the issue; however, there appears to be a member of the Legislature there who doesnít seem to think thatís an important issue in that particular riding, so thatís a difficulty theyíre dealing with on that particular aspect.
In essence, they understand the need to improve that particular section of the highway and theyíre also cognizant of the fact that, as the Shakwak project comes to an end, they will also have to upgrade their facilities in order to meet the Canadian restrictions on the American side. In other words, once we get to the stage where we can go to 100 percent weight restrictions, thatís not currently available in the U.S.
Ms. Duncan: I have two points in response to the minister. The first is that members of the Legislature and any House they serve in can be interesting to work with in how they represent their constituents. The second point is, the longer youíre here, the more the same issues keep coming up. One question I forgot to ask the minister when we were talking about bridges was: whatís the schedule for repainting the bridges in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at painting two bridges this year. Depending on the budget, weíll be looking at doing some painting on an annual basis.
Ms. Duncan: Which bridges?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at painting the Lapie and the Big Campbell.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have just one other point with regard to all this highway reconstruction and this work, particularly the scheduled 2006 one lane on the bridge at Johnsons Crossing. Thatís going to be very important for our tourism information, which is prepared ahead of time. I know thereís a collegial working relationship, so I just want to make sure we donít lose sight of that when weíre doing our tourism brochures.
Could the minister advise the House of the schedule for pavement rehabilitation this year as well ó just generally which areas are scheduled for pavement rehab? I understand the money was increased to $2 million. Could I have it verified as to what figure weíre spending on pavement rehab and which areas?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at paving from basically around $2 million from the south Klondike turnoff on the Alaska Highway to Mount Sima and weíre also looking at doing some paving on the north Klondike of about four to five kilometres.
Ms. Duncan: Are those projects strictly repaving or are we enhancing the road, the size of the road or any enhancement in terms of turning lanes or any other enhancements to those particular sections of the highway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre also looking at basically some turning lanes. Weíre also looking at some pedestrian crossings and some paint markings in some areas that weíre dealing with on these two issues.
Ms. Duncan: I have one other highway-related question. I wrote the minister and I had an exchange of correspondence about the speed limits on the north Alaska Highway and the signage. The issue is folks not used to driving the highway, that weíre not giving them enough notice of the speed limit changes, particularly through Destruction Bay where you have a school across the highway. Further up the north highway, some of the other communities ó Burwash ó and some of the businesses along that highway, weíre not giving people enough notice of the speed limits. I wrote the minister about it. We had an exchange of correspondence. How is the work proceeding in terms of evaluation? Itís really highway signage, itís enforcement, itís working with the RCMP, and the traffic standards in Canada, and the fact that this is an international major highway that sees a great deal of rubber-tire traffic as well as, of course, the Yukoners and Alaskans going back and forth. We need to do the job better was my key point to the minister of alerting people to what the speed limit is and giving them enough notice. Has that work gone ahead?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Basically, as mentioned previously, the study is currently underway. It is not complete yet. The implementation will depend on the dollars that are required to make it happen.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I really encourage the minister to follow up on this and to rate it as a top priority. There will be some cost in terms of signage and so on, but we really need some consistency. We need to work with drivers, the RCMP, and with the communities in particular about this issue. It is an issue, particularly on the north highway, but it is in other commonly driven highways, as well. So I would just ask the minister to place that as a priority.
With respect to the infrastructure and the buildings that are also in this department, individuals who come to work every day in this building have been interested to note that weíve put up and taken down a meeting room in the cafeteria. What did that cost the Government of Yukon, and what happened? Why did we end up putting something in and then spending the money to take it out? I certainly support work to local contractors, but surely we should be able to make use of that work when itís done. What happened?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite probably noticed in the cafeteria, we were looking at making a meeting room in that particular area. There was a request for that meeting room made last fall. We went through the process, and they were looking at putting it in. We received lots of negative feedback to that facility going in there. We have subsequently recycled that material through other jobs and issues, and we have the situation we have today.
Ms. Duncan: Could I have the total cost of the roundhouse experience by the Government of Yukon? Weíve moved it, substantially renovated it, and spent a significant amount of money on this particular structure. Iím not going to get into an argument with the minister about the historical nature of the structure and its location. I would just like to know exactly what that has cost.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have expended, and plan to expend, just a little over $1 million on that particular facility.
Ms. Duncan: I believe the minister said that the Government of Yukon has spent, and will spend, just over $1 million. Does that include the move and all the renovations to the building? And what will be housed in that building when itís finally completed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It goes right back to the actual purchase of the actual facility.
Ms. Duncan: The trolley ó there is a significant capital contribution for the trolley extension. There is also significant money in the budget for trolley operations. The operation of the trolley is also a business issue, in that the Chilkoot Centre and other businesses toward that end of Whitehorse appreciate having the trolley there and have lobbied for the extension. My question for the minister: have those businesses been asked to contribute financially to the trolley extension? They have offered in the past to contribute. Were they asked to contribute?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Not to our knowledge.
Ms. Duncan: A missed opportunity for partnership.
Iíd like to conclude my questions with respect to this department by seeking information with regard to yet another bridge ó the proposed Dawson City bridge. When will the contract for the Dawson bridge be awarded? Who is going to do the economic studies? Will it be the ministerís department? Tourism studies? Will all that information be compiled by the government before bridge construction, or will we start on bridge construction after the contract is awarded? Would the minister outline the time frame of how this project will proceed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the Dawson City bridge, weíre looking at a tentative design for the summer of 2004 and the spring of 2005; weíre looking at a tentative construction date of the spring of 2005, with a tentative completion of somewhere around October 2007.
Ms. Duncan: So what the minister said is that the Government of Yukon is going to award a contract for design of the bridge. Weíre not going to study the economics of it; weíre not going to look at the impact on tourism; weíre just going to build this legacy project regardless of what the actual facts might tell us. Weíre not going to look at the facts; weíre just going to build a bridge. Thatís what the ministerís answer implies.
The contract is for design or design/build. Is the contract worded in such a way that a P3 is contemplated? When does the contract close? When will it be awarded?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking, as I mentioned, at a tentative process with regard to the design, and weíre looking for the process of the design, plus going forward is still being contemplated on what method and style.
Ms. Duncan: Letís start at the beginning then. Thereís a tentative process for design. Is there a tentative process for any kind of economic feasibility impact on tourism, impact on the community, economic study? Are there any of those tentative processes planned by the government as well?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at part of the tentative process design. Weíve completed a full transportation economy study on the actual bridge itself. Weíre looking at providing consultation with the community and the First Nation as part of our design process. As indicated, weíll be in conversation with the Tríondëk Hwëchíin on the aspect of a bridge across the river. We are in negotiation with them right now. Until such time as that is complete, we wonít be able to determine just in which forum the bridge is going to be financed.
Ms. Duncan: The minister said that we have completed a transportation economic study. Is he referring to the 1995 study done by the Department of Highways?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, which has subsequently been updated to current year figures.
Ms. Duncan: Subsequently been updated to current year figures ó in what respect? In terms of the price of construction of the bridge? In terms of what it would now cost to put in a year-round highway maintenance camp on the Top of the World/Taylor Highway? Updated in what sense? There is nowhere in that 1995 economic study that supports the governmentís current claim that somehow building a bridge will reduce fuel costs ó nowhere in that study does it support that. That study does not address the impact on our tourism industry. There are some who believe that the construction of a bridge will have a negative impact, that Dawson will become a drive-through community as opposed to an opportunity for visitors to stay another day.
Is the minister saying that the government is not going to do any additional research work in terms of economics, tourism, impacts of that particular construction project? What about the environmental screening process? What process will be put in place for this bridge construction?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at the issue with regard to ó the current revision includes all of the interest rates, it includes a construction cost, it includes transportation, economic factors, it includes travel weight statistics and costs. All environmental aspects will be continued.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the minister is saying is that the government is updating a 1995 report thatís an engineering report. Itís not an economic feasibility study. Itís not an environmental review of this project. And itís not, in any way, shape or form, a review of the socio-economic impact, in terms of our tourism and our Yukon lifestyle and economy. The current study doesnít cover any of those aspects.
Now, has there been a contract awarded for updating that study, or is it being done in-house?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This study is a transportation economics study. It includes all engineering and all other related costs as it relates to that particular aspect.
As mentioned previously, we will be dealing with the First Nation. Weíre in conversation with them on this particular aspect and weíre also looking at their involvement in the process, how it will take place, and meeting our requirements under chapter 22 of the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Ms. Duncan: The government has a 1995 study that does not cover all aspects of this bridge construction. Now the minister has said they are updating that study. Is it being updated in-house or is it being contracted? If itís being contracted, when will it be tendered, and when is the anticipated award date?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It has been updated and it was done in-house, and thatís what weíre working from.
Ms. Duncan: So the 1995 study, which didnít cover all aspects, has been updated and thatís what theyíre working from. So the government is spending $1.5 million on incomplete information, without all the facts of the matter and without respecting the viewpoint of all the people in Dawson, and they wonder why we vote against the budget. Itís incomprehensible that the government would make an expenditure of that magnitude of Yukon taxpayersí money without doing their homework. The minister has just very clearly outlined for the House that the homework hasnít been done.
So a 1995 study has been updated. It was done in-house. On that basis, the department is going out to consultation, or a contractor is going out to consultation, with the First Nation and the residents of Dawson. Is that what weíre to understand from the minister? Who is consulting?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíll be completing a full environmental process, which will be completed by the design consultant and staff. Weíll do a full community consultation, again to be handled by the design consultant and staff, during the entire process. We plan to do that during the design process.
Ms. Duncan: So thereís a consultant to be hired. There will be a contract awarded seeking a consultant on this bridge. When is that contract going to be tendered and awarded?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated previously, we are in discussions with the First Nation on this particular issue and, once it is determined where weíre at, weíll move forward.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Deputy Chair, what the government is doing is theyíve taken a 1995 study that doesnít recognize the impact on the environment, doesnít recognize the impact on our tourism industry, does not recognize todayís challenges of Yukon life and the socio-economic impacts, updated that study in-house for interest rates and the price of steel, and theyíre taking that information, discussing it with the Tríondëk Hwëchíin and, from that, theyíre going to hire a design consultant to build a bridge, despite the fact that, had they done their homework, they would clearly recognize that a $1.5-million expenditure on a bridge and future construction, at who knows what price or under what conditions, is not the top priority of Yukoners, including the people in Dawson.
The minister and the government have not done their homework on that line expenditure in the budget, and itís shameful that theyíre proceeding in that manner.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will indicate to the member opposite that the 1995 report has been fully updated and completed. The environmental aspects of that report or for that particular bridge have been updated. We have addressed the issue of ice, the environmental, fish and transportation economy. Design consultants will design the bridge and they will take care of the consultation and the process of how weíre going to deal with it in the public, as well as dealing with the community and getting that process underway in conjunction with the First Nation.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to revisit some questions that have been mentioned both in the supplementary and previously by other members in this budget debate. Iíd like to go back to the minister briefly, if possible, about the sign regulations. During the supplementary budget debate, the minister told me that they were working diligently with the tourism industry and consulting with them on the new sign regulations. Iíd just like to reaffirm that since that time Iíve talked to my constituents and others in other ridings about the sign regulations. They feel that the consultation process should extend to small home-based businesses, especially where the signs are destination signs and they actually exhibit the uniqueness of the community and of the businesses that have those signs.
As well, the local governance authorities have some concerns about the sign regulations, how theyíre going to be rolled out and what their authority is with regard to signs in their local governance area.
I would like the ministerís response to that. I hope that itís a positive response and that they will try to include those small home-based businesses. Theyíre varied. I know in my own riding, I can just drive down the Carcross Road, and there is everything from automotive businesses to wilderness tourism, greenhouse operations, dog-sled and dog-kennel operations. There are horse stables and bed and breakfasts. They are all unique. They all deserve to be heard regarding what types of signs they are going to have. People donít necessarily want a generic sign. Could the minister answer that?
The other thing I would be interested in is whether or not he would provide the consultation plans and time frames for the sign regulations.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I am well aware of the issues he has brought forward with regard to the sign issue. We are in the process of trying to coordinate with the major stakeholders in the sign industry. Despite his experience of driving down the Carcross Road and seeing wilderness operators, home-based businesses and all the rest, one can see that through the whole Yukon.
Achieving any kind of consensus on this process is difficult. The member opposite indicated that not everyone wants a generic sign. Not everyone wants any signage ó period. It depends on where you are and who you are. It has been a difficult task.
We are in the process right now. We have added Association of Yukon Communities to our list, and we have been trying to get that group together with TIA, Tourism and Culture and us. We have been trying to get into some negotiations so that we can come up with some solution, at least on some issues regarding the signs and move forward.
For the member opposite, weíll consider the issues he addressed with regard to individual signs, but I guess the basic aspect is that Iíd like to get together with the major stakeholders to address some of the outstanding issues with regard to signage and try to move forward at least on those initially and then deal with the other issues as they come forth.
Mr. Cardiff: The other thing I asked the minister for in that question was if he would provide members on this side of the House with the plan for the consultation and the time frames weíre looking at for that. I can just get it in writing; he can send it over, or his officials can send it to our office at some point in the future.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíve had several meetings with industry and those involved in that particular thing, but we would like to have one more meeting where we get everybody together one more time to at least get some consensus on the issues we can get consensus on and then move forward. We are in the process of doing that. We originally had one scheduled for last week, but it fell down at the last minute because a couple were not able to attend the meeting, but we are taking strong efforts to move forward on this particular issue. Itís an important one for us, and weíre trying to take into consideration everybodyís concerns with regard to the signs. We would like to move forward as quickly as possible, and thatís what weíre doing.
We intend to move forward as quickly as we can get this group together and, once weíre together, weíll move forward from there. As I mentioned, weíll get the major issues out of the way and then deal with the other issues as they come forth.
Mr. Cardiff: Maybe the minister could indicate then if he has an idea of when they intend to roll this project out in the communities and if thereís a process for that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre not looking at doing any enforcement of the sign issues at the moment. Weíre looking at trying to get this meeting put together as soon as possible with the major stakeholders and, as I mentioned previously, once we get that out, we will bring this forth into the consultation process and go forth into the communities. As I mentioned, Association of Yukon Communities is part of this process as part of the major stakeholders, and we anticipate that will get out into our rural areas as quickly as we can get it out there also.
Mr. Cardiff: As well, on another topic, particularly it has been raised by others in the budget debate in other areas, but itís to do with traffic safety and something Iíve raised previously. When I asked the minister on April 6 in the supplementary budget about traffic safety at the Cowley Creek entrance, the minister said that they would be looking at additional signage and they were going to investigate the speed limit. He also said that they may consider putting in a rumble strip in that particular area. My understanding, when the minister said that, being a building construction worker not a road construction worker, I wasnít sure what he was talking about. So I went and did some research about rumble strips and actually had constituents, both from my riding and Southern Lakes, contact me about the rumble strip issue.
There is some concern that the ministerís department needs to consult with the community and with cycling groups around the rumble strip issue and the need to put one in there. Itís my understanding that rumble strips are meant to wake drivers up that are drifting off the road. There is extensive information from cycling groups available on the Internet about rumble strips, both positive and negative.
Given that this is about young children travelling from their home to the school, which is across the highway in Golden Horn, I think that that consultation needs to be done with the community as well. Iíve read information that says itís not that good an idea to put rumble strips on a graded piece of highway and that, in some cases, rumble strips actually force bicyclists back out into the travelled portion of the highway.
I would just like the minister and his officials to be aware that that concern has been raised, as well as the need for the shoulder width. When youíre putting rumble strips in, that is another major consideration ó so that there is enough shoulder there for cyclists to actually use. The shoulders narrow considerably where the turn-in lanes, the acceleration and deceleration lanes are.
I want the minister to be aware of that. I know it was raised both by the leader of the third party and by my colleague from Kluane, the need to review speed limits. I will ask the minister this question as well. Not only is there a desire to reduce the speed limit in the Cowley Creek section because of the children crossing the highway ó I mentioned earlier that it has been mentioned to me by some constituents ó but the area from the Carcross Cutoff to Gentian Lane or Venus Place is 100 kilometres per hour. There are several driveways on and off the highway, including a restaurant and an RV park. It has an impact on traffic safety and the ability for people to get on and off the highway there.
So I would ask the minister to consider all of those things.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, the member opposite brought up several points. Iíll try to respond to as many as I can.
With regard to his particular concern, with regard to the Cowley Creek and the pavement overlap, during this year weíll be looking at that particular aspect and trying to address his situation where reasonably possible and deal with that situation. We are working with the community. We are also working with the cyclists as it relates to rumble strip work. Weíre considering a centre line rumble strip. We just donít go out and install the rumble strip just because we think itís there. The member opposite did indicate there are pros and cons to a rumble strip, depending on where itís applied. In some jurisdictions, the rumble strip works very well. I know in northern British Columbia, it has a very good success rate in that particular venue. We are looking at it. But we are consulting with the community on that particular issue and trying to address wherever possible the concerns that are brought forward.
With regard to the speed limit in Cowley Creek and Venus Place, we did commit in the supplementary to review and we are doing so this season.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister can nod if he wants. I heard him say itís a centre line rumble strip, as opposed to one on the shoulders.
Hon. Mr. Hart: A centre line rumble strip is being considered.
Mr. Cardiff: That, I hope, will alleviate the concerns of cyclists anyhow.
The other issue along that stretch of highway lately, which I brought to the attention of the ministerís assistant last week ó and I know the minister is aware of it ó is the roadside clearing, which was also brought up yesterday by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. Thereís concern about the roadside clearing and itís about the debris on the highway when you use mechanized equipment, as opposed to doing it manually. I heard the minister explain that itís three times as expensive, but thereís debris left on the highway. So, as part of those contracts, there should be a component where thereís a road sweeper or somebody. I know it will increase the cost of the contract, but if you have branches and debris all over the highway, it doesnít contribute to highway safety or, for that matter, bicycle or pedestrian safety for those walking along the side of the highway.
Thereís also concern that the stumps ó which may be a poor description of whatís left there ó and the trees and vegetation thatís left there is left fairly high and poses a danger to those using ATVs, skidoos or recreational vehicles. It may not be a concern on remote stretches of highway, but where thereís residential development along the highway it is a concern because there are a lot of people who use the sides of the highway for travel with recreational vehicles, whether itís skidoos, dirt bikes or bicycles. Thereís concern that somebody could fall off and get hurt.
I also raised the concern about flashing beacons on the equipment. In my mind, this is one of the most important parts of the concern. My experience in driving through road construction sites is that construction equipment must have a flashing beacon on them.
This comes about from something I am sure many of us in the Legislature remember. Several years ago, a young man was killed on a road construction project. It was after dark, and he hit a road packer when he was on a dirt bike. My understanding was that, after that, there was a requirement for beacons to be on construction equipment. This equipment is left on the side of the road. Itís unmarked and is very hard for people to see.
I actually went for a drive last night after dark, and the skidder was still parked in the ditch, and it was really hard to see. I think itís important that this be looked at.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at that. On the Alaska Highway, there is no requirement to have flashing lights on within the right-of-way. We are looking to our construction people to ensure that their equipment is parked in a safe manner in order to avoid collisions, as the member opposite requested.
Mr. Cardiff: I have some questions around the business incentive policy. Can the minister tell me if there have been any changes to the business incentive policy? Are there any changes anticipated?
Hon. Mr. Hart: BIP is no longer under my jurisdiction; however, from what I understand, there has been no change to the business incentive policy.
Mr. Cardiff: As recently as last night, I was positive I was on the Highways and Public Works site and the business incentive policy was still on that site. Could the minister tell us where it went?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As of April 1, BIP has been reallocated to the Department of Economic Development.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíll have to save the other question for the Minister of Economic Development. I would like to ask the minister a couple of quick questions about the source list for contracting. I just want the minister to reassure me that the government is ensuring contracting opportunities are available for Yukon contractors and small businesses when theyíre using the source list ó for any type of contract actually. Iíve heard concerns that some contractors and small businesses feel like theyíre not getting an equal opportunity in some instances and that theyíre being left out of the picture.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The source list is available to everyone. All you need to do is be asked to be put on the source list. That doesnít guarantee that youíre going to get the job, but all departments have access to that source list and all departments can utilize whoever is on that in the small contracting aspect to deal with it. I have not received any correspondence from anybody who feels that theyíre not getting any contract.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the point is that there are some people who feel that they donít get equal opportunities with other people who are on the source list. It ranges from consulting contracts to various other types of contracts as well. I admit, itís not just limited to the ministerís department but theyíre responsible for the source list. So Iíd just like to make sure that every effort is made to ensure equal opportunity. I guess itís especially important when it comes to invitational contracts, especially when a department is sole-sourcing work, that there is a rotation of people and theyíre all given an equal opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are conducting a review of our sole-sourcing aspects within our rural communities as we speak, and we will try looking at that particular issue. There is a competitive issue when it comes out to local contracts. But as I mentioned before, if you were on the source list, youíre available for a contract, whatever that may be ó whether itís a consultant, whether itís a backhoe operator or whatever it is. If youíre on the list, then youíre on the list. I donít envision any favoritism being played as far as that particular aspect goes. I believe that if somebody does feel that theyíre being jeopardized that way, then they should bring it up to whatever department it is that they would possibly have a contract with. But as far as sole-sourcing in our rural communities, weíre presently reviewing that situation and weíre looking at addressing that situation.
Mr. Cardiff: I have some questions about government lease space. The minister provided us with a listing of Government of Yukon building office lease spaces. There is close to $10 million being spent on building leases in the Yukon. Thatís a lot of money.
The Premier especially ó and the Member for Klondike as well ó have been critical of expensive building leases, particularly when they were entered into by the previous government, which has been locked in for 10 years. I am just wondering ó maybe the minister can tell me if the government has plans to reduce lease costs. What are the plans to reduce lease costs to government?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are constantly reviewing our space plan requirements throughout the Yukon, not only just Whitehorse. We are trying to ensure that we gain maximum efficiency in that process.
In addition, we have taken a fairly strong approach with regard to leasing and shortening the lease period to a maximum of three years. Although not regarded very favourably initially, that seems to be working out quite well now. Those are the methods we are using to try to control our long-term costs, as well as trying to control our need for space. We are keeping the terms of the leases short so that we can accommodate space requirements and adapt to any lack of need for space, should that happen in the interim.
Mr. Cardiff: Could the minister tell us if the government is planning to build or buy space, as opposed to leasing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: At the moment we have no immediate plans for purchasing or leasing anything.
Mr. Cardiff: I guess the question is: in order to reduce the cost of expensive leases, which is what the Premier has been critical of and the government seems to be moving in that direction, if youíre not going to lease the space, where are you going to get it? There are only so many ways ó unless thereís going to be building or office space on the Dawson bridge.
If youíre going to get out of expensive leases, what are you going to replace them with?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We look at things on an as-needed basis. We retender the leases when they come due and, based on what our needs are at that time, weíll bring it forth. This issue is that leases have a term of when they come due and we have to retender for that space. Sometimes space requirements are less, sometimes theyíre more, but we also have to retender.
With regard to 910 Quartz Road, which the member opposite is perhaps referring to, we have a 10-year lease on that particular building. Itís basically an iron-clad lease we have no way of getting out of. I can assure the member opposite that any government will be looking at that lease prior to its completion and looking at whatís going to come out of there. If itís renewed, there will be a hard look taken at how itís going to be renewed.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím just wondering if, in their efforts to reduce the costs of leasing, theyíve analyzed the impacts on the owners of buildings and small communities ó where they lease space in communities.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We make every effort to look at the impact on the communities, especially in the rural areas, and the impact on the local community and how itís going to deal with the space and whatís available in that particular community. Those things are all taken into consideration. Regardless, we still have to act within the contract laws that are out there.
Mr. Cardiff: One more question in the property management area. In the capital, there appears to be a fairly large reduction in capital construction and maintenance and a large increase in project management services. Iím just wondering if the minister could give us a brief explanation of the rationale behind that. If he canít, Iíd be happy to receive it as a legislative return.
Chair:The member appears to be asking a particular question about a particular line item. I would just remind the Assembly that we are still in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The major aspect on the capital maintenance on the upgrade is due to the capitalization of 910 Quartz Road. The other issue is an entry we put in annually and, depending upon what the Government of Canada does, it fluctuates from year to year. But that is what we put in there.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím wondering if the minister could tell me if there has been a reduction in activity at the Queenís Printer and why that would be.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, there has been no change in the Queenís Printer process or budget. What happened last year is we had a one-time cost for the printing of the legislative entries. That was done last year.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister also has the fleet vehicle agency in his department. The government has made use of hybrid or more fuel-efficient vehicles. Iím just wondering if the minister could describe whether or not that has been successful and if there has been a savings to the taxpayer because of that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to that question, we have two actual vehicles that are in the hybrid capacity aspect, and we are dealing with those. We have made some significant fuel savings with regard to those vehicles. However, the up-front capital cost to purchase those vehicles makes the payback somewhere between eight and 10 years, and I would say itís probably a little early to justify whether we go out and change our whole fleet over into that type of facility. Weíre also looking at the possibility of dealing with the private sector and looking at these vehicles in winter months and seeing, if they get run on a regular basis, just what they will plan and what they could do.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister is quite right. The technology is changing rapidly. It was just a few years ago when it was basically small cars that were the hybrids, but now there are other vehicles out there that are available. Iím just wondering whether or not theyíre going to be looking at those types of vehicles or any alternative types of fuel for any of the vehicles theyíre using in the fleet.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member indicated, technology is advancing every day, every year. We are looking at the technology thatís out there and if, in fact, we feel that thereís an opportunity for us to take advantage of new technology in the automotive venue, weíll exercise that option and tread carefully. Weíd like to have a couple more years to look at our current hybrid models so we can have a determination of just exactly what our savings are and what our turnover costs would be on those vehicles.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to thank the minister for that answer. I have just a couple more questions, one with regard to the Old Crow airport terminal. In the budget speech it was announced that the government intends to put a foundation in this year and then proceed with construction next year. Could the minister confirm thatís the case?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in the process of looking at foundation for the ATB in Old Crow for this year. Weíre also looking at accumulating granular material for the upgrade of that airport runway and we anticipate building up the gravel aspect and being able to deal with that under the federal program.
Mr. Cardiff: I would just like to remind the minister that this has been tried in the past: building foundations one year and leaving them exposed to the elements over the winter. It was tried in Mayo. There were problems with the foundation the following year when they tried to build the school.
Does the ministerís department have any plans to deal with that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, we are seeking engineersí advice on exactly that question to determine what is available in foundations. Right now, this is an issue that we are discussing with them in order to come up with a solution that will address this situation and hopefully provide a stable foundation for the facility for next year.
Mr. Cardiff: I still have two more questions, but I will make them quick. Actually, one is a question and one is a suggestion.
I just want to go back one more time to the roadside clearing. I am just wondering if there is any money in the budget to replace the shrubs or trees that were planted at the top of the South Access that the contractor mowed down.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The initial design overlooked the sight distances that were required. For safety reasons, these were cut down and will not be replaced.
Mr. Cardiff: Did I hear the minister correctly? Did he say that they wonít be replaced?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Okay. Thatís interesting. I was under the impression that it was in place to welcome people to the city.
One thing Iíd just like to offer the minister ó yesterday, the leader of the third party suggested that there be a dispute resolution process to deal with disputes over land applications. When I heard that, I thought, "Thatís a great idea." Iím just wondering whether or not the minister could use that process to resolve a problem that I recently corresponded with him about ó a dispute over road right-of-ways in Laberge.
Hon. Mr. Hart: On the memberís suggestion, right-of-ways for access are very important and need to be dealt with. I believe that issues as they relate to land access, or access right-of-ways, should probably be dealt with through the court, if itís going to be that serious a situation.
A dispute on land issues is a little different process, and I believe thatís something that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources indicated he would look at.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to follow up on a few odds and ends before getting to the Dawson bridge. To begin with, the rural road upgrading program we touched on yesterday ó thereís a matter that has been brought to my attention by some contractors and that is that, apparently from time to time, the government requires them to work overtime to complete the jobs and the contracts. Itís my understanding, though, that the government wonít pay overtime to those contractors who, in turn, must pay overtime wages to their employees.
I guess my question is: can the minister, firstly, confirm that? If indeed this is the case, can he explain why?
Hon. Mr. Hart: All of the contracts in the rural roads program are fixed-price contracts. Itís up to the contractor to take care of that situation.
Mr. McRobb: Well, when faced with the very government that provides the work for the contractor, it would put the contractor in what you could call an untenable situation if that contractor were to refuse to work overtime because it could be interpreted that perhaps the government wouldnít use that contractor again in the future. Quite often these contracts are sole-sourced contracts or invitation bids. So itís not a very fair situation. Would the minister undertake to look into this and try to make it more fair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The industry standard is fixed-rate costs or fixed hourly rates. For us to go outside of that would expose the taxpayer to an unnecessary expense. Right now, weíve had very limited complaints with regard to overtime on this program. The issue is that if you submit a price for a particular project on a fixed basis, then, as I indicated before, that is something that has to be dealt with by the contractor.
Mr. McRobb: I would suggest the case of the cost to taxpayers is somewhat overblown. I think weíd be looking at something in the order of a couple hundred dollars or so ó probably not much more than that ó on the occasional job. It really means nothing to the Yukon government. It means a lot to these contractors. It means a lot to the employees too. If the minister is able to give me any kind of a positive message to bring back, he can include it in his next answer. Otherwise, I know of some contractors who wonít be very pleased.
I want to return to the issue of the access to Goodyís Gas Bar. I had the opportunity to discuss this matter briefly with the operators. I understand there is a letter on file or a memo on file from the government indicating it would provide for two-way access on the access road to the Alaska Highway.
Can the minister confirm that for us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It has always been a one-way access to the north on that particular issue. If the member opposite has that memo, then I suggest he table it.
Mr. McRobb: Well, there are lots of memos this minister refuses to table. I think we do need to have greater cooperation and I think the minister could certainly take a lead role in that. Iím not going to table anything without the permission from the individual.
I would like to turn now to a related transportation matter in the neighbouring State of Alaska. On the news today we heard about the discontinuation of ferry service between Skagway and Haines. We know the minister travels and talks to his counterparts in the state. Can he indicate for us if indeed this service has been cancelled or if it has been reduced? What can he tell us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I canít confirm one way or another, but the issue is that we have been working with the government of Alaska on this particular issue. We have tried to encourage them to maintain a continuous service for that ferry between Skagway and Haines. We have worked with the Department of Tourism and Culture on this particular aspect, and we are trying very hard to address that issue and to ensure that the circle route is maintained. We have, as I said, written on several occasions expressing our interest in maintaining that route.
Mr. McRobb: Is the minister willing to provide us with a written statement that would provide for more information on this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Hart: A written statement on what?
Mr. McRobb: A written statement that outlines what exactly has transpired. My original question was: is service discontinued or has it been reduced? Those are the two main areas we would expect some information on. It would expedite matters before the House if the minister would just undertake to provide it in written form after he has consulted his officials. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, the mainline ferry is running between those two areas but there is no dedicated ferry between Haines and Skagway at a specific time.
Mr. McRobb: So how has that affected the schedules ó for instance, the schedules that were posted last year? Is the service reduced? Also, is the mainland ferry that he is referring to the Malaspina?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The mainline ferry is running between those two units. Again, the time scheduling is inconsistent. Thatís one of the issues of concern that we expressed to Alaska. Thatís really, I assume as of today, whatís taking place.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Can the minister provide us with any correspondence on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will provide the member opposite with that correspondence.
Mr. McRobb: That would be appreciated, Mr. Chair.
Also from Alaska, there was a story this morning that they are considering a clean diesel bill. Iím not sure if the minister is aware of this or not. Is it something his department has considered doing in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will endeavour to look into that situation.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps if the minister gets around to it some day, he would provide some information to us, in particular on the practicality of doing this in the territory, and the projected costs and benefits would be appreciated.
I want to ask about the Old Crow winter road. Can the minister provide us with a breakdown of itemized costs for that project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Yukon government made a contribution of $200,000 to the Old Crow road. The rest was made up between the contractor and the First Nation.
Mr. McRobb: I guess through that type of arrangement, the information requested isnít accessible to us.
I understand a study was done this past year of the Dawson ferry and the ferry at Macmillan Pass near Ross River. Can the minister confirm that, and is it something he can provide to us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There was no actual study done on the Dawson and Ross River ferries. Basically, a life cycle analysis was done on those two units, and we just updated them.
Mr. McRobb: Could the minister provide that information, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we can provide it.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd appreciate it.
I want to ask him about communications. We understand that certain portions of these areas of responsibility have shifted to the Department of Economic Development. Can the minister clarify for the record exactly how his responsibilities have changed in this area?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Anything dealing with the expansion of broadband in communication is handled by the Department of Economic Development.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Does that leave the area of cellular infrastructure still within the ministerís domain?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Cellular is actually the private sector aspect, but we do deal with communications in general for the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, Yukoners are sadly aware that the government hasnít taken any role in the expansion of cellular infrastructure in our territory, and weíve asked this minister and several of his predecessors about this matter. Weíre aware that his communications branch has examined the possibility of starting a program to install some cell towers throughout the territory. Mr. Chair, you have heard me probably four times in this spring sitting identify nearby communities such as Teslin, Carmacks, Haines Junction and Carcross as potential recipients that would, in fact, expand the cellular system from Whitehorse out about 200 kilometres in a perimeter outside of Whitehorse. Surely there would be some dead zones in between, Mr. Chair, but at least it would be quite a significant expansion. Can the minister indicate if he has looked at a program such as the one Iíve described?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at a cellular aspect for the entire Yukon as part of the MDMRS and getting that out there for all of our communities. The actual installation of towers is not done by the government; itís done by the private sector. Weíre also looking at dealing with this issue in partnership with private sector individuals and to encourage them to come forward and assist us in providing an expanded cell system throughout the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: If previous governments had taken such a hands-off attitude toward the expansion of Internet and telephone services in our territory, the Yukon would be in a much less desirable position from what it is today. We wouldnít have high-speed broadband in our schools, most communities wouldnít have high-speed Internet and certainly the telephone expansion program would still be in the far-off future.
The government made a significant contribution toward that program and so did the successive government, and even this government has contributed a bit toward it in completing it. I pointed out previously that there is the potential here for the government to become involved with other governments and industry stakeholders to help make this happen.
Now I suggested maybe just starting off with nearby communities. If the minister wants to deal with everything at once, thatís fine. Weíve talked about that too. Itís just that the bigger version was always off the table and I was just trying to be more practical because the entire cost wouldnít be that significant to service those four communities. Certainly if the money wasnít wasted on the Dawson bridge this year, it could have easily paid for that infrastructure. So I would like to ask the minister if he can provide us with some form of financial analysis of the cost of bringing cellular telephone service to the territory. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For us to provide the information he has requested, it would require a substantial amount of time on our behalf and would be a fairly extensive process and also very expensive.
Right now, we are dealing with the cell component under the replacement of the MDMRS and we feel thatís a much more competent way in which to deal with the cell concept throughout the Yukon so it provides cellular service throughout the Yukon, and thatís the area weíre moving forward on and exploring options in so we can improve telecommunications throughout the Yukon, not just in one or two communities.
The issue is that thatís where we plan to go. We are exploring those options as we speak and looking at ways and means to improve our communication out there.
The member opposite previously talked about having high-speed Internet access and all the rest of the information he discussed. Iíll tell the member opposite that we have a hefty payment due this year to pay for that particular aspect, and itíll be a fairly large payment in the future when we have to replace the MDMRS.
So we are looking at ways and means that are economical and reasonable for the taxpayers of the Yukon so we can get an efficient communication service and provide efficient service to our rural communities.
Mr. McRobb: Itís rather shocking. The minister has no financial analysis of the cost of implementing cellular service across the territory. It really is shocking because this has been an issue that the government has been asked about for around four years now. In the three sittings of this Yukon Party government, the question has been asked several times.
I donít think thereís a lot to it. Iím not asking the minister to have somebody go out and undertake all this, but one has to really wonder whatís involved.
I can see, maybe in an afternoon, dealing with Northwestel technicians and some people who crunch the numbers, along with some people in his branch. They could probably get a fairly good analysis of the cost of such an undertaking. The minister has nothing. Well, I think thatís fairly symbolic of this government. It really isnít doing its homework.
If the minister comes across something in his stack of files that pertains to this and resembles some financial analysis, and he has the heart to provide us with it, we would accept it with open arms. We look forward to that opportunity.
In the meantime, I would like to move on to a few other issues. Back in the supplementary budget, the minister indicated that this main budget would be providing for the resurfacing of the rough road sections through the Ibex Valley, which is in the Lake Laberge riding. Can he confirm that for us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently working on a piece of the Ibex Valley.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís not quite the same, Mr. Chair. Earlier, he indicated that they would resurface the problem spots. Now, he says theyíre working on one particular spot. Can the minister address the complete question for us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can provide the member opposite with the actual kilometre where the work is commencing at a later date.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair. Iíll settle for that.
The minister yesterday indicated that the Shakwak R and R project would be limited to only a short section of highway, yet during debate on this same supplementary budget, he indicated that the main estimates would be providing about $1 million for such a project.
Can he now confirm that amount for us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at rejuvenating about 10 kilometres this side of Beaver Creek this year, and we anticipate it will be approximately $1 million.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís good news. Yesterday, the minister indicated he would provide me with correspondence on the Haines Junction kiosk and the Shakwak information he tabled a few weeks back. I donít believe that information has been provided. Can the minister indicate when we might get that information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There was a substantial amount of information requested yesterday, and our staff are working on that.
Mr. McRobb: All right. In relation to the kiosk issue, I have a couple riding questions. This first one deals with a proposal for establishment of a new pullout near the former site of the 1000-mile mark on the Alaska Highway. I believe the minister is familiar with this issue. Apparently, it has received support from other parties, including Kluane National Park, which has agreed to provide some display signage for such a site.
Can the minister indicate if this budget provides for that pullout? If it doesnít, when might we expect a budget to do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre dealing with other stakeholders involved in this pullout as to what theyíre looking for, and weíll probably work with dealing in handling the earthwork in this particular pullout. But whether it takes place this year or next year is yet to be determined.
Mr. McRobb: One issue dealing with speed zones that has been brought to my attention repeatedly is at the site of the community of Canyon Creek, which is about 30 kilometres this side of Haines Junction. Would the minister undertake to review the speed zone going through that community with consideration to lowering the speed limit?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíll add it to our list. We have a whole list of people who want speed limit items done and weíll get to it when we get to it.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I would remind the minister that he should not be so dismissive of the priority of this matter. I am aware of his departmentís policies with regard to speed zones on the main highway artery. One of the triggers for a reduced speed zone is development on both sides of the highway. Clearly, that has been the case in the community of Canyon Creek for a number of years. This is a matter that has been raised by the First Nation to this government and probably several other individuals as well. I think the minister should review the situation, especially since weíre likely to see reconstruction starting at this location in the very near future.
Moving on to actually just north of that community, on the Aishihik Road, it has been brought to my attention there could be washouts on that road. Could the minister give us an update?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre unaware of any particular washouts on the Aishihik Road; however, if itís on the area of the road that we maintain, weíll look at repairing it.
Mr. McRobb: A matter has been brought to my attention thatís connected to the Pine Lake corner to Haines Junction section. Apparently there is a commercial operator who is being affected by the construction. I received a call that identified that it was a drainage problem resulting from the raising of the highway bed near a culvert, which would lead to flooding of an RV park at this particular site. Later today I received a second call that informed me that the operator was working with a project engineer who was helpful and wanting to resolve any difficulties. Itís my understanding that it may take several loads of gravel to alleviate this problem. Is the minister willing to assure us that any problems will be resolved to the satisfaction of this constituent?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If the situation is directly related to our reconstruction, weíll work with the individual to alleviate the situation.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine. I guess that brings us to the bridge in the time we do have available. I would like to ask the minister if he has an estimate, a breakdown of costs, for the Dawson bridge. He indicated there was some in-house analysis done, and hopefully it would have produced the obvious. Can he provide us with this information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated previously, weíre looking at working with the First Nation to determine a design. The design will determine the actual final costs or anticipated costs of the actual bridge.
Mr. McRobb: Is the minister saying that he has no cost analysis or projected total cost because of the need for a selected design? It would be reasonable to assume that the minister has a few figures at his disposal; perhaps something like a low-cost option regarding design, a medium option and a high-cost option. Thatís the type of information weíre looking for. It would be completely astounding if the minister revealed that he has no such information.
What weíre looking for is the sharing of this analysis with us on this side of the House. This is a process that provides the proper checks and balances, and the time has come. So can the minister provide us with this analysis?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The order of magnitude of the bridge could be anywhere from $25 million to $30 million. That will depend on what we discuss with the First Nation, then get the design process underway and look at what the estimate will provide.
Mr. McRobb: Well, those numbers are pretty old. Weíre looking for a breakdown of costs ó an itemized list. I know that the minister is going to stand up and say that the design has not been completed and those numbers wonít be available for about a year, likely when we get out of the spring sitting in 2005. It might even be too late before an election to even look at those numbers.
Itís completely ridiculous to believe that this minister does not have these figures at his disposal, regardless of the design concept. Well, letís think about this for a minute. I would suggest that itís reasonable to assume that there is perhaps a degree of fluctuation in total costs, something in the neighbourhood of 10 percent ó at most, 20 percent.
So weíre looking at something ó according to these old figures, which I think are oblivious to the real costs, and people in the bridge-building industry are saying that around town. This is really a $50-million bridge. Regardless, this minister has at his disposal the information weíre seeking. Weíre looking for a breakdown on the costs. This is according to the latest government analysis that weíve learned has been undertaken recently. Can the minister provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, the actual size and length of bridge are still the same. Once the design is determined, that will identify the real cost. The cost range is still in that range I indicated ó somewhere between $25 million and $30 million. Thatís the scope we look at.
Mr. McRobb: Whatís the big secret? Why the Yukon Party secrecy? Why doesnít the minister or this government ó maybe heís under instructions from the Member for Klondike not to provide us with any material. Itís becoming painfully obvious whoís calling the shots over there.
Now, weíre asking for information that has been provided in the past as a matter of course. Yet the minister is refusing to do that. Heís actually hiding behind, number one, the First Nation, and number two, the design. Thatís unacceptable.
This minister swore an oath when he became a minister to act in the public trust. We swore an oath too, Mr. Chair, to do the best job we can in the name of the public trust. Thatís why Iím asking for this information. We need the breakdown according to the government analysis for this project. Weíre not willing to take no for an answer. Can the minister provide it to us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre at the class B and class C stage on this particular project, and I believe the range provided to the member opposite is well within that range. Class A costs will be identified once the design issue has been determined, and we will go from that particular aspect.
We have provided the member opposite with lots of information with regard to highways, and he has admitted that has been provided. We continue to provide the member opposite with the response to his questions.
Mr. McRobb: Iíll be the first to admit the minister has been quite helpful in agreeing to provide information pertaining to other sections of his department, but this is the big-ticket item of this Yukon Party government. Weíre looking at a $50-million expenditure. Itís going to overwhelm any other capital project during its term in office.
Mr. Chair, just because the minister was cooperative in other areas is no reason to turn a blind eye now. He owes it to Yukoners. Weíre asking on behalf of Yukoners. Just this afternoon I heard from several Yukoners who urged me to ask these questions. Whatís happening is the minister is telling them no.
Well, I guess you canít get blood from a stone, Mr. Chair. Weíll be considering other options.
Speaking of other options, could the minister tell us what other options he analyzed?
Did he analyze rebuilding the ferry, buying a new ferry, building a steel bridge, a cement bridge, et cetera? What options did he examine?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have looked at all the issues that the member opposite mentioned. We looked at one ferry; we looked at two ferries; weíve looked at the replacement ferry issue. Weíve looked at the aspect even with the bridge. Weíre looking at multiple uses of the bridge and what it will be built with, either concrete or steel. As I mentioned, the final determination of the design of the bridge will provide us with a much finer pinpoint in the cost. I will remind the member opposite that we are abiding by chapter 22 of the Umbrella Final Agreement that deals with us working with the First Nation on their traditional area, on an investment that will have an impact on them.
Mr. McRobb: Now can the minister provide us with his in-house analysis on those other options?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, we can provide the member opposite with an updated process that identified those particular issues.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, letís just clarify that statement. The minister said "updated process". What Iím looking for is his in-house analysis. Are those two the same thing? Will he satisfy my request for the in-house analysis?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, itís an update of the information that was done in-house.
Mr. McRobb: Weíll look forward to getting that. Can the minister indicate what impact rising steel costs will have on this bridge and has he examined substituting materials on the bridge? Is that all part of the analysis heíll be providing or is this something else he can provide?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at dealing with the bridge and looking at tendering it out on two bases ó steel and concrete ó and based on the fact that steel has gone up 30 percent recently, the total estimate we feel for the bridge costs might be somewhere between a six-percent and 10-percent increase.
Mr. McRobb: All right, now the minister is admitting that it could top up to $40 million. Well, weíre getting closer to the real costs. Thatís interesting.
Letís turn now to financing models. Will this bridge be cost-shared with the federal government, cost-shared with the Alaskan government, cost-shared with anybody, or will a P3 arrangement be used?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned previously to the member opposite, weíre dealing with the First Nation on this particular issue. Once we are in a position to move forward, that aspect will be determined.
Mr. McRobb: So I take it that the government has no answers to those questions at this point; otherwise we would have heard something more definite. This is a case where one individual on the government side has insisted on this expensive pet project without knowing how itís going to be financed. Itís becoming clear whoís going to get stuck with the tab. It will be Yukon taxpayers one way or the other ó either up front or throughout a long period of time ó decades.
Yukoners werenít asked the important question. Itís going to displace about a dozen and a half jobs in Dawson City. It is going to impact the local economy.
On that issue, Mr. Chair, has the minister examined the impact on the local economy and does he have an analysis that he can provide on that particular issue? I donít want him to stand up and say that those jobs are being made up somewhere else, because that doesnít add up. If those workers are displacing other jobs, then the same number of workers from somewhere else will be casualties of this project. Itís the waterbed effect, Mr. Chair.
The minister needs to be up front. Can he provide us with an analysis of local impact?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As far as the current ferry jobs, we will be looking at absorbing those jobs through attrition. Anyway, no permanent job will be lost. We will absorb those jobs within our workforce. It will be done with little or no impact on the community of Dawson. We plan to stick by that. We are confident that we can absorb that process.
Mr. McRobb: That brings us to the end of our time for this department. Iím looking forward to receiving the material the minister has undertaken to provide. I do wish to thank him and his officials for those undertakings. Even though not all of our questions were answered, we must realize that there are other opportunities to pursue any outstanding questions, and we look forward to those opportunities.
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Order please. Prior to taking a recess, is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line.
Mr. McRobb: Speaking of lines, I donít have the exact line but I request unanimous consent that all lines in Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works be cleared or carried as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 55, Highways and Public Works, cleared or carried
Chair:Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works, cleared or carried as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Highways and Public Works in the amount of $72,482,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Highways and Public Works in the amount of $71,409,000 agreed to
Department of Highways and Public Works agreed to
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue debate on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, with general debate on Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am pleased to introduce the O&M and capital budgets for 2004-05 for the Department of Health and Social Services. The planned O&M expenditure has increased from $153 million in 2003-04 to $161 million in 2004-05, an increase of five percent. This is accompanied by a projected recovery increase of three percent.
With respect to the capital expenditure, we are planning to spend $8,530,000 in 2004-05 in the department. This is up by $4.9 million, or an increase of 136 percent over 2003-04.
The Finance minister in his Budget Address has already highlighted the many new and enhanced initiatives for the department that will contribute to our goal of building healthy communities for the people of the Yukon.
These include: identifying our priorities for new health care dollars negotiated through various accords with Canada; expanding continuing care services in Whitehorse and in the communities; supporting rural ambulance volunteers; focusing resources on FASD; implementing programs and incentives that attract and retain health care professionals; ensuring safe, affordable drinking water; increased support for children in care, families with autistic children, daycare services and rural expectant moms; following through on our major legislative commitments, including reviewing the Childrenís Act and implementing the Decision-Making Support and Protection to Adults Act and the Health Professions Act.
The Minister of Finance also announced the 50-percent increase to the Yukon child benefit, the first-ever enhancement to this important support to low-income families with children. While this is not a specific budget line item within the Department of Health and Social Services, the department worked closely, as partners, with the Department of Finance in its design and implementation.
I would like to also draw to your attention some of the other details of the departmentís budget. Family and childrenís services anticipates an overall increase of four percent over 2003-04. The main features of this increase include full-year funding for the Childrenís Act review process, an increase to the Child Development Centre of $33,000, and $25,000 more for Kausheeís Place.
There are personal increases to cover additional costs for social workers and for family support workers implementing the FASD action plan. Thereís an increase of $47,000 to support families with autistic children and an increase of $364,000 to support childrenís residential assessment and treatment services.
The social services branch within the department anticipates an overall increase of $1.685 million, or nearly five percent over the 2003-04 budget. This is largely attributable to the following: an increase of $1.021 million, which includes 14.9 new FTEs to open up continuing care beds at both Macaulay Lodge and Copper Ridge Place; additional social worker support for implementation of the supported decision-making legislation; $100,000 to support the Salvation Army adult residential programs; and $68,000 additional funding in this budget for the Salvation Armyís shelter program. In the adult services unit, we will be enhancing the services provided for the disabled. There is an additional $130,000 increase in day programming and community supports. Social assistance continues to be very challenging. It has been increased by $424,000 over the 2003-04 main estimates, but if we are unable to get a handle on the transient problem, we may be looking at the need for supplementary funding this fall.
Our health services program area is anticipating a six-percent overall increase for a total requested O&M budget of almost $86 million. Health services represents 53 percent of the funding request for the department.
Mr. Chair, highlights for the coming year include: an increase of $1.272 million for year 3 of the four-year primary health care transition fund initiative, supported by the federal government; a $718,000 increase to support our drug programs; a $344,000 increase to support our medical claims; a $150,000 increase for medical travel; a $49,000 increase to implement the Care Consent Act; $70,000 to support the Liard Basin Task Force youth worker position; an increase of $1.570 million to the Whitehorse General Hospital as well as another $60,000 to the hospital through the primary health care transition fund for an ambulatory care reporting system.
The government and the hospital have partnered on implementing a new stress-testing program that will benefit many Yukoners, including the member opposite, Iím sure. The Hospital Corporation was very successful with its fundraising campaign "Close to the Heart", which raised the capital funds. The department has responded by providing an ongoing $60,000 increase to the hospital to cover the operations of this program. Community nursing will increase by $516,000, which includes $200,000 to provide additional support to ambulance volunteers, $200,000 for costs relating to increased auxiliary support, and collective bargaining increases that will support nursing recruitment and retention initiatives.
A few of the highlights of the capital budget for the department are as follows. This year the department will be paying special attention to the upgrading and replacement of computer workstations, network infrastructure, servers, printers and associated office software. With about 560 desktops in the department, years of not replacing older units has led to a situation where many of the departmentís computers are inadequate for even basic office functions. For the department to efficiently use the systems and business processes that are available, a significant investment in upgrading was necessary. $664,000 is committed in the coming year to this effort. An additional $175,000 is budgeted for system development to support the departmentís many custom applications.
Planning and design work has begun on the construction of a new group home. The new group home will reduce the current number of children residing in the receiving home. $421,000 is committed in the coming year to continue with this project that began last year.
$506,000 is committed in the coming year for ongoing renovations, repairs and equipment replacement at Macaulay Lodge, McDonald Lodge and Copper Ridge Place. $600,000 is budgeted for the architectural design of a Dawson City multi-level care facility and an additional $600,000 for planning and design of a multi-level care facility at Watson Lake. A further $100,000 has been identified to undertake feasibility studies on community needs for seniors facilities in both Teslin and Haines Junction. The work required to respond to and correct the many deficiencies in the Thomson Centre will in the upcoming year add $2.7 million. That is the requirement for this undertaking to date, and thatís in addition to the almost $1.4 million that has already been spent.
Our capital contribution to the hospital will increase this year from $300,000 to $531,000. The additional funding of $231,000 to the hospital is part of the federal medical equipment fund, which is being made available to the hospital for additional capital purchases.
$300,000 is budgeted in the upcoming year for the construction of a nurses residence in Beaver Creek to replace the trailer that is currently being used. Weíve heard from nurse practitioners that attracting and retaining staff is not just about paying high salaries. Lifestyle issues also have to be addressed and adequate accommodation in rural Yukon is an important item.
We will begin by addressing that concern, starting with Beaver Creek and, over the next few years, by improving accommodation for nurse practitioners in other communities.
This covers the budget highlights for the Department of Health and Social Services for 2004-05, and Iíd welcome any questions that the members opposite have at this time.
Mr. Hardy: Now, I am going to be asking some questions as the critic for this area on our side is unavailable at the present time.
It was quite interesting to listen to the presentation at the beginning. We got a little bit more information that we didnít have before, and thatís always appreciated on this side. Iím assuming weíll be in debate on this one for a few hours anyway. Weíll be able to look at some of the figures that were given out and some of the direction of spending, which will allow us to explore those a little bit more in-depth.
Iím going to start, of course, with a line of questions and concerns I have in this department that Iíve actually had over the last couple of weeks ó in Question Period, of course ó and that is the social assistance and social assistance rates and the debate we have had in this House with respect to getting the proper figures and trying to understand the position this minister has taken with transients ó especially from British Columbia and especially male ó and his obvious concerns around the fact that these people show up. Weíre going to explore that a little bit, but I would really hope that, in exploring it, we will get some better figures than what have been handed out so far.
So, let me start off with what was put out there. The minister has indicated that an increase in social assistance of a million dollars has been primarily caused by single males from British Columbia.
Can he explain that to me, because Iíve looked at the figures that have been supplied, and it doesnít show $1 million to me.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what we had was an increase in payouts for social assistance last summer, starting mid-May and carrying through and tapering off later on in the summer. That bubble was in the area of $1 million. It primarily went to newly arriving Yukoners who were on SA for a very short period of time; it was approximately three months before they went off SA. Those accurately reflect ó they werenít all from British Columbia. That was the principal area, and some of them came from Alberta, some from Ontario.
But what appears to be driving this issue is the fact that in the category, Yukon pays the highest rates for social assistance of any jurisdiction in Canada. Itís currently $12,000 a year, whereas British Columbia is less than half of that and Alberta is less again. The category that weíre referring to is primarily single, male, 40 years of age or younger and employable. The next category was single, female, 40 years of age or younger, with employable skills. Where we met the needs and where we will continue to meet the needs are for the social assistance needs of Yukoners.
Itís an area that weíve identified with and we will be going forward, after due consultation, with an increase in the social assistance rates this fall. The major category will be for handicapped, single parents and couples with children.
Mr. Hardy: So last week during Question Period in the Legislature, the minister handed out an explanation of the figures he had presented after being questioned for a couple of weeks. Iíve looked at this and, Iím sorry, I donít see a million dollars. I donít see the indications that this minister has to justify the actions he wants to take against the poor males.
So let me go through this. Letís see if we can walk through this handout that has been given to us. If the minister would get up and answer the questions, maybe we can get through it quite quickly and move on to other stuff.
First off, we should maybe make sure ó does the minister have this handout he passed out in the Legislature? Itís entitled "Subset of 2003-04 caseload, arrived in Yukon and application date 2001-04-01." Does he have that so we can talk on the same sheet here?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Mr. Hardy: Great. First off, letís go with the title. Iím not sure what the application date means: 2001-04-01. Could he explain what that figure means?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís the arrived-in-the-Yukon and the application date since then, so these are people, newly arriving Yukoners, who are in that category. We only concentrated on newly arriving Yukoners who have been here for less than two years.
Mr. Hardy: So, I understand now that the bubble happened last year. Weíre talking about arrivals in 2001 all the way up to 2003. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The net effect was a $1-million increase in social assistance payments for newly arriving Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: Based on this paper that was handed to us, am I to assume that it starts in 2001 and 2003, but the bubble heís talking about is the 2003 summer period? Thatís the $1 million?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: One only has to look at the supplementary estimate that we came forward with this spring to balance out last year. There was an increase of over $1 million in SA payments that was budgeted for by way of the supplementary. That should tell the tale.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I have the supplementary 2003-04 in front of me as well, and is the minister referencing where it states "Social Services, Supplementary No. 2, $1,001,000"? Is that what heís referencing?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís part of it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you to the minister for answering "part of it". My understanding is that this is the supplementary that has been referenced. This is the bubble that has been referenced to males under 40 coming from B.C. Weíll add Alberta to expand on that. Iím not overly concerned about that ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Okay, we can add Ontario. I donít mind.
Now, in reading this supplementary, under Social Services, which the minister has just admitted is where the $1 million is, my understanding of Social Services is that there are four activities there.
There is program management, alcohol and drug services, adult service unit and continuing care. Do those four make up the million dollars?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I could remind the member opposite that weíre currently on the mains for general debate for this forthcoming year. Weíve cleared the supplementary. I would encourage the member to go back and speak with his colleagues about why this wasnít dealt with back at that time. But the biggest driver in that cost category was SA. Iíll say that, but letís move forward and letís deal with the budget that we have before the House here.
Mr. Hardy: Iím quite willing to debate the spending but itís the minister himself who has referenced the supplementary. I must address something that the minister references. If the minister wants to talk about the supplementary and point where I have to look ó because if we look back only a few minutes, it was the minister himself who told me to look at the supplementary.
So now Iím looking at the supplementaries and I am asking a question just to get clarification, and heís telling me that I shouldnít look at it. That doesnít make sense. I have to wonder what the minister is doing here. He wants me to look at it, he doesnít want me to look at it. If I look at it to justify his argument, thatís fine. If I look at it to get some explanation about it, itís not fine.
My question was very simple: do those four activities make up the million dollars that heís talking about, the bubble? Simple question. Iíll move off it quickly.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I must point out to the member opposite that the main component that drove the supplementary was the increase in SA payouts. Thatís the $1.17-million increase in social assistance. Thatís where weíre at. In the regional services, there is another $270,000 increase in social assistance. Thatís a 23-percent increase in the number of cases and an 18-percent increase in expenditure over the period. Thatís where weíre at.
Weíve already cleared this. Letís move forward. If the member opposite wants to look backwards, thatís his prerogative. I would encourage him to do it on his own time.
Follow the numbers. They speak loudly to what I have enunciated very clearly on the floor of this House ó that the bubble occurred last summer, that it was predominantly singles, 40 years of age, with employable skills, newly arrived here in the Yukon.
Now I donít know how the member opposite wants to categorize that or how he wants to change it, but the numbers are there. The expenditures have been incurred. They have been recognized by way of the supplementary and dealt with accordingly. Now weíre looking forward.
Hopefully the member opposite will be encouraged by the tremendous increase in this budget and the tremendous attention that our government is paying to the area of health care. I would see the member opposite as being somewhat discouraged by our partyís capture of the agenda in this area and addressing the needs ó the social agenda needs ó here in the Yukon. That is the issue.
Let me also share with you a couple more statistics. I had some other statistics that identified the high cost to the health care system of some of those on social assistance. It is very disproportionate. We have a social safety net. Itís working, but we want it to work primarily for Yukoners.
Now, newly arrived Yukoners: we welcome them here. In fact, there will have to be an influx of newly arrived Yukoners, given the turnaround in the economy and the growth that weíre going to experience because of our governmentís commitment to address the restoring of investor confidence in the economy, turn it around, allow the resource extraction sector to go to work, allow the visitor industry to expand and enhance, and weíre meeting that challenge head on.
So we can expect more new Yukoners to be arriving because of the opportunities here. And we can also expect that there will be opportunities for all Yukoners who want to avail themselves of those opportunities. We are working in partnership with First Nations to ensure that happens. I would take it that the member opposite is somewhat concerned with our approach.
Mr. Hardy: Well, it seems that the minister doesnít want me to talk about the supplementary he referred me to. So Iím going to put some things on record as well.
In reading the supplementary he referred me to ó and reading the supplementary he has referred to on many occasions, especially in the last couple of weeks ó it says social services, the $1 million that heís talked about, the bubble, in the supplementary.
I turn it over ó Social Services is made up of activities, program management, alcohol and drug services, adult services unit, which I suspect is the area heís talking about, and continuing care. Now, interesting enough, under adult services unit, thereís a three-percent reduction. Now, itís my understanding that social assistance rates fall under the adult services unit. If Iím wrong, Iím willing to admit it, but thatís my understanding. And yet, in the supplementary, it shows a three-percent reduction. So I donít understand what this position that the minister has taken is, but Iím going to move off that. He was the one who directed me there, Iíve gone there, he doesnít like me there ó it gets a little too hot. So weíll move back off that.
Letís go back to what has been handed out with respect to the figures. Now, as I asked, what was that first line? What did it mean ó the 2001? The minister has explained that itís over a couple of years. These figures are not based upon summer period.
If I look on the second page, looking at it, from May to September for arrivals in the Yukon, there are only about 53 people. If thatís the case, from May to September, the summer period of last year, there were only 53 arrivals that went on social assistance. I stand to be corrected. Iím hoping the minister will explain this one to me. Iím trying to sort it out ó if that makes up 53 males under 40, or does that make up 53 of all the groups, family type, as classified in the first section of this sheet that has been handed out?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís go back to the numbers. And I would encourage the member, if heís going to jump into the debate on Health and Social Services, that he touch base with his colleague, the critic in the official opposition. This could have been dealt with and spelled out clearly in the debate on the supplementary.
Now, what happened was there was a $1.001 million increase in Social Services. Thatís across the whole gamut of social services. These increased results were from the following: there was a $1.170 million increase in social assistance. That is based on an 11-percent increase in the number of cases and a 14-percent increase in expenditures over the period now. There is a $400,000 decrease due to salary lapses. There is a $134,000 decrease due to training delays and other miscellaneous contracts. There is a $100,000 decrease in employment incentive grants, and there is a $50,000 decrease in grants-in-lieu on taxes for Copper Ridge Place.
So when you add it all up, the member opposite can go back and get his calculator out, and I would share with him my calculator because I wouldnít want to see that NDP math come to the forefront. Iíd like the clear reckoning of a calculator, and he can clearly see where we were at. That bubble in the payments, or increase in social assistance, was created by newly arriving Yukoners. Thereís also an increase in salaries, which was for the collective bargaining agreement. But overall, the increase in SA was $1.170 million. That is significant in itself.
So that said, thatís where weíre at. I hope the member understands it. Iíd like to close the book and look forward. We can spend the whole time in the supplementary, but weíre not here to debate the supplementary. The supplementary has been cleared, and I would encourage the member opposite, as much as he might think this issue is extremely important, the numbers are there. The costs have been incurred, and they have been incurred looking after newly arriving Yukoners. Thatís the bottom line, and I clearly enunciated that category and I stand by what I have said previously. The overall increase was of that order of magnitude and it occurred in the last fiscal cycle.
Mr. Hardy: Well, itís all tied together, because itís all part of our spending, isnít it?
I really want to understand this, because Iím sure that we will all be following this very closely years down the road as well. Definitely the minister understands this line of questioning. He did it for about seven years from this side. He should be quite excited to demonstrate a different way of answering, contrary to that which he felt he was experiencing when he was on this side asking questions. I expect to see that enlightened approach coming from this minister.
The first line is ó looking at these figures that were handed out, I can understand this better and analyze future sheets of paper like this that are handed out, and we will get to what this really means in a minute ó "single male, 58.3 percent, $488,265". Does single male mean under 40?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue of being in opposition and having questions is that, before one can come forward and put forward questions, one has to understand the issues and have the math lined up. Mr. Chair, Iím not prepared to answer questions at this time on the supplementary budget. I am prepared to answer questions on the mains, which we have before us for debate. Thatís where we are. We are digressing. Itís unfortunate, but we have before us the mains.
Given the tremendous increase and the tremendous size of the budget, itís only appropriate that, given the length of time we have left for general debate ó we have three days and a very short period of time left today, just approximately half of an hour left, Mr. Chair ó letís move forward on the mains.
Mr. Hardy: We will move forward on the mains when I get some answers, and it could go really fast. In five minutes we can be through this. So working together it will happen and the minister should be happy with that. Iím not going to linger on a lot of this stuff; I just want some answers.
I am kind of shocked that the minister is really uncomfortable about talking about this. This is his department. These are the figures that he handed out. He should be able to stand up in the House and explain them to us and answer for them.
My question was: single males, are they all under 40? Is this what it makes up? My second question ó and I didnít get an answer to that one. Iíll put it on the record. Another question I had was: do these figures that are represented on this sheet start at the 2001 period? And itís not just the last summer period of 2003. That should be a simple one. So the next time we get these sheets, weíll understand them. Yes or no?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Well, Iím going to take it that maybe I have to answer for the minister here. This that was handed out to justify the statements that this minister has made does not just mean last summer. Put it on the record. "Single males" does not just mean under 40 nor does it necessarily just mean transients from Outside. When does a person stop being a transient is also a question that we might to discuss as well. Is it the first few months, first year, when they go from class A to class B in SA? And that does exist. Weíre all familiar with that. Do they stop being a transient? Do they fall under the other category? Single females ó same questions. We probably wonít get an answer. So Iím assuming that our position is correct. The minister has difficulty in justifying what he handed out.
Continuing on, the minister made a statement last week in which he said that stats were kept daily. I believe it. I believe all departments do a tally of numbers, probably on a daily basis, monthly, weekly basis and that, and then they have reports.
What does the department do with the daily figures? Do the daily figures become a monthly report or a weekly report?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you very much. Thatís perfectly adequate, Mr. Chair.
How are they broken down? Could the minister describe to me how they are broken down? Now, Iíve said this in the House before. I remember when we were in government but I donít recognize this kind of layout. I recognize a different type, historically, of how these stats were kept, how they were broken down, and they do not threaten confidentiality of the people at all. They were just numbers. They were broken down in categories. Does the department still keep that kind of breakdown that historically has been done in the past?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It canít be generated as a separate report, and weíre not prepared to do it at this juncture. The bottom line is, for the past fiscal period, there was a bulge in SA payments of over $1 million. That was budgeted by way of a supplementary, and that supplementary has cleared this House.
Now, the case that the member opposite is trying to make is not appropriate, and now it is indicated that he is not going to speak about it any more. But the stats speak for themselves, with a million more dollars in SA payments in the last fiscal period.
I would encourage the member opposite, if he was that enthralled, that he should have attended at the supplementary budget debate and he could have explored it at that time. But thatís cleared. Weíve approved that supplementary. Letís go forward. What we have is budgeted for the next fiscal year.
If the member opposite has a question about policy, if the member has a question about legislation, if the member has a question in general debate about the financing that is projected or the budget thatís projected, Iíd be happy to entertain it.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Iíd hate to burst the bubble on this minister across the way, but I have a question about stats, I have a question about numbers, and I have a question about costs. Those are all part of budget debate. I know he kind of missed that section when he was describing what we could and couldnít talk about in here. The spending habits, projections and the statements the minister has made over the course of the last few weeks around the supplementary also ties into this one as well. Itís all connected, whether he likes it or not.
My questioning, though, is to date ó the present, right now. The monthly stats that they keep ó weíve gone from the daily stats to the monthly stats. Is the department still keeping the same type of statistics, which are categorized differently so that the minister, department heads and analysts can track the numbers? Obviously they must because the minister has been talking about how many people are coming from where and what category they are. So, there must be something thatís keeping track of it.
Obviously it happens monthly because, looking at the back of this sheet, I see a monthly breakdown of last year. Iím wondering whatís going to happen this year. May 13, June 9, July 11, August 10 ó obviously thereís a breakdown, a tracking of arrivals in this area.
So, what Iím asking for ó and itís current right now ó is what kind of method is being used? Is it the one Iím familiar with, from the 2000 period, or has it changed and the only kind of available information handed out now is of this type? Is it available now to get the numbers for how many transients, how many unemployed, how many working couples and stuff like that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I canít understand how the member views or sees a lot of things sometimes. Heís quite different in his approach to reality than normally is accepted. That said, the issue is one of an increase in SA payouts last year in excess of a million dollars. Thatís broken down.
The way the stats have been kept has not changed. The member opposite is going on about how he knew the stats were kept. Yes, the stats can be generated in that format, but as a working tool, itís not generally looked upon in that manner.
Now, what we are tracking are newly arriving Yukoners. They are driving our SA costs. No one has any quarrel on this side with having a social safety net in place for Yukoners and ensuring that it is in place, works and provides the maximum that we can provide to Yukoners. What we are having difficulty with is that, due to the comparison of the social safety net between Yukon and our neighbouring jurisdictions, we are double annually over British Columbia and we are almost three times higher than Alberta. And you couple that with some of our programs, we are appearing to be a destination of choice for maybe not all the right reasons. I donít know that for sure, but the stats are there. The stats clearly identify that the costs are being incurred by paying out SA.
Itís clearly identified as to who weíre paying the SA out to. So we have to address that issue because thereís only so much money in the budget envelope and Iím sure all members in this House want to ensure that social safety net is in place for Yukoners. Now Iím sure the member opposite will put people to sleep in this House with his line of questioning.
Mr. Hardy: Well, does the department keep a yearly summary of all of this? Iím sure they do. Do they keep a yearly summary of the past numbers? Iím sure they do; thereís a compilation of that at the end. If so, would the minister be willing to give us, say, the last five years of the summaries so we can see the pattern of the influx of people into the territory and get a picture. Iím saying the last five years: if he wants to give me six years, thatís fine, I donít mind. Then maybe we can track it. Would he be willing to table that information for the opposition? What Iím looking for is the yearly summary and not just a couple of figures, but what the department does as a summary ó as long as it doesnít break any confidentiality.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I can do immediately is provide the member opposite with the number of new cases for the last three years: 2003-04, 564 cases; 2002-03, 510; the total number in 2000-01, 658. So we have gone from 1,511 to 1,306 to 1,408. So of cases identified, they arrived in the Yukon from a place of origin in that fiscal period that is not Yukon. So thatís where weíre at. And the average age is 40 years, 80 percent male. We know full well that 41 percent arrived from British Columbia; 18 percent arrived from Alberta, 1 percent from Manitoba, 2 percent from New Brunswick, 1 percent from Newfoundland, 3 percent non-Canadian, 1 percent Nova Scotia, 5 percent Northwest Territories, 13 percent Ontario, 6 percent Province of Quebec, 3 percent Saskatchewan, 6 percent unknown. So that should give the member opposite a clear breakdown.
Mr. Hardy: Iíd thank you for the answer on that surface scan. What I asked for was, first off, is there a yearly compilation of the numbers done by the department, and if so, if it has been done in the past over the last few years, would the minister be willing to ensure that the official opposition gets that information so we can understand the patterns that are being talked about.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is a rather thick set of statistics that I will send over for the last fiscal period. It is not going to support the member oppositeís argument. It will clearly identify that we are paying out a lot of SA money. Thatís the bottom line. What we want to do is have the social safety net in place, number one, for Yukoners and, number two, for Canadians. Because of changes in SA and how itís dealt with in our neighbouring jurisdictions ó there are some jurisdictions where, if you go in for SA, all you get is a bus ticket. We show a lot more compassion here in the Yukon than what the member opposite thinks. We identify with the social safety net. In fact, weíre taking steps as a government to enhance it and we will be enhancing it.
What is sad about the whole equation is that the member opposite will probably vote against this budget that enhances SA. It enhances and improves SA to categories of people who need an increase in SA, such as the handicapped and single parents. We have taken other steps as a government to provide other relief for single parents, such as support payments to those parents who are in social housing. Those support payments are no longer considered part of the rent and 25 percent is not deducted from those support payments for those in social housing.
Further to that, we have increased the ceiling of the child tax credit from $16,000 to $25,000. That will improve conditions. We have taken a multitude of steps forward as a government. The member opposite, when in government, could have seen that occur, but chose not to.
Iím disappointed that the member opposite sees this as faulting us as a government, but these are very positive initiatives that our government has taken. Weíre moving forward on the social agenda, and when we see and we have an identified need brought to our attention, we are committed to analyzing that need. If itís demonstrated, we will meet those needs. I guess the member opposite is upset that weíre doing that rather than taking a hard right-wing view of the situation that the member opposite is suggesting we are doing. We certainly are not. We are taking a middle-of-the-road approach, and where thereís a demonstrated need we are meeting that demonstrated need.
Mr. Hardy: I applaud the minister for the promises made to increase assistance for the groups heís identified over and over and over. I applaud that and I definitely support that.
As to why we will vote against this budget, there is a multitude of reasons. I really donít think we need to go around and around and around on it, but I donít mind. If the minister wants to pick a fight, we can go at it.
However, I have other questions that I think are missing in this equation, which he seems to like to gloss over, including the extremely upsetting comments he has made about certain classes of people in our society. But maybe I wonít even go down there.
How about if I find out what he is actually planning to do in regard to the future. He has indicated that heís quite willing to talk about the future and where theyíre going. He says that heís identified this problem that we still havenít necessarily firmed up, whether itís a fabrication. His numbers donít jibe. Anybody in this room can understand that this minister has not been able to back up his statements.
The numbers donít jibe and he refuses to debate that, which is a shame. However, I will move on and Iíll ask him what he actually does plan to do to address this so-called increase in transient people, under 40, coming in that affects us during the summer. What would be his solution, or where is he going? What has he directed the department to do? Iím quite curious to see how heís going to deal with that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre consulting on our options.
Mr. Hardy: I kind of assume that this minister has done a lot of thinking about this because he has been willing to talk about it for three weeks straight, shooting out figures that have no substance at all. In the House, obviously, he canít even prove them. Sometimes itís quite ridiculous even trying to debate it. But what does the minister envision then? Iím asking the minister if he has a vision. I hope thatís fine and I hope he doesnít feel thatís dangerous territory.
What does the minister actually envision to be options to deal with a transient? If I listen closely, I believe I hear British Columbia, $6,000 per year. I hear Alberta, $4,000-some per year, for a single person. I donít know if they differentiate between male and female, resident and transient. Iím not sure about that, but this minister obviously has pointed to one certain type of person: male, under 40, transient. I donít know yet about the female, under 40, transient. We havenít heard that one. Maybe thatís a different category heís creating.
But Iíve heard a little over $4,000 in Alberta, $6,000 here, approximately $12,000 up here ó thatís the problem. These under-40 males want to come and live the high life on $12,000 a year in the Yukon, one of the most expensive places in Canada to live. Is one of the options to copy the B.C. model and possibly match the amounts, as well, to ensure there is no attraction whatsoever?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, final SA rates for full-time residents of the Yukon are currently being examined. The one area that I can share with the member opposite this minister is pretty determined to see come to fruition is that the SA rates for handicapped persons will be increased by $125 per month. That number Iím hoping not to waiver from, subject, of course, to my Cabinet and caucus colleaguesí approval because this all has to be ratified.
But currently, for where weíll eventually be with the overall SA rates, the consultation process is ongoing. The consultation process is taking place with the First Nation members and their various communities, given that the First Nations usually mirror the SA paid by Yukon.
There are some issues with Indian Affairs on how theyíre going to deal with the mobility of First Nation members, and there is the ongoing issue that the federal government has yet to address ó or probably even do anything with ó and that is the issue of on-reserve, off-reserve for aboriginal people. Itís clearly a fiduciary responsibility of Canadaís. We as a department enter into the equation from time to time and back-bill the respective federal agency, organization or First Nation. That said, itís not a situation that can be resolved any time soon.
I would suspect that negotiations, discussions and consultation will continue for some time into the summer and we will have a final answer as to where the overall rate scheme will be by the fall. That said, we are considering other categories for the spring. I am hoping that we can move forward forthwith on new categories. We have been remiss for some time in addressing the situation in a timely manner. The member only has to refer to the information supplied to him, which I stand by as being an accurate and correct reflection of what has gone on this past fiscal cycle. It clearly identifies the category of individuals that is creating the bubble in the SA payments.
I am sure that the member opposite may have insight into this from other sources that may or may not be able to share the situation with the member opposite. His membership in a couple of other organizations is such that that information would be readily available to them.
Mr. Chair, what we want to do as a government is ensure that the social safety net that has been created here in the Yukon is used and is available to Yukoners. We are not looking at the social safety net as a tool to increase our population.
The other impact it has is that on the health care system ó and Iíll share another statistic with the member opposite: the cost of health care for someone on SA is more than double what it is for someone not on SA in the general population. We had just over 2,000 SA cases and we can share with the member opposite that the cost of that was just over $1,000 per SA recipient for health care. The average cost for non-SA recipient, or the balance of the population, some 30,000, is around just over $500 per annum. So, that said, that should clearly identify cost drivers. Thatís not to say that the individuals who are utilizing the service are incorrect; in fact, much to the contrary. Itís a service that is universal health care, but the issue is that we have to have it in place for Yukoners, then Canadians. Canadians migrating from another jurisdiction are covered by health care from their point of origin for three months after they arrive and, likewise, any Yukoner moving to a neighbouring jurisdiction is covered by Yukon health care in that new jurisdiction for the first 90 days.
When weíre looking at the SA payments, the money weíve identified is usually going out to SA recipients for something like 2.9 months, which is just under the category of being eligible for Yukon health care benefits.
I might have that number a little confused. Itís 3.9; itís just over the timelines that it would take to become eligible for Yukon health care. So when you look at this big picture ó and Iíd encourage the member opposite to take a proactive approach and help us look at ways of achieving what all Yukoners want. They want a fair and equitable system that is a good social safety net and that meets the needs of those in need, but doesnít provide a lifestyle for newly arriving Yukoners as a consequence.
Mr. Chair, we have a lot of difficulties in our social envelope here in the Yukon. The biggest scourge is drug and alcohol abuse. If we can get a handle on SA payments, we can direct some of the funding as clearly identified in this budget to address the drug and alcohol abuse and treatment. Weíd like to concentrate more money into the programming area. Weíd like to identify the programs that are operated by NGOs and by the department that are efficient and effective.
One only has to look at the children in care. There are 304 children currently in care ó thatís approximately one percent of the population of the Yukon. When you look at the reasons they are in care, they include alcohol abuse and drug abuse, and alcohol and drug abuse comprise over 50 percent of the reasons ó 60 percent in total of the reasons children come into care. There are other reasons, such as general neglect, mental health, abandonment, teen and parent conflicts, family violence, physical abuse, special needs and other. Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and drug and alcohol abuse are the biggest factors for why we have so many children in care.
So I would encourage the member opposite to help us identify where we can put our money in terms of programming and initiatives that will address this scourge on our society.
I believe that together we have the same goals and aspirations for Yukoners. I donít think the member opposite would disagree. Weíre all looking for a place to raise our families with opportunity to move forward and become contributing members of society and, if needed, the social safety net has to kick in from time to time.
And the health care system has to be available. We as a government are not looking to privatize anything. We are looking at moving forward and providing the best possible social safety net, where there is a demonstrated need.
Thatís where weíre going. Iím sure the member opposite agrees with what weíre doing, but at the end of the day heíll probably choose to vote against this budget for whatever reason he might have in the back of his mind.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call this House to order.
May the House have a report from the Acting Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Acting Chairís report
Mr. Cathers:Mr. Deputy Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Acting Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 12, 2004:
Yukon Law Foundation: audited Financial Statement for the fiscal year ending October 31, 2003 (Taylor)
The following documents were filed May 12, 2004:
ĎWildlife species: Rangifer tarandusí (Hardy)
ĎReindeer and caribou, the difference betweení (Hardy)