††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, May 2, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Year of the Veteran
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Assembly I rise today in recognition of 2005 as the official Year of the Veteran and to pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much in the name of war.
War has touched the lives of Canadians of all ages, all races and all social classes. Fathers, sons, daughters, sweethearts were killed in action, were wounded, and many of those who returned were forever changed.
Those who stayed in Canada also served in factories, in voluntary service organizations, wherever they were needed. For many of us, war is a phenomenon viewed through the lens of a television camera or a journalistís account of battles fought in distant parts of the world. For those of us who were born during peacetime, all wars appear to be far removed from our daily activities. As Canadians, we often take for granted our current way of life, our freedom to participate in cultural and political events, and our right to live under a government of our choice. These men and women have faith in the future and, by their acts, gave us the will to preserve peace for all time.
Today I rise to acknowledge the courage and gallantry of those who served our country. As a token of the Yukon governmentís appreciation, we are launching a book of thanks to our veterans. The book is available for signing by all who wish to express their gratitude to our veterans and will be housed here in the foyer of the Yukon government administration building until the end of September.
For people in the communities, pages from the book will be available at public libraries for signing. In November during Veterans Week, I will formally present the book to our veterans.
In remembering all who served, we recognize the many who willingly endured the hardships and the fear so that we could live in peace. For those courageous and self-sacrificing individuals, we say thank you.
Now, Mr. Speaker, if we could turn our attention to the gallery and make welcome the men and women who have served this country and this territory so well ó welcome to you, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you.
Mr. Hardy: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the Year of the Veteran. Iíd like to say very clearly that it should not be a year of tribute; it should be a lifetime of remembering and thinking about those who have given so much and those who remind us daily of the sacrifices that were made and continue to be made.
Over the past 100 years, millions of Canadian men and women have served their country in the Armed Forces. It was for our freedom that these young Canadians fought, and it was for freedom that many of them died.
Over 100,000 gave their lives in wars and peacekeeping missions, Mr. Speaker. Now, considering how young so many of those who fought and died were, it is fitting that we give this tribute today. It is also the start of International Youth Week, and I think itís important that the youth are aware of the sacrifices that are made by Canadians over the last 100 years in the conflicts that have happened. Mr. Speaker, no community has been untouched in Canada or in the Yukon. Families lost brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers and friends. Mr. Speaker, there are veterans living today who give testimony to the sacrifice their comrades made, and itís up to all of us to take time and listen to them.
Mr. Speaker, veterans remind us of sacrifices paid for the lives that we live today, for the blessings that we have. I thank them, and I thank them on behalf of the official opposition for their contributions and for ensuring that we do not forget. I pray for the end of war and the future of peace.
Ms. Duncan: As the Premier has noted and the leader of the official opposition has noted, this is the year of remembrance and giving thanks to veterans. It is not only this year, 2005, for which we must thank and remember the service that has been given by our veterans. We thank them for attending today.
As the daughter and daughter-in-law of Canadian and British RAF vets, Iím reminded and I acknowledge the service and the sacrifice of our veterans, and I would especially like to thank them for joining us in the gallery today. Itís a pleasure to see you here and to be able to offer our thanks in person.
In recognition of Sexual Assault Prevention Month
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I rise today to pay tribute to Sexual Assault Prevention Month as an opportunity to raise public awareness and to reinforce the message that sexual assault is a crime and that violence against women in our communities will not be tolerated.
Mr. Speaker, in November of 2004, the United Nations issued a news release that stated that, globally, one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.† The numbers are staggering.
The release also goes on to state that partnerships across sectors and at all levels of society are critical to build political will and secure the resources necessary to match the magnitude of this challenge. In the Yukon we know this to be true and have seen the various successes of such collaborations. Community organizations, like the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, aboriginal womenís organizations, womenís shelters and many others work, in conjunction with government, day in and day out to educate and innovate.
This year in recognition of Sexual Assault Prevention Month, the Womenís Directorate is sponsoring Men Can Stop Rape, a well-respected non-profit organization, to come to the Yukon to deliver their men-of-strength campaign. Again itís an opportunity to enhance community awareness and to learn more about menís roles in the prevention of sexual violence.
During their stay, a two-day training session focusing on gender and violence will be held for front-line professionals as well as discussions with the inter-agency committee working on the long-term public education campaign on violence against women and children. Other events to be held include an evening lecture for parents, educators and members of the public, as well as an interactive workshop with youth.
So when is enough enough? In answer to this question, when everyone is safe from violence the job will be complete; when each of us feels protected and takes responsibility for the safety of those around us, the job will be done. As citizens, we must refuse to be silent about acts that harm so many of us. As a government we must continue our efforts to eradicate all forms of violence against women, including sexual assault.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the very important work that has been done to prevent violence against women in our communities, including womenís organizations in the Yukon, the Watson Lake Help and Hope womenís transition home, the Dawson City womenís shelter, Kausheeís womenís transition home, the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, the Womenís Directorate, family violence prevention unit, the RCMP and many others. Their hard work and continuing efforts contribute to our collective goal and that is to live in a Yukon that has broken the silence and cycle of violence.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to May as Sexual Assault Prevention Month.
In Canada, the legal definition of sexual assault is ďany form of sexual contact without voluntary consentĒ. The rate of sexual assault remains alarmingly high in the Yukon. It is consistently three or four times the national average. It is staggering to realize that it is estimated that only six percent of sexual assault incidents against women are reported.
Across Canada, a woman is sexually assaulted every six minutes. In 99 percent of reported cases, the offender was male. Efforts must be made to educate men on the seriousness of this violence. They must be made aware that it is never okay to force a woman. No means no, and it cannot be interpreted in any other way, even if the victim is hesitant. Assaulting a woman does not make a man more of a man; it makes him an abusive coward.
Prevention tactics can be learned, and women must educate themselves to be prepared to ward off a possible sexual assault at any time. An assertive approach can often thwart an assault.
Iíd also like to pay recognition to the men and women who work with men and women on this issue to help prevent violence and abuse against women.
Although sexual assault can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, there are too many cases where a much lighter sentence is given. Assaults involving weapons can mean up to life imprisonment. If prevention is the objective, then lenient sentencing has to be eliminated. It is time to acknowledge the reality of sexual assault. It has long-term physical and emotional consequences for the women involved, and it should have long-term consequences for the perpetrator as well.
In recognition of International Youth Week
Hon. Mr. Fentie: † On behalf of the Assembly, I rise today in recognition of International Youth Week. International Youth Week is an annual event celebrating all aspects of youth culture, diversity and achievement. From May 1 to 7 this year, young people all over the world will implement concrete action to improve their communities, their goal being to celebrate and inspire proactive youth involvement in those communities year-round.
Youth Week has existed since 1995, and hundreds of other nations, regions and municipalities have adopted its concept. It is a project of ideas, creativity and visions for a bright future. By motivating and inspiring young people, Youth Week generates and regenerates community talent and resources. Young people from varying walks of life, cultures and regions are partnering during this week-long, collaborative youth-for-youth initiative.
The Yukon government is very much aware of the needs and concerns of Yukon youth. Our youth directorate is helping deliver appropriate response to those needs and is actively participating in International Youth Week with youth organizations and participants throughout the territory. We recognize the resources that exist in our youth. We encourage their participation in social, economic, cultural and political arenas and see not only their potential in their participation but the need for it, as well. During International Youth Week, we urge all Yukoners to celebrate the contributions that young people make to our world and promote awareness of the challenges our young people face today.
Mrs. Peter: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to tribute International Youth Week, May 1 to 7.
Mr. Speaker, First Nations follow the principle of viewing our actions today in light of their impact on the future to the seventh generation. We are merely caretakers, preserving the Earth for the future.
This week we should reflect on the kind of world and society our youth will inherit. The millennium ecosystem assessment report was endorsed by nearly 1,400 scientists from 95 countries. It tells of a planet where two-thirds of its ecosystems have been degraded by human activity. What kind of world will we leave the seventh generation to inherit?
We have failed our youth, not only environmentally but socially and economically. The National Anti-Poverty Organization says that over 43 percent of youth live in poverty. Youth have the highest unemployment of any group and are overrepresented in low-paying jobs. Many youth face massive student debt as tuition rates continue to skyrocket.
Despite these disturbing trends, we see youth in the Yukon who are meeting the enormous challenges. Bringing Youth Toward Equality, the Whitehorse Youth Centre and the Youth of Today Society, Blue Feather Youth Centre, are all working to address the serious conditions youth face.
These organizations provide hot meals, a friendly place out of the elements, job training and tools for creative self-expression and discussion. Next week an international seminar will be held in Whitehorse to explore the complex issue of youth substance abuse and how to build healthy communities.
We applaud the many hard-working community-based youth groups in our territory that are doing so much to help their peers. The leader of the official opposition and I attended the youth kickoff week at the Elijah Smith Building today. It was heartening to see so many people of all ages in attendance.
Tonight, the Whitehorse Youth Centre is holding the grand opening for its new drop-in centre. So we encourage everyone to show support for our youth by attending the many events organized to commemorate Youth Week.
In recognition of International Workersí Day
Mr. Cardiff: I rise on behalf of the Legislature today to pay tribute to all workers in recognition of May Day, International Workersí Day, which was yesterday.
It is important for North Americans to remember the origins of the work benefits that we all expect today. On May 1, 1886, workers went on strike across North America to fight for a decent work environment. Workers, through the labour movement over the past century, have given us the right to an eight-hour working day, minimum-wage laws and safer workplaces. Social policies, such as old age pensions, veteransí benefits, unemployment insurance and medicare grew from this movement and have benefited everyone in society, not just unionized workers.
Weíre in sad times. Workers today are facing serious issues. Pensions and other benefits are being set aside in the interest of keeping companies in business. Layoffs, contracting out, privatization and public/private partnerships threaten to erode what were once secure working arrangements. Jobs themselves are disappearing from North America in the rush toward globalization.
Organizing unions to protect workersí rights in big businesses, like Wal-Mart, is a battle that has yet to be won. What weíre seeing is that part-time work without benefits is becoming the norm in a lot of those sectors. Those who do have jobs, especially in white-collar positions, are expected to work longer hours without pay, and holidays are looked on as a luxury. It is shocking to realize that keeping the hard-fought rights won by generations in the past is as much of a problem as obtaining them was in the first place.
Today, on May Day, we stand in solidarity with the men, women, youth and seniors, organized, not organized, who continue to struggle for the good of all of us.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am pleased to rise on the occasion of International Workersí Day to pay tribute to workers all around the world, and especially those workers employed in the Yukon.
It all began over a century ago when the American Federation of Labour adopted a historic resolution that asserted the eight-hour day shall be constituted as a legal day of labour from and after May 1, 1886. On that first May Day ó or as we know it, International Workersí Day ó hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States paraded for an eight-hour working day. The centre of the strike movement was in Chicago where 80,000 workers participated in a general strike and effectively shut down a city. May 1, 1886 was a huge success. About 200,000 workers went out on strike across the country and nearly that number won shorter hours just by threatening to strike.
These workers standing together were able to win an eight-hour working day, a right that many of us take for granted without realizing the very real and personal sacrifices of the individuals who chose to strike to secure it.
Through the years, workers have won many rights, including freedom of association and the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining and equal pay for work of equal value, just to name a few.
In the Yukon we have the Yukon Employment Standards Act. The act sets out the minimum provisions of the labour legislation between employers and employees in the Yukon. The Employment Standards Act provides certain protections for employees. It provides job security for women in the workforce who wish to take maternity leave. There is also job security in the event of parental leave for new mothers or fathers who wish to stay at home with their newborn children.
The act guarantees equal pay for work of equal value. This ensures that male and female employees doing the same job will be paid at the same rate. Further, there are provisions such as vacation pay, general holiday pay, sick leave, bereavement leave, compassionate care leave and paid overtime to name a few.
†Yukon workers and federal regulated occupations are protected by the Canada Labour Code. The code provides similar provisions for the employees compared to the Yukonís act. The Department of Community Services is responsible for enforcing the rights contained in the Yukon Employment Standards Act by investigating complaints made under the act.
Community Services also initiates improvements to the rights contained in the Yukon Employment Standards Act by monitoring the ever-changing workplace through all jurisdictions across the country. Most countries in the world have come a long way since those early days in Chicago. The standard working day is now considered to be eight hours in North America. At the national level, labour cooperation agreements now form part of the free trade agreements reached between Canada and other countries to ensure that workersí rights and minimum labour standards are protected. Labour legislation is constantly being reviewed and amended across the country to reflect employeesí needs in the ever-evolving workplace.
I encourage all Yukoners to join me in recognizing workers and respecting their rights ó past and present ó here and all around the world, as we celebrate this 119th anniversary of International Workersí Day.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Emergency Preparedness Week
Hon. Mr. Hart: I also have another tribute. It gives me great pleasure to rise on behalf of the House to recognize Emergency Preparedness Week and pay tribute to the many Yukon men and women who participate in our emergency response agencies.
Emergency Preparedness Week, or EP Week, falls on the first week of May each year; however, we are all aware that emergencies can happen any time of the year with little or no warning. The purpose of Emergency Preparedness Week is to highlight the need for all of us to consider and prepare for emergencies that would typically occur in our part of the world: floods, forest fires and earthquakes are typical natural disasters that may impact the Yukon.
Local emergencies also include prolonged power failures in the winter season, landslides, missing persons, boating accidents, avalanches and similar hazards that impact our communities and citizens.
Emergency preparedness begins at the home. A few hours spent making a family emergency plan is an investment in the familyís safety. It can make all the difference in helping family members to react to an emergency event in a safe and purposeful manner. Business owners are also encouraged to have an emergency plan to protect the safety of their staff and customers in the event of an emergency situation.
Our Emergency Measures Organization has free information materials on how to prepare an emergency plan for families and business owners. This information is also available from the Yukon governmentís Web site.
There is no replacement for good planning. The Yukonís emergency response agencies are continually seeking improvements to the way they do their jobs individually and, when required, in a multi-agency purpose.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the many Yukoners who contribute their time to a wide number of emergency agencies and organizations that work together during times of emergency. Some are regular members of their organization, such as ambulance services, the RCMP, our airport firefighters and other government agencies.
Apart from the regular staff positions within these agencies and departments, there are a large number of volunteers throughout the territory who also heed the call of the alarm bells when they ring. In every community there is a group of people playing a very valuable role in dealing with emergency situations. The volunteer firefighters, ambulance staff and the RCMP are visible members of the team in each community who work together to keep their community safe.
There are also many others behind the scene who develop response plans, coordinate responses among the many agencies and departments and who design and conduct a wide variety of training exercises.
An equally important role is fulfilled by the people who provide the administrative support to coordinate these agencies as they perform their roles when emergencies strike. While they are not often in the spotlight or the topics of the media coverage, they are a vital and necessary part of emergency response, and they deserve our recognition.
I encourage all Yukoners during Emergency Preparedness Week to seek out these people in their communities and say thank you. ďThanks for watching out for our safety. Thanks for being there when we need you. Thanks for keeping our communities safe.Ē
On behalf of my Cabinet colleagues and all Yukoners, I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all the people who plan for the worst and work to prevent the worst from happening. And, of course, our thanks to the community-conscious people who respond to the call for help when it is made.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I have for tabling today the final report, prepared by the Yukon Department of Economic Development from Charles River Associates Incorporated, entitled Proposed Alaska-Canada Rail Link: Review of Potential Benefits.
I also have for tabling the executive summary of the Proposed Alaska-Canada Rail Link: Review of Potential Benefits.
Iíd also like to point out to members of the House and the media that this is now published on our Web site. My apologies to the House for a slightly chewed copy, but Queenís Printer is having a little bit of trouble, and I knew that the members opposite were in a great hurry to review this good news.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the spirit of cooperation, I have for tabling the documentation with respect to the governmentís decision to provide small business with tax incentives. All this documentation is also available on the Internet.
Mr. Cardiff: I have for tabling a Government of Yukon/Government of Canada press release, dated October 3, 2002. For the information of the House, itís about the Canada/Yukon affordable housing agreement. It provides information for members of the House and the public and will remind the minister of what the affordable housing program is all about.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate, Iím pleased to table the Yukon Family Violence Resource Directory 2005.
Speaker: Are there any further 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 give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue spending its $20-million share of the initial three-year Health Accord funding that resulted from the premiers of the three territories cooperatively pressuring the federal government into recognizing that per capita based funding does not address the needs of our large, sparsely populated jurisdictions on addressing the health care needs of Yukoners through programs and services such as
(1) pharmacare and chronic disease programs, including programming specific to seniors and children;
(2) specialized medical services, including internal medicine, cardiac testing, replacement knee surgery, increased orthopaedic visits and increased visits by ear, nose and throat specialists;
(3) funding for the Child Development Centre to assist with assessment and support for children with developmental delays and to assist with the five-step FASD program;
(4) support for families and children with autism;
(5) providing money for additional family support workers;
(6) meeting increased costs for out-of-territory hospital and physician services;
(7) funding recruitment and retention initiatives for family physicians to improve Yukonersí access to a family doctor; and
(8) enhancing home care services to assist seniors in remaining in their own homes longer while still receiving needed assistance.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should follow the example of the Manitoba government and work on legislation that would require greater disclosure and increased protection for seniors and other consumers who are considering the purchase of a condominium or who are entering into a life-lease arrangement.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should follow the example of the Manitoba government and bring forward legislation to ensure that seniors and other consumers receive detailed information about reverse mortgages so they can make informed decisions before committing themselves to these financial arrangements.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Kaska Nation bilateral agreement
† Mr. Hardy: The Premier has been silent on what happens next week when his two-year bilateral deal with the Kaska Tribal Council expires. This morning we heard through the councilís chair that some sort of negotiation or renegotiation is going on. In the interest of transparency, will the Premier tell us whatís on the table, is he looking for an extension of the existing agreement, or could a whole new deal be in the works?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, all of the above. But the important point is the fact that the Kaska Nation has now sent a clear signal to Canada of their willingness to negotiate and conclude an abeyance agreement, which certainly is a major step toward getting back to concluding the land claim with Canada. So we will be very focused on what transpires around the abeyance agreement. We have established a number of initiatives in the southeast Yukon and Kaska traditional territory that will be ongoing, and we will make our determination as we go forward. There is certainly not any anxiety around this issue. The bilateral has worked very well as an interim measures agreement, but now the status of the land claim becomes the precursor to where we go from here.
Mr. Hardy: Well, thatís interesting, Mr. Speaker, because we have learned through the Kaska chair that there is some kind of final forestry agreement on the Premierís desk waiting for Cabinet approval. Apparently there is also a resource management agreement ó the sort of thing we normally see in a land claims and self-government agreement.
So Iím going to put it more directly to the Premier to find out what exactly he really is up to. Why does the Premier persist in making these deals without even telling Yukoners what aspects of the Yukonís future governance are up for discussion?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, if the leader of the official opposition really wanted to, he could pick up the bilateral agreement and find the issue of resource planning agreements that are in the bilateral.
When it comes to the final forestry agreement, we have to go back to the former Liberal government here in the territory, which, along with Canada, entered into a memorandum of understanding on forestry, which dictates that there be an economic measures agreement with the Kaska Nation with respect to forestry. So weíre merely following through with past governmentsí commitments and our own commitments, and we have been quite successful.
Mining is back in the southeast Yukon. There is an interim wood supply of some 300,000 cubic metres. We just finished drilling a $30-million well in the Kotaneelee on Kaska traditional territory. All indicators are weíre going to double our production in terms of natural gas flowing to the marketplace. Yes, we have reached a very positive agreement with the Kaska and with all land claims ó very positive for Yukonís future.
Question re: Grey Mountain Housing Society
Mr. Cardiff: On Friday, in a radio interview called ďBreakfast with the PremierĒ, the Premier said his government had committed to Grey Mountain Housing Society on a manufacturing initiative. In Fridayís newspaper, the societyís manager said the federal government had made a financial commitment, but the Yukon government hadnít. Both those statements canít be true.
Will the Premier spell out exactly what the nature of his commitment was to the Grey Mountain Housing Society?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Letís clear up the matter on the federal governmentís commitment ó a commitment based on 16 conditions, which must all be met before the federal government puts 10 cents into anything. Thatís very important in this matter.
The Yukon government, in recognizing the importance of a manufacturing initiative in this territory that could be linked to the northern economic development monies that DIAND is now sitting on ó some $30 million for Yukon ó and that could be linked to the commitment, by former Minister Nault, of First Nation equity funding for this territory for economic initiatives. Most importantly, it is linked to the federal commitment of adequate housing for all aboriginal Canadians by 2008. Our approach is to get that manufacturing initiative up and running, have First Nations building houses for First Nations here in the Yukon.
Thatís our offer; thatís our commitment; and itís a good one.
Mr. Cardiff: The Premier is not taking responsibility for the commitment he made. Heís trying to blame the federal government.
The Premier has been so busy making deals with the Kaska and the Governor of Alaska, maybe he hasnít checked his in-basket lately. The Grey Mountain Housing Society manufacturing proposal was to build pre-fabricated, affordable housing for First Nations clientele. It would provide skills training; it would create jobs, and it would help address the need for truly affordable housing, which the government isnít addressing at this time.
Why did the government allow this not-for-profit project to languish and go on to subsidize two proposals for middle-class baby-boomers from private sector developers?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Nobody is blaming anybody; weíre merely stating the facts. The federal governmentís commitment in the face of all the evidence ó some $30 million in economic development money, millions more in First Nations equity ó has made, based on 16 conditions, a mere pittance offer to the Grey Mountain Housing Society of some $400,000.
Our purpose is to actually create a manufacturing sector. Thatís why our offer is solid. Itís an offer to support access to the northern economic development money, an offer to support access to First Nation equity funding, an offer to support the federal commitment being visualized here in the Yukon and being addressed in terms of adequate housing for aboriginal Canadians. Weíve also offered training and capacity investment in this regard. What weíre doing is trying to turn this initiative, this concept, into a reality. Thatís our offer and we will certainly follow through with that commitment.
As far as affordable housing, thereís much affordable housing in the Yukon, and we intend to build more, not only with First Nations but with seniors and others in this territory, to add to our already hundreds of social houses in inventory and our already new concepts like the contracts that are going on today.
Mr. Cardiff: Part of Grey Mountainís manufacturing proposal was aimed at bidding on some of the modular units for the athletes village at the 2007 Canada Winter Games village. A few weeks ago, the Premier unilaterally signed a $20-million deal with the gamesí organizers when the original plans for the athletes village went way overbudget. The Yukon government is now in charge of that project and we understand that a contract will be issued any day now. Is there still the possibility of Grey Mountain Housing getting a piece of the action on that project, or has the Premierís delay in making that commitment closed the door on that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What we entered into with the City of Whitehorse was a fiscal arrangement that sees the City of Whitehorse contributing over $8 million to the athletes village, the host society ó some $2.7 million to the athletes village. With respect to the athletes village itself, there are some very restrictive timelines to ensure that this facility is built and ready for the games in 2007.
This is not a situation where we can waste any time on our decisions. This is a critical point, in terms of the Canada Winter Games themselves. We now know that it is going to be very, very difficult to build and complete the village without accessing major manufacturing components, such as modular, that have to be brought in. There is no other way to meet the timelines.
But there are many other initiatives out there for groups like Grey Mountain and others ó over $200 million in capital this year, and thatís a good thing for this territory. What we need to do is create partnerships that arenít based solely on how much funding the Yukon government can provide, but are based on reciprocal contribution. Thatís what this government stands for and will continue to stand for.
Question re: Kaska Nation bilateral agreement
†Ms. Duncan: My questions today are for the Premier with respect to the Kaska bilateral agreement. The agreement acknowledges that Yukon is not solely responsible for achieving a fair and equitable transboundary agreement. The Government of Canada has the primary responsibility. The bilateral agreement also says that the conclusion of a settlement shall be of the highest priority and that Yukon and Kaska shall make best efforts to re-engage Canada. Canada is very crystal clear: litigate or negotiate, but they donít do both.
Now, the Kaska have several court cases naming Canada, which prevent them from re-engaging, yet the Kaska and Yukon said they would make best efforts to re-engage Canada. The agreement is about to expire, and itís time to evaluate.
Would the Premier tell the Yukon public exactly what best efforts have been made by Yukon to persuade the Kaska to put these court cases in abeyance? What best efforts did the Premier put on the table?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís a good opportunity for us to point out that under that memberís watch, the federal government left the territory in terms of any committed mandate to conclude land claims.
This government, in recognizing the problem, has addressed the challenges that the Yukon faces in many of these areas.
One of the ways was the bilateral agreement, as an interim measures agreement. It is very important to recognize that not only did we advance development and other initiatives in the southeast Yukon in the Kaska traditional territory, but there also was a solid commitment on concluding the claims themselves. To that end, the Kaska Nation has made offer to Canada to conclude an abeyance agreement and move on with the claims process.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, speaking of litigation, one of the key reasons cited by the Premier for entering into this bilateral outside-of-the-land-claims-box agreement was to put the court challenge to devolution in abeyance. The abeyance agreement with respect to devolution was not necessary, and the Premier had a legal opinion when he took office to support that assertion.
The Premier made the agreement anyway, and the R15 block was one of the costs. The price paid by Yukoners for this gamble and out-of-the-box deal is still being tallied. The parties, Yukon and Kaska, did agree it was not their intention to duplicate provisions of the agreement in any future agreement. Now, devolution has been in effect for two years now. Is the Premier intending to continue to ask the Kaska to keep their challenge in abeyance, or does he now accept that devolution was negotiated in good faith and concerns of First Nations were fully addressed by Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think itís important that we recognize that there were a tremendous number of flaws in the devolution agreement as negotiated by the member opposite, and fire suppression comes to mind, the federal government committing to their environmental liabilities comes to mind, as well as the fact that not all First Nations in the Yukon supported devolution. What this government has done is manage to proceed with the devolution initiative so that it came into force and effect as the timelines were laid out for April 2003. Much has transpired, as we are now masters in our own house, Mr. Speaker.
Letís look at whatís going on: one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Instead of an exodus of the population, under the member oppositeís watch, our population is increasing ó more jobs for Yukoners, more mining exploration, more industry coming to the Yukon, whether it be cultural, the technological industries, oil and gas, arts, film, music, sound. Itís all there because of things like the bilateral. We are now at the stage where an abeyance offer has been made by the Kaska Nation. This government supports the offer of abeyance.
Ms. Duncan: One of the key elements of devolution and other agreements, such as the Umbrella Final Agreement, is the sharing of resource revenues. Itís clearly spelled out in both those agreements.
The 1997 sharing of the Kotaneelee trust fund was set out among the 14 Yukon First Nations, pursuant to the Umbrella Final Agreement. The monies were to be held in trust to be paid out upon the signing of a land claim settlement.
The last time the Premier was part of the NDP government, as noted by the Auditor General, the Government of Yukon paid out $691,000 without a signed agreement in place. Money was paid out to Ross River and Liard. In the bilateral agreement, the Premier committed to discussing the access by the Kaska ó not one of the Yukon First Nations, but the Kaska, the B.C. umbrella organization ó for these trust funds.
My question for the Premier: were any funds paid out of the Kotaneelee trust to Kaska or were further funds paid out to Liard or Ross River from these trust funds?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Under this governmentís watch, not one thin dime of the Kotaneelee fund, as itís known, has been paid to any Kaska First Nation. Whatís important, though, is we have to recognize that the Kaska First Nation has allowed further development in their traditional territory in the absence of a claim, where all other First Nations that have final agreements are seeing increasing revenues because of that commitment by the Kaska Nation.
What weíve done is very positive for this territory. We are working in partnership with First Nations to build a future. The bilateral agreement and what has transpired in the southeast are a shining example of that partnership commitment.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline
Mr. McRobb: Last week, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline suffered another setback when Imperial Oil put the brakes on that $7-billion project. In sharp contrast to that wakeup call, our neighbour to the west, Alaska, suggested the $20-billion Alaska Highway pipeline may be far closer to reality than most people realize.
Meanwhile, back in the Yukon, our government seems content to just sit this one out.† What is it doing to take advantage of this time of opportunity for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This government has taken advantage of the situation since coming into office. That is why we created the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. Thatís why the minister responsible is in Ottawa as we speak, working with the federal government on this initiative ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Iím having trouble hearing the Hon. Premier addressing the House, so if youíd just cut the extraneous chatter, I would appreciate it. Hon. Premier, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you for that intervention, Mr. Speaker. So the government is advancing both initiatives. We are a government that believes both pipelines should and will be built. The producers set the timelines, not government. Thatís the difference between this side of the House and the members opposite: we understand that.
Furthermore, Imperial Oil has stated clearly ó if the Member for Kluane had gone through the announcement ó that they are now going to focus their efforts on the regulatory timelines and the regulatory processes. We on this side of the House see that as a good thing. They also stated that this will not affect the timelines and both projects will go ahead. Those are the facts.
Mr. McRobb: I read Imperial Oilís press release two or three times this morning, and the Premier has a different version.
Imperial Oil said it wonít resume activities until governments take ownership of matters that are beyond the scope and responsibility of the project owners so they can focus on their responsibilities. Imperialís statement came on the heels of comments from former N.W.T. Premier Stephen Kakfwi who demanded more concessions from the projectís proponent for housing and other needs. The Yukon government needs to step up to the plate and resolve these same issues before our regulatory process even starts. What is the Yukon Party government doing to advance this discussion with all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, letís go to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. The government has taken action. We have intervened in the process to ensure that Yukon resources in the north can access the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Weíve also entered into an agreement with the Northwest Territories, so that there are reciprocal benefits from either pipeline for the citizens of the N.W.T. and the Yukon.
As I stated earlier, it is this government that has established the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to do the work. Furthermore, the member must recognize that we have a thing called the Northern Pipeline Act, which clearly lays out, by agreement and legislation, what will happen in the Yukon. Furthermore, through 30 years of land claim negotiations, the established corridor under the Northern Pipeline Act was protected as a third party interest.
The member should have those facts first, before asking questions.
Mr. McRobb: I submit that the Premierís response is totally inadequate. Imperial Oil wants to rush its hearings. We can expect the same here from any proponent. Somebody needs to work out the concerns of Yukoners on what will be the largest private sector construction project in the history of the world.
Weíve seen what might happen if those concerns are put off to the hearings, as desired by our Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. An NDP government would commission meaningful public consultation on these matters via the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. What will this government do to open up the process? Or can we expect another secret unilateral deal?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iíll ignore the last comment by the member opposite. It bears no response.
We all know that the NDP would make every effort to impede a project like this ó not this government. We want regulatory certainty. We want a project like the Alaska Highway pipeline built, because it will contribute positively to Yukonís future. Thatís what itís all about.
The NDP are the champions for the environment. How could they not recognize that transporting trillions of feet of natural gas, a cleaner burning energy, to the south, reducing coal-fired generation and other harmful burning of fuels ó how could they not support something that has that kind of positive impact on the environment? The NDP are confused on this matter; not this government. We are going ahead to build it.
Question re: Dawson City bridge, costs
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. Despite continuing evidence to the contrary, the Yukon Party government has been very firm in holding to the line that public/private partnerships are only in the pilot stage. Why does the governmentís new electronic contract form now list partnership as a contract method?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are following through with the process of P3s for the bridge in Dawson City, as we indicated earlier, and weíre dealing with that particular situation. Weíre also looking at working with the Department of Economic Development on guidelines for P3s.
Mr. Fairclough: The Yukon Party platform promises to build a bridge at Dawson when it is economically feasible, and weíve all heard those words before. The government continually refuses to tell the Yukon people what it considers feasible. Is it $20 million? Is it $35 million? Is it $50 million?
Will the minister give us the answer that he refused to provide last week and tell us what price tag would be too large?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I wasnít in attendance last week but, in essence, we are in the process of going through the P3 request for proposals for the bridge at Dawson. When we get that information back, weíll be able to provide the member opposite with what we think will be an equitable situation for that bridge.
Mr. Fairclough: Letís pass this last question over to the Premier then. The Premier said that on May 12, when the bids are opened, the Yukon people will be given all the details necessary to evaluate the project. Now the Premier seems to be backtracking.
Will the Premier keep his promise to release to the Yukon people all the bridge information, including all economic analyses done, the price comparators used and the associated costs, such as Partnerships B.C.ís contract?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When the closing date of the RFP takes place and after we review that information, we will provide the information for both opposition parties.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad, feasibility study costs
Mr. Hardy: A week or so ago, the Premier announced his unilateral decision to contribute about $3 million toward a feasibility study on a maybe railroad from Alaska to southern Canada. The Minister of Economic Development admits there is nothing in this budget for that. The Premier hasnít tabled a supplementary budget to cover it, and the deadline is past for new bills to be introduced. Is the Premier planning to give himself spending authority for the $3-million surprise item by way of a special warrant after the sitting ends?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the government will follow the Financial Administration Act ó all policy, procedures and regulation that we must. Yes, we have made a commitment to do a feasibility study on an Alaska-Yukon rail link, in partnership with Alaska and in partnership with First Nations who will be sitting on the advisory committee itself, helping us deal with the feasibility study. They will be the architects of the study, as we are.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this is an investment in the future of the Yukon. Itís a wise investment, and we intend to carry through with it. There is no problem in terms of the finances of this study at all. I think we all understand that, and when the time comes we will follow all the procedures that we must.
Mr. Hardy: Well, therefore I have to assume itís going to be another huge special warrant.
Now, there is a big difference between what the Premier is doing and what his friend Governor Murkowski is doing. The Premier is putting up territorial money, but the governor is using federal money allocated for railway corridor work. The Premier said he is confident the Canadian government will come through, but he has provided no grounds for that confidence. Apart from some vague verbal support that may or may not translate into cash, does the Premier have anything in writing from the federal government to suggest Yukon taxpayers wonít be on the hook for this latest unilateral deal?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What we have is our MPís commitment in the last election. I call that an absolute commitment by the federal government. They are in the process and their job is to now deliver, in partnership with Washington. Alaska and Yukon are doing their work. We are partnering, we are investing and we expect the federal government to live up to their commitments. With them or without them, we will conduct and conclude the feasibility study on behalf of Yukoners. Itís about the future. The difference here is that we can see the future; the members opposite are continuing to look backward.
Mr. Hardy: Yes, I agree. They see some form of future. Unfortunately the rest of the Yukon people do not get a chance to get a look at it before he spends all the taxpayersí money. Now, as the Premier well knows, the situation in Ottawa is extremely volatile. Next month he may have to start all over again and try to get a deal with Mr. Harper or Mr. Layton. People are worried that the Premier has ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, please address that.
Speaker: Order please. Done.
Mr. Hardy: People are worried that the Premier has once more stuck the Yukonís neck out to try to play in the big leagues with Governor Murkowski. Just this morning, an expert on rail transportation in Canada said that he canít see a railway to Alaska ever being financially viable, but our Premier has gone so far as to tell the Empire Club in Toronto that this is just the first step toward a rail link to Siberia and even China. Why did the Premier unilaterally abandon the more prudent position of two previous Yukon governments that the federal government should be the one paying for the Canadian share of a railway feasibility study? Why did he abandon that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again the member opposite seems to be referring to an article this morning. There are a number of different voices on this, but the Charles River report that I tabled today makes it very clear that there is enough evidence already that supports proceeding with a feasibility study. The purpose of the study is to answer the types of questions that the member opposite raises. It would be premature to discuss the entire notion simply because one professor happens to think itís a bad idea.
Weíre going to do due diligence required on this and assess the social, economic and preliminary environmental feasibility of the project. In meetings even as late as a couple of days ago, our Member of Parliament gave a guarantee on camera that money that has been committed by the current federal government is as good as in the bank ó it will be honoured. That commitment was made publicly in Whitehorse, once again by our Member of Parliament. We have to make the assumption that heís telling the truth, Mr. Speaker.
Iím not following what the member opposite is chattering about over there, so Iíll leave that for another question.
Question re: Whistle-blower legislation
Mr. Fairclough: Iíve asked this question many times in this House before without any commitment from the government side, so Iíll try again.
The Yukon Party government is investing $1,382,000 in the so-called public service initiative. Itís damage control, Mr. Speaker, after an intense investigation of its own employees and the use of government computers. The IPS ó investing in public service ó programs are promised to be up and running by March of 2006.
When will we see whistle-blower legislation come before this Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As I have repeated on the floor of this Legislature on many occasions, our government is committed to introducing whistle-blower legislation, as was succinctly outlined within our election platform in 2002.
However, our government would like to find a non-partisan approach toward developing and implementing whistle-blower legislation. We think that is a very useful mechanism.
As such, we have committed to proposing a select committee, a process to examine all options, and weíre awaiting feedback from the third party as to whether we have consensus toward moving forward in this manner. We havenít received any feedback from the third party; we have received some feedback from the official opposition.
In the meantime, weíre prepared to move forward and continue to look at other approaches taken in other parts of Canada toward this type of legislation.
Mr. Fairclough: Thereís no real commitment there again. Mr. Speaker, nowhere in this departmentís budget under program objectives is there any initiative to develop whistle-blower legislation. This government punishes employees who speak out. $1.14 million for IPS is budgeted in the 2005-06 budget. The minister wants to spend $1.382 million on IPS. The difference is $242,000. Is there a sole-source contract for the remaining $242,000 to get someone to draft a whistle-blower bill?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As I stated just earlier today, and I will repeat for the members opposite, our government is committed to developing and implementing whistle-blower legislation. We have proposed a select committee, a non-partisan approach toward developing and implementing whistle-blower legislation. As I mentioned, we have yet to hear back from the entire opposition, so without collaboration on the part of all members of the opposition, we will wait.
In the meantime, we will continue to work toward developing whistle-blower legislation. I should mention that there are a number of different mechanisms that have been introduced across the country. For example, whistle-blower protection has been introduced in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Whereas Nova Scotia takes the form of regulations for the Public Service Act, Saskatchewan takes an amendment to the Labour Standards Act and applies it to all employees, not just government employees, in their whistle-blower legislation.
So clearly there are a number of different mechanisms for introducing and implementing legislation, and weíre willing to look at all of them, including the member oppositeís draft bill and other pieces of legislation out in the country. Again, we are waiting for the members opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Two and a half years have gone by, and it sounds like the Yukon Party is still stalling on this matter. We believe that the Yukon Party is desperate to improve its relationship with the employees at the tail-end of their term. They donít want any employees saying anything that will make the party look bad.
Whistle-blower legislation was a clear campaign commitment in the last election, as the minister said. Will there be whistle-blower legislation before the next election, or is this just another broken promise?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Again for the record, we are committed to move forward on this important piece of legislation; however, we have yet to hear a word from all the members opposite. Until that time, we will continue to work with our employees. The well-being, safety and health of our employees are of the utmost importance to me, as the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, and to this government.
To this end, we have established the workplace diversity employment office. In fact, in this budget, we have allocated an additional $200,000 to the First Nation Training Corps and an additional $200,000 for a new training work experience program for people with disabilities.
We have established a new initiative, as the member opposite has alluded to, investing in the public service, worth over $1.3 million ó something that the members opposite never did when they were in office.
When it comes to succession planning ó steps to investing in safe and healthy workplaces, recognizing public service excellence and communicating with our employees so that they are aware of all the new programs and policies we have in place to invest in our employees.
Again, we have implemented a three-year collective agreement with our teachers and a four-year collective agreement with our Yukon government employees. We are moving, and we are working with our employees.
Again, we are willing to work with the members opposite in establishing whistle-blower legislation; unfortunately, the members opposite arenít.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now expired.
Bill No. 55: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 55, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I move that Bill No. 55, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 55, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today to speak to the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, that corrects a number of minor errors in various statutes. The first amendment is to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This amendment restores a provision that was accidentally removed when the revised statutes of Yukon 2002 were prepared.
The second amendment is to the Hotels and Tourist Establishments Act. This second amendment corrects an inconsistency between section 2 of the act and section 13. Section 2 says that inspectors and other officers are appointed by the minister. The purpose of section 13 is to have the register open for inspection by officers appointed under section 2, as well as by members of the RCMP.
The third and fourth amendments deal with the Mental Health Act. These amendments are needed because a section that was in the old Yukon act to deal with the transfers of mental health patients outside Yukon was not kept in the new Yukon act. There is no change in the policy objective of the law.
The fifth and final amendment is to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This amendment corrects a reference by one section to another. The error occurred when the revised statutes of Yukon 2002 renumbered the sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
As Iím sure this House realizes, acts like this one are occasionally necessary in order to correct certain problems that were overlooked at the time of drafting.
I would like the support of this House to make these corrections.
Mr. Hardy: † I understand what the minister is referencing when he says these types of amendments need to come forward occasionally in order to address errors that are in the existing acts. This is a miscellaneous statute law amendment act. We donít have any problems with it; however, it would be remiss on my part not to indicate that I am disappointed in the access to information and protection of privacy section. There have been a lot of discussions in this House over the last couple of years about some of the shortcomings and the need for that act to be updated.
Unfortunately, this government has not recognized the need, has not listened to the publicís concerns around this and definitely hasnít listened to the opposition on this side when they brought forward concerns.
As a matter of fact, itís so bad, Mr. Speaker, that the Privacy Commissioner has described this government as having a culture of secrecy. A lot of that could be dealt with if this government would address some of the shortcomings in that section.
One of the big problems weíre hearing from the public, as well as the media, and one that weíre also experiencing is the cost thatís being applied to any kind of access to information request we make, as well as the almost blatant refusal in some areas or tremendous delays weíre witnessing when we request this information.
The public has been coming to us about this, and theyíre also very concerned as well. All it does is reinforce the words of the Privacy Commissioner regarding the culture of secrecy that this government seems to work under.
When you have these excessive costs, refusals or delays, all those are designed to limit or deny access, and thatís not the way any government should operate. The default rule should be ďdisclosure firstĒ unless there are legitimate reasons to deny disclosure as defined within the act.
But the government has to change its culture, has to change its approach and has to bring in changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act before we are comfortable at all with this governmentís behaviour. So, Mr. Speaker, we have no problem with the miscellaneous statute law amendments that have been brought forward by the minister. However, weíre very disappointed that they havenít moved forward on legislation or on changes that are needed.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, like the interim supply bill, is a routine matter before the Legislature. I appreciate that the minister should be able to look forward to its speedy passage. I have given the bill scrutiny and appreciate the fact that the minister has brought forward in his introductory remarks an explanation on each of the amendments. So with that explanation, I am prepared to support the miscellaneous statute amendments bill.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In response to some of the comments made by the members opposite, there is no secrecy whatsoever within this government, Mr. Speaker. Three very good examples of that, Mr. Speaker, are: the consultation on reform on corrections, which totally involves the public, something that wasnít done previously; Education Act review, which is, again, another process thatís open to the public; the Childrenís Act review ó totally information gathering from the public. So there is nothing secret around this government, Mr. Speaker.
I would advise the members opposite to take a look at those three and then make a decision on that.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
†Speaker: Division has been called.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
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: The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 55, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 55, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005.
Bill No. 55 ó Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I stated previously what this is about, and I can read it into the record again.
I rise today to speak to the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, which corrects a number of minor errors in various statutes.
The first amendment is to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This amendment restores a provision that was accidentally removed when the Revised Statutes of Yukon 2002 were prepared.
The second amendment is to the Hotels and Tourist Establishments Act. This second amendment corrects an inconsistency between section 2 of the act and section 13. Section 2 says that inspectors and other officers are appointed by the minister. The purpose of section 13 is to have the register open for inspection by officers appointed under section 2, as well as by members of the RCMP.
The third and fourth amendments deal with the Mental Health Act. These amendments are needed because a section that was in the old Yukon act to deal with the transfer of mental health patients outside Yukon was not kept in the new Yukon act. There is no change in the policy objective of the law.
The fifth and final amendment is to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This amendment corrects a reference by one section to another. The error occurred when the Revised Statutes of Yukon 2002 renumbered the sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. As I am sure this House realizes, acts like this one are occasionally necessary in order to correct certain problems that were overlooked at the time of drafting, and I would like the support of this House to make these corrections.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have no difficulty with the explanation offered by the minister.
I do have a question in general debate on the section 2 of the act as amended ó changes ďby the ministerĒ to ďby the Commissioner in Executive CouncilĒ, which I would take to mean, as opposed to the minister, itís Cabinet making regulations. This is just housekeeping. There is no change in policy. Occasionally the minister can sign things off under legislation alone, such as the Minister of Education can sign off the school calendars. Thatís a ministerial requirement. This is changing in the Hotels and Tourist Establishments Act from minister to Commissioner and Executive Council, so the minister to the whole Cabinet. Is this a change in policy, or why is this change necessary? I donít believe the minister mentioned it in his explanation.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is no change in policy. This is merely to now use the minister instead of the Commissioner in Executive Council.
Chair: †Is there any further general debate?
Weíll then proceed with line-by-line examination.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I move that Bill No. 55 be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza that Bill No. 55, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will continue on with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Justice ó continued
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe when we left off, our discussion had to do with the different initiatives that are happening in Justice today. Iíll just continue with some of the discussions that were taking place.
This year, there is $210,000 in the budget to support applications in Supreme Court for the permanent custody of children. Applications can be made to vary support orders in Supreme Court and representation in certain proceedings under the Family Violence Prevention Act. Individuals can access these services through three law offices that service legal aid clients, including the new Neighbourhood Law Centre announced last year.
I have touched on a number of the highlights of the Justice expenditures by giving examples of what we are doing to improve our justice system, but any justice system requires care and maintenance as well. While not as interesting as new initiatives, they are an important part of keeping the justice system operating.
It is necessary in any budgetary process to deal with the forced growth that is inherent in most government operations. This year, the single largest component in the forced growth category is under police services. The RCMP contract requires additional funding totalling $509,000 for 2005-06 to cover salary and benefit increases, as well as for fuel, property management and general operating cost increases.
Our Justice staff also require $402,000 to cover collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs effective January 1, 2005, and other benefit package increases that had earlier effective dates. The Whitehorse Correctional Centre has experienced an increase in costs for medical, psychiatric and dental as well as for food and supplies. The total additional funds required to cover ongoing operational cost increases is $134,000. In the previous few years, some of these costs have been offset by savings in heating costs as a result of milder winters, but given the rapid rise in the price of fuel, this saving is not expected to occur this year or into the foreseeable future.
The community justice and public safety branch increase of $25,000 will pay for additional travel cost requirements due to an increase in activity in the police service contract advisory meetings and federal-provincial-territorial policing meetings. An additional $3,000 is required to cover collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs for highways and public works employees providing services to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre under the facilities management agreement.
The family violence prevention unit will be providing services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults in the two B.C. communities of Lower Post and Atlin. This increased service will result in increased travel costs of $3,000. This service is 100-percent refundable from the Province of British Columbia.
†As this House will recall, we have a government-to-government agreement with British Columbia so that we provide services in exchange for Yukoners being able to access the VictimLINK crisis line. The worker advocateís office requires $16,000 in additional funding due to salary increases resulting from position reclassifications for both the manager and the deputy workersí advocates.
Correctionsí needs are just one aspect of the justice system in Yukon. Our community justice partners have told us that they need additional funding to meet increasing demands on their services in Yukon communities. I am pleased to announce an increase of $14,000 in this budget for the community justice programs.
We have also allocated $42,000 to the community coroners program. The community coroners program requires additional funds to cover training for community coroners and for increased storage and freight costs. Currently there are a couple of inquests that are expected to carry on into 2005-06. It is also anticipated there will be an increase to the honoraria paid to the community coroners during 2005-06.
Mr. Chair, the Human Rights Commission requires an increase to its annual grant to cover increases in salary, commissioner meetings, training and public education costs, as well as for general office operating expenses. An additional $30,000 is required to fund the ongoing operation expenses of the Human Rights Commission. This additional amount was identified previously, and I am pleased to inform this House that the increase will continue.
As Minister of Justice, I am also expecting to host the federal/provincial/territorial ministers of justice meeting in the fall of this year. As you know, Mr. Chair, these are very important and productive meetings, and I am pleased to say that, at the last meeting in January 2005 in Ottawa, I was instrumental in convincing my fellow justice ministers to set aside time in their agenda to deal with the important issue of overrepresentation of aboriginal people in the justice system.
At this session, I was able to stress the need for national leadership on this issue. Aboriginal overrepresentation in the justice system will be at the top of the agenda for the fall meeting in Whitehorse. In addition, the meeting will discuss important issues such as domestic assault, drug trafficking and the use of conditional sentencing.
We have allocated $35,000 to cover the cost of hosting this event. The federal government pays for the bulk of the cost of these events, but the host jurisdiction is expected to cover some of the costs. These events bring in revenue to our local tourism operators, and this yearís event will be in the fall, when revenues begin to drop off.
Finally, Mr. Chair, I would like to point out that the Department of Justice is taking the lead in organizing the Yukon substance abuse summit that will take place this June in Whitehorse. The summit will bring together justice, health and social services providers within government and the NGO community to discuss ways of responding to substance abuse in the territory.
The summit is a starting point in the development of an action plan to address substance abuse in the Yukon. The action plan is intended to be a consensus statement and guidance document to inform communities on the collaboration and partnerships required to effectively address substance abuse issues.
As the Premier has stated previously, the government is committed to providing the necessary resources to ensure a successful summit and a meaningful action plan.
I will now turn briefly to some of the purchases that the department will be making before concluding. The offices in the camp trailer at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre are currently not completed. The total cost requested to finish these offices, including network cable for computer connections and finishing of the interior walls is $3,000. The Whitehorse Correctional Centre requires renovations of $73,000 to address essential repairs. As you know, regardless of the age of the building, there will always be ongoing costs for maintenance and repairs. This project includes general maintenance and repair of flooring, ceiling and ventilation equipment, as well as mechanical systems and window replacement throughout the centre. General security practices say that all security locks need to be re-keyed on a regular basis at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to enable the facility to keep up with current technology and maintain a high level of security. The amount requested for this project is $3,000.
The department is requesting $6,000 for ongoing maintenance and repairs of the dedicated electrical circuits, lighting problems and updating security cameras in the Law Centre. The existing window blinds found throughout the Law Centre building are the original blinds installed when the Law Centre was built approximately 18 years ago. Wear resulting from normal use and sun damage over the years has caused parts to break or deteriorate to a point where it is not possible to repair them and replacement parts are no longer available for purchase.† Replacement would occur over a two-year period at $25,000 per year, starting this year. This cost is based on the replacement of 80 to 85 blinds each year at about $300 per blind. Miscellaneous projects within the building maintenance renovations and space component requested include carpet cleaning, minor renovations and signage, as required, totalling $20,000. The repainting of offices and common area is required as part of annual general building maintenance. The department is requesting $5,000 for the 2005-06 fiscal year.
The court services branch is requesting a courtroom press box in order to provide dedicated space for the press during court proceedings. Currently, press sit in the gallery with the general public where space is limited and often crowded. This item will require a budget of $3,000.
The court services branch has identified the need to install motorized shades in the courtrooms in order to reduce glare from windows that frequently obstructs videoconferencing and computer use during court proceedings. Videoconferencing is being used much more frequently in our courts. Shades would be installed in all five courtrooms over a three-year period, commencing with Courtroom No. 1 in 2004-05, followed by Courtroom No. 5 and No. 2 in 2005-06, and courtrooms 3 and 4 in 2006-07. The total cost per courtroom is $15,000, for a total of $30,000 for 2005-06.
A budget amount of $10,000 is requested to increase the capacity of the existing emergency alarm system in the sheriffís office to include the land titles and public administratorís offices and link those offices to building security located in the lobby of the Law Centre.
The department is requesting three workstations for distribution to replace furniture that is either deteriorating beyond economical repair or ergonomically incorrect. The total request for these workstations is $8,500.
Three new workstations are required for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, costing a total of $8,500. This will accommodate three camp offices for use in the new staffing model currently being developed and due to be implemented in the near future.
Court services is continuing in 2005-06 to replace the courtroom and barrister chairs. The total requested for this project is $5,000, which will cover the replacement of eight chairs.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre is requesting $2,000 to purchase a digital projector to enable the facilitation and delivery of inmate programs and staff training.
The land titles office in court services is in need of a new photocopier. The existing photocopier was purchased 10 years ago and is now beyond economical repair. The budget requested to purchase this asset is $8,000.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre is requesting $3,500 to replace two gates that are deteriorating. The existing gates are over 20 years old, and the bottom rails are now extremely thin as a result of constant use.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre is requesting $2,500 to replace the cabinets in the staff room, which are in very poor condition and are considered unsanitary. The cameras at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre have to be replaced on a regular basis as a result of frequent use to monitor the facility. The total cost for replacing the cameras is $5,000.
Ms. Duncan: When we left off general debate on Thursday afternoon on the Department of Justice, I had asked for information with respect to inspections of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility. I asked the minister to bring back some information today. Iím wondering if the minister has the information with him.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The fire marshal did the inspection in 2002, and there have been no inspections since then.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the renovations and expenditure of money that have taken place since then ó is the minister saying there has been no inspection at all, after all these renovations have taken place?
One of the issues is the current building code requirement that a building of that size ó and particularly a public building ó has to be outfitted with a sprinkler system. Thereís no existing sprinkler system in WCC, and that was one of the issues and one of the reasons to rebuild the facility. There was close to $1 million spent by the Yukon Party government on band-aid repairs trying desperately to bring this building up to where it could at least be certified as being safe for the time being until we get a new one built.
The minister has just stood on his feet and said there has been no inspection of the building by the fire marshal since all those renovations took place. Who has inspected the building? How are we meeting the workersí occupational health and safety code? We know the regulations are stalled on the ministerís desk.
Iím not only concerned about our inmate population; what about the individuals who are required to work there? Has the government no regard for those individuals?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Of course this government has concerns for everyone, and we will continue to. The building inspectors are doing their job as work progresses at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Of course after every piece of renovation is done, it is inspected.
Ms. Duncan: Well, then where are the inspection reports? I asked for them. Where are they? The minister indicated that staff would do their best to get them over in time for line debate. The minister opened his response to this saying that the fire marshal hadnít inspected the building since 2002 ó before or after the government changed then? It would be afterwards. It hasnít been inspected since the Yukon Party shut down the construction work is what the minister is telling us. Is that correct, that the fire marshal has not been back to the building to inspect the million dollarsí worth of repairs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite is correct. The fire marshal has not been back to inspect since 2002. However, as each renovation progresses, it is checked off not through a report but through a standard form process by the building inspector ensuring that everything has been done to code.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís difficult because the building wasnít up to code to start with, so thatís a real problem for the government who stopped construction of a new facility to deal with these issues. Is the minister quite content with this situation, to just allow that there are no inspections and be satisfied that repairs have been made? Weíve spent a million dollars and the building inspector has signed off. The Member for Klondike wants to come and give the minister advice; Iíll look forward to that answer.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: All I can state for the record is that Iím quite confident that the inspectors are doing their work as the renovations progress. Again, for the record, I have to state ó and this is not done with disrespect for anyone, but the facts should be laid out again ó the member opposite had the opportunity to finish a job that the Liberal government started. They chose not to, so it should be irrelevant what goes on after they totally gave up on the project.
Ms. Duncan: Well, if the minister wants to insist upon putting the facts on the table, letís put the facts on the table. The facts are that the former Minister of Justice several Justice ministers ago ó the former Member for Mount Lorne, Ms. Moorcroft, was advised by the fire marshal in a decade of reports done by Barr Ryder to rebuild this facility or shut it down. The building was beyond economical repair. There was an election called in 2000. The Liberal Party committed to rebuild that facility, conducted extensive consultation with First Nation elders and spent several millions of dollars. The member opposite and the Yukon Party shut that project down after construction started, and they havenít had the fire marshal back in since. Thatís the public record. Thatís worse than appalling, but I donít have a parliamentary word to describe it. The health and safety of the inmate population, as well as the people who work there, is of grave concern to everyone in the Yukon.
The Yukon Party has no one to blame but themselves for shutting down that project. Itís reprehensible, Mr. Chair.
When asked for inspection reports, the minister cannot stand on his feet and give them. Iím quite confident in the job of the electrical inspectors of the territory; Iím quite confident in the work of the contractors; Iím not confident in the work of the Yukon Party Cabinet that would shut down that construction project, ordered by the fire marshal to be done. This is the same government that drags its feet on occupational health and safety regulations. It speaks volumes about the government.
The minister seems anxious to give a response to those comments, as advised by the Member for Klondike, so perhaps heíd like the floor.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to advise the member opposite that this minister doesnít need coaching from anyone. I have a mind of my own and I understand whatís happening with this process.
The member opposite just stood on the floor of the House and admitted that they only consulted the elders. They conclude that thatís consulting with First Nations. Well, I beg to differ with that statement, Mr. Chair, because this government saw that consultation never took place with the citizens at large and that it was just another warehouse that was being constructed.
I have to say that, upon having the opportunity to have discussions with Corrections Canada and to have discussions with the architects for constructing facilities, I would be the first one to stand up and say that the consultation never took place because it certainly wouldnít have been the design that was being recommended.
Speaking as a First Nation person, I would say never, because after looking at the other facilities it would make far more sense to build that construction.
So again, I canít stress enough that as much as the leader of the third party would like to say that this party is guilty of not building the facility, I have to say that this government takes pride in doing its homework and doing the consultation necessary before the building starts.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the First Nations Elders Council that committed very seriously to the consultation and spent many, many, many hours in consultation and discussion ó the design that the minister is so content to stand on his feet and be dismissive of their work. That is a point that will not be lost on any of the elders that were present and have asked me repeatedly, ďWhat happened to our views? Why werenít we listened to by the current minister and the current government?Ē The correctional reform consultation that is currently underway ó how much of the consultation process is centered around the location of a new facility, and has the discussion of a remand facility been separated from the potential site for a correctional facility?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to state for the record that I in no way meant any kind of disrespect to the elders of the Yukon Territory and their input into the previous designs of a facility. I also want to state for the record that that particular part of the previous consultation will be taken into account.
But with regard to the questions from the member opposite, I would have to say that I as the minister am not prepared to preclude anything that is going to be done through the consultation process. There will be some recommendations coming back with regard to location, the remand issue and so forth.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not asking the minister to prejudge the consultations. Iím asking about the consultations. The consultations on correctional reform also include consultations on a new facility. In order to engage the public, you also have to ask the questions.
Has the discussion about a new facility also included the discussion of separating remand from a correctional institute? Is that one of the questions? Iím not asking for the conclusion; Iím asking about the question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There will be an interim report in the fall from the consultations committee. At that time we may hear if thatís an issue. Weíll wait and find out.
Ms. Duncan: The much-lauded correctional reform discussions donít seem to have included the minister.
I also asked the minister for information on staffing at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The Whitehorse Correctional Centre is ó if I could use the term ó notorious for tremendous use of auxiliaries as opposed to full-time staff, for a variety of reasons including lack of available staff. I would like to know what the current staffing levels are and what is the use of auxiliary staff?
The difficulty is that auxiliary staff members do not have the benefits that full-time and term positions have ó even term is difficult as well. The problem this poses for individuals is that they end up working a great many hours yet donít have the guarantee of full-time employment so that they can go to the bank and get a mortgage. They are auxiliary staff, as opposed to full-time staff.
So what is the current ratio? What is the use at Whitehorse Correctional Centre of auxiliary staffing? Does the minister have an explanation for seven superintendents in seven years?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Seven superintendents in eight years, or whatever the member opposite stated ó again, Iím not one to dictate to anyone whether they have to live in the Yukon or if they choose to move. Thatís their choice.
Right now, for the number of auxiliary corrections officers at WCC, we currently have 16 active auxiliary corrections officers. We are looking at the staffing model.
The Department of Justice is continuing to work on stabilizing the staffing at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre by creating permanent positions and improving training and working conditions for staff. This is a necessary step that will help us to ensure that offenders receive the help they need now.
The staffing model was rolled out to staff on December 23, 2004, and we are presently working through implementation issues with the union around hours of work. This new staffing model will allow for more effective assessment and treatment of the specialized needs of offenders.
There is an overwhelming need to change the institutional culture from one of punishment to one of rehabilitation and healing. We want to provide culturally sensitive programming to offenders, most of whom are of First Nation descent.
The old staffing model has no program delivery specialists. This has resulted in an uncoordinated delivery of existing programs. The new staffing model will provide a more effective and efficient management team and improved and increased staff interaction at all levels with clients.
It will also allow a stronger connection with First Nations, particularly in programming, community reintegration and after-care support.
Making the changes provided for in the staffing model will result in permanent vacancies being filled and staff training being delivered. This should provide a healthier and more respectful facility for inmates, visitors and staff. It should also provide more flexibility in scheduling, which will help control costs. There are currently vacancies at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Competition is in progress for managers, operational services; competition is in progress for administrators, recreation officers and pending reorganization as positioned in changing stability.
When we talk about improving things again, weíre looking at the staff training as one where Whitehorse Correctional Centre trains staff in the use of Taser, the oleoresin capsicum spray and effective communications. We also run a harassment prevention workshop for all staff and correctional officer basic training courses for new corrections officers. Two staff received training to become trainers in the use of OC spray and Tasers. Through staff development, several staff updated their first aid. Of course, the list doesnít include any other individual training courses arranged or delivered by staff development. It was our intent to offer more training to our employees, but the implementation of non-smoking and the renovation prohibited that as we wouldnít have been able to staff the facility appropriately.
The work goes on by this government to try to improve the working relationships with staff and to improve on all the issues that would benefit the employees.
Ms. Duncan: The minister said the new staffing model was rolled out December 23, 2004, and that its implementation was under discussion with the union. May 2, some three months plus later, theyíre still working on it. Whatís the problem? Is it the staffing model? Is it the working conditions? Whatís the issue, and when will the staffing model be in place?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, there are probably a number of factors that could relate to the length of time it takes to implement a staffing model. There are a number of positions that have to be applied for and put out to competition. The whole process just takes time, and it is the intent of the department to hopefully have this all completed in the fall.
Ms. Duncan: The policing review that has been announced ó one of our staff members was working with the RCMP just to gauge the pulse, if you will, of the Yukon public and the policing services. Could I ask the minister for some more information on it? Iím interested in who initiated the review, who is paying for it and how it is to be conducted and when we might expect a report. Could the minister provide some information on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The review of the policing was initiated by Canada. The Yukon has received $100,000 from Canada to conduct a review of policing services in the Yukon. That review will be started within the next few weeks and will be concluded by September of 2005.
We will be asking Yukon citizens what they think about the RCMP policing services that are being delivered in their community. We will also ask them to identify their policing needs and the top three priorities for policing services within their community.
The Yukon policing review will be led by a consultant provided by the federal government and completed with the assistance of Department of Justice staff. The Department of Justice staff have met with the RCMP to inform them of the review and they were supportive of this initiative.
Ms. Duncan: So itís Canada thatís contracting for the facilitator of this review then. I see the minister nodding. Thank you.
Thereís plenty of information for discussion with respect to that.
One other item I would like to address with the minister ó I have asked this question repeatedly in the House. What I asked for from the ministerís predecessor was a list of outstanding court cases that Yukon has. So, if Jane Doe Construction is suing the Yukon government, there used to be a list of court cases tabled.
When the Yukon Party was first elected, I asked for this information. The minister said she would get it to me, and when I asked the next year in debate, I was given the answer that it was on the court registry and to go look it up. That information has customarily been provided in the past. Itís not difficult and itís something that Justice officials could provide. Itís just a straightforward listing of existing cases that are outstanding against Yukon.
Itís useful information for us as legislators. Iím not trying to make work for the department; Iím not trying to make things difficult for the minister. Itís useful information for this Legislature to know where an individual of the public believes weíve erred in law or there are contracting disputes.
Would the minister commit to providing this information to me? I donít have to have it before session is over but I would appreciate receiving it by the end of May. Is that possible? Would the minister undertake to provide me with that information?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government has always stated that we are willing to work cooperatively with the opposition. In the spirit of cooperation, the department will provide this to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the ministerís cooperation. Iíll look forward to receiving that information. I have no further questions in general debate.
Mr. Cardiff: I have just a couple of quick questions that came up over the weekend. I was contacted by an injured worker who is concerned about the workersí advocate office and the caseload. The workersí advocate office is in the Department of Justice. Itís a recovery item for the department, but the minister still has the responsibility.
There are a couple of issues around this particular item. The first one is the caseload and what the department is doing to ensure that there are adequate resources and staffing levels in the workersí advocate office. It sounds like things are backing up, and the way to resolve that is to ensure that there are people there to deal with it.
The individual I spoke with cited the number he got when he was talking with the workersí advocate office was that they are dealing with some 300 cases. If you look in the phone book, I believe there are only four people in that office, including the administration/reception person, and there are 300 cases. So if the other three are dealing with cases, it means that they are each dealing with 100 cases. Iím not sure if the numbers are correct, but thatís what he was told. So heís concerned about adequate resources in the workersí advocate office.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can relay to him that this issue has and is being reviewed in-house at this time, and itís ongoing. The department is aware of the issue and they are doing their best to offer assistance to those who need it.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím glad to hear that itís under review and that something is being looked at. Itís important. In the workersí advocate office, theyíve done a good job of representing and meeting the goals of employment equity and having injured workers represented there. There are other people who feel they should be represented in that office as well, and Iím wondering if the principles around employment equity with regard to First Nation employees ó I understand you have to have somebody whoís qualified and has the skills and knowledge to work there, but Iím wondering if the department is looking at recruiting people, First Nation recruits, in that regard for the workersí advocate office.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have to say to the member opposite that thatís more under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. I believe they addressed those issues through the representation programs they have to do with First Nation training issues.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister is right. It is under the Public Service Commission, I suppose. But each department also has its own human resources department, and they work with the Public Service Commission. So the ministerís human resources department could work with the Public Service Commission on that.
The last question around this particular case ó the individual in question has struggled with the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board for over half his life now, and he is becoming very frustrated and he has been to the Workersí Compensation Appeal Tribunal on many occasions. There have been decisions rendered, there have been appeals of decisions by the board to the Appeal Tribunal. Currently, this situation appears to be deadlocked. The Appeal Tribunal, if I recall correctly, said that they were seized on some of the matters surrounding the case. Subsequently the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board appealed to the Yukon court. They filed that appeal on March 24, and when I was talking with the person on Friday afternoon, they had yet to be notified of a date to go to court. They filed to be part of that court case as an interested party because itís about their case. But it seems like a long time to wait to get a court date set. Weíre looking at the appeal being by the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board of the tribunalís decision on March 24; it was the end of April and itís now May 2, and Iím just wondering: why does it take so long to get a court date on something like this, and why does he have to wait so long? He has waited half his life to try to have these issues dealt with, and Iím just wondering why it takes so long to get a court date.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: One can sympathize with the concerns the member brings to the floor of the House. However, the member opposite, I believe, also knows that the department cannot discuss individual cases on the floor of this House.
Mr. Cardiff: I wasnít asking the minister to discuss an individual case. Iím asking why it takes so long to get a court date. Itís frustrating for people who are trying to deal with long-standing issues, and you have the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board throw it into the court system and it just delays the process of dealing with something thatís very troubling for this person. The minister should understand that.
So the question is: why does it take so long when the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board files on March 24? Why donít we have a court date set by May 2? Over a month has transpired and we donít even have a court date. He canít go to court and represent himself.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I stated earlier, I can sympathize with the processes that one has to follow. However, court scheduling is done by the courts. This is an administrative issue that this minister doesnít have any control over.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
On Management Services
Ms. Duncan: Weíre awaiting a line breakdown by the minister, just an explanation for this expenditure. If we could just please have the explanation in a pro forma way for each line, then we can determine if there are any questions arising from there.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In the total allotment for management services, we have a five-percent increase of $92,000 over the 2004-05 forecast. For personnel, we go to the deputy ministerís office, with an increase due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs and the increased deputy minister pay scale of $43,000; finance and administration increase is due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs of $11,000; systems administration increases due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs, particularly offset by reduced overtime budget for 2005-06, of $3,000; human resources increase is due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs of $10,000; policy and communications increase is due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs and additional personnel dollars allotted to top an existing policy analyst position to the pay equivalent of a director currently staffed in an acting capacity, $16,000.
Workersí advocate increase is due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs and the reclassification of two workersí advocate positions, particularly offset by reduced funding for the administrative assistant position from the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board of $9,000, for a total of $92,000.
Management Services in the amount of $2,454,000 agreed to
Total Management Services in the amount of $2,454,000 agreed to
On Court Services
On Court Administration
Ms. Duncan: We are, of course, looking for a line breakdown from the minister, but perhaps he could also indicate where we are in terms of the judgesí salary review. Are we due to renew that again, or are we in the last year of the panel? Iíve lost track of that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Judicial Compensation Commission is ongoing. Weíre hoping to have a report by the end of September.
Ms. Duncan: So any increase would be in either a supplementary or next yearís budget then. Could we also have a line explanation for this $4.6-million expenditure in court services?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the court services branch, we start with a court administration increase of three percent, or $15,000, over the 2004-05 forecast. There is also an increase in personnel costs due to collective agreement increases and salary benefits costs and an increase to the court reporting contracts.
Court operations shows a two-percent decrease of $77,000 under 2004-05 forecasts.
There is a decrease in personnel costs due to filling vacant positions at a lower rate, retirement compensation arrangements, costs, reductions, and a decrease in contract services for deputy judges, slightly offset by collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs as well as reduced funding provided by the Bureau of French Language Services. The sheriff is a four-percent decrease of $11,000 under 2004-05 forecasts, decrease in personnel costs due to filling vacant positions at a lower rate and a decrease in general operating expenses, particularly offset by collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs. The maintenance enforcement increase of $2,000 over 2004-05 forecasts ó an increase of personnel costs due to increased hours for the child support guideline officer position as well as collective agreement and salary and benefit costs, particularly offset by a reduction to the child support guideline contract services. The witness administration is a one-percent increase of $1,000 over 2004-05 forecasts ó increase in personnel costs due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs. The Yukon Review Board has a three-percent increase of $1,000 over 2004-05 forecasts, an increase in personnel costs due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs.
Court Administration in the amount of $552,000 agreed to
On Court Operations
Court Operations in the amount of $3,201,000 agreed to
Sheriff in the amount of $266,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Enforcement
Maintenance Enforcement in the amount of $442,000 agreed to
On Witness Administration
Witness Administration in the amount of $112,000 agreed to
On Yukon Review Board
Yukon Review Board in the amount of $37,000 agreed to
Total Court Services in the amount of $4,610,000 agreed to
On Legal Services
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $252,000 agreed to
On Solicitors Branch
Solicitors Branch in the amount of $1,416,000 agreed to
On Natural Resources and Environmental Law
Ms. Duncan: The natural resources and environmental law budget line item has gone down by 17 percent, and the legislative counsel amount has increased by 27 percent. Is this a result of internal reallocation of staff? Are we short staffed in the natural resources and environmental law branch? What are the reasons for the variances in these two line items?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The decrease for the natural resources and environmental law group is due to a recovery from the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources for a lawyer position, which is slightly offset by an increase due to collective agreement increases and salary benefit costs and office operations.
With regard to the increase, it was due to the reduction of funding provided by the Bureau of French Language Services for French-speaking legislative counsel positions and collective agreement increases in salary benefit costs.
Natural Resources and Environmental Law in the amount of $305,000 agreed to
On Legislative Counsel
Legislative Counsel in the amount of $663,000 agreed to
On Litigation Costs/Judgements
Litigation Costs/Judgements in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Outside Counsel
Outside Counsel in the amount of $94,000 agreed to
On Community Legal Support
Mr. Cardiff: Thereís a four-percent decrease. This line includes aboriginal courtworkers, Yukon Public Legal Education and things like legal aid. Iím wondering why thereís a reduction in that. Can the minister provide an explanation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The federally funded investment fund project, which is operated by legal aid, will be in its final year of funding. During its first year of operation, funds from 2003-04 were reallocated to 2004-05. As a result, there is a decrease in funding for 2005-06, totalling $82,000. There is no change in service.
Community Legal Support in the amount of $1,998,000 agreed to
Total Legal Services in the amount of $4,734,000 agreed to
On Regulatory Services
On Public Administrator
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that this increase is to give effect to the public guardianship act ó thatís not the correct title, but the guardianship act for lack of a better term. As it comes to mind, the real title of the bill is much longer than that. Are the positions that are required in the public administratorís office fully staffed now? Are we looking forward to being able to staff them fairly quickly? It is a significant demand that has been placed upon the public administratorís office as a result of this legislation. I want to ensure that there are adequate resources and that we are moving expeditiously to ensure the staff members are in place.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It is fully staffed now and prepared to go forward.
Ms. Duncan: Have we given the public administrator additional resources? There is a much larger demand on this office and this individual as a result of this legislation. Are there more resources in place?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There are additional 1.5 FTEs added.
Public Administrator in the amount of $319,000 agreed to
On Land Titles
Land Titles in the amount of $362,000 agreed to
On Yukon Utilities Board
Ms. Duncan: This isnít enough money. $180,000 is way below what has previously been budgeted in the past when the Yukon Utilities Board was required to have a hearing. In past budgets in this Legislature, before the ministerís time, there was usually an amount of $700,000 allocated when it was anticipated that the Yukon Utilities Board would have a hearing. This is significantly less. Does the minister have an estimated cost for the current Yukon Utilities Board hearings?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: If there are additional funds required, they will come back to us and it will be included in a supplementary.
Yukon Utilities Board in the amount of $180,000 agreed to
Total Regulatory Services in the amount of $861,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $275,000 agreed to
On Community Corrections
Community Corrections in the amount of $1,257,000 agreed to
On Institutional Facilities
Institutional Facilities in the amount of $6,494,000 agreed to
On Community Residential Centre
Community Residential Centre in the amount of $450,000 agreed to
On Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit
Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit in the amount of $1,396,000 agreed to
Total Community and Correctional Services in the amount of $9,872,000 agreed to
On Community Justice and Public Safety
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $1,116,000 agreed to
On Police Services
Mr. Cardiff: I just have one question. Iím just wondering if there have been any discussions ó this is where the policing contract is, I believe? The minister is nodding. Have there been any discussions with the City of Whitehorse with respect to cost-sharing policing expenditures in the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer to that is no.
Police Services in the amount of $13,762,000 agreed to
On Chief Coroner
Chief Coroner in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
††††††† Total Community Justice and Public Safety in the amount of $15,136,000 agreed to
††††††† On Human Rights
††††††† On Human Rights Commission Grant
††††††† Mr. Cardiff: Iím just wondering if the minister could provide us with statistics with respect to the Human Rights Commission ó the number of cases, the results of those cases, or any legislative changes that are required as a result of those cases or with respect to policy. I donít need that right now, but if the minister could provide that information in writing at a later date.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe, if the member opposite were to obtain a copy of their annual report, that information would be provided.
Mr. Cardiff: It might have the number of cases, but Iím wondering what effect it has on existing legislation or the policies of the government. Could he provide that information? There must be an analysis.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department just reviews each case separately and makes judgements accordingly.
Human Rights Commission Grant in the amount of $451,000 agreed to
On Human Rights Adjudication Board
Human Rights Adjudication Board in the amount of $38,000 agreed to
Total Human Rights in the amount of $489,000 agreed to
On Transfer Payments
Mr. Cardiff: In community justice and public safety ó if the minister doesnít have this information handy, Iíd be happy to receive it at a later date ó could he provide in writing some information on the youth leadership program and if there has been an evaluation. Itís under community justice and public safety. Iím looking for some information about that particular program and, if there has been an evaluation of the program, that would also be appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís possible. We can provide information on the program..
Chair: Are there any further questions?
††††††† Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $38,156,000 agreed to
††††††† On Capital Expenditures
††††††† On Management Services
††††††† On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
††††††† Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $371,000 agreed to
††††††† Total Management Services in the amount of $371,000 agreed to
††††††† On Court Services
††††††† On Community JP/Court Support Offices
††††††† Community JP/Court Support Offices in the amount of $48,000 agreed to
††††††† Total Court Services in the amount of $48,000 agreed to
††††††† On Community and Correctional Services
††††††† On Replacement Equipment
††††††† Replacement Equipment in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
††††††† On Corrections Infrastructure
††††††† Mr. Cardiff: Could we get just a breakdown on this? I believe this is where there is $35,000 for a shop, and Iím just wondering what kind of a shop the minister intends to get and what kind of equipment will be in that shop for $35,000 to address programming issues and provide opportunities for inmates to get training and trades programming in a $35,000 shop. It just doesnít seem like enough money.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Whitehorse Correctional Centre is requesting $35,000 to build a shop to facilitate the delivery of inmate trade programs at the centre. As with all department capital projects, the private sector will be utilized to the greatest extent possible and materials will be purchased from local vendors. This program will be built and constructed by inmates in the facility. The shop will be 28 by 40 feet, which comes out to 1,240 square feet.
The total cost, as I stated earlier, will be $35,000. Again, it will be used to house trades, such as welding and carpentry.
Mr. Cardiff: These days, $35,000 doesnít buy a lot when it comes to putting up a building. The $35,000 may cover the cost of the building. Are we just moving existing equipment and machinery into a new building? Is there no new equipment being purchased for these trades programs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The $35,000 is just for the construction of the building.
Corrections Infrastructure in the amount of $235,000 agreed to
On Correctional Facilities Renovations
Correctional Facilities Renovations in the amount of $101,000 agreed to
On Correctional Reform
Correctional Reform in the amount of $633,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Prior Yearsí Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Community and Correctional Services in the amount of $987,000 agreed to
On Transfer Payments
Mr. Cardiff: Can the minister provide an explanation for the increase?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Department of Justice, Yukon territorial government and the Council of Yukon First Nations have agreed to work in partnership in consulting with Yukoners on the future of corrections in the Yukon. There will be a project team composed of a co-chair from YTG and a co-chair from Council of Yukon First Nations and a policy analyst from YTG and a policy analyst representing Council of Yukon First Nations. A capital transfer payment in the amount of $172,000 is budgeted in the 2005-06 fiscal year as a contribution to Council of Yukon First Nations to offer financial assistance in order to fund the above-mentioned positions representing Council of Yukon First Nations for this project.
Transfer payment cleared
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $1,406,000 agreed to
Department of Justice agreed to
Chair: I understand that weíll be moving on to the Department of Economic Development. In order to facilitate the transition of officials, do members wish to take our regular recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Okay, weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Weíll continue on now with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and Vote 7, Department of Economic Development.
Department of Economic Development
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It is marvellous to see a wonderful turnout for Economic Development. I am pleased to introduce the 2005-06 budget for the Department of Economic Development to the members of the House.
Given a growing global demand for northern resources, the potential of new infrastructure such as pipeline and rail, balanced with an approach for responsible development, the Yukon has a great opportunity to position itself for a strong, sustainable, growing economy that will provide full employment to current and future generations. This budget is about supporting community and regional development, fostering partnerships and intergovernmental relations, facilitating First Nations economic development and continuing to build a strong and sustainable Yukon economy.
Our department is in the process of working closely with industry, governments and First Nations development corporations to further strengthen our economy. We realize that greater success will be found by working cooperatively. We believe that we need coordination and cooperation with our citizens, as each profession plays an important role in growing our economy and contributes to our quality of life.
The north is poised for some large-scale projects in the very near future, and the next few years will be impressive. In particular, the Alaska pipeline, the Alaska-Canada rail link and the Juneau access road come to mind immediately. Of course, we will continue our ongoing work in growing industries such as tourism, mining, forestry and other resource sectors.
We need to work together among governments, industry and First Nations to move projects forward in a timely manner and to maximize the benefits from these projects. Transport Canada has voiced its support for a joint Canada-U.S. feasibility study for the rail link. Yukon and Alaska are working closely together to initiate this study.
Port access is also very important, given the potential of several emerging mine developments, and we are working with Alaska to find ways for Yukon to have that port access.
We need to make sure that northern residents and businesses also benefit, and that is why the Department of Economic Development recognizes the importance of working together to understand and plan toward developing both large- and small-scale projects. Projects of all sizes are opportunities to create new jobs, to expand our economies, and to perhaps learn new methods and approaches to finding solutions. Granted, we are also recognizing that capacity building is an important requirement as we prepare for future major projects.
The Economic Development branches are following through, specifically, on regional economic development and strategic industries, which have been building new relations while encouraging and facilitating growth within our communities and our industries.
During the past year, the department has worked hard to cultivate an environment of trust and to develop true economic partnerships with the First Nations. As a result, several groups have benefited from both our internal expertise and the funding programs established to assist Yukon businesses and organizations.
Economic Development has contributed $1.2 million to First Nation initiatives. There is also in excess of 63 First Nation activities that have been funded by our department. Our department has developed the Yukon partnership agreement between the First Nations of Na Cho Nyšk Dun, the TríondŽk HwŽchíin and the Vuntut Gwitchin. During the past year, we have also established a successful and exciting Carcross summit partnership between the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, White Pass & Yukon Route railroad and, again, our department.
On an international scale, the Yukon government, industry and First Nations participated in the Canada Gala this past March in Anchorage. The Canada Gala allows us to bring forth interests to help achieve a positive and healthy northern vision. As northerners, we are working together to better understand one anotherís viewpoints and perspectives.
Our efforts and investments are enabling us to develop a comprehensive economic strategy, strengthen partnership ties and revitalize our Yukon economy. We have amazing opportunities before us, and to achieve success we will all need to work together.
Mr. Chair, the 2005-06 main estimates show that the Department of Economic Development is planning to spend nearly $6.569 million in operations and maintenance and a further $9.369 million in gross capital disbursements to promote Yukon economic development.
Letís turn our attention to our regional economic development section. With this budget, we will continue to make a number of investments, both financially and in terms of partnerships. The regional economic development fund has $500,000 to continue funding for regional planning and organizational capacity development. Our regional economic branch will continue to organize meetings in communities and to inform First Nations and municipal governments of support available for regional planning and capacity development.
During the past fiscal year, the regional economic branch helped coordinate the Fort McMurray trip, along with Yukon First Nations. The purpose of this trip was to examine the joint venture enterprise successes in Fort McMurray and consider the potential for joint venturing initiatives in the Yukon for the economic benefit of First Nations and their business partners as new opportunities bloom on the horizon in our industry sector.
The regional economic branch also contributed $45,000 to the Yukon Indian Development Corporation, which successfully delivered a First Nations economic summit and trade show. The regional economic branch is continuing to work with several First Nations on specific endeavours that will help communities to build capacity.
Iím also honoured to announce that we are planning to host a regional economic development symposium this month that will involve all First Nations and municipalities in the Yukon. This regional economic development symposium, entitled ďUnleashing Rural Yukonís Economic PotentialĒ, will be an opportunity to invite our rural communities, stakeholders and First Nations to help us reach out to and work with all our regions.
Our goal is to develop made-in-the-Yukon regional economic development planning tools and strategies for rural economic growth and prosperity. Also under our regional economic branch is the community development fund, a successful initiative that will continue into the next year.
In the 2005-06 budget, the community development fund has allotted over $3.5 million for community groups to help build and revitalize Yukonís social and economic capacity. These initiatives are intended to create employment and to improve infrastructure within communities. So far this year, the community development fund has issued several awards to help develop communities. For example, the First Nation of Na Cho Nyšk Dun was awarded over $157,000 to construct a new daycare facility in Mayo.
With this yearís budget, strategic industries development branch is committed to assisting the growth of various industries by encouraging economic planning toward a sustainable economy. Our strategic industries development branch has helped strengthen business strategies and relationships. Primary examples are the two Carcross summits during the past year. The Carcross summits are exciting as they entail developing stronger relations between industry, First Nations and government working together to build Carcross into a stronger economy. We anticipate this summer to be very exciting as the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad will provide limited train service to Carcross.
Other strategic industries development branch accomplishments have been in terms of forming partnerships with Yukon business and industry proponents, such as with the mining community and the Chinese delegates.
Technology partnerships have also flourished. This year, the strategic industries development branch has worked closely with key partners to develop top-notch technological infrastructure throughout the territory. Our department is also supporting an initiative to examine our opportunities and potential for a northern cluster to develop cold climate technology. Mr. Chair, I donít have to remind all of us that the technology to keep the cold out is very similar to the technology of keeping the cold in, so this is something that has global significance.
I am proud to announce that by the end of April 2005, more than 99 percent of Yukon households will have access to high-speed Internet. I had the privilege of being in Burwash on Friday to connect the last community to that network. Having 99 percent, Mr. Chair, compared to 62 percent of the Province of Ontario, gives you an idea of how advanced our technology is becoming here.
With the last of our communities coming on-board by the end of April, that does make us the most connected northern region in Canada and perhaps the most connected total region in Canada. Our residents in rural communities and within Whitehorse will be able to communicate, relate and compete with the rest of Canada and with the world.
Looking at the Yukonís Film and Sound Commission, with this yearís budget, our Yukon Film and Sound Commission is committed to further developing the Yukon film and sound industries. The commission will continue attracting Outside productions to shoot on location in Yukon and to hire locally. This year, the Department of Economic Development has budgeted $715,000 to continue with their film and sound incentive program. Again, Mr. Chair, I am proud to announce that for every $1 that we have invested in the Yukon film incentive program, it returns $9 to the Yukon economy ó a 9:1 ratio, Mr. Chair. Weíre very proud of that.
We are proud, as well, to have been the chosen location for several film projects in the past year, such as the Last Trapper and the Northern Town miniseries. These productions took advantage of our pristine snow-rific environment and will heighten Yukon awareness both nationally and globally.
I would also like to announce that we have confirmed another five productions that will be filmed in the Yukon in the next six weeks. With such grand exposure, we intend to continue this upward momentum of building strategic film and sound industries. If we have a problem in this area, it is that we are perhaps growing too fast and attracting too much business ó and thatís a problem weíre certainly happy to put up with.
If we look at the business and trade branch, the growth of the Yukon economy is demonstrated by our record-breaking low unemployment rate, in addition to an increase in the size of our labour force. Other positive economic growth indicators include retail sales, increased mineral exploration spending, strong construction activity and an upswing in tourism.
The Department of Economic Development is proud to be part of such growth and will continue achieving positive growth this year. Since its start-up in 2004, the enterprise and trade fund has approved approximately $325,000 for 35 projects to facilitate Yukon businesses, to develop business skills training, market expansion and export development.
In the 2005-06 budget, the business and trade branch will continue administering and delivering its enterprise and trade fund with $1 million, which will provide long-term benefits to the Yukon economy.
The department will also continue providing rebates under the business incentive program, or BIP. Over $1 million will also be spent through the business incentive program that aims to maximize employment opportunities for Yukon residents.
If we look to the 2007 Canada Winter Games, less than two years from now we will host numerous visitors from all over Canada who will participate and partake in the 2007 Canada Winter Games. As we are all aware, this initiative has jump-started development, in terms of planning and forecasting the need for human capital and infrastructure development.
Economic Development has been part of consultations between other departments, other governments, and key industry stakeholders as we work toward making the 2007 Canada Winter Games a successful event.
Weíre witnessing growth in the Yukon now and we anticipate more growth during and after these games. We want to keep learning from our multi-party initiatives. Working together to execute partnership initiatives is important to all of us as we develop and execute well-rounded projects of great relevance.
If we turn our attention now to national incentives, as you know, Mr. Chair, in 2004 the Government of Canada announced it would work jointly with the three territorial governments to develop a northern strategy. This is the first-ever comprehensive strategy for the north, as it is in cooperation with aboriginal governments, organizations and northern residents.
This northern strategy has short-, medium- and long-term goals and objectives to achieve a northern vision over the next 20 years. Our department has been receiving input from stakeholders and voicing our ideas to strengthen the economic pillar in all the Yukon.
Weíre developing a common, long-term direction for our north and what goals and objectives must be achieved for a stronger economy. This strategy could not come at a better time, as Canada has committed $27 million to the Yukon Territory over the next four years through the pan-northern economic development fund. Such funding enables the Yukon to develop strategic projects and initiatives to further foster economic development in areas of northern capacity, economic diversity, infrastructure and knowledge.
In closing, I think itís safe to say that weíre all learning with each new project and with each partnership, and each time we move forward on a new initiative. Weíre fortunate our economy is becoming healthier and stronger, and we need to do all we can to secure a future for all of Yukon and for all our children.
The Department of Economic Developmentís budget is intended to do just that, by facilitating business development, growth in our economic sector, establishing stronger economic partnerships and working with our regions to develop a robust economy for the Yukon.
Thank you very much, merci beaucoup, mahsií cho, gŁnilschish.
Mr. Hardy: I also thank the minister for the information. I probably have to go back and ask a few questions on some of it. It rolled by pretty fast, and he was talking pretty fast actually. I was quite surprised.
However, in order to facilitate debate in the House, can the minister assure me that he will make available some of the information I asked for by tabling the documents or giving them to my office. Iíd really appreciate that, so I donít have to write while he is talking. It may take a long time just to get through one question with the amount of information that he produced. ďSnow-rificĒ ó who wrote that speech? Thatís a new one on me. I remember the little caps ó I donít know if theyíre still out there ó that had ďthink snowĒ on them. The first time I ever saw one it happened to be on a fellow whose name happened to be Snow, so he was quite happy to have that. But ďsnow-rificĒ is a new one for me. I hope we donít start creating a new language around that. I know the Inuit, I believe, have 30-some names for snow.
Okay, letís start. I have some questions. As I have indicated to the minister, I wonít be a long time. Many of the questions have been asked and a lot of the time the questions that are asked are actually asked in other departments. Community Services would be a good example in which you start talking about economic development in certain areas. Hopefully, the minister has some of those figures, but this is more general. Letís start with staffing. There have been some concerns raised ó I remember there was something in the paper awhile back ó about the staffing of Economic Development. Could the minister tell me how many people are actually employed right now with Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím not really sure who wrote in ďsnow-rificĒ, but I had to use it. It was just too good and I much appreciate that.
At the moment, the department is authorized for 48 employees. I believe that number 43 started this morning. At the moment, that is where we stand.
Mr. Hardy: How many are First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, Mr. Chair, my information from the Public Service Commission is that statistics arenít kept on that. It is very difficult to identify, of course. For instance, one person I know is First Nation and no one on the other side has noticed that yet. So itís a difficult thing to quantify and itís not something we keep track of. Itís not an issue.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I think itís actually on the form when a person applies. There is a question in that regard as to whether or not a person is of First Nations ancestry. It used to be there, anyway, and the government keeps very close track of it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We certainly have First Nation employees but, again, itís a small number. Itís like the employment statistics that showed all women in the Yukon working, but the reality is that when the number goes below a certain number ó I think itís 200 ó it becomes possible to identify individuals so itís reported as zero. There are First Nation employees but the Public Service Commission advises us not to put that out.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Chair, in the Legislative Assembly, the questions asked along that line are legitimate questions. Itís not about whether or not the Public Service Commission tells the minister that this is supposed to be kept a secret.
I stand to be corrected, but if it is a request on the application form, it should be common knowledge. I donít think First Nations are ashamed of their heritage. Also, it has been traditional in the territory ó traditional with government ó to keep very close track of the employment of First Nations and gender, and that information is generally something the government makes available to ensure that theyíre meeting some of their goals. Iím not asking the question to embarrass the minister. Iím just trying to make sure, even just by raising the question, that it is something that should be looked at. Can the minister please respond to that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am advised by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that itís a voluntary part of the application. So people would have an ability to respond to that question, but they are also quite welcome to not respond to it, which leads toward great inaccuracies on that. I certainly would have no problem in replying to that, if I am wrong on that.
Mr. Hardy: I appreciate the ministerís response on that. It is a concern and it is always brought up. It is something that we had to pay attention to when we were in government. The goal of many governments has been very clear in trying to hire to reflect the general population and the makeup of the population. I think that is honourable, and I think every government should try to achieve that. That means each department should also, as best as possible, try to get proper representation.
One of the big concerns here is that the minister has, in his opening statements, referenced First Nations many times, talking about partnerships and working together and partnering up. Well, you canít do that if you donít also employ within your own ranks, and there are many qualified First Nation persons who I think could be utilized very well in Economic Development.
So I would recommend, then, if I asked the minister if he can get back to me if they have any indication whatsoever that there are First Nation persons hired under Economic Development ó I would appreciate it sometime down the road.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite brings up a big point that Iím sure heís well aware of, but just to reinforce it, one of the problems that we have in a small jurisdiction is capacity. Itís a huge, huge problem. We face that all the time with boards and committees. As you go into a small community, you involve a lot of people on boards and committees, and all of a sudden you need three more people and you find that there is nobody left to go to.
With First Nation governments, if we recruit the best of the First Nationsí employees or people, we run the risk of upsetting them because weíve stolen all their best people. If we donít recruit these people, then we run the risk of being accused that we arenít doing it. So our attitude is to try to support the First Nation governments and to allow capacity building within their own governments. But it is a real difficult issue. It is almost a case-by-case issue.
But if that information is available, Iíll certainly be happy to provide it.
Mr. Hardy: The member has brought up a very touchy subject. If you deny a First Nation an opportunity for employment because you donít want to upset the First Nation body, thatís a human rights issue. You canít do it. I could not even begin to imagine you as an employer saying that you would not want to hire somebody because your former or present employer doesnít want you to. Well, thatís a slippery slope, and I wouldnít want to go down it.
Governments in the past have done mentoring to assist First Nations. That is a very valuable program to assist First Nation governments, to bring them on and work with them, mentor them and then at some point they can also go back to their First Nation governments and transfer the expertise theyíve gained with that department, and have that wonderful cross-knowledge of how each would work. Is this government doing any mentoring at all?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes, there is an element of that through capacity development. But to comment on the memberís first comments, theyíre quite true. Iím not suggesting that we wouldnít hire someone based on ethnicity or anything like that, of course. But when you get a phone call from someone saying, ďI know so-and-so has applied for a job, and we would really hate to lose them,Ē that becomes a difficult sort of thing.
A lot of it is joking among the different orders of government and that sort of thing. But we do have a limited capacity, so anything we can do to increase that capacity ó if someone obviously applies for a job, then we have to look at that. As I say, the same goes on with anything. I know within our own department weíve twice had our communications officer poached by a different department. It gets frustrating after awhile, but itís the employeeís right to go. We canít comment or make any moves on where that person wants to go.
But how do we develop that capacity within other orders of government, within communities and within organizations? It is a slippery slope. You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. Mentoring and that sort of thing ó the member oppositeís suggestion ó I think is probably a very good suggestion and one that we certainly try to work with where we can.
Mr. Hardy: Iím assuming that right at the present time ó and I know Economic Development has been reactivated after a few years of not being around, so Iím not suggesting that youíre not doing it, Mr. Chair; Iím just suggesting that something possibly you should be doing is mentoring. Itís definitely not my suggestion. It goes back a long way and there have been agreements with various levels of governments, whether itís federal, First Nation or even with municipal governments ó this exchange of people to help each other develop and grow.
Iíll shift a little off the personnel for a second here. The minister mentioned 63 First Nation activities funded by Economic Development. Could the minister make available that list of activities? I donít expect the minister to read 63 of them and then explain what each of them is doing, if he could just make that available.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We wouldnít do that, no. No, Iíd be happy to provide that list ó no problem at all.
Mr. Hardy: I just noticed that the price of gold and silver have dropped and some other metals have gone up, metals that are actually good for the Yukon historically. Iím not sure the exploration is going right at the moment, but iron, zinc, ore and stuff like that have been climbing. We all recognize in the Yukon ó anybody who has ever lived here for very long anyway ó the peaks and valleys of our economy and how much of an impact mineral prices and oil and gas prices have, particularly mineral prices, in the Yukon. I have lived through quite a few booms up here and each time thereís a boom I always hope thereís going to be a steadying at a good height and not the drop because I see too much damage from the drops. Too many people leave and there are too many problems with peopleís lives.
I guess my question around that is: where does Economic Development fit in on trying to find a way to cushion or anticipate the swings with this? We do have so much history around this and I donít know if itís possible. I donít know what work is being done. Iím sure there is because I remember, as a government, that that is something that is always on the back of our mind. We might be having good times now, but we have to be conscious that the economy can make a slight shift and all of a sudden you have 500 people unemployed in some sectors.
What is Economic Development doing and what is the minister anticipating to broaden our economic activity?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member brings up a very good point on that. When you put all your eggs ó golden or otherwise ó in one basket, you do have a great risk. We have to look at diversifying; we have to look at all the various things we can do. No one particular project ó betting completely on a pipeline is a poor strategy; betting on one mine is a poor strategy.
But if we look at the diversification and we look at the enterprise trade fund that will try to stimulate more and more small businesses, if you look at the infrastructure and the funding and effort weíve put into high-speed Internet ó all of a sudden, the individual in Burwash who wants to sell something on eBay has the ability to take detailed pictures and put them on the Internet. When we were up there on Friday, one individual had given up after 15 hours, trying to download a particular file. We downloaded that same file in 35 seconds. So it gives you an idea of the difference that will make to the communities.
The Film and Sound Commission is another good example of diversification. That was one thing I was quite surprised to hear on the doorsteps during the last election, and quite consistently. I donít know if just a lot of people involved in that industry live in Porter Creek North or whether theyíre more vocal, but we heard very loud and clear that we wanted to develop this industry.
Weíve recreated the Film Commission; weíve put it in with film and sound; weíve set it up within Economic Development; weíve engaged a very talented Film and Sound Commissioner, who is drawing work from all sorts of different places.
As I mentioned in the speech, there are five productions in the next six weeks, so weíre getting buried with that, and thatís a good thing.
The idea of a northern research cluster is something weíre going to be looking at. A research cluster ó for some people it may not have hit the radar screen yet ó the idea of a cluster is to bring an area of expertise into a single area so all the people working in design development and, potentially, production, work in one area. We have a great place to work on cold initiatives and cold-weather climate technology, on anything from climate monitoring to better windows to better insulation. As I mentioned before, whether itís keeping the cold out or keeping the cold in, this has applications from the Yukon to the equator.
We are looking at developing a northern research cluster that would look at this, among other related projects. Itís under active development, as we speak.
The other thing is to look at the development of the infrastructure. That is something that is a pretty common theme among all ministers of northern development and the meetings we have. The better the infrastructure, the better the ability to develop the economies related to it ó better roads, and there are certainly implications for rail, as well as better air corridors. We are looking at the possibility of re-establishing a better air link with Prince George, which has excess MRI capacity and no waiting list, so all of a sudden that would open up a whole new range.
There are a lot of different things, but itís mostly diversification that we have to work on. Putting everything in one area makes no sense at all. Looking at mineral prices is one narrow window into that, because the mineral prices, as the member opposite knows, are the same worldwide. We are competing with all the other mining areas for that same boom. So, yes, it is a big help. Itís a great help in that respect, but we have to go way beyond it in order to develop the economy.
Mr. Hardy: I agree with the minister on that. We need as many legs as possible holding the economy up and I know that previous governments, such as the NDP, were extremely involved with diversification activities. Many of the programs that are in front of us today are from that period, especially the film and sound work that was done with the last NDP government.
Letís take a look at some of those. I would like to know what the uptake has been on a lot of these programs. I am sure that the minister and his department have been monitoring them closely, because if you donít know what kind of impact they have, you would really have to question why you are putting the money aside.
If the minister could give me an idea ó and we could go through them one by one or he could just agree to give me a list of the uptake on each of these. There is a business incentive program. What is the uptake per year on that and how does it break down? I believe that with the business incentive policy, if I remember correctly, there is a manufacturing side and there is an employment side.
So there are two streams. I donít think there are any other.† Could the minister make that available? I wanted to go through them all, so if he just agrees to table that information or get the information over to me ó and I suspect the leader of the third party would like it, as well.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can probably dig it out now, but in the interest of moving along, I have no problem with getting that out and bringing it in for the member.
Mr. Hardy: Iíll move down to the next one. We have the economic infrastructure development. Actually, it would be really good, when the minister sends this information over, if he could tell me when the program actually was started. I think it would be really good for us to get a picture of what kind of impact this had over the years and try to figure out if it has some value or if it needs to be adjusted or changed or if we need to look at it closer. I donít have a great deal of background in some of them. Iím kind of curious about them and what kind of impact they had. So there is the economic infrastructure development fund, which is only $100,000. It says here, ďFacilitate the planning and studies of projects with significant economic development impacts.Ē Could the minister tell me exactly what he means by ďsignificant economic development impactsĒ and what is actually being worked on presently?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite is right on that; it is research. Itís basically for professional costs required to facilitate research and planning for a variety of potential major strategic projects, developing policy, strategy, programs and legislative instruments to support it. It looks at things like port access, energy, telecommunications, legislative preparations, potentially the railway and any of these sorts of things. Itís a fund that allows us to do the research for that. It looks at some contracts. Basically those are the main areas that it covers.
Mr. Hardy: Is it generally done in-house, then, or is it usually contracted out?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Much of that is contracted out ó some to other parts of the government and some to outside expertise. Again, while everyone has a capacity problem, the Yukon government has that same one. So, itís better to go to good consultants and experts in the field.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you for that answer. Could the minister tell me what studies are presently being done ó if there is anything happening right now?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím told that port access is certainly the next one coming up. Part of that fund, as well, funded the Charles River Associates study, looking at the feasibility of a rail project.
Mr. Hardy: I havenít had a chance to look at that yet. I look forward to it. Iím trying to find out where the P3 proposal or agreement would actually fit in here, if it does at all. Would there be any work in this area for the P3 concept?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We prepared a variety of information documents and this sort of thing for Highways and Public Works. So, this is another one where it crosses between the two, and the expenses would probably appear in there.
In terms of the Charles River Associates study, Iíd like to apologize to the member opposite. Itís a nice colour study that our Queenís Printer was having a little difficulty in getting done in an opportune time. So, when I tabled that document today, I provided one copy for each of the leaders opposite, one of which is a little mouse-torn. Within a couple of days, weíll have good, clean copies, so that members opposite can do a better job of annotating and marking it up.
Mr. Hardy: Yes, that Charles River rail study ó since we havenít got it, I guess we have to wait. That raises a couple of questions, like when do you feel that we will get it? I understand that the minister tabled it, but one copy ó Iím not sure if itís a colour thing and maybe colour has some value here, but maybe we have to wait to see the colour to understand it. Iím not so sure. When are we going to get it? Was this a sole-source contract and how much was it?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again to the member opposite, they only provided us with a couple of copies of the Charles River study and the Queenís Printer is having some difficulty with it. I knew that the members opposite wanted a copy of it. It wasnít the best to only permit two copies out right now, but the others will be here in a couple of days and weíll provide more copies. I donít know who got the one that sort of burst and opened on that.
The Charles River study was not sole-sourced; it was done for I believe $103,000 and it was bid on by a number of different proponents.
Mr. Hardy: So it was bid on by a number of proponents?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The minister has indicated that three proponents bid. As is always disappointing for us in the Yukon, as we like to see as many Yukoners work as possible, I notice that it was won by Charles River Associates Incorporated, Boston, Massachusetts. Thatís a long way away to do a rail study, but Iíll have to take a look at it to see how accurate it is and if they understand permafrost and all that jazz. We do have concerns about that. Iím going to move on though.
My understanding, of course, is that some of the costs would be shared on P3 projects out of this with highways and public works. Some of the work is shared in that area.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, Mr. Chair, weíre providing some information and such to Highways and Public Works but theyíre paying their own costs on that.
For the memberís information, Charles River is a group that has worked extensively in Canada and has extensive work in B.C. Rail and the studies that were done in northern British Columbia, so theyíre very well qualified in that and, yes, have worked in those sorts of areas and have also done some work in conjunction with the University of Alaska in terms of looking at permafrost and its implications on the project.
Mr. Hardy: A fancy piece of work.
On the microloans program, could the minister provide some information ó if he doesnít have it at his fingertips, thatís fine ó over the last few years on the applications that have come in, the uptake on it, and the averaging of what is usually requested ó Iím sure thereís a lot of duplication of requests ó and the average financial amounts? Has it been increasing? Has it been well-used? Thatís a serious question I have. Is it one that seems to be advertised enough, and people are using it? Has there been follow through on the benefits a few years down the road?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The microloans program is through Dana Naye. If the member opposite hasnít noticed, the Yukon government, of all political stripes, has not done well in the loans business, so we stay out of that one. This is funding to Dana Naye Ventures and they do that.
Iím told we can probably get reports from Dana Naye, but the idea is that it is microloans. They administer it; people apply to them. Other than funding that program for Dana Naye, we stay right out of it.
Mr. Hardy: I would hope that the government would ask for an update on how itís being used.
Now, the microloan program happens to be fairly close to my heart. It was the one I had championed when we were in government and that was when it was created. Iím glad to see that money is still being put toward it. I just want to know ó and I think itís a legitimate question ó how successful it has been and how people are using it, if the minister can find that. I think itís important that any government that is putting money out in a loan situation ó and I know itís through Dana Naye ó would be concerned and would want to know whatís happening with that money. The minister has indicated that he will supply me with that information. I appreciate that.
Is the ventures business development program the new one that has been set up for the delinquent loans, since weíre on loans?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Just to stay with the microloan program for a moment, basically there are no other programs to provide microloans. It is a good program, whoever set it up. Itís an excellent program. We do monitor it and know that it is well-used. We have the reports available through Dana Naye and we would be happy to provide them. Thereís no problem there at all.
As to the question on that other program, yes, that is what has been set up.
Mr. Hardy: All right, I am not going to spend a lot of time on it. We asked a lot of questions when it was first announced. In some ways, we will just have to wait and see whatís going to happen in that area.
I am going to move right on to the trade market development. When was it created again? Similar to that question, how is it being used? I think the minister could probably just answer this one right on the floor. It seems to be based on tours and trade missions. Is this the one ó the trade market development fund ó where the delegates came over from China and then they went back? Is that what this would have fallen under? Letís start with that.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes, that is certainly one of the areas for that. I had the opportunity to have dinner with a group of producers from Vancouver and Los Angeles who were looking at doing one of their productions up here. I think all of us always wonder how useful some of the familiarization tours are. The first thing these people said after getting off the plane was that they were here because of a fam tour a year ago. They knew what was here; they knew what was available to them, and thatís why they came back and are filming now. So this particular fund has a wide range of uses, but the member is indicating a number of different areas, and that is where they would fall.
Mr. Hardy: It sounds very broad, actually. It has the fam tours; it has the investment trade missions. I suspect it has local events, business forums and workshops. It is quite an extensive area. From his trip to China and having had the Chinese delegates come over here, has the minister had any indication where that is going? Has there been any advancement on investments in the territory or partnerships or whatever with other businesses?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That is a very valid question. I can say, yes, there are negotiations going on now, as we speak. They are, of course, confidential, but we are pretty happy with the product that is coming out of that, and we look forward to some good announcements coming up. The main question is getting people over here and us getting over there to learn how each side does business and getting that degree of trust and relationship, which is very, very important in the Chinese culture. You can present the best business plan going, but until they really know who theyíre dealing with, they donít want to get down to the details. I think weíre there now, and negotiations have been going back and forth. Weíve had people over there. Theyíve returned here a number of times, and there should be some good product coming out of it. Weíre looking forward to that, but they are in active negotiations with the government right now.
Mr. Hardy: Without getting into details ó because I understand about the negotiations and that ó what are they actually negotiating with the government? What would be the governmentís role that they would be negotiating around? I thought they were just going to buy businesses.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: When I say ďgovernmentĒ, that might be misinterpreted. We are certainly negotiating with them at a government level. They are also negotiating with private businesses and private mining interests over here ó most actively with one, and potentially on a second. So there is progress on that. Even a lot of that progress ó as I say, itís a private business so we just sort of monitor it, but itís looking good. All of the signs are there.
Mr. Hardy: Okay, thatís a little clearer then. Iím not sure what ďgoodĒ means, if other countries end up owning our businesses here. Iíve always been a person who believes that Canada should maintain as much control of its own resources and activities as possible.
Partnerships are fine. But if itís partnerships ó I mean, I guess we have to wait and see whatever is being developed and kind of wait to see what the governmentís role in all of this has been. Iím curious about what interest the Chinese delegates and the people who have come over have in the north. I could assume that some of them are a few small businesses Iíve heard about through the grapevine; some are possibly some of the mining interests that may be happening here. Even the railroad might be a consideration for investment.
Can the minister give us an idea of what areas the Chinese businesses have been interested in?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The fact that the whole reason for going over to China last year was specifically to do the opening address at the first international China gold show, thatís certainly a big interest. They also have interests in everything from copper, molybdenum, tungsten has been there, and coal certainly has been discussed but not to a huge amount.
For the memberís information, really itís not so much to buy the assets as to invest in and form partnerships, and theyíve been very good about that. The level of work weíve been doing together is to try to explain to the Chinese our regulations and our environmental regime, why and how to work with First Nation governments, why they have to, why they should, and explain business law.
When we first went over there, one of the more humorous things was that at one point somebody thought, well weíre interested in such-and-such a company, how much do I write on the cheque? Well, thatís a publicly traded company, you canít do that. So we have to begin to explain business law and things like the one phrase, ďa non-binding contractĒ. The linguistics professor who was acting as the translator had no concept of what we were talking about by a non-binding contract. Within a few hours, they brought in a certified accountant trained in Vancouver and fluent in both languages, and he drove eight hours and was at the meeting the next morning to explain this to the group, and all of a sudden ďOh, thatís what you meanĒ.
So these are the sorts of things that we have to work with, and itís a slow process but it is coming. Itís not to come in and buy something and do what they want; itís to come in and invest in something and learn to live with our regulations. We donít lose that control at any point.
Mr. Hardy: When the minister indicated that they explained doing business with First Nations and the necessity of it, Iím just reading a book of some writings by the Dalai Lama right now and wish there were some activities or some help for the people in Tibet in that regard as well, because there is not a good history around that.
Enterprise trade fund ó the minister has talked about this a little bit and itís a substantial part of the capital budget. Itís over 10 percent. Iíd like to know how old this fund is and how much uptake there has been on it ó the same questions as on the other one, really ó and if he could also indicate where the department is focusing most of the money or their attention. They have the export marketing and business development support. How do you break that down?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I certainly appreciate the member oppositeís comments in terms of First Nations and the Chinese. It is interesting to note, though, that there are 56 different ethnic groups represented within China, but certainly the way of dealing with many of the ethnic groups is a different perspective.
At the rail meetings in Prince George, the Grand Chief from British Columbia made a comment about how refreshing it was to come into the Yukon, and when he left the Yukon, he felt he was returning to 1860. I think thatís the best comment weíve had on our First Nations policies since Iíve been here.
The enterprise trade fund is basically to stimulate Yukon business activity through business planning, investment attraction, business skills and training, development of new export markets and the expansion of existing export markets. I believe it started as of February 9, 2005, and the department was recently reconstituted. We had 37 applications. It started out with the creation of the department, of course, but in order to get policies and everything in place so we could enact those funds in its first year, we underspent it and thatís one of the things thatís reflected in the budget.
But as of February 9, 2005, we had 37 applications approved, for a total contribution of $334,706. Since it was actually established, we have a total of 51 complete applications received and a number of other discussions, of course. It was designed to provide long-term benefits to the Yukon economy while ensuring that the government funding does not foster unfair competition within the business community. This is always one of the problems that we have. We have it with this fund; we have it with the community development fund. Of the 51 applications received, 14 were determined not to meet program guidelines, and two applications were actually withdrawn.
We expect the uptake on the program to be pretty consistent and pretty steady now that itís going. We have $1 million included in the 2005-06 capital budget for administration and delivery of this, and we expect that we will now be up to speed with a new director who has just joined us this week. We expect a good uptake on that.
Mr. Hardy: Moving down, regional economic development fund ó could I get an update on the funding initiatives and capacity development that this fund has been doing and what the uptake is on that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The regional economic development ó there are always two theories of that. We have very firmly chosen one of those two paths. It is easy to say that we should be putting people out in the communities. Part of that problem is, of course, you will isolate them from some of the resources that they would have available. So we have gone the other route and weíve chosen to keep the regional economic people here but also make sure that theyíre on the road all the time, and their travel bills are certainly showing that.
The regional economic development fund facilitates the preparation of various regional economic development plans. Some of it is involved with land claims implementation funding. The regional inclusive aspect of the regional development plans requires broader participation than just YTG and a First Nation. Other stakeholders, such as area advisory committees, community associations, municipalities and business owners will all need to participate to create meaningful and realistic plans for each of the economic regions.
Ten percent of the funding will provide for administrative costs, such as travel. As I mentioned, we want to keep these people out in the communities as much as we can. It will also involve contracts, advertising, and 90 percent of the contribution agreements with community stakeholders. The interesting twist on this one, for the member opposite, is that we wanted to get something going very, very quickly in the individual communities, and what we found is that virtually every community that was associated, to one degree or another, with a First Nation, has asked us to back off and allow them to do the planning with the First Nation involved and then move together as a team.
So, part of that is frustration and part of it is a big bravo. I think thatís probably a much better way to do it. Itís not immediate, but I think that the long-term benefits will be much better.
Mr. Hardy: Just to get clarification on that, is the minister indicating that the First Nations have asked the regional economic development officers to leave them alone for awhile?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Not necessarily to leave them alone, but certainly to allow them to work with the First Nation ó the Village of Mayo and the Na Cho Nyšk Dun, for instance, to come together with a joint plan on that. Thatís a much better way to do it, so weíre in support of that. Again, as frustrating as it can be ó weíd like to see something happening immediately ó I think the long-term benefits are good.
Itís being well-received and well-thought-out by all orders of government.
Mr. Hardy: Letís go back to one of the categories. This is the incentive program ó is that going to apply to P3s?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Not necessarily. Again itís a pilot sort of thing. Weíll see how the bridge comes in and what the recommendations are on that. As a rule, not necessarily. I know thatís not a good answer, but thatís the reality.
Mr. Hardy: Itís a terrible answer ó not necessarily, but possibly. I think we really need some clarification on that because if youíre talking about a $40-million to $50-million bridge, plus all the other activities, $1 million probably isnít going to cut it in the end.
So Economic Development had better figure out what theyíre going to do on this one, and quickly, because supposedly itís on the 12th that a couple of these proposals are coming in.
Does the Department of Economic Development look at any of the proposals that are being brought forward or is it done through the Department of Highways and Public Works and contract services?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am informed now that there has been an agreement to put the deadline off to the 24th for those proposals, rather than the 12th or 13th. Whatever it was, they have agreed on the 24th.
Our department provides social and economic impacts and this sort of thing, but the main evaluation will be done by Highways and Public Works. Our interest in the business incentive plan, or BIP, will be primarily toward spinoff businesses and spinoff contractors on that where it will apply.
Mr. Hardy: The proposal deadline is a surprise to me. It looks like it is a surprise to the minister, as well, as he has just been brought up to date on it. Anyway, was that brought about because of the possibility of a third bid? I do know that there was an appeal process that Epcom had brought forward. Iím just wondering if it has allowed them more time to get a bid in and if they have been allowed to participate in this.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes, the member opposite is quite right. Thatís a new one. We donít have any details on that. The contracting process is being done by Highways and Public Works, so I will have to direct the member opposite there. Again, we provide socio-economic and other information for that and we are part of the process, but it really is a Highways and Public Works show in terms of the contracting. So we are as anxious as he is to see where it comes in.
Mr. Hardy: Just to speed things up a little bit, Iím going to just lump a few together and see if the minister can just supply the information. The strategic industries and project development program, technological partnerships and film and sound incentive programs ó could the minister give me a financial breakdown on that, what the uptake is, where the activity seems to be happening, when these funds were created and what the analysis is of how theyíre doing? Iíd appreciate all that. I donít expect the minister to supply it all on the floor. Itís far more extensive than is necessary at this present time.
The minister has talked about the communities and the regional economic development fund. I seem to share a common view here; there is a concern about the activities in the communities. There is a lot of activity in Whitehorse; thereís no question about it, but I go out to the communities as much as I possibly can, and I donít see that type of activity happening. So my concern is for the communities right at the present time. What the minister said about the regional economic development and the indications they got back doesnít make me feel very comfortable that they would allow the communities to languish while the municipalities and First Nations work out their own solution or direction they want to go in. The government, I would hope, would be spending money equitably throughout the communities.
The other concern I have around that, though, is the influx of people coming into Whitehorse. I could be wrong, but I think at least nine of those communities are seeing a consistent drop in the population about which, at a certain point, you really have to start to worry. It doesnít matter what kind of long-range plans you have, you get to a point where it becomes very difficult to maintain the strength of the community. You start to lose a lot of good people, and at some point, just like in Whitehorse, when a lot went down south to work during the last downturn we had, they donít all come back, and itís very hard to rebuild the skills, the professions, bring back the families, bring back the youth, if there isnít some hope there.
Has Economic Development looked at that kind of situation, especially the people moving out of the communities? I think that has a longer range impact than just when thereís a downturn and upturn. The fact is that too much activity and too much focus on the activities and spending in Whitehorse can be having a very negative, long-term impact on population.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The phrase ďallowing to languishĒ ó I canít totally let go of that. Weíre certainly not doing anything of the sort. The problem is, of course ó and I share the memberís frustration on that ó that we would like to see faster progress on that, but the communities and the First Nations have made it very clear that they wish to proceed at their own pace. We have to sort of go with that. What we can do and what we are doing is working with, for instance, an upcoming regional economic forum, bringing people together, getting them to talk. Thatís the sort of use that this fund can be put to. Rather than have eight different groups out there trying to figure out what to do, why donít we bring all those eight different groups in and get them talking at the same time? Thatís perhaps a better use of that fund at this point in time.
Again, when we look at the diversification of the economy, weíre looking at things like forestry and tourism and, to a degree, mining ó large and certainly the small end. These are all in rural areas as well, so we have to look at all the different ways to try to do that and to try to allow them to go ahead. They have made it very clear to us that they wish to proceed at their own pace, so somehow we have to walk the fine line between those two.
Mr. Hardy: It is a difficult situation. I go out to the communities and I donít see them prospering the same way as this area is. One of the concerns, of course, in the Yukon is always that you try to spread out a little bit what one region or one area benefits from.
Letís look at the Canada Winter Games. Has there been an economic analysis of the impact the Canada Winter Games is having for Whitehorse and what itís also having for, say, the Yukon in general?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thatís something we have been working on and continue to work on. The games are a challenge, to put it mildly. They can certainly produce a great impact on the Yukon; they can also cause us a lot of grief and we can go into some of the grief, where some of the organizers have badly misinterpreted or not done a really good job of estimating what the cost is, and guess who gets the bill? So weíre trying to deal with that at the same time, but the overall economic impact is still there. Itís something we do want to support and push, but that economic impact study becomes a shifting target all the time.
Mr. Hardy: Thereís no question about it: the Canada Winter Games will have a big impact. With every impact there are pros and cons. So we on this side of the House are very concerned about hearing figures like $2.7 million estimated for the athletes village. I could be wrong so correct me, but for some reason thatís the figure in my head. Then all of a sudden we find out the territorial government has had to work out a deal that involves $20 million, and it seems to be centred around the athletes village. That raises some very serious concerns.
How can you be so far off the mark? How can a territory legitimately pay that kind of cost? Just because itís the Canada Winter Games?
A lot of people recognize there are a lot of benefits, and weíre witnessing a tremendous amount of activity happening in the Whitehorse area. However, one of the big concerns, of course, is the initial dream and intention of the games was that the communities close to Whitehorse would receive some benefit. Iíll give you an example: there were a lot of discussions that the Haines Junction area would have seen an upgrade of their arena facility, which would have allowed some of the figure skating practice to happen there. I donít know if there was going to be speed skating, but for figure skating they would be able to drive up there, and they definitely could have gone there for hockey practice.
Teslin was looking at some activities and some benefits. Again, I believe it was around the ice rink and how they were hoping to benefit from that, being able to put in better infrastructure that would serve the community for a long time. That would have created jobs there. That kind of work would have been beneficial. That would have kept young people working and other small businesses going. As well, they would have felt more part of the games.
Carcross, I feel, is an absolute ideal situation for infrastructure, as itís only 45 minutes away. There is no reason in the world why something couldnít have been established in the Carcross area. I canít understand at this present time how it has slipped through. Why is that missing? Have there been any discussions with this minister and the Canada Winter Games officials regarding that kind of economic development and how important it is to the communities. I just named three of them off the top of my head. Perhaps there were others that could be included as well.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There is one line in there. Often people come up and say, ďWhy do you do this crazy job?Ē The leader of the third party has said much the same thing. You know, why would you go into this line of work? One of the things that is kind of interesting is that, just when you think you have seen the most bizarre thing possible ó nothing could be crazier ó the sun comes up the next morning. There is no reason in the world, the member says. Trust me, there are millions of reasons.
I agree that in the early negotiations with the Canada Winter Games officials, it made perfect sense to put all of this out to the communities and to look at the arena in Haines Junction, look at Carcross, Watson Lake and Dawson. However, the terms of reference, and the requirements that we have to live with and what the host society has to live with, say that there must be two air ambulances on the ground ready to go. If one ambulance goes in the air, the games shut down until there are two back there again. Now, that means that we canít really move any of the games out of Whitehorse.
We canít move hockey or figure skating to Haines Junction. We canít move hockey or something else to Teslin, or boxing down there or anything else. My fervent hope would have been for somebody to have noticed that before a few weeks ago. But thatís the reality ó it canít be done. Once again, weíre caught in that.
The member opposite is quite correct when he says $2.7 million for the athletes village. That is a procurement process that does not include Economic Development. So, thatís not part of this department. But heís quite right ó $2.7 million budgeted for something that I have seen estimates for as high as $24 million. Right now, we are in trouble. We are going to have a real hard time producing an athletes village thatís usable because what the regulations say ó again, all the guidelines for this say that every athlete has to be the same. They have to live in the same facility, they have to eat food from the same kitchen. We canít break them up and move them to different areas. We canít billet them. I talk to people every day who come up with wonderful ideas on how to get around this, but none of them work.
The organizers have agreed to live by this set of guidelines ó they are more than guidelines; they are written in stone in many respects ó or we lose the games, and the chance of getting them north of 60 again is pretty well non-existent.
In my opinion, we should have known all of this before we got in. Before the member opposite gets up and says that ó I agree with him. I totally agree with him. Itís another challenge we deal with.
From our perspective, we are looking at different sports-related businesses in the communities. Weíre looking at, and working through, the Chamber of Commerce to try to bring some economic benefits outside of the Yukon. With the 2010 Olympics coming to Vancouver, I know there have been some discussions around the fact that there may be training facilities necessary for smaller countries. This is a possibility, both with facilities within Whitehorse and a way of using facilities outside of Whitehorse.
We have to be able to bring that benefit as widely as we can to all Yukon communities, but our problem right now is that the air ambulance has basically put a stamp on the whole thing, and we canít leave Whitehorse.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Two days ago, three days ago.
Mr. Hardy: I think the first application for the Canada Winter Games went in 13 years ago. There has been a lot of work. I am assuming. I know ó I shouldnít even say that Iím assuming. People went Outside and monitored games, monitored what was needed. There were people in place to look at each and every aspect. The hosts from each of the games would pass on a tremendous amount of resources to the next hosts. I canít agree about the air ambulances. I understand what the minister is saying. He has, just within the last couple of days, found out about it, but what I canít agree with ó and itís not the ministerís position necessarily óis the fact that we canít have air ambulances ó two of them, on the ground. Itís money. Right now, my understanding, if I do a quick calculation ó and Iím probably going to be way off because I donít have a pen and paper in front of me to do it ó is that the territorial government is approaching maybe a $50-million, $60-million investment already into the Canada Winter Games. That is the territorial government alone. The federal government is easily over $20 million, and I donít even have a clue what the cost to the municipal government is, but I think off the top of my head we could assume that weíre probably looking at $80 million already into the Canada Winter Games.
We are a population of 32,000 people. It is great to have the Canada Winter Games. It is wonderful to see how much economic stimulation there is out there, but we are talking about massive amounts of dollars. Iím going to come back to the air ambulances in a second, but at the end of the day, I would suspect that the Auditor Generalís staff will sit down and take a look at the Canada Winter Games and do an analysis of it.
I want to talk about the air ambulances a little bit here and a couple of other things. But one of the questions the minister can keep in mind is: is the department monitoring the economic activity that this is generating, the benefits that we are realizing from the Canada Winter Games, balanced with the outlay of costs that we have, that we have put out to date, and is there an amount, a number, that these games are actually going to cost at the end of the day? Iím sure that, from past games, there is something we can base a little bit of a figure on. I would hope so.
I remember the Canada Winter Games when I was a kid. Where was that one? Iím trying to remember whether it was ó Iím talking about a long time ago. Sorry about that. I also went to Arctic Winter Games ó you get them mixed up after awhile. It gets confusing, but I have attended the last two Canada Winter Games as a coach.
Sorry to Hansard; Iím sure theyíre wondering what kind of conversation weíre having in here, so Iíll try to direct my comments through the microphone and the Chair and ignore everything else.
Iíve attended the last two Canada Winter Games: one was in Newfoundland and one was in New Brunswick. They were very different games, massively different ó different attitude, different approach, different belief on what they were trying to deliver and what kind of impact it would have on their regions, and who would benefit and who would actually be involved and see the games. A question that will be asked by a lot of people in this territory, at some point, is: are we ever going to see any of the activities? Iíll get to that in a second.
The games are significant for the territory, for future structures and whatís happening out there today leading up to it. The minister has indicated we have less than two years, which is quite a worry. He has also indicated that heís very worried about the athletes village and the demands around that.
I attended both games. The Newfoundland games were held at Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. It was very much in a small area, kept close to the town. In most cases, the facilities were within walking distance. We had our athletes village that were Hibernia trailers from the massive Hibernia project and were brought over and stacked up on each other, so basically they were Hibernia bunkhouses.
They were not fancy, I can guarantee you. These are not Cadillacs; these are construction trailers for construction workers, and they would fit four to six athletes in each of the rooms. Then weíd go down to the kitchen in the school. They set up the kitchen in the school, but we could walk to the facilities, so squash, hockey, figure skating, speed skating, there were water events ó I canít even remember what they were. There was curling. The only events that I remember that I was able to get out and see in the one week I was there was the cross-country skiing and the downhill skiing. They were about a 20-minute drive. I think cross-country was about a 20 to 25-minute drive out of town. I went and watched that and cheered the Yukon athletes on.
There was an arena that was built out at Stephenville, which was about an hour-and-a-quarter away, an hour-and-a-half away ó a massive arena. Now we had to drive out to that and play a game there. That was to make Stephenville feel a part of the Canada Winter Games. There were a few other events that were out, but predominantly in Cornerbrook everything was in walking distance. It was very close. It made a very nice games for the athletes.
They had big facilities too. They have a 5,000 or 7,000-seat hockey arena. They had another arena attached to it. They couldnít fit everybody in. That region was 55,000 people.
They were able to do that.
Letís shift over to four years later, to New Brunswick. New Brunswick approached it very differently. New Brunswick ó the two of them, actually ó are very good case studies.
We seem to be caught. Seeing that we are running out of time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Mr. Hardy has moved that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, 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.
Also, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 55, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
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.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 2, 2005:
Alaska-Canada Rail Link, proposed, A review of Potential Benefits (dated March 2005):† Executive Summary†† (Kenyon)
Alaska-Canada Rail Link, proposed, A review of Potential Benefits (dated March 2005):† Final Report†† (Kenyon)
Yukon Family Violence Resource Directory 2005, 8th Edition† (Taylor)