Monday, April 25, 2005 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: Members, it is a rare privilege when the Speaker gets to do the introduction, but in this instance we have the former MLA from Watson Lake, former Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and, incidentally, the recipient of the Big Game Guide of the Year award last year for B.C./Yukon, Mr. John Devries. I’d like you to join me in welcoming him.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of National Organ Donor and Tissue Donation Awareness Week
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to National Organ Donor and Tissue Donation Awareness Week.
It is very important for all of us to recognize the vital role that organ and tissue donations have in our health care system. Awareness campaigns such as this assist greatly in educating us about the important medical process. Between 20 and 30 percent of people currently waiting for organs die before a suitable organ becomes available. Approximately five patients die each week while waiting for new organs.
Every year, hundreds of men, women and children wait anxiously for a phone call that will save their lives. They need a new kidney, liver or heart. They are the ones who hope to see once more, or for the first time, through a cornea transplant. When that call does come, they are the ones who get a second chance to live life to the fullest, thanks to the kindness of people who gave the gift of life through a donation of organs and tissue.
But many more are waiting and many lives are lost because suitable donors are not found in time. People will spend months, or even years, waiting for that second chance because the need for organs and tissue in Canada continues to outweigh the availability.
Everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor, regardless of age. The oldest Canadian organ donor was over 90 years old, while the oldest tissue donor was 102 years old.
Retrieval of organs and tissue is carried out with respect and dignity. It does not interfere with funeral practices, and no one will know about your gift of life unless your family tells them.
Organs and tissue that can be donated after death include the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, bone and skin.
Most major religions support organ and tissue donation. If your religion restricts the use of a body after death, consult your religious leader. Restrictions may not apply if the donation could save another life.
Studies show that donating the organs and tissue of a loved one who has died can provide immediate comfort and long-lasting consolation to family members in their grieving. You can improve and save lives by choosing to be an organ and tissue donor. Your family may find comfort that someone else has a hope for a better life. If you want to be a donor, the most important thing you can do is make your wishes known to your family and next of kin. Doctors will support the decision of the family at the time of death. That is why it is so important to talk to your family about your wishes. For more information on how to become an organ donor with the Yukon organ donor program, please call 867-667-5209 or 1-800-661-0408, local 5209.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus today to join my colleagues in the Legislature in paying tribute to Organ Donor Week. It is vitally important that we raise awareness this week of the potential for organ donation because everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor, regardless of age. Every year, hundreds of men, women and children wait for the phone call — as the Member for Kluane pointed out — that could save their life. When the call does come, they’re getting a second chance to live life to the fullest, thanks to the awareness and understanding of people who gave the gift of life through the donation of organs and tissue.
Transport procedures and outcomes continue to improve each and every year. Most transplant patients live enhanced and productive lives.
It is important that we discuss this week, and throughout the year, organ donations. Discuss this with your family now and let them know your wishes so they understand, support and respect those wishes in the future.
You can become an organ and tissue donor by signing a registration card, readily available through past actions of this Legislature here in the Yukon. Explain to your family why their support is important to you and to people who receive donations. Make this an easier process for your loved ones.
Many donor families will attest that the donation of a loved one’s organs helped them find comfort in a tragic situation. I encourage all Yukoners, if they have not already done so, to sign a donor card today. Give someone a second chance.
In recognition of Administrative Professionals Week
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I rise today to pay tribute to Administrative Professionals Week. As the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I think it is only appropriate that I stand on behalf of my colleagues to pay tribute to those who serve on the front lines in both our government and the private sectors, for it is these important people who really help to keep things going.
Imagine, if you will, our territory without administrative professionals. You would call for a dentist’s or a doctor’s appointment, only no one would answer. You would go to pay your heating fuel bill, only to find no one at the front desk. If you had to go to a Government of Yukon department to address any type of issue, you would find that you could not get that critical help that very often only an administrative professional can provide.
For those of us in this Legislature, imagine how the important business of the Government of Yukon would come to a grinding halt if we did not have the very assistance of those whom we work with on a day-to-day basis.
Over the years, Administrative Professionals Week has become one of the largest workplace observances. According to Statistics Canada, more than 475,000 administrative professionals are employed here in Canada. The event is celebrated worldwide and we in the Yukon are especially pleased to pay tribute as an opportunity to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to administrative professionals for the valuable work they provide day in and day out.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to all our administrative professionals in their week, April 24 to 30. There was a time when administrative professionals were simply called secretaries or typists, and their work was somewhat mechanical. With rapid advancement of computers in the workplace, most professionals do their own writing, recording and filing, but the position did not disappear. It became instead more complex. Now, the International Association of Administrative Professionals counts, among its 40,000 members, administrative assistants, executive assistants, office coordinators and managers and information specialists as well as executive secretaries.
The IAAP lists integrity, leadership and loyalty as some of its core values in administrative professionals. Integrity means that administrative professionals will have the trust of his or her employer. Leadership is very important in that the administrative professional guides other workers and his or her peers in promoting excellence. Loyalty to the firm or organization pays off in great dividends to the employer and to the entire office. In each of these areas, we can name an administrative professional we know who shines with all these values. We give them special thanks today for their fine work.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Administrative Professionals Week. Without their help we could not perform our duties to the fullest. Be it the public or the private sector, our assistants make our jobs easier. They are an integral part of business, government, of all organizations. During Administrative Professionals Week, we stand and salute and say thank you for all that you do.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
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. Cathers: I rise in the House today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the governments of the Yukon and the State of Alaska to take action and jointly form a committee involving the Yukon, Alaska and First Nations in assessing the feasibility of a rail link between Alaska, Yukon and northern British Columbia in terms of
(1) its long-term social and economic benefits; and
(2) the technical and economic feasibility of the identified optimum rail corridors.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the rate of poverty in the Yukon is unacceptable;
(2) many people living in poverty or in households who have at least one parent and one child; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to take immediate measures to increase the income of families living in poverty by increasing family social assistance rates.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to immediately review the minimum wage with a view to increasing it to an appropriate level and indexing it to the cost of living in order to address the following concerns:
(1) that the cost of living in the Yukon is much higher than Canadian jurisdictions in the south;
(2) that most minimum wage earners are single female parents and youth; and
(3) that the current minimum wage of $7.20 per hour does not allow low paid workers a decent living and is not comparable to our neighbouring territories and has not been changed in nearly seven years.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Seniors housing
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, on Friday, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation spoke to the Yukon Council on Aging at their annual general meeting. He said there was exciting news to come about seniors housing, but his coy announcement on Friday left a lot of people very frustrated. He said he was going to announce something very soon. We don’t know what his hidden agenda is, when he didn’t take that golden opportunity on Friday to talk directly to seniors. We will give him this opportunity to make that announcement.
Is the minister ready now to announce new seniors housing to be built this year?
Speaker: Before the honourable member answers the question, I’d just like to remind the Member for Mount Lorne that we discussed the term “hidden agenda” at several previous sessions of this Legislative Assembly, and I’d ask the member not to use it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Once again for the member opposite’s information, we have kept this one so well under wraps that we held a press conference this morning at 10 o’clock with about 20 people and announced a $1.4-million contribution to two developers under the affordable housing program. This will stimulate approximately $23 million’ worth of construction starting in about two weeks. It’s exceptionally good news and I thank the member opposite very much for allowing me to get up in the House and make that announcement.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for inviting me to that press conference; he knows I’ve been asking questions about this for two years.
Now, the Canada-Yukon affordable housing initiative has money for Yukon to the tune of $5.5 million over five years, and the news on the street over the weekend was that there were two projects accepted for this initiative, both for seniors housing. One apparently is in Takhini and the other one is in Copper Ridge. But the seniors themselves did a survey, which was discussed at the Council on Aging AGM on Friday, after the minister had left, and it was very clear that the seniors surveyed would rather be close to services that are available in the downtown core because many of them can’t afford the transportation. They want to be close to those services. Why has the minister in these two projects in Copper Ridge and Takhini ignored the wishes of seniors?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: If the member opposite would continue reading on that same survey, the survey was sent out in a newsletter with approximately 300 copies going out; 138 people responded to that. While downtown was certainly high on the list, it was not the only thing on the list.
We also have to deal with the reality of the people who put in the bids and the proposals. We can’t create the proposals out of thin air. Perhaps the member opposite has a way of doing that, but we don’t.
Again, 20 rental units with a maximum contribution of $500,000, another 44 home-ownership units with a maximum contribution from the affordable housing program of $330,000, and a 25-rental unit assisted-care living facility utilizing the old steam plant up on the Takhini Road. Good news. So when you finish leveraging this project, there is almost $23 million’ worth of construction. One of these projects will start breaking ground in about two to three weeks. It’s exceptional news.
Again, I thank the member opposite for allowing me that and to talk over the leader of the official opposition, who seems upset with it.
Mr. Cardiff: Contrary to what the minister said, they do have the ability to request where those projects are built, and they do have the ability to lay out where they should be built and how they should be built. That should all have been part of the request for proposals. The definition of “affordable housing” is that the cost should not exceed 25 percent of a person’s or a family’s total income. On the street, we’ve heard again that some of the proposed units could rent for anywhere from $1,500 and $2,000, and that some of the units that will be for sale could be in the $150,000 to $180,000 range.
Many seniors cannot afford the high rent, and many may not be eligible for mortgages when they’re on fixed incomes, like Canada Pension. How does the minister reconcile the definition of “affordable housing” with his vision of high-end retirement condos?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Once again, the member opposite confuses his programs. The affordable housing initiative has nothing to do with social housing and 25-percent rent; it services a different sector. The member opposite is right: this is only a small portion of the $5.5 million that will be injected into affordable housing.
There’s a matrix in terms of the size of the units. They may not exceed the average rent for a similar unit, and they may not exceed that in Whitehorse. They may not exceed that for a period of a minimum of 10 years. Some are rental; some are purchase.
The ones for purchase, we’re told, will be in the $140,000 to $160,000 range as opposed to the $250,000 up. I’d call that affordable. The rents the member opposite refers to are not the rents — they’re the all-in cost, including housekeeping, laundry, full board, food services, everything all included.
If there are people who are identified under social housing — a completely different project — then we can talk about putting those sorts of people into these sorts of units but, at the moment, we have to live within the terms of the federal program. If the member has a different way of trying to locate them, perhaps he should talk to the federal government; it’s their program.
Question re: Housing
Mr. Hardy: I would like to follow up with this minister responsible — I am not sure, after that last little bit about the federal government not being responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation. Now, under the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s affordable housing initiative, the Yukon is in line to receive $5.5 million. This money will be administered by the Yukon Housing Corporation. Will the minister confirm that over $1 million of that fund will be used to subsidize a major real estate development company based in the United States?
If he is going to go back to the press release, that is fine. I would like to get it on record here.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The company that the member opposite refers to is a registered corporation in Yukon. We are told that it will be utilizing 100 percent Yukon labour and has engaged principals within the Yukon. I’d call that a Yukon company. It is a federal program that we have been able to leverage into nearly $23 million’ worth of construction in the Yukon over this summer and fall. We are pretty happy about that.
Mr. Hardy: The proponent behind the housing project in Copper Ridge is a registered numbered company, like the minister has said — 37724 Yukon Inc. This was registered on September 7. On February 15 this year, a company named Falconridge Building Supplies Ltd. was registered in the Yukon. The president is also the only director of the numbered company behind the project in Copper Ridge.
Mr. Speaker, we did a little looking into this and found that his address and phone number happen to be in Park City, Utah. The phone number belongs to a company called Summerset Corporation, which is behind a number of high-end developments in Utah, Illinois and California.
Are the Yukon Housing Corporation and minister planning to funnel CMHC money for affordable housing in the Yukon into the pockets of the Utah developer? Is he planning to do that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, again the member opposite has things backwards here. There is money coming into the Yukon, and we’re very proud to have that money coming in. One of the people that the member opposite refers to also lives in Haines, Alaska — I’ll update his information — and I believe also has projects in Colorado and in other places. It’s their money that we’re bringing in to the Yukon. It’s called economic development — and I do realize that’s a foreign concept to some. $23 million of work coming into the Yukon, into our economy, into our workforce — I’m confused as to why the member opposite is upset about that.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we all know how confused the minister across the way gets. We’ve witnessed it for two and a half years when he gets himself in trouble.
Now, I would also like to remind the minister across the way that it is public money that we’re talking about and not private money.
Speaker: Order please. I would suggest to the leader of the official opposition that that disparaging comment, saying that another member is confused, I’m sure was in the heat of debate. But I would just ask you to not use the terminology.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I hope the minister doesn’t admit that he’s confused again, then. Now, 20 percent of this affordable housing money could be going to a U.S. conglomerate. At the same time, two local community organizations were shut out of the process. Both these organizations, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Grey Mountain Housing Society, have proven track records in building and operating affordable housing. It raises the question about this government’s priorities and about its real agenda. We have already witnessed this minister’s attack on public servants; we have already witnessed this minister’s responses to P3s, privatization and that area and how he flip-flops on that. We’re witnessing privatization now in this area of social housing. I think we’re finally getting through to what the real agenda of this government is.
Now, can the minister explain why he prefers to subsidize an American-based conglomerate rather than work with two Yukon-based community groups? Is this what he meant last week when he referred to corporate democracy?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, we’re not subsidizing anything. For the member’s information, applications for this program were due at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 14. They went before a technical review committee, consisting of the director of corporate relations of the Yukon Housing Corporation, the acting capital projects supervisor, and the manager of accounting services. They looked at this for completeness, for location, project management experience, construction experience and Yukon content. I might add, Mr. Speaker, unit type, affordability period, project schedule and financial plan.
The applications were then sent to the project review committee, consisting of the President of the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, the Yukon Council on Aging and the Yukon Council on Disability. They made the decision, Mr. Speaker. Nothing in this announcement was done politically. And if the member opposite chooses to attack the public service, that’s his prerogative.
Question re: Land availability around Whitehorse
Ms. Duncan: Today, my question concerns land development. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has responsibility for land development outside the City of Whitehorse. The Minister of Community Services has responsibility for lot development within city limits. Today, I am addressing these questions to the one minister who is wearing both hats.
The applications for Fish Lake were turned down by the Land Application Review Committee. We learned this on Friday. The regulations for development in some of the hamlets outside of Whitehorse are still in the discussion stage, yet there is a tremendous desire by Yukoners for country residential land, for land inside Whitehorse, outside city limits and close to the city.
What are the government’s plans for lot development near Whitehorse? Are they working with the hamlets of Mount Lorne and Ibex Valley and First Nations on this issue? Can Yukoners look forward to the availability of land in the periphery of Whitehorse in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’m certainly aware of the demand out there for land. Yukoners have always seemed to have had a lack of access to land. This government is committed to moving forward. We certainly are working with the hamlets in the outlying area trying to activate what we can to get some land out to satisfy the needs out there. I commit that we are working with the Ibex Valley group and other groups to make that possible.
Ms. Duncan: As I noted in my preamble to the first question, luckily we have one minister today we can talk to about land development. The Government of Yukon has responsibility for land development inside the City of Whitehorse as well, and one of the areas that’s discussed for future lot development is the lower bench in Porter Creek. That’s the area between Range Road and Mountainview Golf Course.
At the April 7 meeting in Porter Creek, residents were advised that the land was unlikely to be developed as there were outstanding issues to be resolved. At a similar meeting in Riverdale last week, within two weeks, city officials advised that lots would be developed and available in the Porter Creek lower bench by 2009 — 2009 isn’t that very far away. Two different messages within two weeks from the City of Whitehorse; however, it’s the Government of Yukon that has responsibility for land development.
If the minister has any information I would appreciate it. I will ask him this: will the minister commit to discussing with his officials and the officials of Community Services and advise me and residents of Porter Creek and all of Whitehorse when the Government of Yukon anticipates developing these lots?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will certainly commit to the member opposite to get the information I can get to her to answer the question.
I know the lower bench has been a question for a long period of time. The last time I got a briefing on it, there was a question about the closeness of the lagoon across the river. Like the member opposite, I was told that it was on hold because of some of these questions out there, but I would like to know myself so I will make a point of finding out and I will give the information to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: I would appreciate that, because land and land development pits Yukoner against Yukoner, governments against governments, and Yukon Party MLA against Yukon Party MLA. An example is, last week, Yukon Party Riverdale MLAs wrote to the community association — the letter was read out loud in Riverdale — that the city should not do infill in their green space, but it was okay to do infill in Porter Creek because the city had it zoned that way. The city has not had the area in question zoned that way, and other Yukon Party Porter Creek MLAs seem quite supportive of residents who are desiring to protect the green space.
Land development is done by the Government of Yukon, thanks to devolution, in and around Whitehorse and near Whitehorse. What specific policies do we have in place to guide the Yukon Party MLAs and their conflicting views and understanding? How is the government working with other governments and the citizens to ensure the process is fair, open and recognizes the views of everyone?
The government spends millions —
Speaker: Thank you. Your answer, minister responsible.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the question from the member opposite. We certainly have an issue with infilling in Porter Creek and Riverdale. I agree with the member opposite: the zoning isn’t in place. That’s why we’re having the meetings to activate the zonings. So whatever information the member opposite has, or the members from Riverdale have, it’s not right.
We are working with a protocol with the city to try to rectify some of these overlapping concerns on the development of land internally in the City of Whitehorse and to try to get the conflict minimized so we can get land out there, but I do realize, like the member opposite, that land is an issue. The city has jurisdiction; we have a development policy in place, so there’s a bit of an overlap of responsibility.
At the end of the day, I would like to clear up the question of who does what when and try to make it a positive experience for all Yukoners. We are working on a paper to try to rectify some of the questions, exactly what she’s asking.
Question re: Seniors group funding
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up with the Health and Social Services minister about a concern about fairness that arose while in departmental debate on Thursday afternoon. Now, we all know that the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake is a wonderful group, and I look forward to visiting with them again. In each of the past two years, this non-governmental organization has received $40,000 from the Yukon government. This year, that funding increases to $43,000. The minister was asked repeatedly on Thursday if this same deal was open to other seniors groups across the territory, but he would only skate away from the questions.
So let me ask him now: are all seniors groups in the territory eligible for this type of line-item funding, or does it apply only to the group in the Premier’s riding?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated on the floor of this House previously, all the NGOs have received a three-percent increase in their base amount. That’s where that difference between the $40,000 and the subsequent amount came from that the member opposite mentioned. It has been indexed.
There are a number of NGOs that have received a significant increase in their funding, specifically Kaushee’s Place, which has a demonstrated need. Over $100,000 of additional funding was provided, and in years past there have been other NGOs that we have indexed. In this last fiscal cycle, Hospice was increased significantly. Our government’s commitment is very specific. Where there is a demonstrated need, we will meet that demonstrated need, and we have done so.
Mr. McRobb: It’s not three percent; it’s more like 7.5 percent. The Health and Social Services minister had better dust off his calculator. Furthermore, he failed to respond to the question of fairness.
Now, line-item funding is really sweet. There are no applications to fill out. There are no hoops and hurdles. There is no uncertainty about funding. The cheque arrives in the mail automatically every year. Furthermore, funding through a line item avoids having to compete with other applications on a regional basis as would be the case with the community development fund. On Thursday, the Health and Social Services minister directed me to view the contract on the Web site. Well, I’ve searched the Yukon government’s Web site and the contract registry Web site and there’s no information available. The Signpost Seniors apparently don’t have a Web site. What Web site was the minister talking about?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All the contribution agreements that the government enters into are considered to be in some respects, and in many respects, a sole-source contract and they are listed after they are signed off by the respective agencies.
Now, I would encourage the member to go back a year and he can see that previously the Signpost Seniors, as well as a number of other seniors groups in the Yukon, have been funded as NGOs and they have clearly met the test of a demonstrated need, and these very capable groups of seniors in their various areas in the Yukon have come forward with programs and plans that our government has funded. There has been an overall increase in the funding for NGOs, save and except those NGOs that have a demonstrated need and have demonstrated that need where their funding has been increased significantly.
We are meeting our commitments to Yukoners and we are meeting our commitments to the various NGOs across the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Why is the minister avoiding my question? He is obviously familiar with the famous quote by Sir Walter Scott about tangled webs or, in this case, tangled Web sites.
Let’s look at what we have so far, Mr. Speaker: an NGO in the Premier’s riding gets a secret deal for line item funding that wasn’t open to any other seniors group in the territory. That’s not fair and that type of deal involving public funds is not spending in the public interest. According to the Health minister, this same deal isn’t open to any other seniors groups. Instead, they must go through the hoops and hurdles of the CDF. This government ought to be embarrassed by its lack of accountability.
Let’s examine something else the minister alluded to on Thursday. He said there is a three-year contractual agreement in place between the government and the Signpost Seniors. That raises lots of questions. What does the agreement do? Why was the Yukon Party government so secretive about this deal? Why wasn’t it disclosed in this Assembly, and will the minister table that agreement for the House forthwith?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The agreement with the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake was entered into by a previous NDP government. It continues forward to this day. We have increased the amount of funding.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the minister is wrong; he is misleading the House. That line item funding is a new vehicle under this Yukon Party government. It does not follow any previous government. I want to correct the record.
Speaker: On the point of order, the Hon. Premier.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is important that I enter into this discussion because, under the former NDP government, I as MLA went to bat for the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake and we — the NDP government at that time — determined to increase their funding.
We take care of our seniors in this territory, whether they live in Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Dawson City, or anywhere else.
Speaker: Obviously, the members are going to have to allow me to review the Blues and consult with my table officers, and I will come back with a ruling.
Question re: Dawson City bridge location
Mr. Fairclough: Recently, the Premier loudly denounced Parks Canada as meddling, and told them to mind their own business when they submitted a report asking that the location of the P3 bridge in Dawson be reconsidered due to its negative impact on heritage. The Dawson City planning board has joined many others in opposing the site the government is proposing.
Does the Acting Minister of Highway and Public Works believe that the planning board members are also meddling and out-of-line by agreeing with Parks Canada?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The process is going through for the conceptual plan of the Dawson City bridge. We certainly appreciate the input from the groups in Dawson City, and we are a government that consults the local population. It’s work in progress and, hopefully, within the next 20 to 30 days, we should know if the P3 is a workable thing for that bridge.
But I remind everybody in this House and in the Yukon that this is a conceptual thing. We appreciate Parks Canada’s input, and we appreciate all the organizations in Dawson City.
Mr. Fairclough: This government has been extremely secretive from the start about the details of the bridge proposal documents. However, in a bridge workshop last year, the minister’s department reported that if the project went over $30 million, it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Does the minister still stand by the $30-million figure as a breaking point for this project?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We are looking at P3s as a proposal, as a policy formation document, and we’re looking at the feasibility of such a study. When the request for proposals come in, we will evaluate them, and we will start making determinations on that.
The member asks for a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question. That makes no sense, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, it comes right out of the report from the planning committee. It is right here in many pages.
So at one time, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite believe it’s a P3, and other times it isn’t. From day to day, it changes. This government has manoeuvred the P3 project into the position of having only two bidders. We are told that a private sector comparator will be used to calculate value for money in the bids, but they won’t release the comparators in order to keep competitive tension. According to the best practices guide of Industry Canada on the use of these comparators, disclosing details early can enhance the competitive process. In its disclosure at the preferred bidders stage, that weakens the government’s negotiation process.
This government’s secrecy could cost Yukoners millions of dollars. Why is the minister allowing this to happen instead of using the traditional bridge-building method that leaves the project in the control of government hands?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, first off, Mr. Speaker, the process is a very open process. A request for qualifications was put into the public domain and a number of proponents stepped forward and decided to pursue the process. We are now on a request-for-proposal stage. Once concluded, we will then go to the next steps — what the government has maintained along — but will be very public about making the business case, if the bridge indeed is a good candidate for a P3.
It appears that the members opposite don’t recognize the amount of consultation and work that has gone on along the Dawson City bridge; it goes back years. I think there is a secret here, and the secret is what is really going on in the territory. It is a secret to the NDP.
Question re: Environment department, staffing
Mrs. Peter: We’ve heard that at least 30 positions in the Department of Environment are currently vacant. We asked about this during the opposition briefing and we were promised answers regarding the number and what the plan is to fill those positions. We still have not received an answer. Will the minister tell us exactly how many full- and part-time positions are currently vacant and when his department will be fully staffed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Department of Environment is up and functioning very well. There are currently 27 vacancies across the department as of, I believe, the end of March 2005. That said, recruitment is ongoing and continuing. There are postings on the job board — the member might want to view those — and there are ads out in a number of the newspapers across the Yukon as well as across other jurisdictions in Canada.
Mrs. Peter: There are many positions available in this department and this must explain why the minister has repeatedly declared that his department is strictly a monitoring agency regarding climate change. He hasn’t provided enough resources to his department. Action needs to be taken now to deal with the threat that climate change poses to the Yukon, yet his government has tasked the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources with implementing the Kyoto Protocol. That department is bound and determined to promote massive resource exploitation that will only add to the problem. There is no Kyoto plan in place.
Isn’t the Minister of Environment concerned that his understaffed department won’t be able to effectively monitor the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the department is not understaffed. The member opposite must recognize the amount of the component of the department that is staffed, the expansion that the department has gone through and the devolution of employees from Canada to Yukon just a short time ago.
Mr. Speaker, let’s look at what has transpired in the Yukon. In 1990, 0.1 percent of the nation’s output of greenhouse gases was attributable to the Yukon. Let’s fast-forward to 2005. It has been reduced — at the end of 2004, it is half of that, 0.05 now, and it is reducing under this government’s watch.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the minister’s department is failing in many responsibilities, in addition to the Kyoto Protocol. We recently saw the dismissal of a highly respected senior official in this department. The minister has repeatedly ignored the advice of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. He has overturned and interfered in the decisions of the renewable resource councils. He has done no real consultation on appointments to the many important boards and committees that implement the Environment Act. These are just a few examples.
How does the minister expect to live up to the objectives of the Umbrella Final Agreement with a department that is being starved of the resources it needs?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Every one of the assertions that the member opposite has made is incorrect.
As to living up to the terms of the Umbrella Final Agreement and the implementation plan, we fully will be doing that, have been doing that, and will continue to do that.
With respect to the staffing level of the whole Department of Environment’s budget, fully 66 percent of that is personnel, personnel allotment and personnel costs. The department has received a significant increase in funding — a three-percent increase in funding. Well, when you start putting three percent on some $20 million, it’s a significant amount of money.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
Some Hon. Member: Question of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Question of privilege
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on a question of privilege.
Mr. Hardy: At the end of the question I had directed to the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, when he got to the end of his response, he accused me of attacking public servants. Now, from my perspective, that is 19(g), imputing false or unavowed motives to another member.
Everybody in this territory knows my record and knows what I have stood for, for many, many years. I have been an advocate and an activist for workers’ rights. I have stood beside many of the public servants on picket lines and protests. I have a record that I am very proud of and that I believe has been sullied by this member across the way, and I ask for a retraction of that.
Speaker: Allow me to consult with my table officers.
Leader of the official opposition, I would ask you to allow me to review the Blues and I will come back on your question of privilege.
We will now proceed with 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. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We are still in debate on the Department of Health and Social Services.
Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, the Department of Health and Social Services, capital expenditures.
Bill No. 15 — First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 — continued
Department of Health and Social Services — continued
On Policy, Planning and Administration — continued
On Systems Development — continued
Chair: We are in the policy, planning and administration branch. For the members’ convenience, the page reference is 11-4, and we have entered into a debate on the systems development line in the amount of $845,000.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that I have the floor from where we left off debate. We are in the systems development line. I had a number of interesting discussions over the weekend about this particular initiative with a variety of individuals. We are spending $845,000 on systems development. The minister indicated previously that it is to replace workstations and so on. We are not, in fact, embarking upon a new system, such as the government has done in recent years — the financial management information system, the human resources information system and the land management information system.
We undertook having those systems put in place in the government a number of years ago starting way back in 1996, and they are very expensive propositions for governments. A prime example that everyone is quite well aware of is computer and information systems that have been undertaken nationally. They cause quite a furor and are quite expensive — in the range of billions of dollars. Yukon has had a somewhat similar experience — although on a much smaller scale — in that we embarked upon purchasing a system, which is needed — I’m not denying the need for these systems; I’m commenting that they’re very expensive. I would like the minister to reassure the House that we are not embarking upon a new system in Health and Social Services such as land information management or financial management information or HRIS, human resource information systems, which are very expensive — far more than just the $845,000 that we see here. I’d like that assurance.
Secondly, I’d like the assurance that there has been some consultation and work with the staff who are using these systems, that there has been some sense of a need for improved systems and that this is not an expenditure and we should perhaps look at other areas where there is greater need — that in fact there has been some consultation with the staff, there has been some work done with management that indicates that this is a long overdue requirement. We did spend significantly more last year. We are spending more again this year. At what point are we looking at having the work done?
This consultation is critical with staff. I think back to Copper Ridge and its construction. One of the issues and items that we discussed on several occasions was: have we spoken with and listened to the staff that is going to be working there? Have we listened to the nursing staff and the staff who are dealing with residents on a daily basis? Is this what is required?
The same thing applies to our computer systems and the same thing applies to seniors throughout the territory. We have to listen to what their express needs are and, where there are new groups of seniors — such as those in Haines Junction in the Kluane area — we have to be aware of these groups coming into existence and we have to provide a similar level of support that we’re providing to long-standing existing groups.
The key is consultation with individuals. In explaining this line item, I would like the minister to reassure the public that we are not embarking upon a very arduous and expensive purchase of a new kind of information system, that this is strictly for technological upgrades. I would also like the reassurance that there has been some discussion with the staff who are using this equipment and that there has been some review listening to the needs of the front-line workers we tributed earlier in the House today.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the three areas where the majority of this funding is being expended consists of Yukon electronic health records, movement on registry, drug, tele-health, public health information systems, while we’re also moving information from the Legacy mainframe system to a client/server base. This is a total expenditure of some $700,000. It is being half funded by Canada Health Infoway, $350,000. So this $350,000 in this category — this has been a project that has been going on for quite a number of years. After extensive consultation in the childcare community and the Children’s Act review, there is also a new server that is being used in the child welfare initiatives, and this is an expenditure of some $75,000.
This was done after consultation with a number of the neighbouring jurisdictions to see how we can put a new server and program in place that will meet the needs currently as well as on a go-forward basis with the new Children’s Act.
Then there’s an ICT service agreement, which is for the annual licensing, interface upgrades, et cetera, basically workstation work, and that is a $70,000 line item.
The total breakdown of it is provided for to maintain, assess, plan and implement appropriate systems solutions for efficient and effective program delivery as well as to provide accurate and complete information for analysis and decision making. That’s the object of this line, and that’s what we’re doing, completely and thoroughly, in this area.
Mr. Chair, we have a number of other initiatives we’re moving forward on — probably in the capital in this area and various other areas. One of the new programs that we’re bringing forward, as I indicated, is the meningococcal vaccine that’s going to be made available to graduating high school students leaving the territory to attend post-secondary studies Outside. It will be available June 1 of this year.
We’re developing a brochure to inform all the graduates that this vaccine is available to them, where to get it, to remind them to update all their immunization before leaving the territory for their education Outside and, at the same time, to remind them to inform the health care insurance plan here in the Yukon that they’re leaving the Yukon to attend post-secondary education in another area.
At the same time, we’re also spelling out what Yukon health care covers and the need for extra insurance by some of these students, depending on what jurisdiction in Canada or indeed the world they’re going to be going on to post-secondary studies. This is a very important aspect given that in the Yukon we cover an extensive range of programs and initiatives that are not covered elsewhere, such as ambulances, air medevac. Those are just but two examples.
The Yukon has some of the best funded programs in Canada across the board for all Yukoners who are in need of health care. When it’s necessary to use it, the expectations are that, if you’re in another jurisdiction, it’s funded to the same level. That is certainly not the case, so there are some issues there and it has come back to a lot of concerns in a number of families. So this brochure will be going out to all the graduates.
In addition to that is the planning money for the $10 million to design and begin construction of two multi-level care facilities, which breaks down to $5.2 million for each one of these facilities. One is in Watson Lake. The funding for this year will be used to complete the design and begin the construction for their multi-level care facility. It will be between the school and the hospital and will be added on. There will be some facilities that are integral. In Dawson City it will be behind the existing nursing station —
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, the minister is drifting from page 11-4 over to page 11-6, which has the line items specifically to the multi-level care facility in Dawson City and Watson Lake. I think we should discuss it then.
Chair: In reference to our Standing Orders, the members shall be called to order if the member speaks to matters other than the question under discussion. There have been several points brought up about this in recent debate, and I would encourage all members to stay on the matter under debate. The line currently under debate is the systems development line in the amount of $845,000.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Resulting from system development and analysis is the demonstrated need for the Whitehorse General Hospital, which will receive $660,000 this year for capital projects. In that is $400,000 that will be for general asset replacement. This is up $100,000 from a year ago, Mr. Chair. This is an annual contribution used to replace equipment on an ongoing basis and includes items such as beds, medi-lifts, wheelchairs, stretchers, housekeeping and kitchen equipment, and operating room, lab and medical imaging equipment.
Ms. Duncan: The minister mentioned while detailing the system’s development line that Yukon health care records would be transferred, and there would be an enhancement to the way we tracked Yukon health care records. Are there any privacy concerns with respect to this transfer of records? How are we handling the privacy issues?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is all planning money, and that is one of the very extremely important areas that will be addressed in the planning process.
Ms. Duncan: This is just the planning of the transfer of these records. The money that is allocated isn’t going to oversee the actual computerization of these records. Perhaps the minister could just be a little clearer in his answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Most of the records in this area are paper records, and there will be an eventual transfer of those records to databases. The issue of privacy is of paramount importance and that is one of the areas that is being more than adequately considered after consultation with all affected parties concerned.
Systems Development in the amount of $845,000 agreed to
Total Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $1,086,000 agreed to
On Family and Children’s Services
On Foster Home Equipment
Foster Home Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is the capital money for the toy lending library that works with the childcare and day home operators and childcare services in this line item? If not, can the minister clarify how this $100,000 is intended to be spent?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, these funds are used to provide start-up and enhanced grants to Yukon childcare centres, family day homes for the purchase of equipment or facility renovations. This includes playground upgrades, toy and equipment replacement, which are required to meet health and safety standards as outlined in the childcare regulations.
Ms. Duncan: So this money is available to childcare service providers, whether they are a family day home or a daycare to replace the equipment? It is not the toy lending library. Is this strictly driven on an application basis, then, so XYZ daycare requires replacement of their toys that are available for children? It’s strictly on an application basis, or how is it administered?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: To the best of my knowledge, the member opposite is absolutely correct.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to send me by way of letter, then, how it was broken down over the last year? $80,000 was anticipated. In 2003-04, we spent $87,000; in 2004-05, it was $80,000; this year, there is $100,000.
How was the $80,000 spent? I’m going to take another guess that it’s the childcare services board that oversees these applications. Who says, yes, this application is approved? What is the deciding body?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The department does an assessment and, based on the applicants, determines who is going to receive what funding. It is applicant-driven. This is part of our four-year plan that we negotiated with the childcare working group. We are implementing it and we are resourcing it to a higher level than it has previously been resourced. The projects are ongoing and continuing, and things appear to be reasonably well off in the childcare field, given that the current level of funding is about $5.5 million for just over 1,300 set-up spaces here in the Yukon.
For the member opposite’s information, it is the second highest level of funding for each set-up space in Canada. The only jurisdiction that is a little ahead of us is the Province of Quebec.
This is an area that we committed to concentrating our efforts on — working with the childcare community — when we were chosen to govern the Yukon Territory. This was one of the largest looming areas on the agenda that we had to address, and we went right to work and addressed it. We convened a working group of the childcare community; we got all the individuals together with a facilitator and developed a four-year working plan; we increased the direct operating grants. One of the major suggestions coming out of the working group was the issue of accountability.
The issue of accountability led us to restructure the direct operating grants to a contribution agreement. There’s work underway on this initiative. We’re not quite there yet but, when we are, it will allow the day home and daycare operators to have a higher level of funding, and the funding will be as was requested: targeted to training and wages of those in the daycare field.
It’s our intention as a government to maintain the standards at the highest possible level we can. There are regulations surrounding this area. At the same time, we will be moving forward and enhancing the programs, as per the four-year plan that was agreed to among department officials, the daycare working group and me.
Mr. McRobb: The minister just cued me on an issue I’ve asked him about before, and that is the allocation of government funds toward the wages of childcare workers. We went over this in a prior sitting, and the minister directed me to three different sources, which I checked out and subsequently discovered the information was in none of those sources. So I would like to ask the minister now: does he keep track of the hourly wages for childcare centres and day homes, and does the department monitor any increases to the wages? Is there any way to track any increase in the wages as the minister is taking credit for?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated previously to the members opposite, the enhanced money for daycare and childcare was at the request of the daycare and childcare operators. The field was calling for money for training and for wages, and these are by and large private employers engaging private sector employees for this respective field. We are quite well aware of the salary range but if the member opposite wants to suggest that we micromanage the undertakings of these private NGOs, I would suggest to the member opposite that we’re heading down the wrong track. There are very capable day home and daycare operators currently in place all across the Yukon. They’re doing a very good job.
The four-year plan that was developed in consultation with these groups is being implemented. It’s an area that I would encourage the member opposite to get a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of before getting into the minute details and recognize that a lot of these operators are in the private sector.
Mr. McRobb: My understanding is pretty thorough in one area, and that is the minister’s continuing lack of will to provide information to back up his claims. The minister likes to stand up or issue press releases that indicate the allocation of government funds translates into wage increases, but he is unable to prove it. It is our job to test the case of the government. I think we are doing that in a reasonable fashion.
The minister avoids the question. Instead he attacks us for wanting to micromanage this industry. That is far from the case, Mr. Chair. I am merely asking if the government monitors or tracks the wages of people in this industry to see if there is any appreciable increase in wages, as the minister likes to take credit for.
All operators are doing a good job — I mean all operators, not just some or most.
Once again, does the minister have any means to review statistics on how the wages for people in this industry might increase or remain constant? Does he have any indicator at all to assess whether the wages are increasing or have increased?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me help the member opposite with an example from my own riding. There are two daycare facilities in my riding, and they recently increased the wages of their employees in both daycares by $3 per hour.
Ms. Duncan: I just have one follow-up question. The minister has said a number of times that this working group has been convened, and there are individuals from government, daycares and day homes working on this idea of the accountability statement and the contract.
For the record, could the minister just advise what the current status is of those discussions? Are we close to an agreement? Are there still some key issues outstanding? What is the current status?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The contribution agreement was kind of a boiler-plate agreement that was developed by the government and was sent out to all the respective day home and daycare centres. Concern was expressed by a number of individuals that it got into areas that the government didn’t have a right to delve into. The daycare operators sought legal advice from a solicitor on their part and brought that forward. The department and the Department of Justice officials are meeting with the day home and daycare lawyer, and we’re moving toward having a contribution agreement that’s acceptable to all parties.
The issue of paramount importance is the accountability equation, because the next go-forward, if the new initiative that the Hon. Ken Dryden of the federal government has announced of over $5 billion over five years for daycare — when that takes place, $100 million is being taken out of that whole equation for the accountability issue. So we really have a major issue there, and we have to look ahead and see how we can dovetail into what is going to transpire and how we can have something already in place rather than start all over again. From the onset, from the beginning, the issue of accountability has been one that has been raised by the daycare and day home operators. We are just following through on a commitment.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, two questions: is the minister saying that the driver on the accountability issue is the daycares and day home operators, that they are the ones who are insisting on accountability? Is it accountability because of the federal government funding formula, or is it accountability on the part of the Government of Yukon looking forward? Who is the driver on the accountability?
This replaces the DOG or follows the DOG model, as I understand it. Just a suggestion, a constructive suggestion, for the minister opposite is that — previously, in discussions under the former NDP government on the Environment Act, for example, on YESAA or DAP legislation — it’s not unheard of for the Government of Yukon to pay the legal costs for the group that is working with them and developing either legislation or an accountability statement. Is the government paying for the legal costs for the daycare and day home operators, and if not, will they consider it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We’re paying for a certain amount of hours of their lawyer’s time to develop the agreement, yes. So the answer to that question is yes.
On the issues of accountability and who is the driver — as the member opposite clearly indicated, previously we had a grant situation. The terms and conditions surrounding a grant are pretty hard to monitor; but the terms and conditions surrounding a contribution agreement is where the accountability comes into it. Accountability was requested by the working group. When we get into the amounts of money we’re speaking of, it’s also pretty well a requirement, because it’s ongoing and continuous. If it’s a one-year grant or a two-year grant, they tend to remain just that.
If you look at any of the grants that do go out — the municipal grants — there are specific terms and conditions around them that have to be adhered to. So according to the regulations, there are specific terms around the contribution agreement. We’re trying to place the least onerous burden on the daycare and childcare community yet, at the same time, achieve the accountability.
When we look at what is transpiring in this field, in future years we’ll probably have to develop a higher level of accountability that will be tagged on to the money flowing from the federal government to the Yukon government in this area.
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities – Renovations and Equipment
Young Offenders Facilities – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $138,000 agreed to
On Residential Services – Renovations and Equipment
Residential Services – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Residential Services – New Group Home
Mr. McRobb: Could we get a financial breakdown and a description on this line item, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we’re looking at is the planning and design work that has begun to construct a new residential youth group home for high-risk adolescents. The new group home will reduce the current number of children residing in the receiving home. That’s where we’re at.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In Whitehorse.
Ms. Duncan: This has been a subject of significant discussion in this Legislature in the past. There is $70,000 that we forecast to spend last year; we’re up to $809,000. This is planning money and money that’s going to be expended to develop a new group home. Where in Whitehorse is the new group home to be located, and can the minister advise if any of this money is construction money or if it’s strictly planning?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It’s construction money.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is very carefully not answering where this new group home is to be constructed. Perhaps the minister could advise the House where the new group home is to be constructed within the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We’ve examined several sites in the Whitehorse area and there is a weight-and-balance equation that is presently being looked at to determine exactly which of the sites will ultimately be selected. I can assure the member opposite that it will be in Whitehorse.
Ms. Duncan: This is what frustrates the public who listen and who read Hansard. There are several sites that have been considered. Which of the sites are under consideration? When does the minister anticipate narrowing down the process?
Other legislation calls for some public disclosure in this regard. I can go back to the office and haul out the old files from when we discussed this before, or the minister could simply state that he is going to provide the information — which of the sites are under consideration — and indicate a date when construction is going to start, when the tender for construction is going to be out, and what public consultation there might or might not be in this process.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is an area that is driven by the demands on the department. We presently have a receiving home where there is room for improvement. We have examined several options. When those options come more into focus as to the location of a group home, we will share it with the members opposite. Until that time, Mr. Chair, given that there may be the issue of land area that has to be secured, I am not prepared to allow the speculation out there in the public domain on this issue. The exercise is to provide a group home to those children who need the attention in a location that will have all the amenities in a manner that meets the objectives of this part of our mandate. We are moving forward in that manner.
The issue of full consultation — there has been ongoing consultation and a number of forums on this area. If you want to look at childcare, there were 57 consultations — and this is just one of a number of consultations ongoing. If you want to look at the Children’s Act review, there have been hundreds and hundreds of consultations.
In fact I’ll probably be using that in Question Period in response to the criticism of the members opposite that we do not do enough consultation. There is a continuous measure of consultation that has gone on in these very important areas and will continue to transpire in these very important areas.
But as to the location of the new group home — it’s in Whitehorse, several sites are being examined, and when we’ve come to a decision, we will share it with the members opposite.
Ms. Duncan: There is a whole argument that the minister and I could engage in with respect to the government’s consultation — or lack of consultation. A lot of it has to do with the question that is being asked — how is the question being asked, what is the question being asked, and is the public aware of it? I don’t want to get into that argument with the minister today.
I want to focus on this issue of construction of a new group home in the Whitehorse area. The minister has said that several sites are under consideration and that there is a need. Understood — no argument with that. My concern is where the public fits into this.
The minister has said that, “Oh, well, when we’ve reached a decision, we’ll let the opposition know.” Well, it’s about more than that. It’s our job to ask questions about when construction is going to start and how the public is going to be involved in this discussion — or are they? I mean, there are some good ideas out there in the public.
All I’m asking for is that they be listened to and that they have a voice. They have a voice through their elected members; they should also have a voice when it comes to being made aware of these plans of the minister.
So, can the minister give us a time frame? If he is not prepared to release the site right now, then so be it — I won’t waste further House time. Will he elaborate on when he anticipates a construction call and when a decision will be made?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows, a group home in any area of the Yukon raises concerns from the neighbourhood. There has to be a complete and thorough consultation with the residents of that neighbourhood or that area before we can move forward. We’re not like previous administrations that made the announcement that we’re going to build a group home in XYZ location, and then we have the whole problem on our hands. We are a government that agrees with the consultation process and has moved thoroughly through that process, specifically to this area of a new group home and its location. Now, that has led us to more or less finalize on one area. We don’t have all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted and, until we do, it’s not fair to ask me to say where this new group home will be located. We have to talk to everyone affected in that area, or who may be affected. That is the issue, and we are going to do that. If we can achieve a consensus or if we can achieve support, that is one issue; if we can’t, then we have to move to plan B.
Now, that appears to be what has transpired: we’re having to move to plan B. Hopefully, we can start digging the ground sometime this summer. I’m very hopeful. We have budgeted $809,000 for this very important initiative. It is much needed. What else can I say? Our government is committed to meeting the demand where the demand exists.
We currently have around 200 children in care. Let’s concentrate on why these children are in care. Some are due to unfortunate breakdowns in the family unit, but more often it’s not. It’s due to substance abuse and that’s where we should be concentrating — on the preventive side — but at the same time our government is cognizant of its role on the care side, and that’s why we are moving forward with this new group home.
Mr. McRobb: I have a comment and a question. First of all, the comment: I think this is rather unusual for the government to not identify the location of the group home. I recall previous governments doing that, and it was open and transparent information to all sides in the Legislature. As well, if the minister is planning on turning sod this summer, he doesn’t have much time to consult the public. It raises the question as to when that consultation would occur — during June or July when a lot of people are away from the territory? So the minister should have done the tough work on this by now. Obviously he hasn’t, and it’s a big secret.
Well, let me ask him this: out of the leading options for the location for this group home, are they all in existing, developed neighbourhoods, or are any of the options in a proposed development?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We’ve been in the planning process. In fact, we were hopeful we could break ground last year, but we weren’t able to do so. We’ve got a preliminary design as to what the building would look like, and we have a number of locations.
We’ve done our homework in this area, and I’m not prepared to speculate or offer any more to the members opposite until we get closer. I’ll make sure the members opposite receive an invitation to the announcement.
Residential Services – New Group Home in the amount of $809,000 agreed to
On Women’s Shelters – Renovations and Equipment
Women’s Shelters – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Prior Years’ Projects
Prior Years’ Projects cleared
Total Family and Children’s Services in the amount of $1,187,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Social Services – Renovations and Equipment
Social Services – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $26,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care – Renovations and Equipment
Mr. McRobb: Could I get a financial breakdown on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This funding is primarily for ongoing replacement to maintain the programs and residential care furniture and equipment at a level that properly accommodates program services to residents and satisfies the national applicable codes and standards presently in existence.
The renovations and equipment for home care is $23,000; Macaulay Lodge, $189,000; McDonald Lodge, $60,000; Copper Ridge Place, $265,000, which is included in this budget.
Ms. Duncan: We have just spent a great deal of capital money making more beds available at Macaulay Lodge and expanding the pods at Copper Ridge Place. An additional $265,000 in equipment for Copper Ridge Place seems quite large to me. It can be that sometimes when we go to open new pods we discover that for one reason or another we have to have a huge different doorway opening or some kind of different bed or another kind of issue. Is that what is driving this $265,000 — different equipment requirements? It seems to be a great deal of money for a new building, and $189,000 for a new building we just opened new beds in seems a great deal of money.
Perhaps the minister could just indicate if this money is the hold-over for opening those new beds. It seems a lot. Could the minister expand on that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There had to be some structural changes. The main admission area had to be widened and the office area was expanded. There are some doorways that have to be widened to bring in equipment and things of that nature. I am given to understand that even access into the kitchen area has had to be increased because they can’t unload the groceries. The doorway there isn’t large enough.
Plus, there have been a lot of difficulties with the actual structure itself with ice dams on the roof — this goes back to the construction stages. Over the course of this winter, we had a number of water pipes in the outside walls that froze up. When they opened up the walls, they found there was shortage of insulation. In addition to that, around the outside walls, there are electrical outlets and the frost was coming right into the building during the extremely cold weather we experienced in December and January. So we have a lot of challenges in some of the buildings, in the building design and in the building construction area.
That’s not to say that we aren’t meeting these challenges, but it’s awfully frustrating at times when you see yourself with a brand new building, think you’re not going to have any major problems and yet we come up with this extremely high amount of money for this facility. There have been some ongoing repairs, flooring, upgrades at Macaulay Lodge here in Whitehorse. I indicated earlier the number of beds we’re running in that facility. There is still room to expand its capacity there. That facility is functioning as it was envisioned. We’ve put a new face on it, a coat of paint and upgraded some of the inside — as I said earlier, flooring and the likes. We estimate that facility’s life to be about another 30 years under its current use and with its current demands. It’s an excellent location.
Today in Question Period, location of some of these facilities — seniors complexes — was under discussion. It would have been prudent for the NDP government of the day to examine where to build Copper Ridge Place. It’s in a very beautiful location, but access to the area is questionable. It’s very much out of the mainstream, but it’s a well-staffed, well-equipped and functioning building. As I indicated earlier, the O&M cost-per-bed for this facility is approaching about $140,000 a year. That doesn’t include the capital cost, the insurance, the taxes, and it doesn’t include a lot of payroll-loading costs, such as WCB for the staff. So if you were to factor those in, it’s a very costly undertaking but a very much-needed facility.
If we want to look at Macaulay Lodge, we’re just over $100,000 per year per bed. If we want to look at McDonald Lodge in Dawson City, we’re $90,000-something per year per bed. That is level 1 and level 2 care. So there is a high cost associated with the ongoing operation and maintenance of these facilities.
I don’t have any problem putting forward the request for the money that we have. We want to maintain the standards. We want to maintain the quality of the furnishings. Even a bed for some of these facilities — there is a particular bed that they have specified, and we have gone on to purchase that type of bed frame that is very, very costly. I believe they’re about $12,000 each — the bed frame alone. Then there has to be a constant replacement of mattresses and bedding. That is where we’re at in these facilities.
We have a lot of Yukoners in them who require care, and we are going to provide that care to the highest possible level that we can.
Continuing Care – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $537,000 agreed to
On Multi-level Care Facility – Dawson City
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, on the surface this looks probably like it’s a single dedicated purpose, but I’ll ask the minister for a description and a financial breakdown, anyway.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is a multi-level care facility that will be constructed in Dawson City.
Mr. McRobb: All right, so there is $5.2 million out of this year’s budget toward the facility in Dawson City, as there is for the Watson Lake facility. Does the minister have an estimated cost of this structure when it’s completed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have an order-of-magnitude estimate.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister apprise us of that estimate?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: $5.2 million.
Mr. McRobb: So, is the minister saying the facility will be constructed at the end of this fiscal year with only this allocation, and it won’t need any further allocations from future years’ budgets? Is that the total cost — $5.2 million?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: No.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think there is somewhat of a contradiction here. I asked the minister for an estimated end cost of the facility. He indicated it was $5.2 million. When I followed up and asked if the facility will be completed with this $5.2 million, he responded that no, it wouldn’t be.
Can the minister elaborate — what will the final cost of this facility be?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Given what the tendering procedure will take and the potential cost overruns, considering the cost of the components of a building today, and given where all construction projects for new facilities or buildings have been when tendered and how they have come in over the estimate, I can’t give a hard and fast cost as to where we’re going to be after these projects go out to tender.
There is a likelihood that it may come in on target and on budget. There is a likelihood the other way also.
Mr. McRobb: This appears to be another first for a Yukon government to not give an estimated cost for constructing a very expensive facility. This is the government that claims to be open and transparent and accountable, and lays everything on the table, as the Premier says. The others say, well, this example is another to add to the long list of examples that make a mockery out of those claims.
The minister indicated it will be going to the tendering process. Can he give us a step-by-step preview of what we can expect for the construction of this facility in terms of the calendar? Will he at least do that for us?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: No, I cannot.
Mr. McRobb: Let’s start with the tendering process: when are the ads appearing for that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have no idea.
Mr. McRobb: What’s the use, Mr. Chair?
Ms. Duncan: Could we have a current status report from the minister on this particular idea? We are forecasted to spend $600,000 this year in planning. Some months ago, when we were last in Question Period, there was a full-page article that had some conceptual designs. Where are we? Has a building advisory committee been struck? Are we working with the current residents of McDonald Lodge? Are they expected to submit a report to the minister by early May?
Where are we in the planning for this? What timelines has he attached to this project?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Stemming from the report on this very important area, an architect was engaged to put all the components into conceptual plans. There were several conceptual plans done on both facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City. The exercise is the number of square footage and the number of rooms that can be justified for our seniors, and what other amenities and what other facilities would fit into the equation and how we would service that initiative and, at the same time, what other initiatives we can bring into focus that would bring the overall cost of operating the facilities in line.
Let’s use Watson Lake. If we had one kitchen that could serve the hospital and serve the seniors complex — and it would be a new modern kitchen — we could effect some savings rather than creating two kitchens in two separate areas. These are some of the concepts that have been explored and looked at. So there is a dovetailing of initiatives. That’s but one example.
In the case of Dawson, there currently are kitchen staff and a kitchen, and stemming from the review that was done by the consultant, the conceptual drawings, the architectural drawings for that area, were done. I’d caution the member as to what one would read in the paper because there was the addition of, I believe, five garages onto the facility. Now, from memory, there were two ambulance garages, a garage for the minibus for the seniors and then the public health vehicle, and there was one other vehicle. I believe that vehicle is associated with the lodge. So there was a demonstrated need in both areas for, I believe, five garages.
Now, a simple rule of thumb that is used is $300 per square foot. This would have costed out the garages in the case of Dawson at some $5 million. No one in their right frame of mind would be building a $5-million garage anywhere.
So that was one of the issues, that it was just a straight takeoff on the number of square feet and an extrapolation of numbers that determined that the facility would come in at something like $14 million or $13 million — I can’t remember the numbers quoted.
But it is the government’s intention to move ahead. We have done a lot of consultation. There have been four consultant reports and there are two major consultations that have taken place, one on Dawson City and one on Watson Lake. The same consultant was hired for both, and the same consultant was also hired to review Teslin as well as Haines Junction and the north Alaska Highway.
So we are consistent as to the consultant, and the consultant was the same consultant who was initially engaged by the previous Liberal government.
So, that said, we’re not changing the way that we go about hiring consultants. Yes, it was a sole-source contract, but we believe that the individual in this case had done the necessary work, was familiar with the area and was extremely knowledgeable in this area. So we will move forward with the same consultant.
As to the timing of when we’re going to be putting ads in the paper, that is not the area that I have responsibility for and I can’t give the member opposite the date as to when the ads are going to appear in the newspaper.
Ms. Duncan: The problem with the minister’s answer is that he can stand on his feet and say the paper was wrong because they costed out a $5-million garage and they don’t need a five-car garage or a five-vehicle garage, yet he can’t tell us such vital information as who is coordinating these projects? Yes, we know there is a consultant. Yes, we know they have reported. I am glad to see we have the same consultant doing the work in Teslin and Haines Junction. What is the progress on these specific facilities? We have $5.2 million allocated. Who is going to oversee its expenditure and how is it going to be spent?
We have an architect’s drawing and we have a conceptual drawing. Where does that go? Who’s on first, Mr. Chair? Who is overseeing this project and signing off saying, yes, that is a design that is acceptable to the community? Who is driving this particular vehicle that is not going to be parked in the five-car garage?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Probably if we listened to the Member for Kluane, he would have me purchasing two brand new ambulances of my choice from the manufacturer of my choice. Then I would probably be driving one to Watson Lake and one to Dawson. Then I would be sitting in the ambulance and directing the construction of both these facilities.
I want to allay any fears that members in this House may have. There is a whole set of procedures and ways as to how we proceed on a project of this scope. We have gone through the initial consultation of developing the site. It has been in-house with Outside consultants and architects and it is work in progress. It is proceeding quite well. We will be ready to announce the next phase on how this will proceed very quickly.
Ms. Duncan: Forgive me, we were elected to ask these kinds of questions of the minister, and with all due respect, I’d like an answer — and not the “Don’t worry; we’re in charge. It’s going to be fine. Don’t you ask those questions now.” I would simply like the minister to tell us, if it’s not too much trouble, when this group that is overseeing the project — “in-house,” as he has alluded to —
I’m not suggesting he’s picking out the wall colours, although that may be the case. It seems to me I have a couple of outstanding information requests that I would like answered about how this facility is going to proceed.
The minister has not hesitated to stand on his feet and criticize every other government that has constructed facilities in this territory. So let me ask him the question: how is he doing it? He’s in government. He’s going to do it better. Tell us how.
Where’s the committee? Who’s overseeing this? Is it an internal committee only? Are they working with the nursing staff in Dawson at the existing McDonald Lodge? What’s the process? Please and thank you.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Last year, I sent over the study from the consultant on Dawson City and Watson Lake. It clearly spells out who has been consulted and the extent and amount of consultation in this area. It has been quite extensive and quite thorough. There have been public discussions in Dawson City with the people there. There is the need to go back and review some of the initiatives that were brought forward after this last round of consultations, and that is what has taken place and what is underway.
We are moving forward through a consultation process, through an in-house grouping of individuals that also consists of an Outside architect and an Outside consultant who has a tremendous amount of input into this initiative, and no, Mr. Chair, I’m not picking out the colours. I have a wife who has taught me that I don’t do colours well.
Ms. Duncan: What time frame are the architect and the consultation working in? When is it anticipated that there will be a drawing that we could start to get a class D estimate on?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That work is underway.
Ms. Duncan: Have we given the group that are working on it a deadline for a time when we would like the information back? Have we given them an envelope to work within, other than the $5.2 million? Have we given them a time frame when we might expect them to report? In the interest of speeding this debate along, I’m sure the minister has this information. Perhaps if he could just share it with us, we could move on.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The question is a valid one, and all I can confirm for the member opposite is that this initiative is underway, it’s being worked on and we hope to have an announcement very shortly.
Ms. Duncan: There’s an expression: the thing about beating your head against a brick wall is that it feels so good when you quit. Unfortunately for the member opposite, and fortunately for my constituents who have asked me to ask questions about the expenditures of this government, I’m going to ask the minister until such time as he deigns to answer: what time frame has the minister given the architects and the public working with the architects and the in-house committee to come back to him with, yes, this is the building design, you can send it off to the contractors to start to get an estimate to then be put out to tender? What time frame has he given individuals to work with?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I don’t believe there is a date specific as yet, Mr. Chair, but this is an initiative we hope to see come to fruition this summer.
Multi-level Care Facility – Dawson City in the amount of $5,200,000 agreed to
On Multi-level Care Facility – Watson Lake
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister is familiar with the questions on the previous line item. I would like to just repeat all those questions to the minister. What can he provide us in terms of information about this facility, about the final cost of the facility in Watson Lake and about the timelines for construction and so on? What can he provide us on that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I’m pleased to provide the same answers to this question as I provided to the same questions on the previous line item, because they’re virtually identical.
Ms. Duncan: If I have heard the minister correctly — and I’ll go back and re-read the Blues, Mr. Chair — it would be anticipated that we would be able to go to tender on both these projects; having completed the architectural and public consultation and working consultation by the summer, we’d be looking at going to tender late this summer. Is it possible then, if there is a normal tender closing phase, that construction will start on these facilities in September, given the minister’s previous answers to the previous questions in the previous line item?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would hope before September, Mr. Chair, but again we are subject to a lot of constraints, and I don’t want to commit to a specific date, given the tremendous volume of consultation and work that is necessary, leading up to a successful conclusion of a major project of such a positive initiative as we are moving forward on in this respect, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, once again, the minister has demonstrated his government is not open and accountable. I won’t go on about that. It is a matter of record. I want to ask about federal contributions for these facilities. I recall the announcement, I believe, from March 7, 2003, which indicated there would be federal dollars toward these facilities. The federal Minister of Health, Anne McLellan, was quoted in the press release, as was this minister and the Member of Parliament.
Could the minister indicate how much federal funding will be poured into each of these facilities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Both are anticipated to be a 10-bed facility — 12 beds, potentially — and we are looking at a contribution from the federal government of $25,000 per room. $25,000 for each room and each room has one bed.
Mr. McRobb: That is only about a quarter of a million dollars for each facility — maybe $300,000 if there are 12 beds. The total would be about $600,000 recoverable. Could the minister indicate where that recovery or contribution is shown in this department’s budget?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It’s not, Mr. Chair. It is potential recovery from Canada based on us meeting all the tests for this area and for the program that the federal government has in place.
Mr. McRobb: That raises another interesting question, Mr. Chair. Given the fluidity of the situation in Ottawa these days, should there be a different government, would this funding agreement still be valid, or is it potentially something that could be torn up by a new federal government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I understand the program, Mr. Chair, it has been in place for quite a number of years. The previous Liberal administration was going to take Macaulay Lodge and gut it and spend about $5 million converting it into bed-sits. That project didn’t go ahead.
This project is being used for two new initiatives. One, here in the Whitehorse area, is the assisted home living initiative. One project is a development through Yukon Housing, and we indicated clearly this morning at the press announcement how much contribution Yukon will be putting in — some of that is federal government funding — and how much Outside money will be levered for these two initiatives.
We’re just moving forward on meeting the needs of Yukoners. Some of these facilities — single family detached homes — are income-guaranteed. It’s all found. The facility on Range Road will have a number of amenities. The amount of rent that can be charged is set.
This just follows through on our government’s commitment to meet the challenges. As I indicated earlier in this House, there is a definite requirement in the Yukon for assisted home care accommodations. We are moving forward on that through Yukon Housing Corporation and through the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, who made the announcement just today on this very important initiative.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for his speech, but he didn’t answer the question, so I’ll repeat it for him: is there any risk at all to the Yukon recovering the potential $600,000 contribution toward these facilities, should there be a change in government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This program has been in place for an extensive period of time. It’s administered through CMHC. So, yes, there is always the potential for risk inherent in anything, but I don’t suspect that the federal government is going to pull back on a program that is already in place. I think the potential for that occurring is extremely remote, but there is always that potential — the sky might be falling in tomorrow too. That potential exists. But on a balance of probabilities, it’s not very likely. In fact, I’d suggest that the member opposite has a better chance of winning a lottery of a significant sum of money than of this funding disappearing.
Multi-level Care Facility – Watson Lake in the amount of $5,200,000 agreed to
On Seniors’ Facilities – Feasibility Studies
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions on this. Can the minister first of all indicate what the purpose of these studies is?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This funding will be used to continue planning activities, needs assessment, feasibility studies and conceptual work in Yukon communities.
Mr. McRobb: Which Yukon communities? Are we looking at Teslin and Haines Junction, each for $50,000? Is that it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is across the whole Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: $100,000 for planning and feasibility and conceptual studies across the Yukon — I’m sorry, Mr. Chair, but I don’t get it. Could the minister elaborate? Specifically, which communities are involved in this and what will this $100,000 do for them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It’s not just planning facilities; it’s planning activities, it’s assessing needs assessments, feasibility studies and conceptual work.
Mr. McRobb: I’d like the minister to complete the answer to the question about which communities will be involved and what these studies will do.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It includes all communities, including Whitehorse.
Mr. McRobb: What’s the breakdown on the studies? It says “studies” so I assume there’s more than one. How many studies will be done? Is this another sole-source to the same group that did the previous studies?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That hasn’t been determined yet, but given that Whitehorse and our facilities here have only got a short number of years to go before they’ll be running at capacity, it is prudent of the government of the day to anticipate the future requirements and the needs. In fact, Whitehorse is a community that’s growing once again, as is the entire Yukon. Level 3, 4 and 5 care is only provided in the Yukon in one facility. We have another pod to open, and just how long we can meet the challenges of Yukoners with 12 more beds —
We currently have eight beds that are vacant so we have no waiting list for Copper Ridge Place, but at Macaulay we are potentially a short time away from being at capacity. So we have to plan for the future across the Yukon. The biggest drivers and the largest need are right here in Whitehorse. This is an area of our government’s portfolio that we have concentrated on very heavily, and we are meeting the challenges in a number of ways. We are meeting the challenge by providing assisted home living. We are meeting the challenge by providing and extending home care. We’re meeting the challenge by building two new multi-level care facilities: one in Watson Lake and one in Dawson City.
But if you look at the overall budget, the expansion of home care around the Yukon, the upgrading of the programs for our seniors has taken a real concentration of effort on the department’s part. It’s something that the political arm has committed to, and we’re moving forward on it.
The pioneer utility grant was increased by 25 percent, indexed against inflation; we subsequently saw a considerable rise in fuel, so we have another increase in the pioneer utility grant that will be payable next fall on this winter’s heating season.
So overall, on the complete spectrum, we have to constantly move forward in looking at our seniors facilities. This funding, this $100,000, will be used to continue planning activities, needs assessments, feasibility studies and conceptual work and consultation across the Yukon on this very important area, so that we can meet the challenges ahead.
Ms. Duncan: The question I have is: does the minister have a breakdown of this $100,000? He has made reference to Whitehorse, and I recognize the seniors’ need in Whitehorse. We also have Copper Ridge Place and Macaulay Lodge. I understand the need for planning for the future.
My concern is that there is a very, very real need, not only on the north highway — and by that I mean from Haines Junction north to Beaver Creek — but the minister has also identified needs in Teslin. It seems to me that those needs are ahead of looking at further long-term planning for Whitehorse, because we have taken steps to meet the immediate need in Whitehorse in their other initiatives. But there is a very real need, especially on the north highway.
I would like the minister to just outline how much of this $100,000 would be planning money spent on the north highway and Teslin in meeting the needs of seniors, and if there is a time frame for the public consultation and/or a report back to the minister on this.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I don’t have a breakdown by community for this funding, but what we do is a continual overall assessment of the population base across the Yukon. When we get into care level 3, 4 and 5, we really have difficulty with providing that in other than one centre. That one centre would be in Whitehorse. We currently provide level 1 and 2 care in one location outside of Whitehorse and one location in Whitehorse. We will be expanding that and providing it in two locations.
Based on the results of this feasibility study, we may expand that further. I am not speculating; I am saying we are going to do our homework, analyze this issue thoroughly and consult with all those involved, but in the next reasonable length of time, there will be a demonstrated need for another facility right here in Whitehorse.
Ms. Duncan: Anybody who gets a homework assignment gets a time frame of when it’s due. The minister said that this government is doing its homework. Logically, when are they expecting a report back? You don’t just hand out an open-ended assignment. When is the government expecting to have gathered together their homework and some information on meeting the needs of the seniors on the north highway? I heard the discussion about level 1 and level 2 care, and I understand it. Could I just have an answer to that question? When will the homework be done on the north highway?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In this fiscal year.
Mr. McRobb: Just for follow-up, and it’s a bit of an overview — the announcement to proceed with these very expensive facilities in Dawson City and Watson Lake was made approximately a year and a half before the final studies — the completed studies — were issued, tabled, completed — however you want to put it. This is contrary to what the minister said last week about the dates of those studies.
You can look at the cover, Mr. Chair. One says “June 2004”, and the other says “July 2004.” Well, the announcement was made one and a half years before the finalization of those studies. Now, isn’t that sweet. Now that the Premier’s riding and this minister’s riding are well taken care of with respect to new seniors facilities, everybody else has to wait until elaborate studies are done, with full consultation. Take a case in point — the Haines Junction facility.
Last year, the minister wrote a letter promising the seniors that, upon a proven need, there would be construction in this fiscal year. Well, there is nothing in this budget to provide for that. Furthermore, the study that was done last year is still on the minister’s desk, and he refuses to table it for anybody in the public.
This is an almost unbelievable circumstance. Given the number of seniors in the Kluane riding — the number of people age 65 and up exceeds the number of people in that same category in Watson Lake or Dawson City.
On top of that, this project has been the number one priority of the whole riding for several years. The Yukon Party and this minister ignore those needs and instead stick to their guns to delay the project while they get their own projects in their own ridings built first, rather expeditiously — one-and-a-half years ahead of the time the studies were finally completed.
I don’t have a question because the minister wouldn’t answer it anyway, but I wanted to get this on the record.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Just because someone is 65 years of age or older doesn’t mean that they require a home or indeed want to move into a home. If the member opposite would look at some of the home care and assistance being provided by this government through other programs, he might want to pay attention to that area, because we as a government have enhanced a number of those areas. We have encouraged our seniors to remain in their own home with a number of other programs that address costs and assistance, and those programs are working well. We have enhanced them in some areas and we will continue to monitor them and move forward.
Mr. McRobb: I realize that the age is not the sole factor in determining the need; however, the minister has refused to provide us with the other information pertinent to the other factors. It seems that information is hidden away in the final copies of the report that still remains on the minister’s desk.
What I’m going to do as soon as we clear this department is go down the aisle to the access to information desk and I’m going to apply for this study. They’re going to ask me, “Well, aren’t you an MLA? Aren’t you a Health and Social Services critic? Wasn’t this study done about four months ago and was supposed to have been released publicly?”
I’ll say, “Yes, but the minister refuses to provide it.” So I want the same rights as an ordinary member of the public to apply for access to information under that program, and that’s what I’ll do.
The minister really ought to be ashamed of himself for hiding information that should be public. He doesn’t even have a date for his meeting with the seniors in Haines Junction. As of yesterday, no contact had even been made with the seniors to set up the meeting. So it is an unbelieveable situation, Mr. Chair. How the minister can get away with it, I don’t know; but let it be put on record this Yukon Party government has once again lowered the bar of accountability. It doesn’t bode well for the future. Hopefully, future governments don’t stoop to this level of accountability. Hopefully they’ll rise above it.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I am very uncomfortable with what the member opposite is suggesting. Mr. Chair, our government is very, very cognizant of our responsibilities in this area. To that end, we have commissioned a study both in the member opposite’s riding, from Haines Junction all the way through to Beaver Creek. All the communities were visited by the consultant. The department is just in the process of setting up a meeting similar to what was held previously. I’m sure the member opposite will be made very much aware of it. I’ll send him an invitation to it when it’s scheduled to be held.
Further to that, Mr. Chair, it is our intention to get a copy of this report out to all the concerned parties prior to the meeting taking place, as is our obligation and as I committed to. So, Mr. Chair, we are moving forward on this initiative. At the same time, for the facilities across the Yukon, we have to continue planning and doing our needs assessment and doing feasibility studies and conceptual works to see where we’re heading, because we are currently going to be bumping up against capacity issues here in Whitehorse, and we have recognized what we can do in rural Yukon, and we’re doing just that.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to ask a bit about the feasibility study for a seniors facility on the north highway. The minister hasn’t made any reference to the involvement of Health Canada in terms of the federal government’s fiduciary responsibility for First Nations care. Two out of the three First Nations in the area are self-governing. What role have Health Canada and the First Nation governments had in these feasibility studies?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We respect the self-governing First Nations and we are dealing with them on a government-to-government basis, as we started off doing in our mandate and as we will continue to do in our mandate. The consultation was on a government-to-government basis with the three First Nations in this area. As the member correctly pointed out, they are self-governing First Nations with the right to draw down health care under their final agreements. That is a given, but the feasibility study that was done by Yukon had involvement by all stakeholder groups, as it should.
Ms. Duncan: In the recoveries, we get in excess of $1 million from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development under our continuing care. This would be money received back from Canada when we have First Nation elders in care in Copper Ridge Place, Macaulay Lodge and McDonald Lodge. There is logically, then, a role for not only the First Nation governments but for DIAND — I used the term Health Canada — for Canada to be involved in this discussion — the head’s up, at a minimum, that we are looking at this. So I would just appreciate it if, when the minister gives us the feasibility study, he could also indicate the discussions that have been undertaken either at the ministerial or officials level with respect to DIAND and Health Canada in planning for a seniors facility on the north highway.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is correct: health care is paid for by the federal government. Currently the Government of Canada owes the Yukon some $25 million for services provided by Yukon to First Nation members here in the Yukon.
In addition to that, if the member opposite wants to look at the O&M cost on our facilities, we’re looking at $11 million odd for O&M on Copper Ridge Place, an additional $4-point-something million for Macaulay Lodge per annum, and an additional just under $1 million for McDonald Lodge. If you add it all up, we’re over $18 million in O&M costs per annum.
If you look at what we bill back to the federal government for First Nations who are resident in these facilities, it’s the way it was set up under previous administrations and we continue to work in the same format with the federal government on this initiative. The First Nation governments on the north Alaska Highway have been involved in this consultation. All three of these First Nations have written to me personally, and I committed to hosting a meeting in Haines Junction and I committed to moving forward on the consultation process.
That was budgeted for in the last fiscal cycle; that has been done. My commitment was to report back to that same group of people as soon as everything was in place and the final report was received. We’re just making arrangements for the consultant to return and travel with us to Haines Junction and reconvene a meeting at a mutually acceptable time to all parties.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the seniors’ facilities – feasibility studies line?
Seniors’ Facilities – Feasibility Studies in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Prior Years’ Projects
Mr. McRobb: Similar to the previous topic, prior years’ projects would include the $100,000 allocated to the two studies done in Haines Junction and Teslin last year. Each was in the amount of $50,000; however, the actual amount of money that was contracted, at least for the Haines Junction study, was in the neighbourhood of only $10,000.
I would like the minister to indicate the final cost of the studies and tell us what happened to the remainder that was not spent from within the budget.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That was a previous line item. We’re discussing prior years’ projects and still on a go-forward basis.
What I can tell the member opposite is the consultant component of the total equation is only a part of the total feasibility and analysis that has to take place on such a very important initiative. There is extensive consultation — which the members opposite are constantly criticizing this side for — that we are continuously engaged in, and we’re moving forward.
We want to hear from all Yukoners on these very important issues and go through a very extensive series of meetings and consultations in order to establish the baseline data from which we extrapolate the appropriate information and address the issue at hand.
That said, the service facilities and the $100,000 for this next year for seniors facilities will be used to continue planning activity, needs assessments and feasibility studies for all Yukon communities, and — in this case — where we’re seeing a capacity problem looming in the not-too-distant future is Whitehorse.
Now, my colleague, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, just today announced a very important initiative that will address housing for seniors. I’d encourage the members opposite to get hold of the press release to analyze it, because these two extremely worthwhile initiatives are the issues that are coming forward and are needed — assisted home living and subsidized living in a facility here in Whitehorse.
We’re moving forward on those fronts and we’re partnering with the private sector, so there’s only a small component of government money involved. We’re leveraging money from wherever — and as the members opposite correctly pointed out in Question Period, some of it’s coming out of the U.S. It’s immaterial. The parameters under which this money can be recovered are clearly defined, clearly established, and we only have to look at the future. It’s our objective to improve the standards of living for all Yukoners to the best of our ability. I believe you’re seeing prime examples of that coming forward on a continuing basis.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we’ve been subjected to another political speech: one of very little substance and one of very little pertinence to the question asked. The minister indicated he thought this was the incorrect line item, but I would draw his attention to the fact that it’s identified as prior years’ projects. This is exactly the opportunity to ask these questions, so the minister should maybe brush up on the rules a bit.
He delved into the last line item, and another point to counter his argument on the last line item is that we have seen no appreciable increase in home care in some regions in the territory related to these studies. When asked for the information, the minister was unwilling to provide any information to show where home care dollars are spent in the territory. He also refused to provide any evidence to indicate what the need was for home care in the territory, so it’s no wonder that we on this side of the floor are a little suspicious. The minister says one thing one day and something else the next day, and then fails to give any proof to back up what he says in other situations.
Now, he says the government consults extensively on projects. I’ll add a caveat to that, Mr. Chair. This Yukon Party government consults extensively on matters it doesn’t want to rush into; only on matters it wants to delay and put off does it really consult on.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to us, Mr. Chair. We are not delaying or impeding anything because we don’t want to proceed with the project. That is incorrect information.
Chair: The Chair has no understanding or knowledge of the motives behind either party here. The matter at hand is the prior years’ projects, and I would ask all members to focus their debate on this line item, for which there is a zero-dollar estimate.
Mr. McRobb: Exactly, Mr. Chair. So what was the actual breakdown of last year’s studies, the ones done in Teslin and Haines Junction, which were line itemed at $50,000 each? I would like to know the actual cost of the studies, and the minister indicated there were other costs. I would like to know what the entire breakdown was of the $50,000 in each of those cases.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated earlier, of the $100,000, I’m not aware of any lapsing of any funding in this area. It would appear that the budget envelope has been expended or close to expended overall. For the life of me, I can’t understand how the member opposite can raise so much concern about a zero line item — no dollars in that line item. I give the member opposite a tremendous amount of credit, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Whether or not the minister can understand it doesn’t interest me, Mr. Chair. The fact is that this is the opportunity to ask questions about prior years’ capital projects. That’s the name of the line item, once again for the minister. He refuses to give the breakdown on those studies.
I just want to clarify one more time: will he give the breakdown on those two studies last year that were line items of $50,000 each? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: While we’re on prior years’ capital projects, let’s look at the actual amount we sent over to the Hospital Corporation for renovations to the Thomson Centre. Let’s look at the acquisition of two new ambulances last year in capital projects and capital undertakings. Let’s look at the purchase of new clothing and equipment for our ambulance attendants under capital acquisitions last year. Let’s look at the tremendous expansion in capital for new equipment for the Yukon Hospital Corporation and the Whitehorse Hospital. A lot of the equipment was purchased with the fundraising of very capable individuals, firms and organizations here in the Yukon. In addition to that, some half a million dollars flowed to the Yukon Hospital Corporation for new equipment.
We can point to many areas where this government is committed to taking the money and putting it to good use in the capital undertaking. So for prior years’ projects, we have many we can point to with success.
Let’s go back to the purchase and acquisition of two new ambulances. Because we wanted four-wheel-drive ambulances — and that was a request from Yukoners — we ended up going factory. The only type of factory with full-capacity units is what they call a type 1 ambulance. A type 1 ambulance comes on a chassis that has a four-wheel-drive configuration. The members opposite, my gosh — they had questions and questions and questions on the acquisition.
We do not know why they spent so much time on this area, Mr. Chair, because this was done after extensive consultation.
No, Mr. Chair, the two new ambulances that are going to be purchased this year are going to be for Whitehorse. They are what they call type 3 ambulances. They are on a chassis that is basically a van-type chassis. I don’t even get to choose the colour.
No, Mr. Chair, I am not going to be driving them to Watson Lake or Dawson City to oversee the construction of the multi-level care facilities in either of these jurisdictions. That is something that we will leave to be done by others.
At the end of the day, we are moving forward on these initiatives. We are meeting the challenges that have been placed before us and it is being done after extensive consultation in many, many areas. The prior years’ projects that have come to fruition will come to fruition and we will be moving forward on them in this envelope. You can see in this budget envelope where they are clearly identified, because we are in Health and Social Services; we are in the capital expenditures.
Let me spell out for the member opposite the program objectives. They are to ensure the provision of an integrated range of appropriate services to seniors, persons with disabilities, the poor, and persons with substance abuse problems so that they can achieve the greatest degree of independence, well-being and self-reliance possible. That says it succinctly. I am sure that the member, in reflecting upon this, will have to agree on how capable this government is in addressing these issues across the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: I want to put on record a couple of things. First of all, the minister didn’t answer the question. Secondly, what we saw was another display of intentional stalling. The minister spoke to several unrelated issues. This is another consequence of fixed sitting dates in this Assembly. I refer you to last Wednesday’s motion debate, Mr. Chair. The onus is no longer on the government to perform. The government has control of the agendas simply by stalling and not answering the questions. So what’s the use? This Assembly has deteriorated in my view and it is questionable as to whether it’s a constructive usage of anybody’s time, especially when the official opposition can’t get simple answers to questions in the public interest.
I was asked by constituents yesterday the questions I’m asking now, and the minister smirks at the questions and gets up and talks about other items, so what’s the use?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think this speaks again to the Standing Orders and the issue of decorum and constructive debate. I think the Member for Kluane would better serve us all and the Yukon public by going down a different road, so I would ask the Member for Kluane to engage with the minister in constructive debate.
Chair: There is no point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I don’t get an opportunity to respond to that?
Chair: There is no point of order.
Prior Years’ Projects in the amount of nil cleared
Total Social Services in the amount of $11,063,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment
Chronic Disease Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits - Equipment
Extended Health Benefits - Equipment in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Hearing Services - Equipment
Hearing Services - Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Insured Health Services - Renovations and Equipment
Insured Health Services - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment
Yukon Hospital Corporation - Equipment in the amount of $660,000 agreed
On Community Health Programs - Renovations and Equipment
Community Health Programs - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $96,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing - Renovations and Equipment
Mr. McRobb: Could we get a breakdown on that item?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: $306,000 is budgeted for planned repairs to the 13 health facilities throughout the Yukon, and this funding is used to maintain community nursing stations to the highest acceptable standard possible; $74,000 is used to provide health care professionals the equipment needed to provide the current level of care; and $42,000 of this is recoverable from Canada and will be used to purchase equipment that meets the funding criteria, as established by Canada.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate which nursing stations will be undergoing the renovations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is anticipated that the renovations to the Beaver Creek Health Centre will cost $32,000; Carmacks, Mayo and Watson Lake, $55,000; painting at Watson Lake, $25,000; an entry for the ambulance at Carmacks, $5,000; railing and improved entrance at Carmacks and gravel for the driveways, $5,000; additional $5,000 for improved lighting; there are upgrades to the heating system in the Faro nursing station, $20,000. For the Mayo structure, we have to put in some vents and do a review of the building — it’s $15,000; for the nursing station in Old Crow, we have some foundation difficulties and we have to re-level the building — I’m anticipating $5,000; there are some renovations and upgrades at Ross River for $20,000.
We’d have to drain the heating system and replace some of the heating system — the glycol and water treatment — and that’s going to be $26,000.
Additional roof insulation at the existing facility in Watson Lake, $40,000; public health centre in Watson Lake interior renovations, $20,000; cleaning of water tanks at the community facilities where there is trucked water, $8,000; miscellaneous medical diagnosis and equipment for all the nursing stations, $74,000; X-ray units and microscope from the medical equipment fund for $42,000.
Chair: Is there any further debate regarding community nursing - renovations and equipment?
Community Nursing - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $422,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Services - Vehicle Replacement, Renovations and Equipment
Mr. McRobb: Can we get a breakdown, and can the minister identify where the new equipment will be located?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I’ve already indicated to the members opposite that the $225,000 is to cover the cost of two new ambulances. They’re going into Whitehorse and are type 3 ambulances. As soon as I receive them from the department, I’ll send over the specs.
$106,000 will be used to maintain and renovate the ambulance stations. There are some problems. $209,000 is needed to purchase other medical equipment and supplies. Some of this amount — $44,000 — is recoverable from the federal medical emergency fund.
There is a constant upgrading, evolution and changes in the medical equipment that is used by the emergency medical services.
Ambulance Services – Vehicle Replacement, Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $540,000 agreed to
On Primary Health Care Transition Fund
Mr. McRobb: Can we get a financial breakdown on that?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it’s a straight transfer from Canada so I’m interested in how it’s being spent.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The primary health care transition fund is a federally funded program aimed at stimulating a shift in the delivery of primary health care services across Canada in accordance with the needs of the provinces and territories within established guidelines.
A portion of this funding is targeted by Health and Social Services at capital projects, particularly in the area of supporting technology, including a drug management system, client registry and a public health information management system.
Mr. McRobb: Would it be possible to get a breakdown of the applications that were funded for the past year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Under the primary health care transition fund, it’s $625,000. The projects in this area are aimed at supporting various initiatives including: information technology, including a drug management system, client registry and a public health information management system; healthy living, including healthy eating projects, active living and parenting information: health information, expansion of the Yukon HealthGuide to include on-line access to health information and additional marketing, a nurse information line and public education initiatives; funds to access specific health issues, such as collecting ambulatory care data for use in targeting health promotion, disease and injury prevention, and disease management, support to the palliative care coordinator and the Whitehorse diabetes collaborative initiative.
Mr. McRobb: The minister failed to answer the question. He stood up and read a briefing note on what the program is intended to do. My question, once again, was: would it be possible to get a list of the projects funded in the past fiscal year? We would like to know what this fund actually does in terms of funding projects and applications. Would the minister give us a list of that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I’ve already provided a list of the initiatives funded under this program. I do not have the breakdown as to what is specific but, on a go-forward basis, I will provide the members opposite by way of a letter the breakdown of where this funding is targeted in this next fiscal cycle.
Ms. Duncan: As I understand it, this isn’t like the community development fund where there is a series of applications. This is the department saying that we get $625,000 from the federal government and this is how we’re targeting. So the problem that I put before the minister is this: I have some constituents and various individuals who have come to me with an idea that ties into this whole healthy living and childhood obesity and programming with the city. This is an issue, being perfectly frank and not wasting House time, where the busing company, the schools, the City of Whitehorse, the transit and the facilities all need to get together to get children after school to facilities. I’m talking about the Whitehorse area. In the communities, it’s far easier. The school bus can stop at the rec centre, and has in the past, but in Whitehorse that’s a real issue. It requires pulling together a number of bodies.
It’s going to require some money and some dedicated effort. This isn’t where there is a group or a non-profit organization dealing with this that you can tell to apply to the community development fund for money. It’s an idea that fits in with the primary health care transition fund — childhood obesity and a number of health issues.
So my question to the minister: how do individuals interested in this issue but who don’t have a group go about going to the department and asking about this? Is there someone in the government that they can point to?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Everyone is welcome to speak with the department officials, but the federal government has parameters around the use of this money that we have to adhere to and abide by. If there is a new initiative or a new program that someone wants to come forward with, we are more than welcome to receiving new ideas or new requests. But the only caveat on that is that it has to fit in with the terms that are established by the federal government as to how this funding can be spent.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister can just send me over by way of a note the name of the official I should speak with in the department.
Thank you very much.
Primary Health Care Transition Fund in the amount of $625,000 agreed to
On Prior Years’ Projects
Prior Years’ Projects in the amount of nil cleared
Total Health Services in the amount of $2,468,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
On Prior Years’ Projects
Prior Years’ Projects in the amount of nil cleared
Total Regional Services in the amount of nil cleared
On Transfer Payments
Transfer Payments cleared
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $15,804,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Chair: That concludes the Department of Health and Social Services.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, can I suggest we have our normal 4:30 recess at 4:15 today in order to assemble officials and so on?
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We’ll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Department of Tourism and Culture
Chair: We will continue with Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: It is indeed my honour and privilege to be able to stand before members today to present the 2005-06 capital and operation and maintenance budgets for the Department of Tourism and Culture.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to affirm our department’s continued commitment to provide excellent programs and initiatives to our tourism and culture community on an ongoing basis.
I continue to be encouraged by the growth of our tourism economy, and we certainly strive to expand and build on the good work started last year and the year before. We certainly want to stimulate and encourage that continued economic growth in the tourism industry, and I believe this budget will help to do that.
Over the last two years, our government has worked pretty closely with industry and has listened carefully to the needs and concerns of industry.
In turn, our government has been very open to suggestions on what is important to industry as they grow and expand their business. I am proud to say that, at industry’s request, we have been able to continue with several initiatives started last year that benefited our tourism, culture and heritage communities — initiatives such as the tourism cooperative marketing fund, initiated last year at the request of industry. This budget will again provide $500,000 in direct support to encourage market-ready tourism businesses, First Nations, municipalities, organizations and consortiums to partner with Tourism Yukon in the promotion of tourism products. The cooperative marketing fund complements the marketing plan of the department by enhancing awareness as well as supporting individual business marketing efforts throughout Yukon.
The fund is a collaborative effort designed to encourage national and international travel to the Yukon. The government provides 50 percent of funding toward total project costs, with the applicants matching those funds. This means close to $1 million in total was invested on marketing the Yukon through this one program alone in the last fiscal year.
I am very pleased with the successful launch of the scenic drive initiative in the last fiscal year, showcasing the first component — the Alaska Highway. In March of last year, the department launched its marketing campaign, which included a direct print and e-mail component that was sent to over 100,000 targeted leads. In addition, the new Web site, in case members haven’t logged on, is www.driveyukon.com, which showcases the Alaska Highway to encourage these targeted leads to plan a vacation to Yukon, to come and explore the many services offered and to experience first-hand our spectacular scenery and first-rate attractions along the Alaska Highway.
This fiscal year we will continue with the scenic drive initiative, with $215,000 going toward interpretive signage along the Alaska Highway, east and west within the Yukon, and $135,000 going toward the second phase of the program, that being the Klondike-Kluane scenic drive. This will be accomplished similar to the Alaska Highway scenic drive, through Web site and other direct marketing initiatives, such as travel trade initiatives and through the development of media stories that showcase Yukon communities through third parties.
I’m also pleased to announce our continued investment of $190,000 toward product development, which continues to play an essential role in the current and future growth of our tourism economy.
Working with industry to expand the inventory of marketable tourism products continues to be a high priority of the government as a means of encouraging repeat visitation or attracting new visitors with varying interests. As we know, tourism is a highly competitive and dynamic global industry and research is required to measure and monitor constantly changing trends and economic impacts.
In the last fiscal year, the government allocated $414,000 to conduct the 2004 Yukon visitor exit survey. The visitor data, as members opposite are very well aware, is absolutely essential in providing timely, reliable information to the department, other agencies in government, as well as our partners in the tourism sectors, allowing them to successfully compete and plan in a global marketplace. The survey that was conducted generated approximately 30 jobs throughout the Yukon last summer, and the jobs were recruited using the government’s hiring policy through the Bureau of Statistics. Each of the recruits was trained to ensure consistent, reliable scientific information was gathered while working from strategically located exit points throughout the territory.
Initial results show 251,704 visitors came to the Yukon from June 1 through September of last year. That was an increase of eight percent, compared to results from the 1999 visitor exit survey that was last taken. During that same period, total visitor spending increased by 12 percent from $67.6 million in 1999 to $75.8 million in 2004. Shopping, visiting natural attractions and historic sites, including museums and our cultural heritage centres, were the top three activities identified by last year’s visitors. When they were asked to rate their Yukon visit on a scale of one to 10, compared to other destinations they had visited, more than 80 percent rated their Yukon experience as a seven or above. We are working now to generate a series of market-specific tables from this data to meet the priority needs of our industry that were identified during the pre-survey consultation.
Our visitor information centres in Carcross, Beaver Creek and Watson Lake will all receive $207,000 cumulatively toward maintenance, upgrades and equipment, which will ensure the continued delivery of excellent customer service to the many visitors seeking out these centres as their very first point of entry to the Yukon.
The visitor information centres are integral to a successful tourism season, and I certainly want to acknowledge the excellent job done by the staff in these centres each year. I’m also pleased to announce that we will continue to provide $220,000 in funding support to First Nations in Dawson, Teslin, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks, which will allow them to continue with the operations of their existing cultural centres. These places of discovery offer the opportunity for our visitors to learn more about First Nation culture, while also providing economic spinoffs for the local communities. By continuing to provide funding support to these centres, the government provides them the opportunity to leverage funding from other sources, such as the federal museums assistance program, Young Canada Works, STEP — student training and employment program — and other programs.
This budget continues to maintain support for the palaeontology and archaeology projects through continuing fieldwork, supplies, and joint First Nation community research. As part of our continued investment and commitment respecting First Nation heritage, we are also again providing $50,000 in funding for ice patch research. I am pleased to announce that 2004 was an especially successful field season, with four new ice patches recorded and three dozen new artifacts found. Also, a successful four-day field camp involving youth from nine Yukon First Nations was carried out as part of the project. We are confident these kinds of successful initiatives will again take place during this year, with local, national and international media attention resulting in scientific articles published in a variety of publications.
The department continues to maintain heritage sites owned or co-owned by the government, and we are maintaining our support in this regard for the historic sites inventory and with our participation in the Canadian registry of historic places. We continue the work on various initiatives, including Fort Selkirk, Rampart House, Forty Mile, Yukon Sawmill and other heritage trails.
The Forty Mile site, for example, is co-owned and co-managed with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, and this management plan was developed jointly with the First Nation themselves. Forty Mile was occupied and used by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation for thousands of years. As a key pre-gold rush Yukon community, Forty Mile provided the first wave of miners rushing to follow up on the discovery of gold on Rabbit Creek in 1898. The adjacent Fort Constantine represents the first formal Northwest Mounted Police post in the Yukon and is an important commercial site servicing the early prospectors in the upper Yukon River basin.
The Department of Tourism and Culture continues to support Yukon museums through the museums assistance program and exhibit assistance program. We continue to recognize the importance of museums and heritage sites and attractions in all our communities. We acknowledge the many benefits these institutions play and bring to the economy. This new fiscal year, Yukon Archives preservation projects will receive $135,000 to ensure that the invaluable collections in the Archives’ holdings are given the best possible care. Yukon Archives has conducted conservation assessments and identified which records require conservation treatments.
These treatments will be provided to priority documents. In addition, renovations will be made to the facility to reduce the levels of light intensity and ultraviolet radiation entering the research rooms. These renovations are necessary to slow the deterioration of documents that results from prolonged exposure to light.
Yukon Archives will also continue to improve the accessibility of its collections by adding new and more detailed descriptions of its collections to the Archives’ on-line Internet-accessible catalogue.
Also, a selection of films will be digitized in this fiscal year. Films are prioritized for this conversion based on their physical condition and their historical significance.
Yukon Archives has an enormous collection of photographs that are gradually being made more widely available through digitization and posting on the Internet.
With the upcoming 2007 Canada Winter Games and the 2010 Olympics, the Department of Tourism and Culture is again budgeting $200,000 toward the decade of sports and culture initiative. We will continue to develop and market events and initiatives with Yukon cultural and community groups in celebration of these events.
Of the $200,000 budgeted for this initiative, $157,000 will continue to be invested in Culture Quest, administered by the Yukon Arts Centre, with the remaining $43,000 going to the Yukon Convention Bureau to develop sports and cultural tourism for Yukon.
I am happy to report that Culture Quest proved very successful last year with its array of cultural activities. It inspired Yukon artists, First Nations, heritage organizations and cultural industries to develop talent and create work that showcases who we are as a community and as a region. This past year, Culture Quest supported projects that showcased First Nation youth, music, community photography and Yukon writing.
We will also continue to foster the creative development of the arts through the arts fund, with $500,000 in funding made available for artist collectives and other eligible groups for arts-related projects, including literary, visual and performing arts.
The government allocation of $60,000 in this year’s capital budget allows for further training and marketing of Yukon’s craft industry by providing Yukon artists and artisans with the tools required to develop themselves and their small businesses toward economic viability.
The fourth annual Yukon Buyers Show, slated for September this year, is part of this funding. Aspects of the program that allow retail buyers to meet and negotiate orders with art and craft wholesalers include a new retailer incentive program, booth development programs and marketing initiative programs.
I’m pleased to share with you the success of last year’s Yukon Buyers Show this past September that saw attendance by retailers from Alberta, Alaska, B.C. and the Northwest Territories. While exact order figures are not available, comments from returning wholesalers indicated that increased orders and orders of greater value were placed at the 2004 show, compared to the year before that.
The Yukon Buyers Show program continues to also secure federal support through the Canadian heritage trade routes program to develop export markets for our industry. Canada has provided funding for Alaskan retailers to attend the show and receive training while in attendance. Additional support through Canada’s networking system has also assisted in identifying retailers in mainland United States and inviting them to the show.
In addition to the good works being done through the craft strategy and the Yukon Buyers Show, the Art Adventures on Yukon Time studio guide continues to grow as a marketing tool for visual artists and a guide that is well sought after by visitors as well.
Visitors and Yukoners use the guide to identify annual events in Yukon communities. It also shows where to purchase and view arts and crafts, as well as giving details on the location of artists’ studios.
In December of last year, the Canadian Consulate in France distributed these guides to guests at a gala event in Paris celebrating the release of Le Dernier Trappeur — a film shot in Yukon. The guide continues to attract new artists, especially from some of the smaller communities.
This concludes the capital budget for Tourism and Culture.
In the operations and maintenance budget, we are pleased to announce an increase of about three percent. That’s an increase of about $429,000 over last year. As I mentioned earlier, this is a strong budget that will certainly continue to grow our economy while recognizing our ongoing commitment to tourism, culture and heritage in the Yukon.
As I mentioned earlier, our government has recognized the need to listen to industry. We have delivered on a number of fronts by providing more dollars toward various entities — I am just trying to shorten up my address, because I know I am running out of time here, Mr. Chair — including the Yukon brand strategy, media relations, Web site improvements and the North America travel trade. These were all areas that were identified by the senior marketing committee as priority initiatives deemed integral to the well-being and growth of Yukon’s tourism industry. We are pleased to be able to invest a total of $225,000 of new money into these areas.
As I mentioned earlier, we look forward to building another great visitor season. From all research and intelligence from among the industry, it is looking as though it is going to be a very positive season with increased growth, not only in visitation numbers but also in terms of revenue coming to the territory.
So we look forward to seeing the results of the season and look forward to growing our tourism sector through these enhanced initiatives and through these new funds and new initiatives, as well. I certainly look forward to welcoming any questions coming forward from the members opposite, and I am very pleased to be able to present this budget.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Chair: Order please. Before debate continues, I would just like all members of the Assembly to join me in welcoming to our gallery a resident of the beautiful Southern Lakes, Mr. Darcy Tkachuk.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for the information. With the tourism and culture industry being one of the key drivers within the Yukon Territory, it is only natural that we spend money in this area in regard to marketing and making sure that the information gets out there worldwide about what we have to offer here in the Yukon Territory.
I looked with great interest at the information that my colleague received at the conference this past weekend — the Yukon visitors statistics from 2004 and the Yukon visitor exit survey — and the numbers were better than I realized for last year. That is great, considering the wildfires throughout the Yukon and the impact that we thought that might have for our visitors from outside the territory.
I am also very interested in the cultural aspect of this department. Like I say, we are a very rich territory and we have a lot to offer. There are many First Nation communities that have the impact of visitors passing through their communities on the Alaska Highway, and how much are they benefiting from the visitors who pass through their communities?
The cultural side of this department, actually the financial aspect, has a decrease from 2004-05. That’s where I would like to spend some time right now.
First of all, this department is new for me and I’m still learning. I would like the assistance of the minister to help me to get some information that I do need. First of all, I would like to know how many heritage cultural centres there are in the Yukon. From the number of centres that we do have, does the Yukon territorial government contribute to financing these centres?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I’m very pleased to report to the member opposite, and I appreciate her questions. From my own perspective, when I first assumed this responsibility, there was a lot to learn in this department. They are a very active group, and their efforts are realizing true economic results in the territory.
With respect to cultural centres, I would just take the member back a year or two, when we were doing one of the rounds of consultation for the museum strategy. Our government had distributed for the first time — unlike the previous government — and had solicited feedback from the respective First Nation governments, the chief and councils, with respect to the proposed museum strategy. We had received feedback from various First Nation governments. There were actually five, specifically, in which concerns were relayed. There was general support for the museum strategy, but there were concerns associated with the lack of recognition for First Nation cultural heritage centres, and that perhaps there should be recognition of these facilities and that there should also be a separate funding program very similar to those that are made available to the Yukon museums.
In turn, we listened to that feedback. In keeping with our obligations of chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement, we introduced a new funding program about a year ago, in which funding to the tune of $220,000 in total would be made available to the respective four cultural centres throughout the territory.
The member opposite may be aware that there are four currently here in the territory — one in Pelly Crossing, one in the Carmacks community, one in Dawson City, and one in Teslin. There are a number of other initiatives being planned right now, but the actual existing facilities we have in place are situated in those four communities.
So the total funding of $220,000, which is reflected in this year’s budget, is continued at the same funding. It has been distributed among those four existing First Nation governments to assist in the operation of each of the centres in order to help build capacity, as well as to help leverage additional funding from other sources of revenue, whether that be from the federal government or other sources of revenue from First Nation governments and so forth.
So we’re very proud to be able to assist in this manner. When I launched this program about a year ago, it was very well-received by all First Nation governments. I should also add that as more First Nation governments develop their cultural heritage facilities, the intent of the program would be to expand that particular program to also meet the needs of those additional centres, so the funding would not in fact stay the same but would be increased.
Mrs. Peter: Just for the record, I would like the minister to let us know what chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement entails.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Chapter 13 is very well spelled out within the Umbrella Final Agreement. Chapter 13 is pretty much known — as I’ve come to know it over the last few years — as the so-called catch-up, keep-up provision. It is basically an obligation on the part of the Yukon government, as well as the federal government, to assist First Nation governments in being able to catch up, so to speak, to funding that is currently being made available to perhaps — for lack of a better word — non-First Nation heritage facilities to our heritage investments that we have in place. So that is essentially what that provision is.
Without having it right here in front of me, chapter 13 spells out our obligations when it comes to our obligation to assist First Nations in perhaps the repatriation of artifacts or moving artifacts from other places to their respective homeland. It means building, assisting and developing cultural heritage needs among the respective First Nation governments. There is a whole host of aspects to chapter 13.
I should also add that there have been many occasions when I have raised this very matter of the obligation of not just the Government of Yukon but the obligation of the federal Government of Canada to meet its obligations — that means by providing assistance very similar to the way we have provided assistance.
I have some more specific detail here. For example, section 13.4 of the Umbrella Final Agreement states, for example, that First Nations shall have priority in the allocation of government program resources available from time to time where practicable until an equitable distribution of program resources is achieved. Section 13.4 of the Umbrella Final Agreement also states that once equity is achieved, heritage resources of Yukon Indian people shall continue to be allocated an equitable portion of government program resources. It further goes on to state, as I mentioned earlier, that government, where practicable, shall assist Yukon First Nations to develop programs, staff and facilities to enable repatriation of movable and documentary heritage resources relating to the culture and history which have been removed from the Yukon. So it is all inclusive. Hopefully, that should provide the member opposite with some information.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that information.
To follow up on that, how many of our First Nation communities have — I believe she said there are four cultural centres. How many First Nation governments with final agreements have cultural centres? Is it fair to say that the Yukon territorial government has been slow to fulfill its mandate in this regard?
I am just looking more specifically, Mr. Chair, at the amount of money that I see the visitor reception centre in Old Crow is receiving in this budget. It’s $60,000. I know the issue has been a long-standing one with my community. It took a long time to get the Yukon territorial government to be a partner at that table. In this case, the federal government was a more willing partner.
If the minister has any updated information in regard to the visitor reception centre — I know there are ongoing talks, and we’re hoping for a positive outcome and we’re always grateful when that happens. The community and the people are grateful for any projects that could move ahead in a good way. I would just like to, for the record, have an update from the minister about this project.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: When it comes to the visitor reception centre in Old Crow, the member opposite is aware that, as she had mentioned earlier, our Department of Tourism and Culture had contributed $60,000 in last year’s fiscal year to advance the exhibit plan component of this project. This money, coupled with the $30,000 that also come from the Department of Environment, resulted in $90,000 total funding toward the display, design, as well as for replication of items for display, provided there were some monies left over from both those areas of funding.
We also are very active participants on the exhibit steering committee to provide the input toward the exhibit’s content, in conjunction with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. We have been working with Vuntut Gwitchin and we will continue to lend what expertise we can to assist in this regard.
The visitor reception centre in Old Crow, as the member opposite is very much aware, is mandated pretty much by Parks Canada. They have the mandate to establish a visitor reception centre for the Vuntut National Park. So we in turn, as the Government of Yukon, have lent support in a supporting role in this development.
As I understand it, Parks Canada, in conjunction with Vuntut Gwitchin, continued to look at the planning of the actual facility. I could be wrong but, as I understand it, there has not been any confirmation or finalization of the plan so to speak. I think what I’m trying to say is that discussions are ongoing and that no concrete decisions have been made with respect to the future of the facility — how large the facility would be and exactly what it would entail.
I know that there has been some ongoing discussion about leasing arrangements with the Government of Yukon, and I know that there are ongoing discussions through the Department of Environment. But until such a time as perhaps the planning becomes a little more jelled, those discussions will remain ongoing.
Mrs. Peter: Moving on to the mandate that YTG has under chapter 13 in recovering artifacts, is there any process taking place on behalf of First Nations throughout the territory in trying to recover artifacts from across Canada?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We continue to work with a number of First Nation governments when it comes to the repatriation of artifacts, moving First Nation artifacts held in institutions within and outside of Yukon to the respective First Nation.
As I understand, there have been a number of discussions when it comes to chapter 13 in this specific regard, and I refer to strategic heritage plans. I believe that there are five First Nation governments that are actively engaged in discussions with the federal government and the Yukon government and their respective governments at the table in this regard. There are actually monies allocated for this particular initiative and throughout the department, when it comes to helping to develop those strategic heritage plans for individual First Nation traditional territories, as I said, in conjunction with First Nations in Canada.
That includes to update, develop and enhance a database of First Nation artifacts, as I mentioned earlier, held in institutions within and outside the Yukon and to assist First Nations in identifying repatriation opportunities. That also includes efforts to further research and follow-up of current work underway and the purchase of more images of artifacts held in institutions outside of the Yukon.
So those discussions are continuing to flow. As I mentioned earlier, some First Nations have been able to develop heritage strategic plans; others are just starting their efforts.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that information. When it comes to repatriation of artifacts on behalf of the First Nation people throughout the Yukon Territory, it is a very important part of our history that we are trying to get back to our community. I know for my community there are several artifacts in Ottawa and a couple of other places and there are ongoing talks of having those pieces come back to Old Crow, and we’re talking about our visitor reception centres and our heritage centres. Would those talks be similar to or part of the museum strategy?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, when it comes to the museum strategy, the museum strategy has been an ongoing initiative, not just with our government but with the previous government. There has been a lot of effort on behalf of many stakeholders, including the active participation of First Nation governments in the territory.
As I mentioned earlier, when we did solicit feedback about a year and a half ago, I seem to recall — perhaps two years ago — we did receive some suggestions and recommendations for change to incorporate within the museum strategy. In turn, some changes in wording were made to the strategy to clarify those particular concerns and to also capture the funding programs that we had introduced about a year ago with respect to providing ongoing support to the First Nation cultural heritage centres.
I believe the latest draft of the strategy was reviewed by the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, which is a mandated board under the Umbrella Final Agreement. They seem to be content with the wording change and they have reviewed the latest draft of the museum strategy. Without having the draft strategy in front of me at this time, I’m unable to elaborate on exactly what that wording is. As I mentioned earlier, it does recognize the distinct role that First Nations heritage and culture play in the territory in the past, today and in the future. That does recognize the repatriation.
Mrs. Peter: With that information, my concern would be that if we’re talking about repatriation of artifacts for our communities, building our heritage and cultural centres and being part of the museum strategy, I’m wondering — and I’m sure it has been brought up in the ongoing dialogue that’s happening between the governments — about the topic of conservation of these artifacts. Some may be in a very fragile state.
Do we have the kind of facility, or are we going to be able to care for these artifacts in the way we need to or the way we should?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Certainly, as we continue our partnership with First Nation governments in developing cultural centres, when it comes to protecting and conserving, as the member opposite relayed before, we very much work in partnership with the federal government, as well as ourselves and First Nations, on a number of different initiatives. That includes conservation and security, as the member opposite alluded to before. That responds, I guess you could say, to the critical needs of Yukon’s museums, First Nations, and collections. That includes caribou ice patch artifacts, storage requirements, fire and preventive conservation.
We work very closely with the federal government through the Canadian Conservation Institute on behalf of the department and those needs identified by the respective parties. Through this budget, we do provide monies to First Nation governments, as well as museums, to fund specialized projects on departmental-based criteria, including work on major industrial equipment such as trains and boats.
We also provide general program support, including some smaller contracts and the purchase of specialized equipment to monitor these particular initiatives. We also help within the budget envelope by providing monies toward the purchase of specialized acid-free boxes, packing materials and chemical supplies for the artifacts that we have as well within our own hands.
As I mentioned, through the support we have provided, through the new funding program for First Nation cultural centres, that money can also be put toward — I suppose you could say — additional efforts, including the repatriation of artifacts. Although, as I mentioned earlier, we are working with the federal government and the Government of Yukon in developing strategic heritage plans within the respective First Nation traditional territories. I believe there are about five plans currently underway. That does include the very important component of repatriation as well.
So, we do assist on a number of different fronts in this regard. I think the department does an excellent job in providing assistance in a supportive role, you could say. It is an ongoing area. It is an area of concern for each and every government. I think that, again, through initiatives such as ice patch research — each of these initiatives are very important in uncovering and helping us to understand all our histories and to be able to showcase some of that history to Yukon and to share it among Yukoners and visitors from outside the Yukon as well.
Mrs. Peter: When we talk about conserving our artifacts and our heritage and having this very specialized equipment and buildings to hold these artifacts that are so important to our history, we’re taking on a huge challenge, not only within this department, but also within the community, so that these artifacts are kept safe and under security.
I’m sure that if dialogue is taking place between governments, all these issues are being addressed. The minister mentioned that they have collected feedback and recommendations. I just wondered if the minister might be able to make that available to this side of the House.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I can certainly make that available upon the consent, I could say, of the respective First Nation that sent us the documentation or correspondence when it came to the museum strategy. I think there were five different pieces of correspondence and I’d be happy to provide that to members opposite, but I think we would be reluctant to do so without first contacting the respective First Nation.
Mrs. Peter: I look forward to hearing from the minister on that feedback and that information.
Moving on, I have a question for the minister in regard to heritage sites. I believe there is some money set aside for the Rampart House project in the Vuntut traditional territory. I would just like the minister to let me know the amount. I believe $53,000 has been allocated. Can she let us know what that amount would be used for?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, for the breakdown, we have $28,000 toward work for log work and carpentry, for the lifting, log replacement and floor replacement of the Cadzow House. We have also, of course, some other monies within the $53,000 that go toward travel, goods and materials. Of course, with the remaining monies, personnel support costs, and that is a position that we have within the department, as well. So that, I believe, is perhaps the breakdown. So as I mentioned before, the contract, specifically the $28,000, is toward management, interpretation and preservation of the jointly owned and managed Rampart House, the heritage sites, with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I believe that is all the information that I have.
Mrs. Peter: I just need to have that information on record, so I thank the minister for that. While we’re still talking about heritage and culture, there is ongoing dialogue taking place between the Yukon First Nations and the Archives. I know, within my own First Nation government, we have a very successful oral history project that is happening, and there is some excellent work being done in that area so that we do have all this information on file for future generations.
My question for the minister is: are those kinds of projects taking place throughout other communities, all communities? I know we’re getting more federal funding, and I’m not sure if the Yukon territorial government is contributing to that project. If they are, how much are they contributing?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I don’t have that information at my fingertips, but I would be very happy to get back to the member opposite. It may be that perhaps not specifically our Department of Tourism and Culture; it may be the Department of Education, but I will endeavour to get that information back to the member opposite.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate any information the minister can make available. Moving on to the importance of the cultural component of the tourism industry and with regard to wilderness tourism, there were a few key issues and concerns for the tourism industry. I brought one to the floor of this House last year in regard to the float plane, the outside load on the float plane operators. I would like to hear an update from the minister if there has been any progress made with that issue.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: This is one of several issues I have raised on behalf of the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, in addition to the Marine Liability Act, in addition to the river rafting proposed regulations by Ottawa and so forth. Unfortunately I really don’t have anything new to report. I did write the federal minister a letter back in November, and I would be happy to provide members opposite with a copy of that letter. It was all-inclusive and it did provide a portion when it came to carriage of external loads and the proposed aviation regulations that went along with it.
As far as I know, Ottawa still wants to proceed with their proposed change as of December this year. In the meantime, I know that representatives of the Northern Air Transport Association of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — working, of course, with Transport Canada — agreed to extend the regulatory exemption for an additional year, as the member opposite probably is aware. That regulation was supposed to take effect last December. Thanks to the good lobbying efforts on behalf of industry, in terms of wilderness tourism and aviation, we were able to extend that for another year. That was a very good thing because the immediate implementation of that regulation would have resulted in some pretty detrimental impacts on some of our existing operators not having the necessary certificates so that they could meet the regulatory requirements when in fact the exemption was due to expire.
The additional year gives Transport Canada the opportunity to gather documentation. We have urged them to provide us with documentation — that this is, in fact, the way to go. We have also urged them to provide us with ample opportunity for our industry — to provide enough time for our operators to get the necessary documentation in place, so that there would be a smooth versus a rough transition, which is what was being prepared last year.
We have heard nothing to date. As I had mentioned earlier, we were able to obtain the approval of the federal government to extend this regulatory exemption for an additional year, and we continue to work very closely alongside the Wilderness Tourism Association on this particular matter within our department, and we continue to monitor it. But we have heard no recent news — as of the last month.
Mrs. Peter: Still on the topic of wilderness tourism, can the minister tell us whether there has been a decrease or an increase in this industry within the last year?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I had asked this question of the president of the Wilderness Tourism Association within the last year. I cannot recall the exact numbers they provided to me, but they did relay to me that there has been a decrease in the numbers over the last several years, I think it has been. But who is in place — we have a lot of secure, very professional companies in place that have a proven track record and have been able to weather some of these storms that Ottawa seems to be doling our way.
I just refer to the marine liability legislation, the proposed regulations that go alongside that, which would see insurance for motorized craft double from $1 million to $2 million. The deletion of waivers, for example, is another dire concern on behalf of industry.
So we continue to work very closely with the Wilderness Tourism Association. I think we have a very good working rapport within our department and the association. I can say that I met with the federal minister when he was in town — I think it was Remembrance Day, if I’m not mistaken — and raised issues such as the Marine Liability Act, and where are we at with the proposed regulations, what are we doing about the proposed deletion of waivers, what are we doing about the restrictions that they are proposing that will have a detrimental impact on our industry if not taken care of, what are we doing with external loads, aviation regulations, and again, what are we doing with the special-purpose vessels regulations? With each of these matters, if not taken care of or if the concerns aren’t heard in a very genuine way, we will see some changes that will have some not-so-positive impacts on our industry. So at every opportunity, I do raise these concerns, either in writing or in person as I relayed earlier with the federal minister when he was up here in November. Again, through the good works of our Department of Tourism and Culture, they continue to monitor these situations and continue to collaborate with the existing Transport Canada officials as well, relaying our concerns and, again, pressing upon the need for more discussion, more consultation and the need to listen to the industry’s concerns.
Mrs. Peter: Wilderness tourism has a lot of potential in the territory. I’m not sure what the number of operators is throughout the Yukon; however, within our communities there needs to be more dialogue about wilderness tourism taking place. It’s a key economic driver. We see that throughout the various seasons in the territory: people come to the Yukon to see the beauty of our land and to experience the culture and to learn about the history of our peoples in the Yukon.
Is the Department of Tourism branching, or going out, into the communities with this type of information, whether it be through the Yukon College campuses or through the First Nation?
There are several memorandums of understanding that have been signed. I know there is a memorandum of understanding with the three northern communities. Are there discussions happening about tourism within our community?
There’s a fine line when we talk about tourism in our communities. There has to be very strict protocol. There are people who don’t like to have people invade their private space. There’s a lot that needs to be taken into consideration in this regard; however, I know in my community in the winter or early spring, if there’s any employment happening, there are creative ways that we can address some of these issues. I know I’ve been hearing from some of my constituents that this might be the way to go; however, we have to address it cautiously and be sensitive to how we go about it.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Our Department of Tourism and Culture takes great pride in being able to showcase services and programs that we have in place to offer Yukoners, whether it be a new proposed business or an existing business in place. As to how we can assist in promoting their businesses when it comes to training and working with industry to promote industry standards, something that we did start last fall was an annual consultation discussion with our respective communities, and that would include our First Nation government leaders, our municipal leaders, our regional tourism associations and chambers of commerce and so forth, with respect to the promotion of our programs that we have in place, our marketing strategies that have been developed in consultation with industry.
When it comes to product development, part of the $190,000, for example, went toward a new position within the department — a product development officer — with the remainder of that money to go toward workshops, training initiatives and, again, to promote packaging of various tourism initiatives, pricing that goes alongside packaging, and again the promotion of standards within industry, albeit that is primarily industry driven.
So, we do offer that to our communities. As I mentioned, it is now a standard practice within our department to tour our respective communities every year to discuss the new programs and the importance of tourism, training and standards and how we can be of assistance in learning to see how to effectively showcase our programs, but also to be able to share with Yukoners how effective or ineffective our programs have been. That’s indicated by our marketing strategies that we table every year to show the rate of return on investment and so forth.
Of course, as I mentioned, we meet with First Nation governments on an ongoing basis. Whenever I go to a community, I always extend the invitation to meet and make myself fairly available to leaders in the community — First Nation chiefs, councils, municipal leaders and so forth. For example, I know the department has met with economic development corporations of the three northern First Nations and discussed tourism opportunities in the area. In fact, that was done directly by the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture herself.
So, we are following up, and I think there are a lot of exciting initiatives that we can build on. I should also mention that it’s for our partners, whether it be the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon or the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon or the First Nations Tourism Association — we do have contribution agreements with each of these stakeholders or industry organizations.
For example, through wilderness tourism, they provide our marketing on the department’s behalf, you could say, when it comes to wilderness tourism. They do an outstanding job on Yukoners’ behalf.
In fact they are able to leverage additional funds from other sources, whether it be other governments or industry. They do a stellar job and we thank them for their assistance in that regard.
So, yes, we are meeting all the time with our partners and we are always striving to improve our programs and services. Through these respective partners, we work with them to promote the very importance of tourism as an economic generator in the territory and how we can promote standards within industry as well.
Mrs. Peter: I asked the minister if she had any discussions with the Yukon College in offering any kind of training or courses in regard to wilderness tourism in any of the communities in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Something that comes readily to mind is community training funds, which we increased — I believe we doubled our investment, if I’m not mistaken. For example, there are wilderness adventure programs. I can think of one that’s being offered in the community of Carcross right now in which Yukon College partnered with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation to develop this course similar to the course that has been provided to the community of Haines Junction for the last several years. As a result, there will be 12 individuals who will be active wilderness adventure guides at the end of the course. I believe the course wraps up in June or July.
So we’re very happy to work with communities and Yukon College, of course. These courses are being offered through the Yukon College, I should add. They’ve been very effective in Haines Junction, and we’re really pleased to see them expand to communities such as Carcross.
As the member opposite alluded to earlier, we did sign a memorandum of understanding through the Minister of Economic Development regarding the tremendous tourism potential in the Carcross-Southern Lakes region. As the members opposite are fully aware, when visitors come, they expect to see product on the ground, so we are working with industry and their respective governments in the area to develop that product.
For example, within the area of Carcross there have been a couple of Destination Carcross summits, which engage respective governments and industry to come together to talk about packaging products, what potential there is and what we can expand upon. Also the Department of Tourism and Culture works with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. The Carcross-Tagish First Nation developed their own code of conduct. That is one initiative they have worked on.
We are certainly open to ideas or suggestions for expanding initiatives. I think that Yukon College and these training trust funds in the communities have been a very effective tool in tailoring or initiating programs that are specific to the needs of the community.
As I mentioned, the one in Carcross is but one example of a course that will end up with 12 trained individuals at the end of the day who will be able to take advantage of this training and will be able to better promote the dynamic area of the Southern Lakes region.
Mrs. Peter: I just wondered if the minister could tell the House if the tourism plans that were prepared for a number of the communities have been updated recently. They were supposed to be updated on a regular basis.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I know that the department does an exceptional job working with our respective communities to enhance regional tourism planning in the area. I know that the department, for example, has identified that the Campbell, Teslin and Carcross-Southern Lakes regional plans require updating. So, as such, our department will continue to work with these communities, including First Nations, businesses and residents on prioritizing and completing these updates.
I do know, however, that tourism planning depends on the active involvement from communities on an ongoing basis — First Nations, businesses and residents. I know that in the past several years — for example, in some regions — it has been rather difficult to participate or proceed with tourism planning.
As a result of land use planning and completing land claims, for example, they leave limited local capacity to participate in tourism planning. So we have to keep those in mind. I know there has been a substantial amount of work done with the north Yukon tourism plan, for example. I also understand it’s almost complete, so we look forward to the completion of that and in working with the regional communities, as I mentioned earlier, on those plans that need updating.
Mrs. Peter: The plans the minister has been talking about, the dialogue that has been taking place between governments and key stakeholders throughout the Yukon, are very important. This department and industry is key in the Yukon — one of the key economic drivers. I know this department has been aggressively pursuing their marketing throughout Canada and worldwide; however, we need to also look within our own backyard.
We have so much to offer in the Yukon Territory, especially with the cultures of our different First Nations in the Yukon — what we have to offer and can teach people with our culture. Having said that, on the other hand, we have to go about it in a way that the local people are comfortable with.
There are protocols to follow. There are cultural aspects of our people that have to be respected. There are boundaries that you need to know about. There are some sacred sites within our communities or within our traditional territories that you have to be aware of. This industry being one of the key economic drivers in the Yukon, I am surprised that we haven’t advanced as far as we could, especially in the communities.
I guess what I am suggesting to the minister is that it sounds like it is already happening through the various talks that are taking place in addressing the museum strategy, and there are various other forums that these initiatives can be addressed through — the memoranda of understanding that have been signed with the various First Nations.
There are also a couple of First Nations that haven’t signed their land claims yet. That is an issue. There’s land use planning that’s taking place, and I believe there’s one taking place up in north Yukon. A lot of the issues of concern will come out in these reports, and it will be very beneficial for governments to really pay attention to some of the issues that come out of the final reports of the land use plans. We’re not only talking about conserving, I guess, our history; we’re talking about sharing our history with the people of the world. We’re talking about allowing people into our traditional territory in various stages, whether it be bear viewing or taking a boat tour up the Porcupine River or going for a skidoo trip to one of the parks that is in north Yukon. There are many initiatives that we can be looking at and making sure that a lot of the ideas that come out are being recorded.
I’m sure that other First Nations throughout the Yukon have many creative ideas for their community so they can have their people work during the lower seasonal months of our year, especially in the winter. I know that this department has been again aggressively pursuing the winter tourism season and, from what I read in the newspaper and some of the events that have been taking place, I’m sure it has been very successful. I’m sure we can do more. We have people coming to visit our territory from around the world at various times of the year. I know we see them in our community, and they’re always willing to learn. They usually stay for a few days, and we’re always able to make sure their stay is a pleasant one.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Mrs. Peter has moved that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.