Tuesday, November 30, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to dedicate its remaining time in office to honouring the 2002 campaign promise of a new, inclusive style of governing based on consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise, not on confrontation and unilateral action.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) only Government of Yukon publications should be paid for by the Government of Yukon;
(2) the soon-to-be-published platform mid-term report is a partisan Yukon Party document and not a Government of Yukon publication; and
THAT this House urges the government only to pay for Government of Yukon publications and not to publicize political Yukon Party documents on the Premierís Web site.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Mr. McRobb: I would like to invite all members of this House to join me in welcoming a former, long-term Deputy Clerk to this Assembly, Missy Follwell.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
†Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Deputy Premier. The Deputy Premier is aware that the President of the United States is in Canada today. This is a perfect opportunity for northern leaders to bring forward important issues on behalf of the people who live north of 60. Is the Deputy Premier aware that the Premier of Northwest Territories has stated he intends to draw the Presidentís attention to the concerns of the Gwichíin people over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during his meeting with President Bush?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Premier has been invited by the Prime Minister of Canada to a state dinner for President Bush, who is in Canada today. In all likelihood, the Premier, along with the Premier of the Northwest Territories and all the other premiers of Canada, will be introduced to President Bush. Like Premier Handley of the Northwest Territories, should the opportunity arise, our Premier will be raising with President Bush the issue of the caribou and their calving grounds and the drilling ban in ANWR, along with other issues. Iím sure all northern premiers would appreciate the opportunity to meet with President Bush. Iím given to understand the likelihood of this occurring is not very high.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, how do we know the Premier is going to bring this issue up with President Bush? Last week he wouldnít even sign a simple letter on our behalf. The Premier of Northwest Territories has seized this rare opportunity.
Premier Handley says that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the most important issue he can raise with the President on behalf of northern people. No issue matters more to my people than the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd, Mr. Speaker. The Premier will be meeting with President Bush in Ottawa, and we are sure that he has a cell phone. Will the Deputy Premier telephone Premier Fentie and ask him to show some real leadership on this issue by bringing it up if he has the opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can assure the member opposite that if our Premier has an opportunity to have a private meeting or any kind of a meeting with President Bush that this is on the top of the list of issues that he has for discussion with President Bush. The other two major issues that we have for discussion are the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the Alaska railroad extension through Yukon. So there are three issues, but at the top of the list is the issue of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd in ANWR.
Now, President Bush is in Canada, and he was well-received. It was reported on the radio that he was waved at by Canadians with all five fingers, Mr. Speaker, so that bodes well for receiving the President here in Canada. The other issue is that the likelihood of there being a private meeting with the President of the United States by any of the northern premiers is highly unlikely. But should it arise, our Premier will be bringing forward the issue of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd as a top priority, and that message has been conveyed to Chief Linklater of the Vuntut Gwitchin.
Question re: Premierís attendance at state dinner
†Mr. Hardy: Yesterday morning we learned indirectly that the Premier will be breaking bread with the U.S. President in Ottawa later today. We found out about this through the media calls asking for a response. My question is for the Deputy Premier and government House leader: why the secrecy?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no secrecy. Thereís no plot underway here. There was a factual reporting that there was going to be a state dinner and that the premiers of all the territories and provinces were invited by the Prime Ministerís Office to attend it. Iím sure that our Premier heard about it at the same time on the news media that everyone here in Canada heard about it. This event and who was attending was well-known and well-advertised. Itís a state dinner for 700 individuals ó prominent individuals in Canada ó who will be hosted by the Prime Minister of Canada. Among those who were invited to attend were all the premiers of the provinces and territories. There is no secrecy here.
Mr. Hardy: Au contraire, Mr. Speaker. Thereís a lot of secrecy, and it lies with every single one of the elected members across the way, and thatís the big problem here. We also learned again ó
Speaker: My understanding again of the leader of the official oppositionís statement, prior to the member getting up, is the secrecy lies with ó is that your pronunciation?
Mr. Hardy: It lies ó thatís what I said: it lies.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), Mr. Speaker, I believe the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to this side of the House.
Speaker: Thatís not necessary. There is no point of order.
The leader of the official opposition has the floor. He has about 15 seconds.
Mr. Hardy: Were Yukoners asked what should be on the Premierís wish list, Mr. Speaker? No, they were not. Were Yukoners even told what was on the Premierís wish list, the one he has identified and supposedly carries in his back pocket? No, they were not. Were they even told the Premier would be meeting with the President? No, they were not.
Again, for the Deputy Premier, whatís on the Premierís wish list and who was consulted about it? I know the Deputy Premier has identified a couple, but I would like to know what the full wish list is.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Premier of the Yukon was invited, along with the premiers of all the other provinces and territories, to attend a state dinner in Ottawa hosted by the Prime Minister. There are 700 people in attendance at this state dinner. In the unlikelihood that there is a private meeting or any sort of a meeting between our Premier and the President of the United States, he will be raising the issue, (1) of the Porcupine caribou herd and drilling in ANWAR; (2) the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline; and (3) the railroad issue. These have been three subject matters that have been debated on the floor of this Legislature quite extensively, with questions in Question Period on an ongoing basis. There is no secrecy here. There is no plot. We are an open and accountable government and our Premier is spending the time ó
Mr. Hardy: Well, all of this is about the conduct and the secrecy of the Premier, and thereís no question about that. This is becoming one of the biggest issues that exist in the territory today.
Now forgive me for sounding a little naive, Mr. Speaker, but I was under the impression that the Premier was elected to represent the people of the Yukon. That includes Yukoners who are seriously concerned about more than ó I hear of up to 100,000 Iraqi men, women and children dying in an illegal war. That includes Yukoners who donít want anti-ballistic missiles installed right on their doorsteps. That wasnít mentioned in the list. That includes Yukoners who care deeply about the environment and about protecting the Porcupine caribou herd from drilling activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Premier is supposed to represent those Yukoners too, not just the resource industry and other friends of the Yukon Party, which is all we ever hear about. Will the Deputy Premier table the Premierís so-called wish list today so that the Yukon people can decide for themselves if their concerns are being represented?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, these are the facts of the matter: the Premier of the Yukon was invited to a state dinner by the Prime Minister. It is taking place in Hull, Quebec, this evening. There are 700 individuals who will be in attendance at this state dinner. The Premier was pleased to accept the invitation. There is a chance ó an off-chance ó that there will be an opportunity for the Premier to meet the President of the United States, and the three top items that he has for discussions are: (1) the Porcupine caribou herd and the protection of its calving grounds from drilling; (2) the issue surrounding the development of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline; and (3) the railroad. But there are others. There are many, many others, should time permit, but the likelihood of such a meeting occurring is remote. But if it does arise, you can bet that the Premier of the Yukon will take every opportunity to put forward the position of the Yukon and spell it out very succinctly.
Speaker: Order please. Before the leader of the third party asks her question, I would just like to remind all members of Standing Order 6(6): when a member is speaking, no member shall interrupt except to raise a point of order or question of privilege.
Leader of the third party, you have the floor.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline
†Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Yesterday, the minister admitted that this government is doing nothing to ensure that the pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway. The minister has done nothing to lobby Canada or the United States to respect an existing treaty. While the government sits on its hands, other groups are out, trying to maximize benefits for their citizens ó in other words, doing their jobs. The minister said the project has been coming since 1978. There was a treaty signed in 1978 between Canada and the United States that says the project should come down the highway.
I have news for the minister: treaties arenít always lived up to. Softwood lumber mean anything? BP, a major international oil and gas company, is saying the treaty is outdated and should not be enforced. If the treaty is dropped, there is a very real possibility the pipeline will not go through the Yukon. What has the minister done to ensure that the treaty is lived up to?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like the member to be corrected on a couple of facts. This government is not sitting on its hands and this government hasnít sat on its hands. Weíre getting the Yukon regulatorily ready for a pipeline; weíre working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition; weíre working to make sure that when, and if, the pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway, this Yukon government will be ready to receive whatever pipeline comes across our border.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has just reinforced my point. The Yukon Party and the minister have done nothing to ensure that the existing treaty will be lived up to; theyíve done absolutely nothing.† And while other governments are working very hard in this respect ó for example: a Fairbanks newspaper recently reported on the efforts of the Alaskan municipalities to see an all-Alaska route. That would see the pipeline go from the North Slope to the Port of Valdez. The difference for the Alaskans is 5,000 jobs. The Alaskans are out trying to make their case for their citizens. What is the minister doing? Sitting in his office, looking out the window, saying, ďWell, weíll be ready when a pipeline comes by.Ē Itís not going to come by unless that minister and the Yukon Party stand up and ask Canada and the United States to live up to and enforce the treaty. Are they going to do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I would like to correct the member opposite. This Yukon government took over a portfolio that was mismanaged by the previous government from day one. We were aggressively looking at the Alaska Highway pipeline from day one. But we are a great believer in doing what we can well, instead of doing a quarter badly. This government is ready for any pipeline; it will be ready and when the producers make their mind up and make those decisions ó British Petroleum is one of four shareholders in the resources in Alaska. One company, Mr. Speaker. I make the case that the woman ó the member opposite from the third party is misinformed on how pipelines are built.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, methinks the member doth protest too much.
The minister opposite is trying to justify the fact that the government ó the Yukon Party ó is sitting on their hands doing nothing. There is a treaty in place. Itís not unheard of for treaties to be broken.
Does softwood lumber mean anything to the minister opposite? The fact is that Canada and the United States need to be encouraged to live up to this treaty, which will ensure that a pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway. Unless the treaty is enforced, it wonít happen. The minister is sitting in his office, looking out the window, playing with trains and not doing anything to promote the existence or living up to this agreement between the two countries.
Is the minister going to cease looking out his window and do something?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the candour from the member opposite from the third party. This government believes in working with our neighbours, and we have worked very actively and very positively with Northwest Territories pertaining to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. That is more than the third party did when they were in power. We have worked with Alaska, and we are working with Alaska today to reinforce the concept of the pipeline going down the Alaska Highway.
I would remind the member opposite that the treaty is between the United States of America and a Liberal government in Ottawa, so why doesnít she get in contact with her Liberal counterparts in Ottawa and see what they are going to do about their damn treaty?
Speaker: Order please. I can appreciate that this debate involves a certain amount of passion on each side, but I would ask the minister not to use swear words in the House, and retract that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Lang: I retract that word.
Question re: Fish and Wildlife Management Board vacancy
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Environment.
Recently, the minister was looking for nominees to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. The federal government put forward one name.
Will the minister explain why he refused to accept the nomination put forward by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Umbrella Final Agreement is very specific in this area. It states categorically that the Yukon will put forward six names and that the federal government will select from the names put forward by Yukon in a process with the Yukon. So the member is absolutely correct; there has been a letter received from some officials in the federal government spelling out a specific individual, but the process that is being followed does not conform to the Umbrella Final Agreement. A letter has gone from me back to the federal minister pointing this out and asking that we follow the terms and conditions in the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Mrs. Peter: The individual in question is a long-standing member of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. He is one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated members of the board. He also lives in the ministerís riding of Klondike. Federal officials put his name forward because they believe he should be reappointed. Apparently this minister has had his own reasons for rejecting the nomination of this highly qualified individual. What are the ministerís reasons?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Because it breaks the law and the law is the Umbrella Final Agreement. The Umbrella Final Agreement is very specific in this area as to how the process is to be followed. The process that the federal government officials have followed in this regard does not conform to the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Mrs. Peter: Those reasons are not good enough for the Yukon people. The Yukon government makes decisions on behalf of all people in the Yukon. Today is the two-year anniversary of this Yukon Party government. For two years this government has promised an all-party committee to oversee appointments to boards and committees. As government House leader, this minister hasnít lifted a finger to fulfill that promise, and itís easy to see why. Will the minister reconsider his decision and accept the federal governmentís recommendation, or is he determined to let political considerations outweigh everything else when he makes the board appointments?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is asking me to break the law. I canít do that. The Umbrella Final Agreement is very specific as to the process that has to be followed ó very, very specific. It says Yukon will put forward six names for consideration and the federal government will select the chair from those six names in concert and conjunction with the Yukon. The process doesnít work the way the member opposite has outlined, and it certainly doesnít work the way that officials from the federal government have spelled out in their letter to the Department of Environment. They are categorically incorrect, and they are not following the Umbrella Final Agreement. As a government, we will not do that, Mr. Speaker. We are duty-bound to uphold the terms and conditions in the Umbrella Final Agreement, and we will do that.
Question re: Highway signage
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask this government what itís doing about the problem of motorists colliding with deer and elk on our highways. While this is a problem in much of the territory, it is mainly focused in just a few areas. One of those areas is on the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse near Stoney Creek. The Ruby Range elk herd frequently browse along the highway right-of-way. Consequently, several are struck by motorists each year. This results in a needless waste of the animals and endangers motorists. Currently, the habitat of the herd extends well beyond the placement of the existing signage, which is minimal at best. It is time for this government to take seriously its responsibilities concerning highway safety and the protection of our wildlife. Can the Environment minister tell us how many deer and elk have been hit so far this year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: No, Mr. Speaker, I do not have the statistics at hand on how many deer and elk or any of the other animals have been killed along the highway or were in fact hit, but I will provide those to the member opposite in due course.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, obviously this government isnít taking the problem seriously enough. There have also been a number of recent incidents of deer struck and killed on our highways. This government needs to improve highway signage, both in terms of effectiveness and placement.
It needs to deal with the proliferation of tall alfalfa weed, an introduced species to our highway corridors. It also needs to be creative and consider whatís working elsewhere. Iíll send over a report on how Switzerland has implemented a series of electronic animal-crossing warning signs that are triggered by wildlife.
Obviously the members find this amusing. What will it take before this government does something to increase driver awareness of approaching wildlife in these problem areas?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I appreciate the member oppositeís review of what Switzerland has done with respect to animal crossings on the highway. Iíll give it the consideration that is respected or as expected by the member opposite.
With respect to the Yukon, we have the issue of signage. Signage is posted all along the highway systems where there is evidence of game. In addition to that, there is a lot of posting of signage indicating that domesticated animals such as horses and cattle are not allowed on the highway. There actually have been cases where they have been removed and owners have been subsequently charged.
In addition to that, it is not unusual that animals are struck on the highway systems. They are also struck along the rail lines and all over North America where we have some of the largest game populations in the world. Weíre doing what we can do. The Department of Highways and Public Works is clearing brush and widening the right-of-ways under our watch that hadnít taken place to any degree under the previous Liberal government administration or the previous NDP administration for quite a number of years. This is improving safety along our highways.
Mr. McRobb: The Environment minister isnít taking this situation seriously enough. I want to redirect my final supplementary to the Highways minister. He has the responsibility to cull roadside vegetation in the territory. There is a section on this side of Haines Junction where the vegetation is much taller than many vehicles. This vegetation restricts vision and serves to hide deer and other large animals that pose safety hazards to motorists.
Will the Highways minister now commit to introducing a new and vigorous program to cull roadside vegetation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would just like to reiterate what my colleague stated for the member opposite: the brushing along the sides of the roads all over the Yukon has been lagging far behind, not just for the last couple of governments but for the last 10 years. I think itís imperative that we go out there. I am not going to be able to catch up in this year or in the next year. We are in the process of developing a new brushing process for the whole Yukon and, when itís done, we plan to implement it as best we can in order to achieve it.
There are several areas throughout the Yukon where vegetation is growing right next to the road. I would just never be able to catch up. We are going to have to keep an eye on the areas where we have the highest amount of traffic, and we will concentrate on those areas first and we will go from there.
Question re: Habitat protection areas
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Environment.
For over 10 years, Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation has identified Devilís Elbow and Big Island on the Stewart River as being in need of enhanced protection. The community-based fish and wildlife management plan for Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nationís traditional territory for 2002-07 included recommendations to nominate both areas as habitat protection areas and to develop a wildlife viewing site for Devilís Elbow.
Implementation of these recommendations has been consistently delayed by the ministerís department. When it comes to protected areas, this government shows no interest. This is about post-land claims habitat protection areas for Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation. Why does the minister feel that both areas do not deserve habitat protection?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is categorically incorrect in the assumptions.
This government has done more with respect to establishing parks. Fishing Branch has been established with its management plan. Tombstone has been established ó its management plan is coming and it shouldnít be very long before it has been enshrined in regulations.
With respect to the two habitat protection areas in the Mayo area that the member is referring to, they are currently being reviewed; they are under consideration. There is a very strong likelihood that we will have an announcement as a government in short order with respect to these two HPAs. But the allegations and suggestions that the member opposite is making are totally incorrect.
Mr. Fairclough: Fishing Branch, Tombstone: done under other governments and by First Nations. The Yukon Party is trying to take credit for that, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, I think theyíre in court on one of these issues, so the member ought to look at this a little closer.
Mr. Speaker, the departmentís only stated reasons for deferring the proposed habitat protection area is that section 187(1) of the Wildlife Act has not been met. This section says that the habitat protection area is necessary if it can be shown that the area is important as habitat, is sensitive to disturbance and that there is likelihood of disturbance. Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation has shown that all three conditions of this section have been met using both scientific and traditional knowledge, but the department has repeatedly discounted the traditional knowledge used by Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation to make their case. Will the minister direct his department to give full weight to the traditional knowledge of Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation and to re-evaluate the habitat protection area proposal fairly and as soon as possible ó promptly?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, earlier on in Question Period today I had the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin asking me to break the law. Now I have the Member for Mayo-Tatchun asking me to break the law. Mr. Speaker, we canít do that.
Speaker: Order please. I understand exactly why the opposition is looking at the Chair. The minister knows full well you canít accuse members of supporting the breaking of the law. Iíd ask you not to do that. Donít use the term.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the issue is under consideration, but all aspects of the law have to be abided by and met, and they will be by this government.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it is that government that does not recognize local and traditional knowledge. I just said to the member opposite that Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation has met all the conditions, but this minister wants to find a loophole in his own legislation to delay this. Why? Because they do not, in our view, support habitat protection areas, Mr. Speaker ó as simple as that. Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation has said they believe they have met all the conditions laid out. That minister says differently.
Why is the minister not treating the First Nation as equals and taking this a lot more seriously than he has, and get back to the table and negotiations and put this back on the table, make it a habitat protection area, as requested in their management plan?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is an issue under consideration, but all areas of the law have to be followed and adhered to, and they will be. Our government has a stellar track record with the establishment of parks. We have established Fishing Branch, complete with a management plan. Weíve established Tombstone, and I hope to be able to stand very soon in this Legislature and announce its management plan. So we are moving forward with respect to the creation of parks. Habitat-protected areas are under consideration in not just the Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nationís traditional territory but in many other areas. So across the Yukon we are balanced with respect to protecting the environment and moving forward on economic development.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. McRobb: I would like to identify Bill No. 105 and Bill No. 107, both standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, as the business to be called on Wednesday, December 1, 2004.
Ms. Duncan: I am rising to advise the House that I do not wish to call an item standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South on Wednesday, December 1, 2004.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. I understand Community Services is the vote under debate. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 12 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue on with Vote No. 51, Department of Community Services.
Department of Community Services
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to speak to the Community Services portion of the supplementary budget. In the 2004-05 fiscal year, the Community Services department has continued to focus on building healthy and safe communities. The department remains committed to doing its part in rebuilding the economy and fostering strong relationships between governments. Community Services strives to provide leadership in community relations and service delivery, and I believe this budget reflects that goal.
In many communities Community Services staff is the face of government. On a daily basis we deliver the water, operate the dumps and staff the libraries. We also play a major role in long-term capital planning and job creation. In short, we help provide programming and services that give our communities the tools they need to thrive.
The Department of Community Services has tabled a supplementary budget requesting the amount of $15.23 million for operation and maintenance expenditures and a net decrease of $2.2 million in capital expenditures.
The departmentís supplementary budget request for an increase in operation and maintenance expenditures largely relates to the costs incurred for fire suppression during this past wildland fire season. As we are all well aware, there were an unprecedented number of fires in the Yukon this past summer. Record-breaking heat, very dry weather in the months of June and July, combined with a massive number of lightning strikes, led to an unprecedented amount of fire on the Yukon landscape. All told, there were 279 Yukon fires that burned about 1.8 million hectares of land. With so much activity, our costs were bound to climb beyond our budget amounts, and this supplementary request reflects that.
Our wildland fire programís first objective is to protect people and our communities. I believe we met that objective. I am happy to report that no one was seriously hurt, and there was minimal loss of property.
Although the summer presented a major challenge for the Yukon, we collectively did our best to effectively manage the wildfire and emergency situations.
This was the first real test for the newly devolved wildland fire management program to the Yukon government, and I think overall we did a very good job. That success did come with a price; however, I would like to point out that much of the money requested for wildland fire is recoverable. Of the requested $15.2 million, more than $10.1 million will be recovered under our devolution transfer agreement for fire suppression activities and a further $3.1 million under the mutual aid resource-sharing agreements. Mr. Chair, I see these funds for wildland fire as money well spent.
Of course, there is always room for improvement. This winter, we will conduct an independent review of the 2004 fire season so that we can build on our successes and find ways to improve. Community Services continues to endorse FireSmart, and we will still strive to find ways to reduce risk to communities throughout the Yukon. FireSmart is an investment in the reduction of wildfire damage and the protection of Yukoners, their property and infrastructure. We are pleased to have a very high community interest in the FireSmart program. This year, we received far more applications than expected, and many communities are already planning for winter projects.
This year we received 38 applications, of which we were able to fund 27. The objective of the FireSmart program is to reduce the risk of wildfire in and around our communities. The FireSmart program also creates winter employment opportunities in many Yukon communities.
The high demand for this program is a good indication that developing and maintaining FireSmart communities is important to all Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, Community Services continues to build upon its rural water supply program. This government has made safe drinking water a major priority over the first two years. Government-wide, we are taking a comprehensive approach to drinking water, including updating regulations, developing a water access strategy and gathering and assessing vital hydrological data for future projects. Already my department has developed a private well program. We budgeted $700,000 to the well program and over $300,000 is already committed toward new, private wells.
Every dollar spent through this program is a dollar spent improving the quality of life for rural Yukoners. Working with local well drillers and suppliers, this new program enables Yukoners to access funds based on the assessed value of their home. Those funds are recovered through a local improvement charge levied against the property tax. This is an innovative way of giving Yukoners the help they need to improve their self-sufficiency while protecting taxpayers from being left with the bill. It is a program that reflects the Yukon ideal of an independent lifestyle and shows that the government can play a positive role in their daily lives.
My staff is also developing a strategy to provide rural Yukoners with access to affordable and reliable sources of public drinking water. Community Services is one of several departments that plays a role in ensuring affordable access to public drinking water. The water strategy will help set out a broad territory-wide plan to improve access to public water, supply points and the anticipated cost to government. Every Yukon community is different and their water needs reflect those differences.
That is why staff will be looking for public input before moving ahead on any major planning. By getting input from the people who live in the rural areas and depend on the infrastructure we install and maintain, weíll be able to develop a long-term plan that will meet the current and future needs of all Yukoners.
Community Services is also working jointly with the federal government in the municipal rural infrastructure fund. The bulk of these projects will be related to green initiatives and projects that focus on water and sewage infrastructure. Every Yukon community stands to benefit from the program. Discussions with Infrastructure Canada regarding a framework agreement under the municipal rural infrastructure program for the Yukon were initiated in January 2004 and are progressing well. Treasury Board recently approved the programís terms and conditions, and we are now working to finalize the agreement and work out the details on project administration.
We hope the program will be in place in time to approve projects prior to the 2005 construction season.
We are also negotiating the details on the Canada strategic infrastructure fund with the federal government. Under this fund, large-scale infrastructure projects will be jointly funded. Community Services is ensuring that better highways, cleaner water supplies, and better sewers are a result of this cooperative program.
Investments will be directed to large-scale projects of national and regional significance. The fund will also target investments that sustain economic growth and support an enhanced quality of life for all Yukoners. The Canada strategic infrastructure fund and the municipal rural infrastructure fund will promote healthier communities through an investment in the Yukonís long-term infrastructure while promoting economic development and new job opportunities these projects provide.
The Yukon government remains committed to these projects because they have the potential to bring significant benefit to all Yukon communities. We are working to ensure that negotiations with the federal government are concluded in time to be able to use these funds in the coming fiscal year.
Already, Yukoners are seeing the benefits of road improvements and planning. Hamilton Boulevard underwent a major improvement this past summer. The project was a cooperative effort between my department and the City of Whitehorse. With the changes, traffic flow and safety have both been improved.
But we are not done yet. Although Community Services is working with the city and Kwanlin Dun First Nation to investigate the possibility of introducing a second access route to the Copper Ridge area, such an access would improve safety and provide the First Nation with an opportunity to have access to some of its own lands. A call has already gone out for proposals on how to proceed with environmental screenings. Over the next year, we expect to see increased progress on this project.
The departmentís supplementary budget request for operation and maintenance expenditures includes a $600,000 increase for an extraordinary grant for the City of Dawson. My department recently signed a $1.64-million contribution agreement with Dawson to enable it to operate until the new year.
That agreement will enable the town to continue providing the day-to-day municipal services that residents expect, like water, sewer and program funding. Without this contribution, the city would be in an untenable financial situation and residents would be left bearing the brunt of the fallout. Wherever possible, my department will do what it can to support Dawson City as it works through its current financial difficulties.
In this, the Yukonís decade of sports and culture, my department will work to make the 2007 Canada Winter Games a resounding success. We are planning now and working with the games committee to support their efforts to ensure that, when 2007 does arrive, we will be ready. It will be a memorable experience for Yukoners and our guests alike.
We have requested a $140,000 increase for our Best Ever program, which is 100-percent recoverable. This program is part of a celebration of the decade of sports and culture. The Yukon Best Ever program, which has an annual contribution from Sport Canada until the 2007 Canada Winter Games, is supporting the preparation of athletes for these games.
As we are all aware, this is the first time the games will be held north of 60. The Canada Winter Games are one of the major highlights of the Yukonís decade of sports and culture. Given the high-profile event and its importance to us as a community, we want to give our athletes and coaches the tools they need to excel.
With initiatives like the Best Ever program, we can expect that Yukon athletes will be better prepared than ever before. The Best Ever program is a sport opportunity and skill development program designed to strengthen the competitive potential of Team Yukon coaches and athletes. The program is specifically focused on sports that will be in the 2007 Canada Winter Games. It will ensure that all eligible Yukoners who have a desire to compete in the games have the opportunity and the necessary support to be able to compete for a place on the final team roster.
When the Yukonís athletes take the field at the Canada Winter Games in front of our friends, families and supporters, they will be ready to compete with and succeed against the best athletes in Canada.
Mr. Chair, the departmentís supplementary budget decrease for capital expenditures essentially consists of a total revote request of $2.6 million for projects carried over from 2003-04. This revote also includes deferral of projects planned to be carried out under the municipal rural infrastructure and the Canadian strategic infrastructure programs. As I stated earlier, we remain committed to these projects. These funds will be spent in our communities once the details of the various federal and territorial infrastructure programs are finalized; however, the money will not be spent this fiscal year.
As with any Community Services budget, there is money identified in this supplementary budget for improvements to community infrastructure. One project including a capital supplementary is a $330,000 increase for the construction of the community hall in Ross River. The Ross River hall will provide a much-needed meeting and gathering space for that community, as well as a location for the community daycare to operate out of. Anyone who has visited that community recently understands how desperately this facility is required. The project is proceeding. The design has been approved, and occupancy is expected in the summer of 2005. The final design drawings are completed, and construction will start as soon as tenders are closed and contract arrangements are finalized. As an additional benefit to the community, there will be many opportunities for local employment during the construction of this project.
I would like to thank the Community Services staff for their continued efforts on this project. I would also like to congratulate the residents of Ross River for their hard work and contribution toward the planning of this hall. Once completed, it will truly be a hall that all community members can take pride in. I highlight the Ross River hall, because I believe it is a concrete example of how Community Services can play a significant role in and give meaning to the lives of all rural Yukoners, and I see this hall and the process that created it as a good example of a cooperative planning effort designed to create community infrastructure that residents want. Thatís really what this supplementary budget is about: ensuring my department has the means to facilitate improvements in rural Yukon.
Mr. Chair, I will now be pleased to provide further details if the members opposite have specific questions on the supplementary budget requests.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for his opening comments and for shedding some light on whatís contained in the supplementary budget.
I do have some questions about whatís not in the supplementary budget or what may not be readily visible when you look at it. One of the things that the Department of Community Services is responsible for is land planning and land development, and the minister knows that in my riding of Mount Lorne there are many issues around land planning and land development. People would like to think that the government is working together ó both the land planning branch and the land development branch, along with his colleagueís department, land dispositions, to make sure that everyone is working together and that weíre working with the local citizens and the local governments, be it hamlet councils or community associations.
In the recent past ó I guess in the last month or two óseveral land issues have come forward in the riding of Mount Lorne. There is one that has been ongoing for a long time that the minister is well aware of, and Iím sure weíll get to that sometime today as well. But there are things like the Golden Horn land use area plan. Thereís the Lorne Mountain land use plan and the Lorne Mountain land use regulations. Itís my understanding, from attending hamlet meetings and talking to people in the riding, that the land use regulations basically didnít seem to be going anywhere because the government didnít have the resources to actually take what had been drafted by the community and put it out into a legal form. Itís my understanding that that has happened now; it is in a legal form, and the land planning branch will be taking that back to the community. It is in its final form; itís going back to the community so that they can have a look at it, and hopefully those land use regulations will be in place early in 2005.
Thatís my understanding.
What has transpired, though, is all of these spot land applications in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne that are supposed to respect the land use plan and the regulations. The idea there was to work with the hamlet council to actually see land develop. One of the things that comes up is the fact that the land use plan, as it turns out now, because itís so ó well, itís not outdated, itís just that it has been around for a long time ó they are finally going to get their land use regulations to go with their plan, but the land use plan is old now and itís going to need to be reviewed.
What Iíd like to know from the minister is whether there is any money in this supplementary budget and, if there isnít any money in this supplementary budget, would he commit to putting money into the next set of mains in Community Services to do that review of the land use plan in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Golden Horn plan is basically done and after a long time, I might add, is getting on with the process. Currently LARC does accept applications and they do have to go through a process with regard to spot applications in the Mount Lorne area. There is a review of the plan for spot applications within that area and they are taken into consideration. From what I am led to believe, they are following the plan that was developed and they are using that as their base to go forth with that particular aspect.
As I said, for Mount Lorne, we should be finalizing the regulations this winter and they should be ready for the spring.
Mr. Cardiff: The question was more around if there will be resources. Normally what happens ó the minister should know this ó is that the governmentís land planning branch works with hamlet councils and community groups to develop a land plan to work with the community so that they can plan a development of the area they represent ó that the hamlet council represents. There are certain geographic areas there. This happened over 10 years ago ó I think itís more like 12 years ago that there was a land plan developed. What has come to light now is that it is time to review that plan. They are going to get their regulations and it is going to be time to review the plan.
What the minister needs is resources in his department of community land planning to work with ó probably not just the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. There are probably some other land plans out there that are going to be coming up for review.
What I am asking is: are there any dollars in the supplementary budget to support reviews of community land use plans? If there arenít, will he commit to ensuring that those monies are there in the mains in the spring?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is no money identified in the supplementary for the planning that the member opposite has requested. The process started through its formal request after the regulations were passed. Once the LAC makes a request for planning money, we will go forth on that basis.
Mr. Cardiff: I will communicate that back to the hamlet council so that they are aware of that. Hopefully we will get a request in, in time for it to be included in the spring mains, if they so choose to do that.
Thereís another issue Iíd like to explore around land planning in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, as well. Recently, it came to my attention that there is a significant parcel of land in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne that was a former agriculture parcel that will be going back to the government, if it hasnít gone back already. Now, I know that the agriculture branch is interested in doing some land development there of some non-soil-based agriculture lots, and I think there is obviously an interest in land in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. I think what the hamlet council and the people who live there would like to see is the community involved in that process. This could be a good opportunity for the minister to get back on a good footing in the hamlet and have his department work with the hamlet council and actually do some planning around land development. So what I would like to know is, (1) if the minister is aware of this, and (2) if his department is working with the agriculture branch to actually do some land planning exercises around this parcel of land; and will they include the hamlet council in that planning process?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We cooperate with all branches in land use planning, and we always will. Energy, Mines and Resources is handling as the lead branch, when it comes to agricultural pieces of land, and I would assume they would cooperate with us and contact us when they are dealing with their land situations also.
Mr. Cardiff: Thatís two out of three, I guess. The other question I had for the minister: will they involve the hamlet council in the planning that takes place around this particular parcel of land?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, EMR is the lead on this particular area. Iím sure that branch will carry through with its process on dealing with the hamlet when it looks at the land issues in that area.
Mr. Cardiff: I will have to raise this with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources when we get there, I guess. It would be my hope that the land planning branch would be involved, seeing as how that is what they do in the development of this piece of property and that the hamlet council would also be involved.
Iíve got another question in this regard as well, and thatís about the Golden Horn land use plan. The area regulations ó Iím just wondering how close the regulations are and if the community will be receiving them and be able to provide feedback on those regulations?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently dealing with all our other departments on this plan. Once we get confirmation from all the departments, we will be forwarding a letter to all the residents with regard to that.
Mr. Cardiff: So itís my understanding that the plan hasnít even been approved then. It hasnít been finalized?
Hon. Mr. Hart: All but a couple of tís to be crossed and a few iís to be dotted, but basically the plan is done. Weíre just waiting to come through with the other departments.
Mr. Cardiff: Maybe the minister can give me an idea of the time frame when residents can be expected to be notified of this, and theyíll be able to have their final input. I know the Member for Porter Creek South would like to ask a few questions, so Iíll sit down for a little while after the minister answers.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I plan to offer the member opposite a Christmas present.
Mr. Cardiff: Maybe the minister could clarify that. Is he saying that Santa Claus is going to deliver the Golden Horn local area plan to all residents on December 25, or on the morning of December 25? Is that what heís saying? I didnít know that he was going to be working that day.
Hon. Mr. Hart: St. Nick always works on Christmas Day.
Ms. Duncan: Levity is alive and well this afternoon, apparently ó and itís good to know that Santa Claus is as well. I just have a few questions this afternoon for the Minister of Community Services. I just would like to follow up. The Member for Mount Lorne asked questions around land development and land development issues for various hamlets and some of the other community representatives.
The minister said, ďWell, wait until the Energy, Mines and Resources debate around these land development issues.Ē The problem that Iím having as a member listening to this is that itís that minister whoís responsible for working with the communities. The City of Whitehorse has very real concerns ó as do many other people ó around the issues about development on the Fish Lake Road. I understand thereís a process, and so on, and the Land Application Review Committee is dealing with it, but the minister has the responsibility of working with communities on the planning of subdivisions and planning of expansions and land development within communities. Granted these are just on the periphery of communities, but the minister still has a very clear interest, so what representations has he made to his colleague on this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Community Services takes care of land development within municipalities and within designated areas where land development will be requested by that municipality. We assist them in developing those areas for lot sales to be done later. Areas located outside municipalities are handled by the lands branch, which is currently with Energy, Mines and Resources. I will state for the member opposite that I am working with AYC on these issues with regard to the peripheral edge, and I anticipate having a meeting with them sometime in the next month or so on a couple of these issues. Hopefully we will be able to bring them back to help out and deal with all our land.
As the Member for Mount Lorne indicated, everybody wants land in the Yukon. Getting land is not just an issue in Mount Lorne; itís an issue right throughout the Yukon. So itís an important issue for everybody.
Ms. Duncan: Itís a huge issue. Itís a visceral issue and youíd be hard-pressed to find something that is closer to Yukonersí hearts than the ability to get land or the relationship with the land. Thatís what weíre about as Yukoners, and this is a very serious, very real problem for the government. There has to be, working with the communities, planned land development, not an ad hoc application process.
I understand there is a difference in responsibilities. I am encouraging the minister as strongly as I know how to make sure that the communities that are directly affected ó you can bet that individuals, if housing development or rural land development and country residential land is made available ó which there is a very strong demand for ó that those residents are going to be using the facilities in Mount Lorne and in the City of Whitehorse. Those municipalities and hamlets are going to be affected. They need to be consulted before there is any of this peripheral land development.
There has to be a working relationship, and I would strongly encourage the minister to make those representations ó working with Association of Yukon Communities ó to his colleague at the Cabinet table.
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is also one of the main reasons why Community Services is working hard with our peripheral area communities such as Marsh Lake, Tagish, Mount Lorne and Ibex Valley to get their LACs up so they can provide us with some input on areas dealing with the land adjacent to where those people are living. We are working very hard at trying to get these LACs up and about and get them fully representative so they can get their issues in to us, and, plus, we can use them as a sounding board when issues of development come forward.
We do plan our land use with the communities. We did an extensive process with the residents of Takhini Hot Springs Road. I believe it was almost 12 years by the time we finally got that one completed. I think that one shows how well we did to get the plan. I know weíre currently working with Ibex Valley on their plan and issues.
Granted, for the Member for Mount Lorne, yes, it has taken many years for the Golden Horn one to get through. But as I said earlier, I hope to provide him with a Christmas present on that particular issue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, good work like land use planning that takes into account the needs and wishes of residents, those who want to own land, as well as those within the adjacent communities ó that kind of good work takes time. It has to be done right, and the minister has just made the argument of why we canít have ad hoc land development. It has to be planned in the periphery.
I am just going to ask a few very specific questions, and then I will turn the floor back over to the Member for Mount Lorne. Theyíre just very specific questions about some contracts from Community Services. First of all, the Auditor Generalís report stated that the developer ó the developer being Argus ó has not yet paid its share of the outstanding bill to the government. The Auditor General said that the money hasnít been collected. Why are we not pursuing this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, weíve been trying to pursue Argus Realty on this issue over the past few months at the negotiation stage. We havenít been successful, so we are now in the process of arbitration.
Ms. Duncan: † So this outstanding ó I believe itís $700,000 ó itís more than that. The city has paid a portion of their balance, and Argus is to pay the balance ó I believe itís $705,000? I see nods from the officials. Itís going to arbitration? Weíre not suing them directly for it? Weíve used alternative dispute resolution?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The agreement states arbitration.
Ms. Duncan: It has gone to arbitration. Do we have an anticipated date for an arbitratorís ruling?
Hon. Mr. Hart: An arbitrator is being appointed, and we anticipate a hearing to take place sometime in February.
Ms. Duncan: There was a sole-source contract issued this summer by Community Services to Liard Fire Suppression. The description is to initiate attack firefighters. It was a sole-sourced contract for $98,760. Were any other First Nations given similar contracts? Why was this particular contract sole sourced?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The contract was awarded to provide training and to develop a work crew for the fire for the Watson Lake area. We also provided similar aspects in Ross River, and we do have an arrangement under the devolution transfer agreement with all signed First Nations with regard to fire crews.
Ms. Duncan: Ross River doesnít have a signed final agreement, and neither does Liard. So is the minister saying that Liard and Ross River, given that they are not signed First Nations, received a sole-sourced contract and that there are different arrangements in place for all signed First Nations ó those First Nations with self-governing agreements? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Under the devolution agreement, we are continuing the same process that was in place with the federal government.
Ms. Duncan: So if theyíre continuing with the same process, exactly what does that mean? Why is the government issuing a $98,760 sole-source contract to Liard fire suppression? The minister said that it was for training initial attack suppression for Liard and Ross River First Nations, so were other First Nations given a similar opportunity for sole-source contracts? Were there others? I havenít been able to locate them. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation was not, at the time of this summer, and has not signed their final agreement as yet. Theyíve voted but they havenít signed, so were they provided with a similar opportunity for a sole-source contract? Why is there different treatment between First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Hart: † We were in need of a fire crew in Watson Lake in a hurry and this was a means with which to address that particular situation, and we entered into that agreement.
Ms. Duncan: Has the minister advised the other First Nations, those with self-governing agreements and those without, that this arrangement was made? Have other governments been advised that this contract was entered into? Iím trying to ensure fairness. I can understand in an emergency situation an event occurring; however, my concern is: will White River First Nation receive similar treatment should they find themselves in this unfortunate circumstance? I mean, itís well known that we send crews all the time to Alaska. Theyíre the closest. We have a very strong relationship with Northway, for example.
Has the minister advised other First Nations ó those with agreements and those without such a contract ó that the government is prepared to enter these arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated earlier for the member opposite, we had a very serious fire year. We had a very serious start, and it started in the Watson Lake area. We needed a fire crew right away, and we needed assistance. We had to train people. We had to get them ready so we could put them on the fire line, so they wouldnít endanger themselves or anybody else who was working on the line. As far as dealing with other issues, if we found ourselves in a situation ó for example, White River ó where a fire was in a particular area and we needed assistance through the emergency firefighters, we would probably look at that particular situation at that time and deal with it under similar circumstances.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is very familiar with all the details around the fire season. What was the date of that fire in Watson Lake? It just escapes my memory. Could he just provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít have the exact date, but it was in early June.
Ms. Duncan: This contract was entered into on May 17, which would seem to contradict the ministerís statement that there was an immediate fire situation happening when this contract was entered into.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated earlier, it was a very heavy fire season within the whole process. We had a first initial fire attack that was taking place. The Government of British Columbia was the initial attack crew on our first fire around the Watson Lake area, and we utilized everybody we had on our local fire crew to assist.
We had fires cruising through the whole summer down in that area. We were running low on staff, and we needed to get assistance. Liard First Nation provided people with expertise. We provided the experts to train them and get them into place and they carried forth for the rest of the summer.
Ms. Duncan: And I trust that similar opportunities will be made available to others, those settled and those unsigned First Nations, in the interest of fairness. And White River First Nation comes immediately to mind.
There are a number of other contracts that the minister has authority over. For example, the finalization of the contracts to Mr. Carrel for the situation in Dawson ó what was the final amount and the final cost of the contract for his services?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For this fiscal year, we have recorded $20,000 for Mr. Carrelís contract.
Ms. Duncan: That was the total cost of all the services provided in 2003-04, or is that to date in the 2004 year ó itís just $20,000?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, that $20,000 is just for this year.
Ms. Duncan: And what period of time does that cover?
Hon. Mr. Hart: From April 1.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister verify that the forensic audit of the Dawson books ó the contract is not to exceed, at this point, $360,000 for the forensic audit?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That is correct.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the money voted for the Dawson sewage was not actually spent in its entirety ó $1.4 million was not spent, and it hadnít been decided, to the best of my knowledge, whether or not to revote that $1.4 million. Whatís happening with that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have it in the supplementary.
Ms. Duncan: How will that money be spent? The minister has said in a letter to the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council that the Government of Yukon is fully committed to building a proper sewer system in Dawson. How is the $1.4 million being spent? Is there a project team in place? Who is on it and when does construction begin?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, there is a team underway. We are working with the City of Dawson as well as Environment Canada on advancing this particular project; plus, we have a requirement where we have to provide progress reports to the judge on a six-month basis to show that we are actually making progress.
Ms. Duncan: If those progress reports are being provided to the judge, is there any possibility that the minister will provide them to the floor of the House for both opposition parties?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Our first report is due in February, and it will be a public report.
Ms. Duncan: Speaking of the City of Dawson, when does the minister anticipate elections for the council in the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, in conversation with the press as well as with the members opposite here, I am looking forward to trying to put together an election sometime in the spring of this coming year.
Ms. Duncan: Dawson, in their financial statements, has a list of outstanding receivables. The minister must be privy to those financial statements. Have all of those receivables been collected? Are there any outstanding? It seems to me there was an outstanding cable bill or two.
Hon. Mr. Hart: All the financial items for the City of Dawson are currently under the forensic audit, except for the day-to-day operations, which are being handled by the trustee ó i.e. the payables, gas and fuel. As far as I know, they are payables. We provided them with some cash to get them through until the year-end, and that money was necessary in order for them to operate. If there is any outstanding receivable, itís being handled by the forensic auditor.
Ms. Duncan: So what I understood the minister to say is that all the receivables have been turned over to the forensic audit. I just have a couple other questions. I believe the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund is under this hat the minister is currently wearing, under Community Services ó the municipal rural infrastructure fund and the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund. The Whitehorse waterfront project is under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund. What else is being applied for?
There are two funds: Canadian strategic and the rural infrastructure fund. We know the Government of Yukon has applied for the Whitehorse waterfront project. What else have they applied for?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have been working with Association of Yukon Communities on identifying what projects under CSIF that we are going to work toward. Highways was the first bit of work, which was already completed this past summer ó or underway, as well as a project in Carmacks. Weíre looking at doing sewer and water there. As the member opposite indicated, weíre looking at dealing with the waterfront projects in Carcross and Whitehorse as a combination. The rest of the projects under CSIF will be handled and sewer and water in various Yukon ó specifically Dawson.
Ms. Duncan: Am I to understand from the minister that theyíre examining submitting these projects or they have already submitted the application? Iím thinking of the Carcross-Whitehorse waterfront one. If theyíve already submitted the application, can members on this side be aware of the nature of that application?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have submitted an outline of what these projects were intended to do in order to get our nose in the door, so to speak, to ensure that we get there. We have had officials from Ottawa up to visit us and look at these two projects. We are now going to be moving forward to finalize them and to get them through.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister prepared to share the outlines of those projects with both opposition parties?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When we are finished completing our consultation with everybody involved ó for example, in Carcross ó as well as finishing our issues with the add-ons to the City of Whitehorse waterfront, yeah, no problem.
†Ms. Duncan: Do we have a time frame of when we might expect that information? If the minister is taking that information and consulting with parties outside of the government, it would seem to me that we could have the information as they are consulting with the others about it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, as the Member for Mount Lorne says: tell us when the meeting is and we will come.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can inform the members opposite of all of those meetings.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, I just have one final question. I think itís more to put the minister on notice.
It is my understanding that MDMRS ó the multi-departmental radio system ó comes under the Department of Highways and Public Works in the ministerís portfolio. He has made previous commitments on the floor of this House to me with regard to when decisions were being made and how the replacement project was coming. I have lobbied the minister for territory-wide cell service as well as territory-wide 911 service, or an examination of it. I would just like to put the minister on notice, and perhaps he would come to the House when we get to Highways in the supplementary budget with the information and details on the status of that project.
I would like to thank the minister for his answers this afternoon. I would like to thank the Member for Mount Lorne for allowing me to go into debate at this point.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Chair. It was my pleasure to let the Member for Porter Creek South in on the questioning today.
Iíd like to return to land issues where I left off; the Premier suggested I take this up with the minister: the consultation process that was used by the ministerís department for the environmental assessment that was done on the Whitehorse Copper project. Now, the minister is well aware of the dissatisfaction with the process. If he isnít, he only needs to read the newspapers for the past two years and read the radio transcripts and, lately, the city council minutes to hear about all the dissatisfaction with the consultation process that has been used by his department on this project.
The Premier would not take responsibility for his comments in his letter to me of April 8, 2004, where he committed to a complete and careful evaluation and basically said that all †the concerns that have been raised by area residents will be fully considered before any final determination is made as to the future of the project. He then proceeded to tell me that it was an independent environmental assessment. I donít have it in front of me, but I seem to remember reading through the environmental assessment several times, and it was the ministerís own department that signed off on the environmental assessment ó I believe the Department of Environment. But it was the ministerís department that signed off on the environmental assessment. So they agreed that all the concerns had been addressed, obviously. But there are still concerns, whether itís the lots that are located in swamps, whether itís the fact that where they propose to put roadways there is a lot of glaciation ó basically how I would term it. Itís water freezing and building up and freezing and building up again. It doesnít sound like a great place to build a road into a subdivision.
As I mentioned the other day, there are the concerns about the area in MacRae, where there are environmental concerns. There are garbage dumps, there are basements: these pose health and safety risks to the people who are going to be buying these lots. I asked the Premier the other day about what kind of a guarantee ó this isnít a question about my constituents and their concerns; this is my question about the people who are going to buy these lots. What kind of a guarantee is the Community Services land development ó because they are the developer? Land Development is going to put out the contract to put in the roads, put in the culverts, theyíre going to pay Yukon Electrical and Northwestel to put in all the infrastructure to make this thing work and what I want to know is, we already had a situation up in Copper Ridge where the government had to buy a lot back. How many lots is the government prepared to buy back in this land development, should there be problems like there were up in Copper Ridge?
What Iíd like to know is what kind of liabilities ó and the departmentís standard answer is ďbuyer bewareĒ, but I donít believe that that is a fair thing. Youíre not selling a pig in a poke here. Youíre selling people a piece of country residential land where they fully expect to be able to drill wells, put in septic tanks, put in a basement, and build a home for their family, and a life for their family. If they buy something and they find out that they canít do that, who are they going to go to? Theyíre going to go to the developer: the people who put the whole thing together.
Now, if it were a private developer, they would end up in court, and if there were too many lots that went AWOL and they got sued, the developer would probably go bankrupt. I know the government has deep pockets, but they are not that deep. There were 150 some lots all together, and I think we need to determine whether or not all of them are viable.
What kind of liability is the minister prepared to take on for this development?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíve been in this conversation several times. First of all, he should review his plan a little closer. The original plan was 150 lots. The revised plan ó after we looked at it to make some adjustments in the process to accommodate wildlife routing, to accommodate trails, to accommodate thoroughfares down to the river ó was reduced to 104. So, we are down to 104 on these particular issues.
We went out to public consultation on two occasions specifically; issues were brought up and we reviewed those issues. We went through the environmental screening, the environmental assessment ó which is basically a follow-up under the old Canadian Environmental Assessment Act process ó and we followed through with that process.
Community Services signed off because we are the lead branch; however, the work is contracted out in almost all cases to deal with these issues. The Department of Environment did its issue. All the other departments were consulted and asked for their advice on a particular situation, and we went through that process.
We provided that information publicly. We sought input from them. We waited for a time for a response. We put the thing on the Web site where it is openly available. We made it available. We have done everything that we think is possible to develop this area ó or to make sure that it can be a viable subdivision.
As the member opposite indicates, this is part of the official city plan. It is designated as country residential, and as such, I believe that when people purchase property in country residential they know that they have to take into account what it is that is going to be expected of them. They know that sewer and water isnít hooked up to their place. They will have to make a risk assessment for themselves as to what they are going to do ó whether itís going to be a holding tank or they are going to put in a septic field ó whether they are able to put in a septic field. Not every piece of land in the Yukon can you put a basement on and/or a septic field in. Itís all based on what the land base will hold, what a little perk will do and how we will get there. I think thatís an important issue.
As far as dealing with the availability of the land in that particular area, I suspect that once we get through and if the city decides to proceed with a project, the price to move into that land, we will tell the member opposite just exactly what the demand is going to be for that land and whether it is going to be available or not.
There are early indications in my office that there are lots of people who want that land, and as the member for the third party indicated, when weíre doing our land use planning, we have to look at the people who need land or want land in conjunction with those who actually live in the area. Right now, itís up to the City of Whitehorse to make that decision. Itís in their ball court, and we can go forth from there once theyíve made their decision, which way theyíre going to go.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister brought up a couple of things there, and I want to explore some of them a little bit further.
I donít have the environmental assessment in front of me. If I had all the paper I needed in front of me today to ask questions in Community Services, I would have to have had one of those hand carts, probably. But my recollection of the environmental assessment, after having read it, was that the people who put it together ó and the minister obviously signed off on this ó and what I found really hard to accept was that there were issues identified, and basically it was said that it was possible that we could mitigate this. Great. I donít know if the minister got an explanation of how that was going to happen, but I know one thing for certain, and that is that the people out there in my community and the public that were reading about it didnít get an explanation of how that was going to happen. To me, thatís a flaw in the report. I mean, you can write that down, you can cut and paste that into the report on your computer that itís possible for these issues to be mitigated. If thereís not an explanation of how they intend to do it, what is it that gives people comfort in the fact that these issues can be mitigated?
There should be an explanation, shouldnít there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We met with the representatives of Wolf Creek on several occasions. I met with them specifically on one occasion, and with the president. Itís quite evident from our meetings with them ó not only I but other people have met with them ó that really the only issue acceptable to them was no development ó period. So in an effort to try to look at the situation, we tried to address several other issues with regard to trails, with regard to water, with regard to all the other issues that they kept bringing up, and we did try to get it.
Do we get 100-percent acknowledgement of every concern that came up? No. Can we guarantee 100 percent what youíre going to get? No. Can anybody guarantee 100 percent whatís going to be there when they buy a piece of land? We donít know whatís going to be there when you buy a piece of land. You hope that youíve done your homework when you buy your house, for example. This is the same issue. You go through. You have to go through and do your homework, or your lawyer has to do your homework ó one of the two ó to address your issues and make sure that youíre covered.
We canít guarantee, for example, that water is going to be on that lot. We can guarantee through a couple of test wells that there is water in the area, you know, at a certain level, but we canít guarantee, for example, if you buy the lot next door that itís going to be at 220 feet, if thatís what the one next to it is. We canít do that and weíre not there to do that. Weíre there to provide a reasonable effort that, if we develop this particular area, the City of Whitehorse will be able to have marketable country residential lots to expand into. There is a demonstrated demand for that type of product within the Whitehorse municipality, and this area is designated under the official city plan as country residential, and weíve gone there.
We have walked through that particular area and I will say that, when we did our reduction of the lots, we did look at some of these areas. Some of these lands did have too much water on them or were very close to a swamp. But, in essence, I believe that, with the development taking place and hooking in and around the area, I think it will alleviate many of these issues. The people who want to buy that type of property will buy the property. When they buy the property, they know what risks they take in moving there. They do that; they do the assessment.
Iím quite sure that, I mean ó when the city councillor, for example, buys a rural residential lot, he knows what his risks are. He has indicated that particular aspect. I think that we have to make land available. The City of Whitehorse has asked us to develop the land on their behalf. We have gone into this particular area, and I mentioned this several times. This thing has been approved through the city, through different councils and there has been a substantial amount of consultation way back, as far back as 1997 and finalized in 1999, 2000 and so on, not to mention the additional amount that we provided when we came into power.
I am very ó you know, weíve mitigated this thing as much as we can and we provided the information to the city, and itís up to them to make their decision on what goes forth.
Mr. Cardiff: Contrary to the minister, I donít believe that the residents that Iím representing are against development. I think what theyíre against, and one of my constituents put it quite bluntly at the city council meeting, that what theyíre against is stupid development. Some of the locations of these lots are, quite frankly, from what I can tell from reading the map and going out with the people, just silly. The minister seems to think that theyíll be able to sell the lots. Iím not sure what heís going to do. Iíd have to remind him that itís not the city that is going to sell the lots; itís the minister himself. Just up here in the same building is where people go to get into the lottery to buy the lot. Itís not down at City Hall. Itís here. And itís the minister whoís going to be selling these lots. When they do go on sale, he can take the flak because Iím sure there will be some unhappy customers. Maybe theyíll take him to the Better Business Bureau.
Thereís one other issue around this that I would like to explore one more time with the minister, and then weíll try to put this one to rest, and that is the issue that came up at the city council meeting. The city council seemed to operate with a little bit more of an open mind than the minister. They listened to what peopleís concerns were. They looked through the environmental assessment and listened to what my constituents and constituents in the neighbouring riding were saying about problems that werenít addressed adequately in the environmental assessment. So the city council has been willing to do that, and the city council, in my mind, anyhow ó I walked the ground with some of them, and I have seen them at various council meetings, where I have been observing the process that theyíre going through, and it seems to be a fairly open process where people are making their statements, putting forth their arguments, and city council responds with some questions. There is an exploration of what the issues are and what is going to work. That process seems to be working a little bit better for my constituents. And then they actually had a full meeting of city council and senior management where they just addressed that whole land development issue and the environmental assessment with representatives of the community association and people from other areas in MacRae and the neighbouring areas, which are affected by this land development, and listened to their concerns.
The following day, however ó and the minister said the meeting was set up long in advance, and the minister is probably right. It wouldnít surprise me that my constituents set the date. I donít have a calendar in front of me, but I think it was right around the beginning of November. I think it was November 3 probably and it was a Wednesday night. They had that meeting and that meeting date was set some time in advance and then the next night a meeting that was set up well in advance to coincide with that meeting was held in camera. Iíd like to know why the meeting had to be held in camera. What was said in that meeting that couldnít have been said in public? I donít understand it. Everything else about this development, all the other meetings ó to the best of my knowledge ó had been public, but the meeting with city council and senior management was to address those concerns that were raised, so city council brought all those concerns forward, but that had to be held in a closed meeting. Can the minister tell me why it had to be a closed meeting?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The meeting was scheduled to be held the next day at the request of the city, and it was at the request of the city to be held in camera so they could ask the specific questions and be able to be informed so they could respond when they go to the public meeting.
Mr. Cardiff: Thatís not the way I heard it. It wasnít the city that requested that it be held in camera to the best of my knowledge. What I understood was that it was the government that requested that it be held in camera.
It doesnít matter who requested it, I think it still should have been a public meeting. I donít think that there should have been anything said at that meeting that shouldnít have been able to have been said in public. However, it did come out in the media in a direct statement by a city councillor that the department actually threatened the city. Maybe thatís why you had to have the meeting in camera.
I need to know this: was there a threat made to the city that, if they didnít approve this project, the government was going to refuse to further develop land in the city? Was that threat used?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I have stated, there was no threat given to the city on any issue. We have gone through the process, and we provided the city with the information. We indicated that there was a substantial demand for land. We merely gave them that information. As far as I have been informed, the information provided was from a councillor who may or may not have been there.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís my understanding that the councillor was there.
Well, the minister has said his bit about that. I will accept his explanation. We are not going to rewrite history here today. We are not even going to write history probably.
After talking with city council, it appears that one of the consistent things that comes up at city council is that there has to be a compromise.
Now, it is not up to the community association to come up with a compromise. It is, however, up to the ministerís department and the City of Whitehorse to work out a compromise if there is one available.
Now, the minister seems to think that my constituents are there and it is, like, ďNo development. No development.Ē The city doesnít appear to be taking that argument on, but they are looking for a compromise. So what Iím wondering is, are the minister and his department willing to look for some sort of a compromise that is going to address some of the concerns that are being brought forward by city council on behalf of residents?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíve stated several times in this House that we have gone out and tried to make compromises. We have substantially reduced the size of this project from what was initially intended to go forth. In fact, if the member remembers, it was intended to go forth just prior to us going into election. We made a significant reduction in the number of lots in that particular area. We made a significant number of allowances for trails. We made a significant number of allowances to deal with some of the issues with regard to wildlife. We did make a lot of those allowances. A lot of those were identified in the environmental assessment, and we did make a lot of allowances into the particular basis of dealing with this particular subdivision and lots.
Right now, we have reduced the manner of lots to a value that we think is pretty much the bottom level. Any more reduction in the number of lots will make the lots basically too expensive to purchase.
Mr. Cardiff: If I understood the minister correctly, the answer is no ó there is no more compromise available on this, and the City of Whitehorse is either going to take it the way it is or they can reject it. There is no room anywhere to look at any of the other concerns. This is a done deal. The government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants looking at this project, and itís going to put the cost of the land out of the reach of most people. I would argue that it may possibly ó I mean you can sell them off for a reasonable price, but it will be on the people who have to do the development of the land on some of those lots. Theyíre the ones who are going to experience the hardship. I think it would be better to look at making those compromises now and ensuring that the lots that you are selling are actually good value for dollar, as opposed to trying to sell lots that may not be up to standard for most people.
Iím understanding that the minister is saying, ďNo, itís 104 lots and what you see is what you get; there is no compromise.Ē†
Hon. Mr. Hart: I guess Iíll just repeat what Iíve said. The situation is that weíve done our assessments; we have consulted with the people in the area; we have brought forth their concerns; we have published them on the Web site; we have provided it to the city; we have provided our issue; weíve had a direct meeting with city councillors to address some of their questions and concerns with regard to the development. We have left it under their purview, and itís now up to them to take it through their process.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís unfortunate that thereís no willingness at this stage of the process for the government to work with the city. Itís basically a take-it or leave-it kind of situation.
While weíre talking about land development, Iíd just be interested to know what other projects around the territory the government is looking at or not looking at, as the case may be? I think in land development, actually, there was a reduction, so Iím just wondering if the minister could tell the House what other land developments are works in progress in the territory, what communities theyíre taking place in, and what developments, if any, that had been planned arenít taking place? Could he tell us about those?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently working with the Haines Junction on development in their particular area. Weíre also looking at further development in the Copper Ridge stage in the City of Whitehorse. Those are the current developments that weíre working on.
Mr. Cardiff: One of the things the minister talked about quite extensively ó well, maybe it wasnít extensively, but he made sure that he mentioned it ó is the well program. When heís wearing his other hat, as the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works, he knows that the cost of water and water delivery has increased substantially in the Yukon and that the well program was part of a response to those increased costs, to make water more affordable for people.
I have communicated by writing two or three letters. Actually, I am not sure. I have been corresponding with the minister; I have been corresponding with the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation on this matter. Some of them I think I even copied to the Member for Lake Laberge. I know that it was the Member for Lake Laberge who wanted to encourage the government and the municipalities to work together to make this available within municipalities. I am not just talking about the municipality of Whitehorse. I am sure that there are water delivery trucks in Watson Lake and Teslin. We know there are water delivery trucks in Carcross. In Carcross you can get water for the whole month for ó I think itís $13 or $17.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Oh, itís less, I am informed.
But in a lot of communities it is a lot more. I know that in Mount Lorne ó whether it be in the subdivisions within the city or within the outlying areas, there are people who are paying upwards of $150 a month for water delivery for their families, and they donít necessarily have the resources to just go out and drill a well.
Itís great that the program is available outside the city limits where the government is the taxation authority. I have been trying to get the minister to deal with this and to work with the municipalities and get something happening.
The minister also said earlier today in a response to the leader of the third party that he is going to be meeting with the Association of Yukon Communities. Well, Iíve communicated with Association of Yukon Communities and Iíve asked them if they would take this on, because I couldnít seem to get anywhere. The minister said that it had to be initiated by municipalities. I think it would be way more efficient if the Association of Yukon Communities could work out some sort of agreement whereby all municipalities, if they wanted, could sign on to an agreement with the government to participate in that well-drilling program so that every municipality that is a taxation authority could participate in this program.
Iíd like the minister to tell me if heís willing to do that. Heís going to be meeting with Association of Yukon Communities soon, according to what he said. Will he endeavour to get his officials to work with the Executive Director of Association of Yukon Communities to work out some sort of an agreement so that by the time the next well-drilling season rolls around, this program can be available to all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned in the House on several occasions with regard to the well-drilling program, the well-drilling program is an option for rural members. It is not necessarily the end-all, the cure-all. What we want to do is provide those living in the rural areas with an option other than delivery. This option is an option that is being repaid to the government, but we are very cognizant of the fact that we want people to understand when they do drill a well that there is a substantial cost to drilling a well. So we donít want them to think that that is going to cure their water issues, because they may or may not get water. And if they do get water, they may not get enough water to supply them. Now, thatís a risk they have to assume there, right up front. And thatís a real concern that we have with regard to people taking it. We donít want them to think that this is going to answer their issue. Weíre just providing them with an option. That was the intent of the program: to provide them with a different option. Now, thatís an option we can provide, because we control the taxes in the rural area, and so we can apply it, the same as our rural electrification process. When itís within the municipalities, we have no authority to deal with taxes on municipal issues. Thatís all done through the municipal governments. Those are issues that come in, because we can collect taxes on lands that we control. We canít do that in a municipality.
However, saying that, we are working with the City of Whitehorse currently on that particular issue and weíre undergoing just what it is. Weíd like to demonstrate how the program works first to give them an example: hereís the process, hereís how itís working, or hereís how itís not working and hereís how you can make it work.
Weíre taking the first stab at it here and weíd like to see what it looks like. Weíve only had just a few wells done under the program so far but we anticipate it will go well and weíll work on that process. The Whitehorse periphery is included in the process, outside the municipality of Whitehorse. They are eligible under that aspect.
That will include many residents of your constituency. And as I mentioned, for us to go into all municipalities, for example, would be a fairly costly venture, I would estimate right now. So weíll have to look at that particular aspect but, right now with this program, we feel we can handle it based on the demand on this issue. As far as what our delivery costs are, the cost of the delivery of water is increasing across Canada, not just in the Yukon. Itís an issue in northern B.C.; itís an issue in northern Alberta, where they have even higher restrictions on their water trucks from what we have here.
Weíre dealing with the issue the best that we can. Weíre looking at a strategy that is going to deal with the issue; weíre trying to put forth that process. Weíre going to go out to the public on that particular aspect. Weíre going to try to incorporate that with Health and Social Services and their process of having potable drinking water by 2010. So, weíll be working on all those issues coming forth. I hope to have something out early this winter, and weíll be getting on to consult with the public, to get issues up and deal with getting access to potable water in our rural areas.
Mr. Cardiff: I think the program is going to be well-received. Itís unfortunate, and I know Iíve had numerous requests from people wanting to know why itís not available to people within the City of Whitehorse. Iím sure there are other people in other municipalities who think that it should be available to them. Is the minister saying that this is kind of another pilot project, theyíre going to see how it works out and, if it works out well, that it may be available, and that theyíre working with the City of Whitehorse now? So does the minister expect that this program would be available? Iím wondering what stage the negotiations are at with respect to this particular program currently. Would it be possible that it would be available to residents of the City of Whitehorse? Iím sure thereís a desire on both ends of the City of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is obviously a City of Whitehorse decision that they will have to work their way through in the process and discussions. So as to when itís going to be available, I canít answer directly, but as I will state, negotiations are underway and weíre dealing with the city and weíll move forward when we can reach a solution.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís my understanding that this is set up kind of like a revolving fund. Youíre basically funding the money up front for them to have their well; they take the risk, they get their well and, no matter whether itís wet or dry, they have to pay it back on their taxes, so the fund recoups its money. If the uptake is larger or gets to that point, is the minister prepared to put more money into the fund to make it more available or available more widely across the territory then? Would he be topping the fund up, so to speak?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is not a revolving fund. Any funds that are related to this program have to be a vote through this Legislature.
Mr. Cardiff: So when this $700,000 is gone, all the money that comes back through taxes is going back into general revenue then? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, thatís where it goes.
Mr. Cardiff: So I would assume that there will be a line item in the spring budget then that contains money for the well-drilling program.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to put in a request for some information. It was my understanding there was a FireSmart conference recently. It was a gathering of people from municipalities and people from the wildland fire branch and FireSmart officials. Was there a conference held recently?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, there was.
Mr. Cardiff: I really wanted to be able to attend that; however, I was engaged otherwise both here in the Legislature and at another event. I was wondering if there was going to be any reports or documentation coming out of that conference that could be made available.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will contact the coordinator and ask that the member opposite be provided with the information derived from that conference.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for that. Itís pretty obvious in the supplementary budget that it was an expensive year for fire suppression. The Premier explored this a little bit the other day when we were talking about the devolution transfer agreement. I am just wondering what the status is for any plans to deal with FireSmart and wildfire suppression around various communities and if those are available as well.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will be looking at dealing with the fire situation in our main budget for next year. I anticipate the FireSmart program will carry on as it has in the past. We will be looking at taking a little bit more of a direct role now that many of our experts work for us, so we can take advantage of their expertise in dealing with our interface between the community and the forest itself.
Mr. Cardiff: There have been some concerns, I guess. I believe the ministerís department has had some concerns about value for dollar in the FireSmart work that has been taking place. I am just wondering if there is a process that evaluates the work that has been done under FireSmart projects and how that is working. I think there was a new process put in place.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated in my preamble, we have a substantial number of applications, and we are currently going through a process of review to ensure that our projects are doing what theyíre supposed to do and that we do indeed get value for the money that is handed out to the communities.
Mr. Cardiff: One of the things the Premier talked about was working together ó this is another case where government departments can work together ó with forest management plans in helping to prevent wildfire. He used a couple of different examples where theyíre using forest management plans basically to do a reduction of fuel loads and create ó I think thereís another term but Iím not sure what it is ó firebreaks ó thatís one term but it wouldnít necessarily be like a full clear firebreak; it might be reforested with a stand of poplar or deciduous trees. Is the ministerís department looking to work at all with Energy, Mines and Resources in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As Iíve indicated, weíre working with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on land issues, as well as on wildland fire management, in dealing with their forest management plans, which do include fire abatement work. That fire abatement work has a variety of thinning, pruning, and fuel-load pickups that are required to reduce the fire load in each particular community. We are currently working in the Champagne-Aishihik area and I believe we have a forest management plan thatís finished for Teslin, so weíre working with the department on those two areas.
Mr. Cardiff: Is Haines Junction the only area where this is happening currently, or are there other communities where this is taking place?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with other communities also, but based on a priority basis and depending upon where we are with that particular community, we are currently working very closely with Watson Lake on their issue with regard to fire, because they are in a very high-risk area around the Town of Watson Lake, and thatís a real ó and they have been very successful in their FireSmart program in reducing their fuel load with their interface to the forest fire.
Mr. Cardiff: One of the areas hardest hit this summer was the area around Dawson. Iím just wondering ó I know they were kind of on the edge for a long time there with basically being almost ready to be evacuated. Sometimes the roads were closed in and out of the community. Is there any work being done in that area with regard to reducing fuel loads?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated, we are working through a review of our forest fire season this past season, and we anticipate looking at that particular issue.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to apologize, Mr. Chair; I received a note and I didnít hear the ministerís answer. Could I ask him to repeat that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, we are looking at doing a review of the past fire season, and we anticipate that will be an issue that will be brought up.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to thank the minister for that.
I know that wildfire is definitely a concern in a lot of communities. Itís a concern and Iíd like to thank the minister for the emergency program or the extra program that they laid on this fall for my constituents in Wolf Creek. Iím hoping that some of the services that are available will be available into the spring, because there is substantial work to be done and the people Iíve talked to are really thankful for what has been offered. I think they all lead busy lives too, and some of them are going to have a hard time doing all the work they need to get done to reduce the fuel loads and clean up all the windfall. Some of them arenít going to get the work completed in the time frame that they believe this program is being offered for. Itís made even tougher ó I think there are a lot of people who are happy that we got the eight to 10 inches of snow about a week ago, but that in itself is also making it hard to finish with the clean up. That will be ongoing probably right through. In order to get the stuff thatís on the ground under the eight to 10 inches of snow, weíre going to have to wait until the snow is gone to finish cleaning that up.
There are some other concerns around FireSmart as well. One of them had to do with liability of community associations.
Iím just trying to find the reference to it. Basically the community associations were taking on liabilities by doing the FireSmart program, and you relied on the volunteers to actually make the decisions on which areas would be best addressed, so there was a liability on the part of these community volunteers.
Wildfire management is something that rests with the government ó and I think probably rightfully so in regard to communities. The communities can play a role in that, but I think the liabilities that are inherent in doing or not doing a project should be borne by the government and not by volunteer community organizations.
I am wondering if the minister could shed any light on what has been done to alleviate those concerns.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The FireSmart program, the wildland fire management people, the local RMOs, all provide input, flag the area to be prescribed ó in other words, how it is going to be prescribed, what has to be done, where itís going to be pruned, where itís going to be cleaned, where itís going to be picked up and all the rest of that information. Thatís all done with the approval of the local RMO in that particular region. They approve the process before it comes in for FireSmart approval, and thatís what goes down. The other issues, itís up to community associations to ensure they have workersí compensation for their people who are doing any heavy work, and thatís part of the package of doing their financing for their project. Other than that, wildland fire management provides the expertise. They flag out the areas where the prescription has to be done, and the work is carried out by the communities and/or the contractor depending on where it is.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, one community association backed right away from doing FireSmart because of this liability issue that they felt they were faced with. It is my understanding that the Province of British Columbia could be facing ó or are facing ó a lawsuit around what they did or didnít do to provide adequate protection for the community of Kelowna and other communities as well. So by participating in these programs, community associations feel that they potentially could be in the line of fire as well, because theyíre the ones who are being asked by the government to sponsor the programs, and I think they could possibly have a legitimate concern there.
I hope that the minister will take those concerns into consideration.
While weíre still talking about fire and FireSmart, I have communicated with the minister on several occasions. I have brought it up in previous budget debates. I canít find the letter, but I have already read it enough times. On July 15 of this year, I wrote to the minister requesting him to take some action on the status of the tanker truck out at the Mount Lorne volunteer fire department. Itís an ongoing issue. As I stated in my letter, it was an issue during the election campaign. It came up at the all-candidates meeting during the election campaign. It was the first time it was brought to my attention. I heard it after that on the doorstep. It continues to be a problem, because basically the tanker truck is underpowered. It would have a hard time getting to a fire empty, which wouldnít do much good, and considering that two of the three directions that this tanker truck would be going out on a call entail going up a hill, it presents a serious safety hazard. So this truck has been in and out of the government maintenance shop, and it continues to come back underpowered.
I am wondering if the minister has made any progress on this file. I havenít heard from him. I wrote him on July 15 and October 14, I believe, and I havenít heard back from him.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are assessing all our equipment through the volunteer fire departments. One of our key issues is to ensure that all the fire departments ó right now, Mendenhall is the most current fire hall, and we are working with them and restocking them.
Tanker trucks are a bit of a difficulty throughout the Yukon in some areas, not just Mount Lorne, and we are trying to address some of these issues as and when the budget allows us to do so. I anticipate that we will looking at some tanker trucks this year in this coming budget cycle, and we will see where it goes.
Mr. Cardiff: There were volunteer fire departments on standby around the territory. I know that the volunteers at Mount Lorne were on standby during the high-risk times of the year when we were most at risk for fire. A supply of water in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne isnít readily available in most areas where you would be fighting a fire. There are a couple of rivers; there are a few lakes ó but there are a lot of areas where there isnít water available, so a tanker that can get there with a load of water would be a valuable resource.
Another example of where government departments could work together is when the government, on a regular basis, surpluses vehicles from the fleet vehicle agency. Maybe there arenít tanker trucks there, but there are gravel trucks and other trucks that could probably accept an existing tank that is on an underpowered tanker now, and that might be one way of approaching the problem.
When theyíre in the process of surplusing things like crew cabs or Suburbans and four-wheel drive vehicles, they might also be able to provide more first-response vehicles to volunteer fire departments around the territory.
I know the Golden Horn fire hall is really pleased to have theirs and they did a lot of that work themselves: going out, obtaining the truck from Yukon Energy, and getting the work done to it. Given the fire season that we just came through and the fact that many of these volunteer fire departments out in the communities and more remote areas are being asked to respond first ó to basically be the initial attack on some of these wildfires ó it would make sense that they have a vehicle that would be adequate for their needs; hence, a first-response vehicle. You canít be taking a pumper truck down a trail to try to do the initial attack on a small brush fire. Youíre not going to get there. Not just for Mount Lorne, but I think in many communities the government could put together some of the ó Iím sure that there are vehicles in the fleet vehicle agency that might be surplused a year or two early. It would seem like a good use of resources to equip those kinds of vehicles with water tanks and pumps. Then weíd have first-response vehicles out where they are most needed.
So I would like to know if the minister would consider looking into that aspect. We donít know what kind of a fire season weíre going to have next year. It may not be as bad as it was this past summer, or it could be worse. We need to be as prepared as possible, and it seems like a fairly cost-effective way of dealing with the issue would be to upgrade some pumps and hoses for the wildfire crews and put them on the backs of existing vehicles that the government owns and get them out where theyíre needed. Would the minister have his officials look into doing something along those lines?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to thank the member opposite for his comments. I will advise the member opposite that we already have negotiations underway with several communities around the Yukon where weíre dealing with our wildland fire management and those municipal fire departments, providing them with training on how to use our equipment and how to use their equipment so that they can get there and, when we get there with our equipment, they know how to use our equipment.
I think this season demonstrated quite clearly ó and the member opposite even stated ó that his people were on call all summer. In Tagish, for example, we actually had the fire crew on staff and ready to go. So we did utilize the coordination of the two departments. I think it proved that we are very successful at it, and we will continue to do that throughout the process. We are putting money into FireSmart this season and, as our budgets allow it, we will try to replace some of these pieces of equipment where we can, and we will take the memberís suggestions under advisement. And where we can make an adjustment for our fleet vehicles, we will.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for his answer and I think that itís great to have the volunteer firefighters trained in the use of all that equipment. I think itís well known that, the sooner you get to the fire and the sooner that you attack it, the more likely you are to have success. I think itís obvious that, if the equipment is there for them to use, they would be able to attack it sooner.
The minister mentioned earlier that there would be an evaluation of the 2004 fire season and I believe he stated that there would be a report. Could he give us a date when the report would be presented in the House?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently putting together the consultants to undertake this assignment, so as to the exact date, weíre hoping to have it before next seasonís start.
Mr. Cardiff: So before the next season starts ó that would be advantageous, Iím sure. Iíd like to ask the minister a few questions with regard to labour services. There are a couple of things that come to mind. One of them is the fair wage. There was an issue around whether or not the fair wage was going to be used on the Whitehorse multiplex, and then it was used, and then there was an issue of whether or not all categories would be eligible for the fair wage.
As it turned out, I guess that did happen.
What I am wondering is: the fair wage hasnít gone up for quite some time. Itís my understanding that itís mandatory to have a review of the fair wage, I believe itís every two years, and the fair wage hasnít gone up for quite some time. According to the fair wage schedule, April 2000 was the last time it was raised, which would lead one to believe, if it is reviewed every two years, that there have been possibly two reviews done, but nothing has happened. This is a concern to working people. They see other workers in the territory getting increases to their wage.
Can the minister tell me how many times it has been reviewed by the Employment Standards Board and if there has been a submission made to the minister?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We received a submission from the board and we asked for some additional information on how they arrived at their items, based on their consultation process. They have indicated that they need more time to get the information back to us.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Mr. Chair, according to this, anybody who is working on a project under the fair wage schedule hasnít received an increase in pay in over four years. That does not say much about working people and what this government thinks of them. The minister has the authority to put an increase in place. He has received recommendations. He has asked for some information back. What kind of timelines are we talking about with regard to when the minister received the submission from the Employment Standards Board, and how long he has been waiting for the information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We received the information last year, last fall, and we asked them to get back to us. The board only received a limited number of submissions to their proposals, and we have asked them to come back. I have also been advised by the local Contractor Association that most of their members are being paid above the fair wage standard anyway in almost every category.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister should talk to working people. It is interesting to note that this has been basically on the ministerís file for a year.
There is no progress. There is no doubt in my mind that some employers do pay their workers more than what is offered up in the fair wage schedule. However, there are some other questions about the fair wage schedule that could come up as well. There is perceived disparity by some workers that Iíve talked to with regard to the actual categories and the way that they classify people and the jobs they do. Just at first glance, there probably is an issue. There are some categories here ó just as a for instance, it looks like some people who work on construction jobs wouldnít necessarily be receiving the same rate of pay: carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and refrigeration mechanics are all in category A, but cement finishers and painters, pipe layers and roofers basically all fall into a different category and get two dollars an hour less, or more.
Now I know the Member for Klondike is really concerned about this. He had to give his explanation, but that doesnít seem to sit right with me. We all know the dangers on a construction site and the trade qualifications required to do these jobs are very similar. If you look at road construction, heavy equipment operators, dragline, grade-all, pile driver, shovel, mobile crane, crane operator ó well, you wouldnít see that out on road construction necessarily, but there seems to be two classes of heavy equipment operator. It seems to me that if youíre operating loaders and scrapers or gravel trucks or backhoes that you should be ó whatís the difference? Has the minister asked the Employment Standards Board to review the categories to ensure that thereís some fairness in the categories?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No.
Mr. Cardiff: Would he be prepared to do that? Would he be prepared to look at the issues that working people have brought to my attention? Maybe the board has to work with the Yukon Construction Safety Association or the Contractors Association to review this, but I think it might be worthwhile to include working people in those consultations.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The board has the authority to review the changes that it wants. Their recommendation to us did not include any changes to any of the categories on that particular venue. It was strictly a monetary issue and thatís all it was. There was no addressing the change in categories A, B, C or D.
Mr. Cardiff: My understanding is that the minister can request the Employment Standards Board to review this. I donít know why he is not willing to do so. Again, I guess itís just not on the ministerís radar screen that the working people need to make a fair wage. Thatís why itís called the fair wage schedule.
What you have is some people out there working on heavy equipment on road construction in very dangerous situations where you have equipment going every which way on a road construction site. What do they make?† $21.06 an hour. And then you have other equipment operators who are grading highways, and they make considerably more. They have an organization that represents them, and they make a lot more money ó in some instances probably up to $7 an hour more, and theyíre driving down secondary roads, primary roads, grading the gravel. Iím not saying itís not dangerous. Iím just saying that on a road construction site youíve got way more concentration of equipment in a small area doing a lot of work, and it can be really dangerous work.
All thatís being required of employers is to pay them $21.06 an hour. Now I havenít done a lot of work on road construction sites, but I did spend a couple of summers there and I know that equipment poses a hazard, and Iíve seen some pretty close calls. Iíve even been a participant in one of those close calls. I wasnít in the vehicle; I was outside of the vehicle when it happened. But I think that because itís road construction ó or any construction for that matter, if you want to use any of the other trades ó if youíre working as a service person in a service industry job as opposed to being on a construction site, thereís a lot of difference between being an electrician changing light bulbs in an office building and being an electrician working up at the multiplex or any other construction site, even on a mine site.
Now I think that the minister needs to make this a priority. I donít know if he has to ask the Employment Standards Board to get back to him with the information that he has requested, but weíre going to be coming up to a new construction season here in the next little while, and I think the minister should make a decision one way or the other as to whether or not theyíre going to do something about the fair wage schedule before that construction season arrives.
If he doesnít, what youíre asking is for these people who are covered ó everybody from category A to category D, where you are only making $17 an hour working on a construction site ó these are the lower-end people, but they are every bit as important and their job is every bit as dangerous, whether itís road construction or otherwise ó and you are asking them to go without a raise, with no protection, for five years. I think that that is a hard pill to swallow for most working people out there, when they see other workers receiving raises.
I would like to ask the minister this: will he undertake to ensure that there is a decision one way or the other, that he gets the information from the Employment Standards Board and that he makes a decision about the fair wage schedule so that people can know with some certainty what they are going to get paid next construction season? Will he do that and announce it publicly before the next construction season?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím working with the Employment Standards Board. We will endeavour to move this thing along as fast as we can. I would like to resolve the situation as much as the member opposite, but I would like to do it in a fair and consultative manner, and I will work through them to get there.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a few questions in this department, and I would like to start by asking some questions in regard to my colleagueís questions about this past fire season. The minister said that there would be an evaluation that takes place within government, and it will be presented to the House or maybe not even make it to the House by next spring, but it is going to be reviewed by the government before the next fire season. I would like to know what the evaluation entails. Who is involved in it, and what do we expect to be the outcome of it? I say this with a lot of interest. I understand that in 1995 there was extensive work done on evaluations of the 1995 fire, particularly in the Minto area, and I do have interest in that, and Iíll come back with more questions once I hear from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We spent a little while searching for some available consultants, first of all, to provide us with some expertise. We consulted with a group of consultants to do a review of our season. The committee includes three fire experts from Alberta, and we were also looking at providing two Yukon representatives. Weíre looking at getting a qualified Yukon First Nation panel member. We have a couple of candidates out there already; weíre just waiting for a response. Weíre also looking at another Yukon member to complete this board to do the assessment on our behalf.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is saying that the group that is going to be doing the evaluation is not complete yet, and weíre still looking for those participants. He said there were three experts from Alberta, two from the Yukon Territory and eight First Nation participants on this group, and there was one more. I didnít get the last one. When does he expect these positions to be filled, and when can the evaluation start?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently pushing the button on this one as quickly as we can. We have a very tight schedule in order to make next yearís schedule. We are awaiting a response from a couple of the First Nation candidates that we have. The member at large is going to get back to us very shortly as to whether heís available and can assist us on this particular one. As soon as that comes into place, weíll commence immediately.
Mr. Fairclough: This season has been a bad fire season, as was 1995 and 1998. For example, the 1995 fire in the Minto area burned up approximately 25 percent of Selkirk First Nationís land selection. That was huge. I know that this year there was a lot of interest about why governments did not fight fires in certain areas. Some of these areas were on First Nation lands or adjacent to them. I think itís important that this be part of the evaluation. Of course, I am sure that the First Nation member should ensure that, as part of the evaluation between governments and land selections, there is compatible land use. I understand that a lot of times some fires or portions of them were simply left alone. I understand observation zones and so on, but this summer we had people from Alaska here ó and this is all information coming to me from another person, so I didnít get it directly from the people from Alaska, but they were wondering why the heck they were here in the Yukon fighting fire, because they couldnít do anything.
They were not allowed to do certain things. And it was totally, I would say, different from the 1995 fire, because in 1995, they had a lot of authority in the Yukon ó more so than our own fire crews in that if they wanted to order in Cats, for example ó I know it has come to 4:30; I will finish up ó they got the go-ahead to do it. If they wanted air support, they seemed to get it a lot easier than our Yukon crews here. So this year they were wondering why they were here at all, because they were kept at the base, knowing they could go out and fight portions of a fire that was getting away. So I would like to ask the minister to ensure that their perspective is taken into consideration in this evaluation. After all, we are calling them in to help us out. We call other people in from Alberta,† B.C. and elsewhere from time to time too.
I think itís as important to hear from them as it is from the experts from Alberta. The people who know best are the local people. I know that First Nations are wondering why the heck this fire was not fought. It burned a settlement that nobody really knew about, or a fishing area. Thatís all Iím asking the member. He listed some people on this panel asking for it to be broader and bigger, and letís learn from it. Thatís why weíre doing evaluations.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The three independent members are experts in fire evaluation. That means that they are going to be writing the report. Their expertise is going to be used to evaluate the report. I assume, without question, theyíll be talking to all the people who came to the Yukon ó those from Ontario, those from Manitoba, those from Saskatchewan and those from Alaska ó in doing their assessment of the situation. And they are independent, so thatís why we particularly got at that, so that weíre not being seen as skewing the issue; we want to make improvements to the issue if there are improvements to be made, and weíll make those improvements as per the suggestions.†
As far as getting out broadly in the process, weíre asking them to get down to us right away so we can work on finalizing their terms of reference so they can get out there. They want to deal with operational issues as much as possible so that weíre not dealing with policy. The member opposite knows about observation zones. We are obligated under the devolution transfer agreement; we cannot fight fires outside of that devolution transfer agreement observation zone. If we do, we will not be paid for it by the Government of Canada. Thatís the main issue when it comes to them. We have obligations that we have to fight under the devolution transfer agreement, and we have to abide by those particular aspects.
Our independent review experts will be doing this assessment along with our two Yukon representatives on this to review the situation, see what we did right, see what we did wrong, see how we can make improvements, and see how we can do it prior to next yearís season.
Chair: Weíve reached our normal time for an afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. The Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue on with Vote 51, the Department of Community Services, general debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for the answers to my questions. Now that the Yukon government is in control of fire suppression in the territory, Iím sure that the department still goes over their maps and looks at what areas are determined to be observation zones and so on. It really has nothing to do with the federal government any more, so Iíd like to ask the minister if that information is correct.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíd like to correct the situation for the member opposite. We are obligated under the devolution transfer agreement to maintain that observation zone for five years.
Mr. Fairclough: All right. I guess I wonít go there anymore. The question has been answered. Has the Yukon government looked at doing any more improvements to ó I see a lot of money in the budget toward fire suppression ó but to improve equipment in, for example, the fire towers. I am particularly interested in some of the towers in my riding. At Carmacks, for example, theyíve done improvements to the road to one of the towers. It makes a heck of a difference getting in and out, getting the tower person in and out. Are there any plans to do more improvements, say, in road maintenance and equipment building and so on, the tower buildings and the weather equipment, that type of thing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have lines in our budget to cover general maintenance throughout the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: I thought maybe the minister would go on the same line as trying to keep a commitment until it totally comes into the control of the Yukon government in regard to equipment. I would like to ask about the government plans for bridge maintenance. When can we see improvements to the bridge in Pelly Crossing? I mean physical improvements, painting, and so on. Itís in pretty rough shape now.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thatís under the Department of Highways and Public Works.
Mr. Fairclough: All right. Sometimes you never know. This government moves things around from one department to another without letting people know. For example, the Department of Highways and Public Works wants to move the French language services out. I wonder how the heck it even got there in the first place. These are community initiatives and thatís why Iím asking these questions. Sometimes, you never know, it could fall under this category.
In regard to property lots in Keno, there are concerns expressed by a few people in Keno about acquiring additional lots there. In the past, it was owned by the company and very difficult to get any expansion or even these lots freed up for anyone to purchase and so on. Has any work been done to acquire these lots that are north of the community in Keno? If so, can the minister give us a timeline when we can see this happening or is it still tied up in court with the company? Refresh our memories.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe there is some squatterís issue with regard to that land and it is tied up. There is some legal hassle and they are still under that process.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to ask the minister a question about the community of Carmacks and the sewage treatment plant that is proposed. I understand that monies have already flown to the village to pay for the work that has already been done. It was done in the budget. I know theyíve gone through and dealt with some local issues to ensure the location of this sewage plant. I did notice that there was a decrease in this amount in this supplementary budget. Does that have anything to do with this particular project in Carmacks or is everything going ahead as planned?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This project is going ahead as designed. We had some issues, as the member indicated, with regard to a location of the facility, but weíve got those worked out now, and we are advancing along as we can.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us what timeframes weíre looking at? Are we to look at construction this coming summer, the summer of 2005, for the replacement of this mechanical plant?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre in the regulatory process right now, and weíre going to move as fast as we can push everyone along the way. Whether weíll be ready for this season, Iím not quite sure. I will attempt to get something started by late fall, hopefully, and then carry on.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister see any roadblocks that might prevent this project from beginning in the fall? I know that the community of Carmacks is looking forward to this project finally going ahead. Community people had all kinds of concerns, for example, about the roads and down River Drive and re-servicing that road, but the village will not do anything until this project goes ahead.
Are we looking at just waiting for everything to go through the regulatory process? Is that it, or is there actually more to this? Is the project growing beyond what was originally envisioned?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are moving along in this issue. Itís difficult to indicate what may show up. Weíre going through the processes. We have to go through the water licence. We have to go through the tendering process. All these things can throw a wrinkle at us, one way or the other; however, all of them may go through without a push, and the project will proceed faster than we anticipate. Right now, itís a little hard for us to guess what that may be, but weíre going through the processes of the regulatory aspect of getting on to this project. Like I said, I anticipate hopefully to get something moving by late fall.
Mr. Fairclough: I would assume the money would be in the upcoming spring budget. Whatís the final cost that the minister has for this mechanical plant?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We obviously havenít completed the project yet, but we anticipate weíll be able to complete the project for the original estimate.
Mr. Fairclough: Which was what amount?
Hon. Mr. Hart: $5 million.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe that $5 million was not the number that was floated around by the minister in the past. I assumed that this project would have been more than that. As a matter of fact, it may even be double. Is that the amount of money thatís being spent this year, or is this the first phase of the project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We had done some review of the project. There were some difficulties. We had an engineering assessment done. Weíre back on track now and we feel those numbers should be there. The member opposite may be confusing the project. We anticipate the cost of the water, installation of the water and sewer system throughout the Village of Carmacks to be in the area, as he estimated, of $10 million. Thatís a different project altogether. The facility weíre talking about is the treatment facility. The other project weíre dealing with is under the CSIF project, and thatís just basically the installation of water and sewer within the town.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess that was the question I was leading up to. So the project of putting a plant in the community of Carmacks and all the necessary lines needed for this plant ó and whether thereís a pumping station, how many and that type of thing ó is all part of this project. I know that the village wanted at the same time to put the pipes in. There may not be water going to peopleís houses yet, but to put the pipes in is part of this cost. I think the projects are going ahead together. Thatís what my understanding is. Is that the case or are we seeing two different projects here? Because the way I understand it is the sewer lines are going in, the water lines are going in adjacent to it, and this saves in digging up the road again.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The sewer lines and water lines are going to the homes in Carmacks; that is a separate project. The sewage treatment facility is a separate project altogether.
Mr. Fairclough: All right ó the treatment facility, which is a mechanical plant, right now serves about 40 percent of the community; thatís 40 percent of the village community. Is this project going ahead? The water lines and the sewer lines †ó are they going ahead at the same time as the mechanical plant is being put in?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No, the sewer and water lines are a separate project and they will be going ahead on a separate basis once we have finalized the costing of those two units.
Mr. Fairclough: When does the minister expect that to happen: this summer, the following summer ó when do we expect that to happen?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is a lot of work to be done on this particular project so I donít anticipate that weíll be into the project until 2007.
Mr. Fairclough: So the minister will be working with the community of Carmacks installing a mechanical sewer plant with no sewer lines and no sewer going into it until 2007. That is how I understand things; is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is existing sewer usage and that will be connected to the plant.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, then there has to be some lines laid because ó is the minister just saying that the final location is very close to where the existing plant is?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The lot has already been cleared and made available for the village, and they will just have to make a short connection to it.
Mr. Fairclough: Something doesnít seem right here at all, Mr. Chair. The way government talked about it before was that this sewage system would serve the community. As it is right now, the present facility services about 40 percent of the community. Forty percent ó the downtown core of Carmacks, businesses, and Yukon Housing units and so on, thatís it. It doesnít service ó there are no water lines or sewer lines that go anywhere else in the community. Most of them are on septic fields or pump-outs ó most of the community is. Right now the community has been involved in doing water studies and water testing for a good number of years, but extensively last year, and there are problems the community is facing that are immediate. The minister knows that Yukon Housing last year had problems ó the community had problems with E. coli in their water systems. It could have been from a number of different reasons. Some people felt that there were broken sewer lines leaking into the well-water table. Or it could have been from spring runoff. What ended up happening in the communities is that people ended up buying water and spending big money on water ó for cooking, for washing ó and would not go back to using the systems they have. That is expensive ó and this is not water being hauled, this is water right out of the store.
This is very much a problem that has been identified by the First Nation very recently. I donít know if the minister has a letter in his hands from the First Nation yet on this. It is a very big issue in ensuring that the community has safe drinking water. I am hoping that the minister wonít say that we have to look at 2007 before we get water delivered to the other 40 percent of the community of Carmacks.
So is the minister aware, then? If he has had any discussions with the Minister of Health and Social Services, he might be aware of this issue. If he is not aware, would he let us know and maybe get into contact with the First Nations who have done a lot of their water testing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The municipality is responsible for providing municipal services within its borders. That includes water and sewer, and they are provided base grants from the governments to assist in that endeavour. That is their prerogative to deal with.
Mr. Fairclough: I take it by that answer the minister doesnít know. He doesnít know if thereís an issue or not. This is a health issue, and it is the responsibility of that minister to ensure that communities do have safe drinking water. So if the municipalities are responsible for their communities, then does the minister play any role in ensuring First Nations have safe drinking water or a proper sewage system?
Hon. Mr. Hart: He is in an area where theyíre a self-governing First Nation, and they are responsible for issues, and they have access to federal funding to deal with issues specifically, i.e., water and sewer, on their lands and in their particular venues.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, we hear that often from the members opposite. We heard the Minister of Education from time to time saying self-governing First Nations, but the fact of the matter is that the federal government does give money to YTG to provide those services ó the same with education. The minister knows that, and Iím surprised that it would be just sloughed off, just like that, and that there would be no interest in this from the minister at all.
Iím wondering why the government made commitments to the community if they felt they are not part of this whole process. Is the minister also saying that, with respect to fire protection and solid waste disposal, the federal government is on the hook for that and YTG will not be playing a role with First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Hart: You know, First Nations have the ability to enter into service arrangements with the municipalities, and itís being done in a couple of the other municipalities throughout the Yukon, so they have authority to do so. As I mentioned earlier, Community Services is looking at dealing with potable water throughout the Yukon. Weíre looking at our strategy on that particular aspect, and we plan to bring that forth in the new year, as I said. Weíll go out and consult and try to get this and deal with it.
I will impress upon the member opposite that the First Nation has the authority, under the federal government ó there are special funds for First Nations exactly for that particular issue of water and sewer on their lands.
The Village of Carmacks has put a priority on the sewage facility, with the water and sewer to come after that particular aspect. Weíre working on their priority list as designated by them and also designated through AYC.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand that. This has been a priority for the Village of Carmacks for many years. They are violating their water licence. They have to do something, and all they have in that community is a pilot project that never got completed. So I understand that.
What the minister said ó I asked the minister these questions last year even ó was that there would be water and sewer provided for the whole community, or I think it was just the sewage system; I shouldnít say water. The sewage system can handle the whole community. The First Nations, at that time, were part of the community. The Minister of Education says they are not anymore ó there are only 200 people in Carmacks. I donít know where he gets those numbers from.
But the fact is that they are outside the boundaries. They are not part of the municipality, and the municipal bylaws do not apply to the First Nations. They have to do things on their own, and have done even before they sign off on their final agreement.
But YTG has always participated in some of these projects ó including road construction ó in the community, so Iím sure the minister will not let a design of a sewage system or a water system go without including the whole community. Iím sure of that. I know the minister would not do that. It just doesnít make sense at all. Because if that were the case, then Iím sure the minister would want to provide a mechanical plant for the First Nation too, or maybe he would just slough that off to the federal government. So I would like to ask about the design of the sewage system in Carmacks ó the new plant, the sewer lines and water lines. Will those plans include First Nation homes, their settlement lands? Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will try to go through this again for the member opposite. The Village of Carmacks and the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation agreed that the most appropriate and cost-effective treatment system was the mechanical plant. We had a disagreement on where it was going to be located, but we have since rectified that. The new facility is going to be sized to accommodate sewage treatment for the entire community. That is, itís going to be capable of handling sewage for the entire facility should the First Nation get funding to deal with the sewage facility on their lands. Thatís what we have to deal with. Weíre dealing with the municipality, and weíll be dealing with the sewage and water lines within that municipality.
Mr. Fairclough: Also the municipalities get a grant based on population ó or they did at one time ó and the number of dwellings in that community, which happened to include First Nation houses.
Now I know weíve gone a bit away from that, but there doesnít seem to be a commitment from this minister to ensure that if there is a design to a sewage system and a water system that it would include a design for the First Nation too. I guess the simple question is that because ó and Iím focusing on Carmacks of course ó the boundaries include First Nation lands that are ó it surrounds First Nation lands, letís put it that way. First Nation lands are excluded, so itís almost like a donut hole with the First Nation, but it is not in just one spot. They have lands that are excluded in a couple of different areas in that community. In other words, people who live there cannot vote in a municipal election; bylaws donít apply, that type of thing, and they have to pay additional taxes when they already pay for services. They have to pay for things like fire protection and the use of the dump and so on. Would the design of a sewage system ó the pipes and the water pipes ó include designs for the First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will reiterate what I can. The size of the facility can handle what the First Nation will provide, but it is up to them to go through the process to get the funding to hook into the system. The village has indicated that that is not a problem with them.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím talking about sewage lines and the water lines. Itís a separate project, the minister said. Would they include designs to go on First Nation lands and be part of the whole community? I want to know if this sewage system will have, once itís funded by this government, lines going to First Nation homes as well as the non-native homes.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, the water and sewer lines have not been finalized yet, and weíll consult with the community and deal with it at that stage.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I thank the minister for that. Is the minister interested in ensuring that the design of the water and sewer lines includes First Nation homes, First Nation lands, and their businesses?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, the design and the outline for the water and sewer system is not yet completed, and we will consult with the community.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, will the minister consult with the First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Consult with the community.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I know how the Yukon Party thinks, and I know the First Nation has to go to great lengths to ensure that they stay on process, and they have to sign agreements, memoranda of understanding and intergovernmental agreements. I hope thatís not what weíre coming to here.
The First Nation, to some of the ministers opposite, is not part of the community. I know this might be hard for the member opposite, but I want to ensure that the First Nation, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, is consulted with and is fully part of the design of this water and sewer line and that YTG does not slough it off to the federal government. It could work with the federal government if they feel that there is extra money that they can get there. There is nothing wrong with that. But I donít want the First Nation to be excluded from this design again.
And I say ďagainĒ because the sewage system in Carmacks didnít include their First Nation lands and is only serving a very small portion of the community. So I want the minister to ensure that the First Nation is consulted and are fully part of the plan monies going to that community. The community includes the First Nation.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The First Nation has a signed First Nation agreement. They have the ability to go to the federal government to issue items as they relate to sewer and water, as I have indicated in the past. We have not completed the design of the sewer and water and, when we do, we will go do the community. I would remind the member opposite that for them to operate, everybody has to be there ó the municipality has to operate the facility. Somebody has to pay for that operation. If itís going to include everybody in the process and everybody wants to get into that process, we will negotiate with them to get there.
Mr. Fairclough: YTG funds about 90 percent of the project and they have to negotiate with First Nations ó it doesnít seem right. I am very concerned about this because the Minister of Education just went down a different road here than the minister responsible for Community Services. It is a big issue in that community if this government wants to start splitting the community apart. This is an opportunity for the member to say: I will ensure that the First Nation is part of this project, not ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: I believe the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was just in contravention of Standing Order 19(g), imputing false or unavowed motives to another member by his suggestion that the government was trying to split the community of Carmacks in two.
Chair: Does any other member wish to make a comment on this one?
Chair: The Chair finds that there is no point of order here. But once again I would caution members against implying or imputing motives on others. The phrase ďwants to start splitting the community apartĒ is very close to that line.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Not in this context.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím hoping that maybe that ruling would sink into the Member for Lake Laberge, because he gets up quite often and tries to call a point of order on that section of the Standing Orders, which is just a disruption in the line of questioning. I know that the member opposite is sensitive to the decisions and actions of his minister ó the Minister of Education ó so Iím bringing that forward. I canít help but bring forward the issues of my community. Too bad for the members opposite if they feel that way, because that is indeed the case.
The Minister of Education said to the First Nation, ďYouíre self-governing. Go look to the feds. This is what weíre doing.Ē Is this improving relations with First Nations? I think not. So Iím asking the same types of questions to ensure that the Minister of Community Services does not go down that road and that he ensures that the First Nation is fully part of this system. Thatís all there is, and I know the minister is shaking his head, but itís a big thing. Itís not a small issue. We canít have another minister doing this again to that community. They all agree to have a mechanical plant in that community, and itís going ahead; itís going to be built, and itís hopefully going to be functioning well in 2007.
Thatís what the minister is hoping ó that the water and sewer lines will be built. Is the minister saying that there will be no monies identified in this upcoming spring budget for design of a sewage piping system and water piping system for the community of Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will have some design money in the upcoming budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím asking the minister to be very serious with respect to this project. I know that the First Nation is actually part of the design of the mechanical plant and its location. All kinds of discussion took place internally, away from government, about ensuring that there is a location that is agreeable to both the village and the First Nation ó where they both agree it wonít create a problem, I guess. Lots of movement has been made in that regard, and the First Nation was fully part of that.
I know that if there was ever a system put in place ó for example, not the plant itself, but the lines ó there would have to be pumping stations, even to meet some of the lots that are now part of the municipality ó the newer subdivisions and so on. There will have to be pumping stations if there is a line going from the First Nation side ó depending which way they go, across the bridge or under the water ó to the mechanical plant. This is big money.
Iím hoping that the government does not exclude the First Nation from any of the discussion. Weíre going to have to start hearing the minister say ďcommunityĒ and ďthe First Nation,Ē because it doesnít seem to be the same thing anymore ó not to the Minister of Education anyway.
Yukon government has signed off ó I see there are some discussions so Iíll just let the minister answer. I didnít think the minister was listening ó he was in conversation. My question was about ensuring the First Nationís full participation in the design to deliver a system that is beneficial to them, as well as to the Village of Carmacks.
The government made big fanfare about signing off MOUs in regard to consultation with First Nations. Will the minister uphold those agreements and if so, can he tell us how this will begin in designing a sewage line and water line system for the community?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will repeat again for the member opposite: we have no completion of the design for the water and sewer system. Theyíre separate from the actual sewage facility, and weíll go out and consult with the community when we get out there to commence this project.
Mr. Fairclough: I was talking about the sewage line and the water system, not the plant itself, so will the First Nation be consulted?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, we will be out consulting with the community.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand what the minister said: heíll be consulting the community. Would the First Nation be consulted?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will go out and consult with the community, as I said.
Mr. Fairclough: Why is it so hard for the minister to say he would consult with the First Nation? Why is it so hard? I ask the minister to talk to his advisors on this matter. Is he not saying that because there would not be any consultation, or is he taking an order from the Minister of Education? I want to know if this minister considers Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation part of the community of Carmacks.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Edzerza, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that the member opposite is abusing 19(b)(i), where he continuously refers to the Minister of Education in the discussion on water and sewer, and it is not within the context of the discussion.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister is wrong. I referred to the Minister of Education in his consultation with the school and the school project. Ask him ó if heís going to sit there and listen, follow along the discussion.
Chair: Iíll have to refer to the Blues, but I believe that the speaker said something along the lines of the Minister of Education giving orders to the Minister of Community Services. The Chair is not aware of any such order existing. The matter at hand is the Department of Community Services and the budget, and I would ask members to stay on topic.
Mr. Fairclough: If it is for clarification, I said that the Minister of Education is basically giving directions to the Minister of Community Services on how he does things. I am sure that anybody listening to this conversation would understand that was the case. I did ask a question, Mr. Chair, and I would like the minister to answer it. It was a simple one, and it is unfortunate that we even have to ask these questions.
Does the minister consider Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation part of the community of Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When we look at dealing with the sewage and water lines within the municipality of Carmacks, we will be consulting with the community itself. If that community involves the First Nation, we will be consulting with the First Nation.
Mr. Fairclough: I canít even believe that answer, but I am hoping that maybe we are moving along. Iím just trying to get somewhere. We couldnít get to this particular spot with the Minister of Education. The minister said that if Little Salmon-Carmacks is part of the community, they would be consulted. If they are not part of the community, they wonít consult with them? That doesnít seem right.
Iím sure that the First Nation will put some pressure on the government here. If it is not taken up by any of the ministers, then unfortunately we are going to go straight back to the Premier to try to resolve these matters.
I need it very clear from the members opposite, because we are not going to believe this government when they say that they are going to consult with First Nations, even though they signed agreements. It just doesnít happen ó not any meaningful consultation. I donít want the First Nation to be excluded, Mr. Chair. Some ministers may take that approach, but the Minister of Community Services can demonstrate a good working relationship with that community if he just does that.
I donít think that everything should be put back. ďOkay, First Nations, you are self-governing; you have signed a final agreement so you† have to throw a government together, organize it, have the right people in place, go to Ottawa and try to draw down the programs you are entitled to.Ē
Those things donít come that easy. The ministers opposite know that. Itís very difficult to run a very efficient government, let alone putting one together. Look how long it has taken the Yukon government, and weíre still in a mess in some cases. I donít have any further questions until a bit later. Perhaps Iíll pass it back to my colleague.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have no specific project outline on the design for the water and sewer in the ground. As I mentioned, we will go out to the community. We will consult with the community on the design and the makeup of that process. We are a ways away from getting it out there, and we will consult with them.
Mr. Cardiff: I left off earlier talking about the fair wage, and Iíd like to stay just for a few minutes with the labour services part of Community Services.
Another issue for young people in our communities is the minimum wage. Itís two years, 25 months to be exact, I guess, since the minimum wage was increased. Iím wondering whether the minister has asked the Employment Standards Board to review the minimum wage thatís also under the Employment Standards Act.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím not quite sure exactly, but Iím sure I can say this without any fear of getting hammered out here: the minimum wage in the Yukon is one of the highest in Canada. If you want to add it to the list on the issues, so be it.
Mr. Cardiff: I guess it goes to the cost of living. Weíve all seen what has happened this past year, just in one year and just with one commodity: heating oil. I donít know if the minister has checked his heating oil bill lately but I know that mine has gone up substantially and I hear that on a regular basis from people. Itís not just youth who are covered by the minimum wage. The Web page with the minimum wage regulation covered under the Employment Standards Act says that, effective November 1, 2002, the minimum wage of $7.20 per hour applies to all employees regardless of age.
There are a lot of people who are working at minimum-wage jobs, basically classified as the working poor. The Minister of Health and Social Services is aware of some of these people, IĎm sure. What Iím asking is: they havenít had any increase in two years. All Iím asking the minister to do is to †move that issue forward to the Employment Standards Board and have them look at it.
I think that itís worthwhile and I think that itís only fair that working people receive a fair wage. The minimum wage is part of that package for people who arenít covered under collective agreements.† A lot of people end up working at several minimum-wage jobs in order to make ends meet: to feed their family, to pay the rent, to heat their home. Iím asking the minister whether or not heís going to take that forward to the Employment Standards Board and ask them to look into it, to see whether or not it needs to be increased, and to compare it to the cost of living. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, yes.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to thank the minister for taking me up on that. Itís good to know that heís thinking about working people in the Yukon ó the people who contribute to our economy on a daily basis.
Iím just wondering if the minister could update me on a situation that has been around for quite some time, and that is the collection of wages for United Keno Hill employees. There was a judgement several years ago. There is still money outstanding. Is the department making any headway on collecting this money on behalf of the employees who used to work for United Keno Hill?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The labour services branch has been very successful in suing the directors of United Keno Hill, and they have derived almost 70 percent of the outstanding wages. The likelihood of getting any more from the directors, from what Iíve been advised, is not that good, but we have collected 70 percent of the outstanding wages from the directors of the previous board.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, hopefully, we wonít be faced with that again. Itís sad to see the money that working people have worked for basically taken from them.
There are a couple of other questions around the fair wage and business incentive programs. The minister is responsible for the business incentive program. We had to twist the ministerís arm, just about, to get the business incentive program included in the Whitehorse multiplex.
But I have some other questions with respect to the business incentive program and the fair wage program, with regard to a policy and the projects the government is looking at undertaking.
The government is currently considering taking a P3 approach to the Dawson bridge.
We are not sure whether or not there are other projects out there that may be going that way as well ó the public/private partnerships. Iím just wondering how the government would apply the business incentive policy and the fair wage schedule on projects like that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, the member opposite can ask the Minister of Economic Development that question.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, the minister is responsible for the administration of the business incentive program, and I would think that he would have been talking to the Minister of Economic Development. He is also the minister responsible for the Department of Highways and Public Works, and the last time I checked a bridge was part of a highway. He must have some understanding. Surely his colleague has talked to him about this project, if he has the lead on it or whoever. We donít seem to know who has the lead on it, and sometimes we wonder whether the members opposite know who has the lead on the project. The minister is responsible for the fair wage and the business incentive program, and if somebody else is taking the lead on the project, have they been talking to him about how the business incentive plan and the fair wage schedule would apply to this project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I repeat: the question should be answered by the Minister of Economic Development, who is responsible for the business incentive policy as well as the P3 process.
Mr. Cardiff: I think Iíve got that. What about the fair wage schedule? The minister is responsible for the fair wage schedule. Will the fair wage schedule be part of the P3 projects in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Again, Iíll reiterate what Iíve already said: thatís a question heíll have to ask the Minister of Economic Development. The issue of fair wage is to do with P3s; itís a P3 issue.
Mr. Cardiff: Obviously the minister hasnít been talking to his colleagues about something that affects his department. Labour services branch is responsible for the fair wage and they obviously donít know whether or not theyíre going to be administering the fair wage on these projects. That doesnít seem to make too much sense. But the minister is adamant that thatís how we should go, so weíll wait for Economic Development to come around in the order. Hopefully weíll get some notice about that.
I have some other questions for the minister. Actually, I have one more question for the minister regarding wages ó fair wages for working people. This is something that I brought up with him last spring and that is fair wages for emergency firefighters. We saw this year ó we had a lot of activity out fighting wildfires and forest fires. The minister wasnít prepared last spring to recognize that a lot of these people who are out there putting their lives on the line on a daily basis fighting forest fires and protecting communities need to be paid a fair wage. I donít have the information in front of me, but Iíll get that information if he doesnít want to answer the question today. I can get all the information that I brought forward last spring, but Iíd like to ask him if he has considered giving any consideration over the summer to providing an increase for those workers as well.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have taken over those emergency firefighter positions from the federal government. They are one of the highest paid workers across Canada in that particular category, and we feel they are justly rewarded in that particular aspect. I will not dispute the fact that we used them a lot more this year than we have in the past and, if need be, weíll use them again.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister doesnít seem to recognize that the people who work ó whether theyíre making minimum wage or working under the fair wage schedule or are emergency firefighters who are basically being underpaid ó all contribute to the economy, and a lot of these people havenít seen an increase in a number of years in the amount of money they make per hour.
Will he at least look into that and provide something that relates to the cost of living for these people?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have an arrangement with the federal government and we have requirements that we have to meet in this particular aspect under the devolution transfer agreement. As I said, we took over these jobs and weíre following through with that process.
Mr. Cardiff: I take that to mean that heís not going to look into what emergency firefighters deserve to be paid. These are people who put their lives on the line on a daily basis. I actually had the opportunity to meet some of them this summer. Some of them arenít much older than my son.
They are out there; their lives are at risk. Theyíre working in constant danger. Theyíre working long hours. Theyíre exhausted. They work to the point where theyíre as exhausted as the Member for Lake Laberge is right now. They canít stay awake on the job. Theyíre so tired sometimes that they donít even have an opportunity to go and get a decent meal. They would rather go and sleep. And I think we owe it to them to pay them a decent wage.
I donít really understand the governmentís reluctance to do that. It doesnít matter ó there are several categories of workers who, in my mind, arenít getting paid a fair wage in that regard. It doesnít matter whether youíre working in the camp, working long hours, providing the meals for the people who are out on the front lines, to those people who are transporting equipment and stuff back and forth between camps and the front lines, to those people who are working long hours under extremely dangerous circumstances. Some of these people are rappelling out of helicopters.
Theyíre fighting fires right on the front line with the hand tools that theyíre provided with, whether itís picks, shovels, water cans or pumps and hoses. We need to treat these people with respect. I think there are a lot of Yukoners who have had their communities threatened this year and in past years. Look at what happened in the community of Dawson this year. Look at what was happening down around Teslin and Watson Lake. I had the opportunity to drive through some of that area this summer, and there were lots of areas where communities and peopleís homes were threatened. I think that theyíre thankful that those people were there to fight off the fire and address the dangerous situation and the threat to their personal property and their lives ó and they were there.
Emergency firefighters came through, and they protected the personal property and the lives of the people in those communities. They deserve to be paid a fair wage. Now, just because the federal government didnít think they were worth any more than that, it doesnít hamstring this government from paying them what theyíre worth and to recognize the danger they put themselves in, on a daily basis, when theyíre out there doing their job.
I think that the Member for Klondike must recognize that. Iím sure he drove back and forth many days on that highway to Dawson and saw the situation in Dawson. And Iím sure that many of his constituents ó I know placer miners were being evacuated because they couldnít work on their claims. And who was it that saved the day? Who was it that saved the day by going in and helping those placer miners fight those fires? It was emergency firefighters and the wildfire management team that went in and assisted placer miners in protecting their property and their livelihood, in a lot of cases.
But we canít ó the government doesnít want to recognize that they deserve to be paid more than what they are being paid. They havenít received an increase in pay for some time. The responsibility has been transferred to the government. The government has had that responsibility for some time now but refuses to recognize the fact that these people deserve to be paid a fair wage.
Iím sure weíll continue this discussion tomorrow or the next day, but seeing the time, Iíd move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cardiff that we report progress. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: I believe the nays have it. The motion is not carried.
Mr. Cardiff: I canít believe it. The Member for Klondike must love the sound of my voice. This is the second time this sitting that he has basically called for an encore. Actually yesterday he ended up waking me up from a sleep when he pulled the plug at 10 minutes to 6:00. So the issue here is that emergency firefighters deserve to be paid a fair wage. On a daily basis they put their lives on the line this past summer in one of the worst fire seasons that this territory has ever seen. We owe it to them to recognize their hard work, the fact that they risked their lives on a daily basis and the contribution they make. I donít understand. Youíd think that a government thatís so intent on getting the economic engine of this territory going would want to put more money in the hands of working people who go out and spend money in hotels in Dawson City; they spend money buying vehicles and shopping, buying clothing, food and school supplies.
Chair: The time being 6:00 p.m., the Chair shall report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: † Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.