††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, May 9, 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 Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to pay tribute to May as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. In Canada an estimated 50,000 people suffer from MS, an often disabling disease of the central nervous system.
Every day, three more people are diagnosed with this dreaded disease. Throughout May, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is involved in special activities to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis. The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is a national volunteer agency that funds MS research, provides services for people with MS and family members, and conducts public education programs.
The societyís education program and campaign helps friends, neighbours and families understand how MS affects their loved ones. During May, the society has been encouraging people to be involved in the MS carnation campaign. The carnation is Canadaís oldest and most recognized symbol of hope for a cure for MS. Many Canadians living with MS are mothers, since women are diagnosed with MS twice as often as men.
This is a dreaded disease, and we hope that with the research taking place into MS around the world at an unprecedented rate, that some day very soon a new treatment and, potentially, a cure may be found.
Mr. McRobb: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to also pay tribute to all those people who are suffering and working with multiple sclerosis. MS is a disabling disease of the central nervous system that affects an estimated 50,000 people in this country. Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Symptoms include visual disturbances, extreme fatigue, problems with balance and coordination, muscle stiffness, weakness and cognitive problems.
The severity and development of MS cannot be predicted at the time of diagnosis. Medical researchers now suspect its cause is related to genetics or a virus, although MS is not contagious or directly inherited. This disease often strikes young adults between 20 and 40 years of age and can cause disabilities. Women are more likely to become affected than men.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, which offers support to sufferers and funds MS research, reports that researchers are closer to finding what causes MS and what might be done to treat it. Included in the researchersí studies is using medicinal marijuana for coping with the effects of the disease.
Apart from the physical symptoms of MS, psychological effects must also be considered. MS can be accompanied by depression. As we learned during National Mental Health Week, patients having a positive attitude toward their illnesses can lead a more comfortable life.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to mark Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. The national Web site of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has an interesting way to mark this important month. Making a legacy gift, also known as a planned gift, can benefit both an individual and the MS Society of Canada. The gift is established in the present with its actual delivery to the charity sometime in the future. Through the simple device of a will, almost anyone can become a legacy donor. Legacy gifts will provide tax savings, some current and others that are realized by the estate. More and more people are including the MS Society of Canada in their estate plans.
The difficulty of living with MS has been noted by other members in the Legislature. After an individual ensures that their family is cared for, they want to ensure that a fight for a future free from MS will continue. If Yukoners are interested in more information about legacy gifts, they can contact the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the telephone number is readily available on the Web site. If you have already made a planned gift to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, thank you, Yukoners. Your gift will ensure that important research, as well as services and assistance to those who live with MS, will continue.
In recognition of International Building Safety Week
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise on behalf of the House to pay tribute to the International Building Safety Week, May 8 to 14.
On this occasion, I rise to pay tribute to all the designers, engineers, construction managers, builders, suppliers, manufacturers, building inspectors and fire prevention officers who work to increase the safety of the buildings where we live, work and play.
The theme of this yearís International Building Safety Week is, ďMaking our homes, schools and workplaces safer togetherĒ. To accomplish this, we need to plan, build and inspect for safety. People planning to build or remodel buildings can plan for safety by ensuring that they ask building safety inspection departments before they build or remodel about permits and inspections required to keep their buildings or construction sites safe. When building or remodelling, people can work with a design team that knows the national building, plumbing and fire codes and will include building safety and fire prevention requirements in the project design. They can also make sure that the building safety inspection department reviews the plans for safety.
People can build for safety by ensuring that they choose a construction manager and a builder who will construct the project according to the safety requirements in the approved plan and use building products that are safe, durable and comply with the national codes. People can inspect for safety by calling on inspectors and fire prevention officers at each project milestone to help ensure that the building, plumbing, electrical systems, gas boilers, elevators and other systems are as safe as possible.
Buildings are expensive, and inspectors can help people protect themselves and their investments. Do-it-yourself carpenters or electricians might think they have the skills to do the work, but certified tradespeople and government inspectors can make sure that our homes are safe.
Mr. Speaker, International Building Safety Week is an excellent opportunity to inform the public about their role in ensuring safety. It is also a good time to increase public awareness of the governmentís role in protecting lives and property through the work of the staff at building safety branch, Whitehorse building inspection department and the fire prevention offices. Yukon government staff at the building safety branch are responsible for ensuring buildings meet or exceed the safety standards set for building, plumbing, fire prevention, electrical, gas boiler and elevator systems. Building safety branch staff are willing and able to provide clients with valuable information toward making buildings safer.
Yukon Housing Corporation staff here in Whitehorse, or through one of the nine community offices, can also provide homeowners with valuable assistance. Sometimes people buy homes only to find out at a later date that there are serious safety issues. Thatís where the home repair program can come in to assist. This program helps homeowners with repairs and upgrades to bring homes up to current safety codes.
I encourage homeowners to contact Yukon Housing Corporation if they have a concern about the safety of their home. This yearís theme, ďMaking homes, schools, workplaces safer togetherĒ, helps everyone become more aware of building safety and take the appropriate steps to ensure that the places where we live, work, play and learn are safe. Countless lives have been saved through the building safety codes that have been adopted and enforced by the municipal, provincial and territorial agencies.
This year, as we observe International Building Safety Week, we ask all citizens to consider projects to improve building safety at home and in the community and to recognize the important role building safety and fire prevention inspectors play in public safety.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Hart: I have for tabling the Driving Yukon Highways 2005 pamphlet.
Speaker: Are there any other returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
†Mr. Hardy: I have for presentation the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the 31st Yukon Legislature. This report is based on public hearings held November 19, 2004.
Speaker: Are there any other reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House requests the Auditor General of Canada to provide the Yukon Legislative Assembly with a considered opinion on the question of whether or not the use of a special warrant between the end of the current sitting of the Assembly and the commencement of the fall sitting, for the purpose of authorizing an expenditure of public funds to study the feasibility of a rail link between Alaska and British Columbia, would meet the requirements of section 19(2) of the Financial Administration Act.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) there is an increasing concern about the use of crystal methamphetamine in the Yukon;
(2) this dangerous illegal drug is highly addictive and can cause delusions, hallucinations, seizures, stroke, heart failure, coma and death; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to take immediate measures to initiate an aggressive campaign aimed at Yukon youth to counteract the increasing use of crystal methamphetamine.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) substance abuse by the youth of the Yukon Territory is of serious concern;
(2) the prevalence of substance abuse increases with age; and
THAT this House urges the government to evaluate its present substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for youth with a view to making them more responsive to the needs of youth, both in Whitehorse and in rural communities.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) widows of veterans who have died intestate are ignored when it comes to compensation paid to them by the federal government;
(2) the federal Ministry of Defence is mired in legalities about the issue; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Party government to urge the Ministry of Defence to act immediately on paying compensation to widows of Canadian veterans who have died without a will.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Alaska-Yukon railway feasibility study
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier about his dream of a railway to resources. Last week the Minister of Economic Development tabled a letter of transmittal from the Boston consultants this government hired to make the case for a feasibility study about an Alaska to B.C. railway. The Premier has unilaterally committed $3-million Yukon tax dollars to that study without consulting anyone and with no guarantee that the federal government will participate. Now why did the government ask Charles River Associates to look only at the potential benefits of a rail link and not the potential drawbacks in terms of environmental and social impacts?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís vital that we look at the benefits of projects such as the proposed rail link, but also the possible negative impacts, and thatís why weíre proceeding with the feasibility study. As the member well knows, one of the main components of the feasibility study is to do the socio-economic impact work. I think itís fair to say, considering the priority placed in the west and the north on our transportation network and grids, and how all the other provinces ó Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan ó are very focused on this, supporting more of a north-south focus in our transportation networks, that this is a good investment for Yukon, in partnership with Alaska, at this time.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís the Premierís opinion. Obviously he never consulted the Yukon people.
The Minister of Economic Development made much of the fact that the Charles River Associates had said, to put it in blunt terms, that their opinion could not be bought. They would only provide an objective analysis but, somewhere along the line, the government obviously got to them. A draft of the Charles River report that emphasized military advantages of a rail link got seriously watered down before the final report was issued. The government wanted a one-side case and thatís what it got.
Will the Premier table all drafts the department received from the consultant and will he tell the House what instructions the department gave the consultant about downplaying the military aspects of the railway?
Speaker: Before the Hon. Premier answers the questions ó leader of the official opposition, the Chair is not comfortable with the terminology that ďthe government obviously got to them.Ē It seems to me that itís imputing motive to the government. Iím not asking you to withdraw it; Iím just asking you, if you wouldnít mind, to watch your descriptive adjectives. I would appreciate it.
Hon. Premier, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the evidence shows the government is not downplaying anything when it comes to the Yukon-Alaska rail link ó in fact, quite the contrary. Weíre providing some focus to it. Weíre going to do the work necessary to understand through a feasibility study what this concept is all about. The Charles River report was tabled some days ago by the minister responsible, providing full disclosure to the members opposite. Now itís time to move on.
I would point out that this issue has been around a long time. We have a ceremonial set of tracks outside of Faro. Weíve had railway summits in Anchorage and Prince George, the west and the north, as the recent western premiers conference placed the highest priority in our transportation network, focusing on rail, roads, ports and airports. This is a timely study. It will serve the Yukon well.
Mr. Hardy: Letís make sure itís on record that the Premier refused to table all drafts the department made, and that was a request that we made in the question.
I donít know how well the Premier has done his homework on this. Among other things, Charles River Associates is intimately connected with schemes to privatize public utilities, including B.C. Rail. Another area of expertise, to use their own words, is providing powerful ideas that help shape public dialogue about the important contributions the aerospace industry makes to national and economic security. The companyís director of aerospace research is a former Pentagon officer. The Premier may also be interested in knowing that the president of the publicly owned Alaska Railroad Corporation and at least one of its directors are retired U.S. generals.
Now, what discussions has the Premier had with the Governor of Alaska about the military importance of the proposed railway, and was this a factor in the governmentís decision to choose Charles River Associates to make the case for a larger feasibility study?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If the member is implying that the proposed Alaska rail link is all about transporting military hardware, and so on, to the State of Alaska from the Lower 48, I would point out that itís being trucked by our door now. It is happening. I would also point out that in Anchorage, at a massive air force base, many Canadians are serving this country and the North American continent and flying AWAC missions.
So the military presence in Alaska has been there a long time. Materiel and hardware continue to be shipped there. Weíre looking at all the facets of this concept ó the socio-economic impacts and the feasibility of what corridor should be used if this rail concept goes ahead.
Furthermore, the member points out ideas. Well, the Yukon does like positive, constructive ideas that lend themselves to improving the quality of life for Yukoners. Look at some of the ideas that have come forward and what has transpired in todayís Yukon ó ideas around removing an impediment like the Yukon protected areas strategy. Weíre now projecting $50 million in mining exploration next year. There was a good idea.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railway feasibility study
Mr. Hardy: Impressive answer.
Now, Iím hoping to get an answer to this question because I sure didnít get it before. I want to follow up with the Premier on the same subject.
The Web site for Charles River Associates includes a separate page related to aerospace and defence. Hereís part of what it says: ďFor government clients, CRA is particularly adept at relating the imperatives of Wall Street and Washington and at discerning their significance for the health and efficiency of the aerospace and defence industry.Ē
Iíd be interested in hearing what guarantee the Premier can provide that that advice from this huge U.S.-based company is in the best interests of Yukon people. My question: what other companies were invited to bid on this $130,000 project, and why was this particular company chosen?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Everything that transpired around the company in question follows all the policy and guidelines that the government must follow. The information received has been made public and tabled for the critique of the members opposite. They can draw their own conclusions. The government is proceeding now with a feasibility study in partnership with the State of Alaska, a study around a transportation network with a north-south focus, but as support across the west. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia all look at this as a good idea to conduct the study now to determine where we go in the future.
We need to improve our transportation networks ó there is no question about it ó or we will experience impediments to our economic growth because of the lack of infrastructure. That is why we are focusing not only on the study, but on roads, airports, ports, railroads and anything else that will help us to grow the Yukonís economy and build a better and brighter future for Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: Actually, I think the Premier is trying to build a better and brighter future for Frank Murkowski.
Now, letís get it on record, Mr. Speaker. He has refused to table the documents. That is a fact. Iíve asked for it; he refuses to do it.
There is a great deal of discomfort among Yukon people about how the Premier is approaching this ďmaybeĒ railway. They donít like the Premierís unilateral decision to invest $3 million without any public scrutiny. They are suspicious about whose interests are being served. In short, people feel that they are being railroaded into accepting something the Yukon may not need or want. One of the three contracts the government gave this Boston consulting firm was a sole-source contract worth $10,000 for seven days of work. The governmentís Web site says itís for Alaska-Canada rail link terms of reference. Is this contract for drawing up terms of reference for the four-person group the Premier has yet to identify, and will the Premier table those terms of reference by the end of the day?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The terms of reference that are so important here are the relationship or the agreement that Alaska and the Yukon have entered into to proceed with the feasibility study. Now, I know that this kind of initiative and investment makes the New Democrats, the official opposition, very uncomfortable, because it contributes to economic growth, and it engages the private sector, and it looks to profitability, and it looks to private sector investment ó all the things that the New Democrats, by their ideology, are not comfortable with, Mr. Speaker.
I can say that this government is not uncomfortable with working with the private sector and other jurisdictions to contribute to economic growth and improving our infrastructure. A feasibility study on the railroad does exactly that.
Mr. Hardy: As usual, the Premier didnít answer the question, and I would like to make it very clear that what weíre uncomfortable with on this side is the secretive approach that this government takes when spending taxpayersí money and the direction theyíre going in.
Now, on Friday, one of the principal authors of the Charles River Associates report describes it as a feasibility study for a feasibility study. He acknowledged that his company has not been asked to consider any potential drawbacks of a rail link. The Premier has already signed an agreement with the Governor of Alaska to put $3 million of Yukon money into the feasibility study itself. In its interview on Thursday, the official of Charles River Associates said his company would be interested in working on a larger study now.
What assurance can the Premier give that the feasibility study that Yukoners are paying $3 million for will consider both the benefits and the drawbacks of the railway and that Yukon people will be consulted as part of the study?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, thatís exactly what this is all about. Firstly, the members have the report from the company in question, which is what we can determine, for argumentís sake, is a pre-feasibility study ó something thatís done all the time; itís called ďdoing your homeworkĒ. Yukoners will be very much involved. Thatís why the feasibility study will conduct an exercise on determining social and economic impact and what appropriate or feasible corridors make sense. That is involving Yukoners, Mr. Speaker.
The member opposite has made mention of the Governor of Alaska and the State of Alaska and them benefiting solely from this initiative. I would argue that the Yukon situated in a very good position in terms of the proposed rail link, and I would ask the member to recognize the millions and millions of dollars of American investment on the Yukon side of the Alaska Highway ó putting Yukoners to work. That is another example of the cooperative relationship Yukon and Alaska have under this government. Given the line of questioning from the member opposite, one can only wonder what kind of relationship weíd have with Alaska with that member leading this territory.
Question re:††† Alaska-Yukon railroad feasibility study
Ms. Duncan: Last week, the Minister of Economic Development said the athletes village for the Canada Winter Games would not be ready on time. He was contradicted shortly thereafter by the Deputy Premier and members of the Canada Winter Games executive. The minister was wrong and had to be publicly corrected.
New week, same minister, same problem. The minister said recently that the railroad to Alaska has ďnothing to do whatsoeverĒ with the U.S. missile defence plan. That is completely inaccurate. The governmentís own feasibility study contradicts the minister. Will the Premier correct the record and admit that the minister was wrong? Will he recognize that thereís an entire section of the Charles River report that details the benefits of the railroad to the U.S. missile defence system?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Given the fact that the minister in question tabled the report for the member opposite, I would conclude the member is wrong ó not the minister. When it comes to things like the athletes village, these are major undertakings and a huge challenge, given the restrictive timelines. I think the minister was fair in his assessment that, if the wrong choices are made, it could be a problem, but this government is now working cooperatively with the City of Whitehorse and the host society with respect to the athletes village, as we should. Weíre working cooperatively with the State of Alaska on the proposed rail link concept, as we should; and weíre working closely with the N.W.T. on ensuring two pipelines are built, benefiting Yukoners and the citizens of the Northwest Territories. Thatís a long way from where that member was in fighting with other jurisdictions over these types of projects. Weíre advancing them; when in government, the member opposite delayed them.
Ms. Duncan: The member, contrary to Standing Order 19(g), can ascribe motives to me; however, the irrefutable fact is that, last week, the Minister of Economic Development said the rail line has nothing to do with missile defence, and that is completely wrong. Once again, the minister is off-side with the rest of his colleagues. Page 98 of the report discussed how a rail link will reduce the cost of the U.S. missile defence system. The minister was wrong.
Will the Premier simply recognize that the minister was wrong and the Yukon has now committed $3 million to a project that will help the Americans lower the cost of their missile defence system? Will he admit that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once again, for the memberís benefit, itís the member who has misunderstood this whole concept. Weíre conducting a feasibility study, not to determine if the transportation of military hardware is the main initiative, but weíre conducting a feasibility study to do the social and economic impact work, to determine what corridors are feasible, to look at all the possibilities. As we stand here today debating this issue, the State of Alaska and its own rail company are extending the railroad network to Fort Greely, under their own fruition. They donít need our study to do that; they already know what theyíre doing.
We are going to proceed with our study so Yukoners have available to them the necessary data so we can draw an informed conclusion on what may be a very positive project for the Yukon and its future.
Ms. Duncan: Itís obvious to Yukoners that the Premier is desperately trying to downplay the military aspect of the rail project. He even sent his Minister of Economic Development out to deny the rail line has any military applications. That is completely inaccurate and the Premierís own report says that. If the project is only about resources and not missiles, it shouldnít be very difficult then for the Premier to get a commitment from his friend the Governor of Alaska that the railroad would not be used for military purposes. Will the Premier commit to that? Will he ask the governor for a commitment that the rail line will not be used for military purposes?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Why would I do something like that? If the Americans are shipping military hardware to Alaska, theyíre going to do it with a railway or without a railway. Theyíre driving right by our door now.
Furthermore, any transportation of dangerous goods falls under federal statute. We have all kinds of regulatory processes, legislative frameworks, that govern and manage the transportation of dangerous goods. Thatís a positive for this territory, but itís not military that is the focus here ó itís the overall concept of a proposed rail link that would add positively to the Yukonís transportation grid and infrastructure. Thatís the study weíre conducting. Weíre not conducting a missile study; weíre conducting a feasibility study on a railway that could transport a litany of product and resources to marketplace for the Yukonís benefit. This is a good study. Thatís why so many support it across the west, in Alaska, all through the Yukon. The only people uncomfortable here are the members opposite because they didnít have the chance to proceed with this study themselves.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. McRobb: On Thursday we reviewed the history of the Yukon Party governmentís lacklustre performance on the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline. Since the Energy, Mines and Resources minister likes squirrels, Iíll give it to him in a nutshell.
The Yukon Party bailed out on its promise to first promote the building of the Alaska Highway pipeline in favour of the Mackenzie line, but when that N.W.T. project stalled, the minister finally woke up and realized that the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition needed funds to operate.
Then, the ministerís trip to Ottawa was a flop when his $3.5-million funding request was turned down. Now that the minister has fumbled the ball, what will he do to get back in the game?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly havenít fumbled the ball on the Alaska Highway pipeline, nor have we lost sight of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Weíre working with the National Energy Board to make sure that northern Yukon is not ignored ó stranded gas.
We have certainly worked with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to make sure that our aboriginal groups are treated exactly the same way as the Mackenzie Valley group. Weíre not asking for anything less or anything more. We had a very positive meeting in Ottawa. Within the next two weeks, we should have an answer back on our request to make sure that the coalition is funded in a proper fashion so they can do the job thatís ahead of them on the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Mr. McRobb: What kind of a game plan is that? When I asked him last week what he was doing to avoid the same type of delay that has tripped up the Mackenzie line, the minister sounded quite confused. He spoke about not managing the Mackenzie Valley pipeline ó whatever that meant ó and working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, even though it has no funding, no mandate to consult the public, and still has an incomplete complement of member First Nations.
Then the minister acknowledged my concern and said they would be consulting the rest of the Yukon about issues related to the pipeline. The minister needs to let us in on his secret plan. How and when will he be consulting the rest of the Yukon about issues related to this pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition has funding. Theyíre moving ahead.
As far as the number of First Nations that are members, we have eight. Of course, there are nine First Nations with traditional territory that are involved directly. We have the ninth member as an observer. They have contributed and participated in all the meetings.
So the coalition is up and running. We are moving ahead. Our budget was put in front of DIAND. Weíre looking forward to a very positive response on that and weíre moving ahead with the coalition to make sure they can do an economic and social overview of the pipeline and how it would affect those First Nations in their traditional territory.
Mr. McRobb: Iím afraid history will show how this Yukon Partyís ball-fumbling has cost the Yukon its only chance to properly prepare for this pipeline. The minister responsible wasnít even paying attention to what was happening in the N.W.T. He admitted that on public record. Now he has lost sight of the ball and canít even find it. He doesnít know who will be consulting whom or even when or how.
Itís time for the Premier to stand up and answer for this ministerís failings. What will the Premier do to straighten out this mess before itís too late? He pulled $3 million out of his hat for the railway study; will he now do the same for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím very positive that the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is moving forward in a very positive way. As far as the member opposite is concerned about the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, again, like I said the other day, we are not managing the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. It is not in our jurisdiction. We understand that they have challenges in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, but I remind everybody in this House that that is a $7-billion to $8-billion contract. Certainly there are going to be issues, and they are certainly addressing those issues as we speak here today in conjunction with the federal government, the producers and the pipeline groups. Theyíre all being addressed in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. But as far as the Yukon is concerned on the Alaska Highway pipeline, I assure the member opposite that the pipeline is in good hands as long as this government is in place.
Question re: Carmacks school
†Mr. Fairclough: The Minister of Education certainly has no love for the community of Carmacks or the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. He goes out of his way to attack their cultural ways. Last Thursday, the minister said this in the House, Mr. Speaker: ďÖI know one image that will stick in my mind forever was on the front page of the Whitehorse Star when there was a picture taken of a group demonstrating in Carmacks and using a garbage can in place of a traditional drum. Iíll remember that picture very well, because I thought it was very inappropriate.Ē
Can the minister table a copy of the photograph heís referring to?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, I donít agree with any of the assessment of the member opposite. I have no quarrels with anybody in Carmacks. Mr. Speaker, the real picture here is that this government is trying to build a brand new infrastructure in Carmacks. Because this government is concerned about the best interests of the children, we will work to the best interests of the children, and we will continue to move forward with this project. I also firmly believe that the support for this project is in Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: He didnít answer the question of whether or not he can table that photograph, Mr. Speaker. I think the member opposite is thinking a lot about what he said, and it seemed like he continues his way as ďthe minister knows bestĒ. The position that he takes hasnít gone unnoticed, not only by First Nations. He thinks he can do whatever he wants and he san say whatever he wants, so will the minister apologize to Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and retract his comments about a photograph that apparently doesnít even exist?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the record, I donít believe an apology is in order here, Mr. Speaker. I believe that democracy was being practised and, as I stated, thatís their right.
When we talk about education, letís talk about education. There has been a $13-million increase in Education by this government when in fact there was a reduction under the previous government. This government is interested in moving forward and not dwelling on any issues. We will work to the best interests of the children in education and I hope all the citizens in Carmacks will realize the real value of this project as it will provide a couple of years of employment. It is a very deluxe education infrastructure for the town of Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister seems to be slightly out of control. He can say whatever he wants, even though it might be insulting to people and he doesnít even apologize. I gave him a perfect opportunity today.
The minister goes on and on about how well heís working with the community of Carmacks. His party talks about making First Nations full partners in economic development. Construction of the Tantalus School will start in August or even earlier. Today the First Nation indicated there could be disruption in construction.
What kind of partnership does this government have with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation on building a new school? Apart from the design phase, does the First Nation have any ongoing economic involvement in this project?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As recently as today, I had a phone call this morning from a citizen who belongs to the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation.
The direct quote to me was: ďYour government is doing a good job; keep it up. We really want the school and not every citizen in Carmacks agrees with what went on,Ē including the demonstration. That is one comment I had today. As recently as three weeks ago, I had another individual from Carmacks who said basically the same thing. The member opposite chooses to represent people at his own wish. Thatís his prerogative. It appears that some of the residents in Carmacks are not being represented by any other government except this one ó
Speaker: Order please. The Minister of Education knows full well that you cannot imply that each and every member in this House is not representing their constituents honourably. I would ask the Minister of Education not to do that, please. You have the floor for another 10 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To sum it up, then, I would have to say that some individuals had to travel to Whitehorse to talk with this minister.
Question re: Northern strategy
†Mrs. Peter: On Friday, the Premier stated that the western premiers were confident that the northern strategy would not be affected by a federal election. Today we heard the Premier finally publicly recognize that ďwhatís going on in Ottawa is fully out of our controlĒ. We have been telling him for months that the northern strategy is not a done deal. What steps has the Premier taken to ensure that the northern strategy will continue under a new federal government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: † This question is highly speculative because there is an existing federal government. Iím not aware of an election call. Right now, all governments ó N.W.T., Yukon, Nunavut and the federal government ó are working on the northern strategy as they should be. The Yukon has formed a partnership with First Nations developing and contributing to a draft Yukon chapter. Weíre ready to proceed there. The northern strategy is proceeding.
The point I was making, to put it in context, is the fact that the federal government must and will continue to have a vision for the north. It is the right thing to do. We know that the focus north of 60 is becoming more and more of an issue in southern Canada. Thatís why weíre getting support from the western premiers on the north-south focus, along with the east-west work that is ongoing. So the northern strategy is not in danger and, given the evidence thatís around us today, itís advancing very positively. The northern strategy will further contribute to that advancement and the building of the Yukon future, in partnership with Canada, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, First Nation governments and all Yukoners.
Mrs. Peter: The Premier has spent the last two and a half years signing memorandums of understanding with First Nations, with little to show for it. The Yukon Party platform says: ďFirst Nations will be made full partners in economic development within their traditional territories.Ē Will the Premier give the Yukon people a detailed update on exactly what economic projects are happening as a result of the MOUs and agreements outside of Kaska territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This gives me great pleasure. Letís start with the memberís own community. The agreement with the Government of Vuntut Gwitchin on their capital works ó millions of dollars flowing into Old Crow ó the agreement with the First Nation in north Yukon on the economic development accord; the involvement and participation of the Na Cho Nyšk Dun in the maintenance and upkeep of the mine at Keno Hill; Destination: Carcross is another example; and our partnership with Kwanlin Dun on the cultural centre.
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has just discussed on the floor of the House today all the good work in the investment and partnership with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, which includes the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Taían Kwachían First Nation, the Kluane First Nation, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations ó and the list goes on.
We have a consultation protocol with all self-governing First Nations. We have the Yukon Forum, which involves all First Nations. One of the examples of productivity is our draft Yukon chapter of the northern strategy, jointly developing the Yukon position on a new federal mandate for implementing land claims.
I canít stand here long enough to list it all off ó you wonít give me the time, Mr. Speaker, but I thank the member opposite for the opportunity.
Mrs. Peter: The Premier signed an intergovernmental accord with my First Nation early in his mandate, as he mentioned and as he likes to trumpet. The list of priorities that needed to be addressed included social programs as well as economic ones.
When was the last time that the Premier met with Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin to deal with the priorities that are listed in that memorandum of understanding?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I had a discussion with the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government some days ago when we proceeded with and agreed to our draft Yukon chapter of the northern strategy.
But letís look at other issues weíre dealing with when it comes to priorities with First Nations ó not just Vuntut Gwitchin but all First Nations ó bold, innovative moves this government has made in partnership. The Childrenís Act review ó weíre not consulting with First Nations in regard to the review itself. They are conducting the review with us. They are the architects of amendments to the Childrenís Act. Educational reform, correctional reform ó these are examples of the partnerships that this government is building with First Nations.
The member opposite recognizes that there are priorities for the community of Old Crow, but the priorities are not different from those of many other communities. Weíre working with all First Nations and weíre very pleased that weíve managed to partner with the Vuntut Gwitchin on a number of areas, including their representation and protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. We are also partnering with them on that. Partnerships in this Yukon Territory governmentís approach to governance are alive and well.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 56: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 56, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government is committed to bringing things back to normal for the people of Dawson City, to having an accountable, responsible and democratic governing body that will have long-term financial stability for the benefit of all Yukoners. As you are aware, there are a number of key items already under review that will help us to form a strategy for getting there, including a forensic audit, which has already been tabled in the Legislature, and the long-term financial plan that we are working on for Dawson City.
Mr. Speaker, the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act is another key component. The Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act provides for the City of Dawsonís emergence from trusteeship into status of a fully accountable municipal government by allowing the Yukon to find ways to reduce Dawsonís debt charges by ensuring that Dawson has comprehensive procedures and indemnity bylaws.
The act recognizes that Yukon municipalities are accountable levels of government and that accountability is demonstrated through proper financial administration, management and procedures. The act provides Yukon with the authority to consolidate Dawsonís debt and to refinance this debt load. While Yukon is not prepared to pay off Dawsonís debt, with this new legislation we will be able to find ways to reduce the debt servicing costs for the municipality ó one of our top priorities as we consider our long-term financial plan for that municipality.
Consolidating the debt will not reduce the amount owed by the City of Dawson, but it will make the debt more manageable by reducing the cost of servicing the debt.
The act requires Dawson to adopt procedural bylaws that govern issues like conflict of interest. All Yukon municipalities are required to have these bylaws in place under the Municipal Act, but before Dawson was placed under trusteeship they either disregarded it or changed its bylaw provision.
The Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act reinforces this requirement. The act also requires Dawson to implement an indemnity bylaw and provisions that provide for reasonable liability, protection for the mayor and council, and the provisions that require all travel expenses to be approved in advance by the chief administration officer for that municipality.
Before Dawson was placed under trusteeship, the scheme for identifying mayor and council and the amount provided for travel-related expenditures was not manageable. This new legislation requires more control over the use of public monies by the mayor and council for the work of related travel. Future candidates for city council in Dawson, and the citizens of Dawson, need the assurance that measures are in place to ensure long-term financial stability and to establish a solid foundation for good governance in the municipality. This new legislation will assist.
We are committed to guiding Dawson back toward stable financial ground, and along with the development of long-term financial plan and the findings of the forensic audit, the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act will assist to bring about financial accountability and restoration of good governance.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís interesting to hear the ministerís version of what has happened in Dawson and what needs to happen in Dawson.
This government has had two and a half years to put right the problems that Dawson has had with its finances and with the projects it was trying to complete.
This bill is called the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act. Thereís no mention in here of a timeline for an election. The government is not committing to an election in Dawson City. I believe it was last November when the MLA for Klondike admitted that there probably wouldnít be an election held in Dawson this spring, yet this is the government that failed to prepare for that eventuality. It was required under the Municipal Act to ask for an extension. When they put the trustee in place, they had a year within which to hold an election. The trustee had a year to put in place all the necessary requirements to hold that election.
The government and the trustee failed to do that. Now theyíre scrambling. They had to scramble to get that in place, and now theyíve come up with this.
The first thing that really bothers me about this piece of legislation is how they point the finger, how they try to put the blame on people. Iíll just read the fourth paragraph of the act. It says, ďRecognizing that for at least four years prior to April 13, 2004, the City of Dawson had failed to act as an accountable government and had therefore been placed in trusteeship pursuant to the Municipal Act; Ē
I donít feel thatís the kind of statement that belongs in a piece of legislation. Thatís trying to lay the blame on somebody else for your own mistakes. Iím not saying that mistakes werenít made. What Iím saying is that the help that was offered to the council in Dawson in the two and a half years ó especially in the first year and a half of this governmentís term ó was inadequate. They didnít try to work constructively with the City of Dawson and try to get to the bottom of the problems early enough. I think they could have done more.
Now we find out that in the past year the cost to the Yukon taxpayer for trying to put right the things in Dawson is close to $3 million. Thatís a lot of money. If that amount of effort had gone in at an earlier date, we wouldnít be here discussing this today. Maybe we could have nipped it in the bud a little earlier.
This act also provides for the consolidation of debt. It could also provide for the retirement of the debt, but no commitment is being made by this government to either confirm an election date or give any assistance in retiring the debt.
The minister talks about reducing the debt service requirements. Well, that may be of some assistance, but when you go a little bit further, this act is going to continue in force until the total principal amount of Dawsonís debt is reduced to three percent of the current assessed value of all real property in Dawson.
Thatís a requirement of the Municipal Act, and thatís part of what got Dawson into the difficulty that itís in. There is no attempt by this government to assist them in dealing with that problem, other than by restructuring the debt. So this act will continue in force either for a period of five years, or until the total principal of Dawsonís debt is reduced to that three percent, so it could go on or a long time. And what it does is, it gives this government the ability to basically have a lot of say over how Dawsonís municipal government is run. It makes the minister a big player in the municipal government in Dawson. I donít believe that that is necessarily what the citizens of Dawson are looking for.
The citizens of Dawson have said for some time now that they want to have an election; they want to get back to a democratically elected government. While it may be helpful to the minister, this is putting the minister right in the thick of governing the municipality. He is restructuring the debt, or the ability to restructure the debt is there, and reducing the debt servicing is one thing, but I donít believe that it really is going to provide the kind of financial stability that Dawson City residents are looking for, and I donít believe that itís providing the financial stability for Dawson City that Yukon residents would like to see.
Itís going to be hard for this minister to call an election and to attract candidates who are going to want to participate in democracy in Dawson when theyíre still going to be saddled with a huge debt. I think that the minister needs to take another look at the act and maybe reconsider some of the heavy-handed tactics and heavy-handed clauses of this bill. It puts him at the helm of Dawson for some time.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to address Bill No. 56 at second reading. I have a number of difficulties with this piece of legislation. First of all, municipal legislation, the current Municipal Act, was developed over a number of years with all of the municipalities. I can recall its debate here in the Legislature quite vividly. There had been tremendous work done by all municipalities and the then Government of Yukon ó and it wasnít our government that did it. Iím not trying to take credit for something. The fact was that it was good legislation. It was developed by everyone. There were some questions; they were dealt with on the floor of the House, but it was recognized at the time that the Municipal Act served everyone and it served everyone equally. It was developed with everyone and it took years.
There has been on the record no negative feedback from the Association of Yukon Communities on this, but nor have they taken a position on this particular bill. There has been no feedback from the advisory committee that currently is working with the trustee in Dawson, so the minister cannot stand and say irrefutably that absolutely everyone in Dawson supports this. The advisory committee has not provided the feedback on this legislation, which is contrary to the development of the Municipal Act.
The minister made reference to a number of provisions that already exist in the Municipal Act that deal with situations such as occurred in Dawson. He has not indicated, in any way, shape or form, why this act is necessary, over and above the Municipal Act. We already have a very good Municipal Act. Why do we need this? There are existing provisions in the Municipal Act that could deal with the situations as outlined.
The other point about the Municipal Act thatís very clear is that it treats everyone the same. There is a set of rules that everybody lives by, or should live by. Itís a clear framework and it applies equally across the board. I liken this to the Umbrella Final Agreement. Every First Nation that has currently signed has negotiated under that existing Umbrella Final Agreement. Chapter 22 is economic benefits. Everybody negotiates their chapter 22. Everybody is the same.
Problems occur when you have ministers making separate deals outside of the Umbrella Final Agreement. Weíve seen that with the Kaska benefits agreement. Exactly the same situation is happening here. We have a Municipal Act that clearly outlines a set of rules for everybody, but the minister is bringing in specific rules that single out one municipality. That isnít fair. Fundamentally itís not fair and itís not leadership.
The preamble has been mentioned by the Member for Mount Lorne. Preambles are not necessary in legislation. They arenít. To some legislative drafts people, they cloud the whole issue of what the legislation is about and cause problems down the line.
Thatís exactly what the minister is doing. There is no need to put this preamble into the act. I have a great deal of difficulty, as a legislator, in saying that I agree with the fourth paragraph in the preamble that recognizes and states a series of facts when we donít have all the evidence on those facts. We have a forensic audit, and we have a limited amount of response. We have no indication from the minister of where the RCMP investigation is ó if itís indeed happening. I understand he canít say that on the floor of the House, but he can certainly advise the House there is a matter under investigation. He can say that much.
The Minister of Justice can indicate that it may or may not conclude. Weíre in a huge rush to pass this legislation; we donít have all the facts. We have one forensic audit that cost Yukon taxpayers a great deal of money. Iím not suggesting itís not thorough; Iím not suggesting that thereís anything negative about the forensic audit, but thatís all we have.
In any situation where thereís a matter as serious as this ó and it is a very serious matter ó it behoves all of us to have at least a cursory second opinion. Iím not suggesting the government spend another $1 million on another forensic audit, but thereís no harm and no foul in asking the Auditor Generalís office to just review the forensic audit and give us an opinion ó they work for us; itís not a huge cost ó before we do something as draconian as pass this legislation the minister has proposed.
Several times the Government of Yukon has suggested that, somehow, this legislation gives reassurance to future candidates. How? By suggesting that the minister will sign off your bylaw on the salary? And itís not ďmay,Ē not ďshould,Ē but the municipality ďshallĒ, just like we ďshall review the Education Act.Ē
Mr. Speaker, the minister will sign your salary if you dare to run for mayor under the government or council. The minister will sign off the travel. Fundamentally, the Yukon Party will not find any extra money ó in the tremendous resources they have ó to help. That message is very loud and very, very crystal clear. They can find, at the drop of a hat, without so much as a ďby your leaveĒ to the Cabinet colleagues or to the Yukon public, in excess of $3 million to study a railroad, but they canít find one thin dime to help the City of Dawson, which has been wrestling with the water main and sewage issues since the Member for Klondike was the mayor.
This issue has dragged on long enough, and how many times have I heard everybody in this House say that weíre stewards of the environment? That includes looking after our water and sewage. Get the job done. It has to be done. It has been court ordered. Find the money. We know the Yukon Party government has it. Itís not in this bill; it is not an offer of assistance to Dawson.† There has been a great deal of criticism of previous governments and individuals. I am not going to belabour the debate and go on. The forensic audit has outlined some key issues. The forensic audit even points out that there wasnít discussion with some individuals.
I think it is important that we recognize the circumstances of the times that both the McDonald government and our government found ourselves in and that this government has faced. This government has had a multiplex half under construction and there hasnít been money for it. What did they do? They ponied up the money because they had the money. Why are they treating the City of Dawson so separately from anybody else?
There isnít anybody in this House or any municipality or any government that hasnít at some point been criticized for errors, for mistakes, for issues, for lapses in judgement. However, that doesnít justify sentencing anybody who dares to put their name forward to what amounts to debtorsí prison in this legislation. We donít have all the facts, we donít have all the evidence, and we certainly, as legislators, should not be putting into law a preamble such as this without all that evidence. We cannot justify, and the government has not justified, why the City of Dawson should be treated and singled out so separately from absolutely everybody else ó why the pre-existing provisions of the Municipal Act cannot continue to apply.
I donít support the legislation. Iím prepared to discuss it line by line, and Iím interested in the ministerís justification. However, what he has offered so far subscribes to one school of thought: point the finger, apply the consequences, and the rest of the existing legislation and the circumstances and any contrary opinion be darned. I donít think thatís the way to make good legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít think that anyone will find it surprising that I rise in support of this piece of legislation. This is a critical piece of legislation, separate and distinct from the Yukon Municipal Act and applicable only to the community I have been representing, in one form or another, for coming up to 25 years now.
In the leader of the third partyís overview, she said that the minister doesnít have all the information, all the facts, all the financial information. Well, the leader of the Liberal Party had all the facts, had all the financial information, and failed to act. Thatís part of the problem ó a good part of the problem.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Standing Order 19(g) suggests we do not impute false or unavowed motives to individuals in the Legislature. So, suggesting that someone failed to act, or suggesting that someone had information when the member has no knowledge of whether or not an individual had, is imputing motives. ďFailed to actĒ is imputing a motive.
Speaker: On the point of order, from the Chairís perspective it is a dispute over facts.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What this bill does is to place Dawson City in a position where they are responsible to administer the affairs in a manner that is not set out in the Yukon Municipal Act.
Now, the Yukon Municipal Act is probably ó if not the most enabling piece of legislation in Canada, it is the most enabling piece of overseeing legislation. It sets out very few conditions and terms as to how a municipal government can operate, other than the basics. But other than that, it is extremely enabling.
The Minister of Community Services has seen it necessary to ensure that if we want to look at a procedural bylaw, the procedural bylaw sets out that a municipal council must hold regular public meetings and minutes must be kept. If they choose to have an in-camera meeting, the results of those meetings must be kept. What was happening in my community was that in-camera meetings were occurring, minutes were not being kept, and there was a verbal transmission of information to the administration arm to carry out the duties and responsibilities.
Hopefully, with this new procedural bylaw, undertakings of that type cannot occur.
With respect to an indemnity bylaw, it is pretty straightforward ó very straightforward. The basis of that is to ensure that, should there be travel by elected officials, the travel be budgeted for, they have the prior approval of the council and the costs that are incurred will not exceed the rates that YTG prescribes ó so much per kilometre, so much for breakfast, so much for lunch, so much for dinner. It is not a blank cheque to travel on municipal business.
With respect to the debt restructuring, there is the potential to go a lot of different ways. But the bottom line is that the current debt of Dawson is in excess of $6 million today. Thatís over twice the allowable limit. You cannot rely on the financial statements of the municipality, and I am reasonably familiar with the municipal financial statements. Let me share with this House that when a new audit firm goes in and looks at the financial statements of Dawson, there will have to be a lot of prior period adjustments to address irregularities on how the financial house was kept in my community. Now, that is going to have to be determined. A financial plan is going to have to be put in place that spells out how the municipality can move forward and what kind of area. The budget in my community of Dawson hasnít really significantly increased for quite a number of years.
Itís about $4.5 million, yet the overall cost of municipal administration has not just doubled ó it has tripled ó in the last few years. A lot of capital projects occurred during that time. There was a swimming pool, a relocation of the municipal offices ó the fire hall and town offices ó and there was a rec centre. There was secondary sewage; there was water metering. We are talking some $22 million worth of expenditures that occurred in my community of Dawson, and if you want to look today and see what the tangible assets in place are, Iíd suggest youíd be hard-pressed to find half that number of dollars that are physically transpiring into an asset to improve the well-being of the community.
The initial examination of the town concluded it would take about $4.5 million ó I believe it was $4.2 million or $4.8 million ó to address the needs for secondary sewage. There isnít one iota of money that was transferred from the Government of Yukon to the municipality of Dawson that appears to have been spent on that purpose, other than some cursory examinations and some cost projections. Today, Dawson is still in the test program of determining what the best type of secondary sewage treatment would be to put in place.
We have an arena on which about $3 million has been spent on legal fees ó approximately a million dollars on each side of the legal case, and after they issued the cease operation to the contractor and told him to get off the job, he asked for $1.1 million.
He received just shy of a million dollars, plus all his legal costs, which were approximately another million dollars, plus the city incurred another million dollars. Thanks to the Liberal government, that money flowed to Dawson to pay this on a continuing basis, way in excess of what is permitted under the Municipal Act. You canít spend the money if you donít have it, and the money came from the Liberal government. There are really only three ways that the city can obtain money if they need to borrow. If theyíre under three percent of the total municipal assessment, which is established by the Government of Yukonís municipal assessments branch, theyíre allowed to borrow up to three percent. The total assessed value of the municipality of Dawson is just less than $100 million, so itís just shy of $3 million that theyíre legally allowed to borrow without going to plebiscite or without having the approval of the Minister of Community Services.
So what we end up with is a government thatís in debt twice that amount, and rising. Thatís not sustainable. To pay the bills currently, at the current way that theyíre structured, according to the calculations that Iíve done, would see a 70-percent increase in taxes in Dawson City ó which are already some of the highest, if not the highest, in the Yukon ó as well as in the utility rates for water and sewer, which are currently the highest in the Yukon. You add into that the recent increase in cable costs ó and Dawson is unique because a great deal of the town cannot use dishes to pick up satellite television because of the proximity of the hills. So the cable TV system, even if itís on a user-pay to pay for its operations, is going to amount to a great deal of increased costs. Costs have just gone up. Hopefully it will break even on the O&M side.
But I and, I am sure, everyone in this House want to see a duly elected government restored in Dawson, but it has to be done cognizant that the Municipal Act is one of the most enabling pieces of legislation here in the Yukon and indeed in Canada, and it has to also recognize that the Yukon Municipal Act itself was contravened by the government in place in Dawson: any time there was any kind of a dispute with any of the bylaws, they were subsequently amended to ensure that, in future times, they were in compliance. That doesnít make for good government, Mr. Speaker. It makes for a lot of controversy.
But the essence of municipal government, which is the closest government to the people, is very simple. Itís to provide the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to your residents. It is basically roads, garbage and recreational facilities. When you look at the number of recreational activities that were available a few short years ago in the community and look at what is there today, Dawson has taken a step backward. It is going to take more time to restore that confidence and that ability, and it is going to take a responsible government at both the municipal and territorial level to ensure that occurs.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to what the leader of the third party had to say, and I listened to what the critic in the official opposition had to say about this bill. I was very uncomfortable. In fact, I really couldnít believe what I heard. It showed that, despite a lot of effort to get the information out there, both these individuals have failed to do their homework and grasp the fundamentals of the Yukon Municipal Act, its application, its financial application, what actually went wrong and what it is going to take to set it right.
I can remember the first election in which I was elected mayor in Dawson City. The financial position of the city was pretty deplorable. In fact, there was about a $40,000 deficit that year. I know what we had to do as a council. There were a number of things, like raise taxes, watch the cost of services, put the fiscal house in order and move forward.
It wasnít about bantering back and forth between the members of the council. It was just a business plan to get the amenities in place that we are responsible for, and that was done. When I left office, the money was there ó to a large degree ó to build a recreation centre. There was almost $5 million in the bank and another $1 million in cash flow.
Financial statements of a municipal government are one thing, but cash flow is another. Really, you only receive money at certain times of the year. The municipal grant comes in April 1; the taxes come in on July 2; and utilities come in at various times during the year. There are small fees for permits and small fees for recreational use. If you can get up to about 20 percent in recreational use recovery, youíre very fortunate.
When you look at it overall, Dawson came a long way, and I commend the Piers McDonald government for recognizing the need in Dawson for secondary sewage and for an arena and committing to $1.5 million over a number of years, but that capital funding agreement was not followed by the government of the day ó and one only has to specifically point oneís finger at the Liberal government of the day, as well as at the City of Dawson itself ó and things went completely sideways.
This bill, as I said earlier, applies only to the community that I reside in. It will allow them to restructure. It will allow them to operate as an organized community within the confines of the Municipal Act. This piece of legislation will place restrictions on their procedural bylaw ó how they conduct meetings and how minutes can be taken ó and on the indemnity of the mayor and council and how they can travel and what they can do.
One only has to look at all the other Yukon municipalities that have been doing just exactly this.
In Whitehorse, if an elected official is going to travel, the amount is debated at a council meeting, is approved by council, has to be budgeted for, and thatís it. Thatís what has to happen at the municipal level. It also happens at our level. When we travel on government business, what we are paid for breakfast, lunch and dinner is set out, and, yes, we have $100 every paycheque thatís tax-free for entertainment. Thatís as far as it goes. Iíd hate to see myself bringing home a bill from a bar written on a napkin for $2,500 and ask the Premier to pay it. I know what Iíd be told.
Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, this piece of legislation will allow Dawson to move forward, to hold an election in the not-too-distant future, and to have a municipal council in place that can address the needs of the community. Itís not going to be an easy role initially, given that thereís no more tax room, thereís no more room to increase the price of utilities, thereís no more room to increase the price of other services provided by the city ó cable TV can be indexed over time. Dawson is facing an uphill challenge. They have to have a secondary sewage treatment plant in place in the not-too-distant future and a tremendous amount of work is underway on that initiative today.
That hasnít taken place, although all the money, the $4.45 million, has been spent on it. Thereís an initiative underway. Thereís a test procedure underway that hopefully will see results.
I have a lot of passion for Dawson City. Itís a living historical community. Itís the whole reason the Yukon was established. I guess you can say that the previous Liberal government mired it in debt and with the cooperation of the existing mayor and council ó and we are faced once again with a cleanup. That holds true for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. At one time, that could have been built on a turnkey through Atco for $20 million ó $20 million. Now its cost is approaching twice that. Itís not finished. Thereís still a lot of work to do, and the ratepayers or the taxpayers are going to end up directly or indirectly paying these costs.
That wouldnít have been so bad if the economy were booming. Weíd have had some money to pay these extra bills, but thatís the other area that this government has to take on ó restore investor confidence, rebuild the economy, move forward. I commend this bill to the House and ask the opposition and the leader of the third party to carefully examine it.
Mr. Hardy: Those were interesting comments made by the Member for Klondike. I do have to agree with some of the comments he made. Thereís no question about it ó there are some serious issues surrounding Dawson City on some spending and accountability.†
But one thing we have always said in this House and we have asked for is that we felt there needed to be a public inquiry into the whole issue surrounding how Dawson ended up in this situation. I am a little concerned that the Member for Klondike really focuses on the travel vouchers or travel bills that the members of the council or mayor because I think it is a lot bigger issue that we need to be discussing here, not so much that. Although that is extremely important and has been identified as an example of accountability in the forensic audit, it really was just to point to a bigger problem that Dawson has found itself in. I agree with the Member for Klondike wholeheartedly on that.
A lot of work needs to be done, but I do have a few issues that I just want to touch on. I am not going to speak very long at all. I just want to touch on them. One is I have to agree with the leader of the third party. I donít think the preamble is appropriate in the bill. I would like to have the minister strike the preamble out of the bill and go directly into the bill itself. I think thatís appropriate, and thatís to be expected.
There are issues around the preamble that I find disturbing. Number 4 and 5 ó 5 says, for instance, ďRecognizing that for the City of Dawson to emerge from trusteeship and to act as an accountable government, special measures may have to be taken which are not now permitted by the Municipal Act or the Municipal Financial and Community Grants Act.Ē
Well, thatís pretty vague. Thatís pretty broad. That doesnít really give me a degree of comfort, and I donít think it would give people who would want to run up in Dawson City a degree of comfort in that regard.
Number 4, ďRecognizing that for at least four years prior to April 13, 2004, the City of Dawson has failed to act as an accountable government and had therefore been placed in trusteeship pursuant to the Municipal Act;Ē again, those are very broad statements. Now, the forensic audit is out there. There are responses that are supposedly coming from the people who have been targeted in the forensic audit. Let that sort itself out.
That doesnít really need to be in the bill itself. So I feel a little uncomfortable that we would be voting on a bill that has those kinds of statements in it that are fairly condemning and fairly loose ó paragraph 5 in the preamble doesnít really define exactly what this government can do over the next period.
The critic, my colleague from Mount Lorne, was very correct in that there is no reference to when the election is going to happen. I can tell you that the people of Dawson City want to have an election. They want to have elected people from Dawson City running Dawsonís affairs. There is no question about that. Thatís not saying that they donít want the help and support and to work with the Yukon territorial government ó not at all. I believe they also want that. But they really do want to get on the ground, in their town, on the streets, their own elected members again. Theyíve been without that long enough. But there is nothing in the bill that indicates when thatís going to happen. If anything, it indicates that it may not happen for the next five years, the way this government is going. Thatís a concern, and it does not give me any degree of comfort in, again, voting for a bill such as this.
Now, if the minister across the way would consider making some slight changes to this, as I have suggested, then I think we on this side would view this bill a lot more favourably. You have to remember that the bill is titled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act. I donít see restoration in here. I donít even see how theyíre going to pay ó or if theyíre even willing to take on the debt load of Dawson City, or pay it, or come up with some form of payments to deal with it as clearly as what I think needs to be in place, especially if you want good people to sit on council.
There has to be an understanding when they run about what kind of relationship theyíre going to have with the Yukon territorial government. There has to be understanding of what kind of debt theyíre going to be dealing with. There were good members on the last council who inherited some of the problems here. Iím concerned about them as well and how theyíve been targeted. There are a lot of things that have happened in Dawson City that I think are causing tremendous divide up there. That should not be happening in any community. Unfortunately, I continue to hear that that kind of divide is growing based upon the actions of people and based upon the actions of ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The member wants me to say something, but I wonít say it.
Basically the community has very much a split personality right now from what I can see and from when I talk to people up there. Itís not just around this ó this is very serious, but itís also around other actions that the Yukon territorial government has taken. Itís around the Dawson City bridge. The community is very split about that. I hear that all the time. That community should not be driven apart.
The Member for Klondike should be working very hard to get everybody in the same room, should be working extremely hard ó if he cares deeply about the community, which I believe he does ó to get people to put aside their differences, put aside their philosophical and ideological differences and look at the issues facing Dawson and deal with them. That is definitely the issue surrounding the Yukon territorial governmentís involvement in Dawsonís affairs: the fact that thereís no elected council, which I know the people of Dawson want, and the fact that a bridge is being driven down their throat are examples. I was trying to find a different word. I could temper that a bit, but basically a bridge is being pushed forward in a location that many donít want to see and theyíre not having an opportunity to debate it as they should.
This is their town. The people up there deserve the opportunity to have that input. Itís being brought forward as a P3 project and people have great concerns about that. There are other issues that are facing Dawson City. They can grow; they can move forward, if they are not continually being forced to take sides. In Dawson City, Iíve seen a split on, for instance, the bridge, and that has caused some division. I have seen a split on the governmentís handling to date of municipal issues; that has caused a division. I have seen and heard much discussion about a multitude of other issues that Dawson is actually facing that are not getting the attention they deserve, because so much is being eaten up by this.
Debt restructure is a big concern, but one thing I always hear from people in Dawson City is that they do want an elected council. I think that has to be in this bill. It has to speak to what the people want in that area. We cannot sit down here and make that kind of judgement.
I would love to see this, and Iím asking the minister to consider putting in place a timeline when the people of Dawson will be able to elect their own council once again and move forward and work closely with the Yukon territorial government to resolve these outstanding issues. I would also like, as an aside, to let the people have a say on the bridge.
Thatís all I have to say.
Speaker: If the minister now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I thank members opposite and my colleague for all their comments with regard to the bill. I will try to respond to a number of the issues brought forth this afternoon. In regard to the question that we havenít done anything for two and a half years, or we havenít worked in faith with the community, I take exception to that particular aspect. In fact, I think I have actually worked quite hard with the City of Dawson on their situation. I didnít appoint the supervisor; he was appointed when we were here. We came into that situation. I enhanced the supervisorís responsibilities under the Municipal Act. In fact, I gave him full authority under the act when I could see we werenít getting where we were supposed to move. I asked them to take the full authority of the act and move forward on the situation. I followed the process outlined in the Municipal Act. I went forth. We werenít getting anywhere. I looked for a second opinion, we got a new supervisor in and he went in and looked at the situation. Unfortunately for us ó and I say ďusĒ as all Yukoners ó he advised us that the situation was precarious to say the least and that we were almost too late ó in fact, we were. I couldnít act any further under the Municipal Act under the time that I did. I couldnít really go in and take over the town until April. I followed the act, I followed the process in the act and we went through that process. We appointed a trustee to take over the town, and we have followed that procedure through. We have followed all those procedures through in that particular aspect. I believe that this government has done what itís supposed to do under the Municipal Act.
With regard to working with the city, I will advise the member opposite that I spoke with the previous mayor and council on several occasions. In fact, I made visits to Dawson City on that particular issue.
I spoke to council. I spoke at their public meetings. I donít believe that I acted as a hatchet man, as it appears to some across the way. I followed the procedure in that process. I spoke to the mayor in my office on several occasions regarding Dawsonís finances. I believe this act will provide them ó as well as the potential new members for council ó with improved accountability.
As weíve stated, we think this is necessary to ensure that the new members applying to run for council know exactly what structures are in place, know what they have to do, and whatís in place for them. Their financial situation is precarious, to say the least.
As far as the member opposite stating what is going to be needed, we donít know whatís going to be needed. My colleague indicated that there is an issue with respect to the audit. There is. In fact, Iíll advise the members opposite that we couldnít find a company to take on the audit for Dawson City until the forensic audit was finished. Nobody would take it on ó nobody.
When the audit was released, we were finally in a position where somebody would look at the Dawson City situation and provide us with some information. One of the key items in the Dawson City issue is trying to find out where weíre at. In light of the forensic audit, there are probably going to have to be some adjustments in the previous year-ends that take place. Thatís going to take some time to get developed, but we are working to expedite that matter.
Now, the leader of the third party went on at great length with regard to treating everybody the same, not individualizing the process. We are individualizing the process of this act to address the Dawson situation specifically. It is Dawson that has the problem.
Is it my government that put Dawson into its debt situation of twice the limit of the Municipal Act? No, it wasnít my government.
Was it my government that wrote the cheques to get the recreation centre underway, to issue the cheques that were supposed to go to sewage to recreation? No.
Is it fair and equal and good leadership? The member opposite stated that what weíre doing ó was that fair and equal leadership? I donít believe so. Letís get on with this process. I believe that we have followed this process through and provided an indication.
The member opposite also indicated with regard to the amount of money spent. Well, Mr. Speaker, how much of that money was squirreled away before we came into office? You know, Mr. Speaker, I find it incredible. The forensic audit, in my opinion, just expands on the precarious situation that Dawson City found itself in. It was even hard for me to actually read the review, just to see how widespread it was and how deep it went. I believe that we need to assist and move forward for Dawson City. The members opposite are looking for an election. I as minister responsible for Community Services am also looking to have an election as soon as possible. In fact, Iíve stated previously that we were looking at trying to do something this spring. I could not foresee the delays in getting the forensic audit completed. How could we go forward with an election, knowing the situation that they were in?
We couldnít do that. That wouldnít be fair and equal to the citizens of Dawson or to the rest of the Yukon taxpayers. I think itís necessary for us to bring the act in. Itís just one piece that will assist Dawson in moving forward.
Once we have the financial information thatís solid and we know where we can start from to move forward, weíll move on that particular aspect. I fully expect and anticipate we will have an election sometime this fall in Dawson City. I fully expect and hope we can do that.
We as a government inherited lots of situations in Dawson. I donít want to belabour the issue and I will accept all responsibility for things that happened while I was minister. Things did happen while I was minister. I admit that. But, you know, the money and outstanding debt were there long before I got here. Yes, there was a huge amount of expenditure provided to get here, but we needed to expend that money and needed to assist the City of Dawson so they could operate. We needed to assist them in getting through the process.
Iíll admit we did spend that money on a forensic audit. We did give them money to help them with their cash flow, but what would have happened if we hadnít given them that money? That money was given for them to get by in their operation. Weíre looking through the process. I believe weíre going through a calculated process to assist the citizens of Dawson ó not just the citizens of Dawson, but all the taxpayers of the Yukon as well.
If we just went roaring off in there to get it done, where would we be? Weíd probably be right back here looking for more money for the City of Dawson.
I also talked a little bit about the sewage that the leader of the third party indicated. We are working diligently on a sewage proposal for Dawson City. We are working with the First Nation. We are working with our friends across the border on this issue. We are looking at other sewage facilities in the north, similar to the situation in Dawson, and we are experimenting with some of those issues. We also have a commitment under the law that we have to have a facility in place in Dawson City by a specific time, and we are working toward that particular aspect. We are consulting with the citizens of Dawson on this issue on a regular basis. In fact, we will probably be going up there shortly for future consultations on the sewage system for Dawson City. We have money set aside in our budget for that particular aspect. Is that irresponsible? I donít believe so. I believe weíre moving forward in a responsible manner and I believe this act will assist us in moving forward in a responsible manner.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
†Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, six nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for Second reading of Bill No. 56 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: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon will be Bill No. 56, Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act.
Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will reconvene at 3:15 p.m. sharp.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act.
Bill No. 56 ó Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act
Hon. Mr. Hart: † Iíll just do a short a preamble, if I may. I have mentioned many issues in my previous comments at the second reading. What I would like to do is basically state that the act provides us with one of the tools with which we can move forward with Dawson City. I believe itís an important tool to assist them with the control of their municipal requirements under the act, and one of the other aspects is dealing with the financial situation for Dawson City. We are currently working on a financial plan for them that involves dealing with an auditor who can review the books, provide us with a point to start from so that we know exactly what the bottom line is so we can work toward the future to assist the citizens of Dawson.
I fully hope and anticipate that we can go for a fall election in Dawson City, and Iím going to do the best I can to meet that goal. I want to do it on the basis that we have sound financial information and have a good structure in place so that people running for council can see what theyíre going to be looking at and know what the procedures are and let them go in there with open eyes knowing what is going to be necessary to assist them to get out of their financial situation.
Mr. Cardiff: I think the first thing that concerns us about the act I mentioned in my opening comments. Itís about the preamble, specifically the fourth paragraph and the fact that it points the finger at the former council. We basically feel that the preamble is unnecessary. Iím wondering if the minister would agree to remove the preamble from the piece of legislation.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Is the member referring to all the preamble or just the one paragraph?
Mr. Cardiff: I honestly believe that the whole preamble is unnecessary, but the fourth paragraph in particular is totally unnecessary. I suppose the other option would be to amend it and say that maybe it was 14 years. Was it 24 years? I donít know. To point the finger specifically like that is totally unnecessary.
It doesnít achieve what the minister is trying to do, which is the restoration of democracy. Itís strictly a finger-pointing exercise, the way we see it.
There is no doubt that we want to see an accountable municipal government in Dawson City, and the forensic audit points out that there were problems with the way Dawson conducted its affairs, held its meetings and kept track of its finances. Thatís not in dispute at this point, but there is more information to come out about that. There is an RCMP investigation into some of the things that transpired there. There is the possibility of legal action coming out of the forensic audit. Specifically, I feel itís not necessary for the fourth paragraph to be there.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will look into the possibility of rewording that particular phrase, unless the member opposite has something specific.
Mr. Cardiff: What I specifically asked was for the minister to remove that paragraph. He indicates that heís willing to look at rewording it. What Iíd like to see is that clause in the preamble removed.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll consider the member oppositeís request.
Mr. Cardiff: The bill has to be amended in Committee before we vote on it. Is it the ministerís intention to adjourn debate on this and bring it back at a later date, or what are we going to do?
We need a commitment from him now. We would be willing to unanimously agree to strike that paragraph from the preamble, if the minister so wishes.
The problem is the ministerís stated intention is to move forward with democratically elected government in Dawson, but when you see something like this, it points the finger. It doesnít give people a good feeling about running for municipal government, not only in Dawson but in any other municipality, when the government takes this kind of tack and singles out municipal governments.
The preamble should be enabling, as well, and it shouldnít be full of political rhetoric that puts the former municipal government down. It doesnít lend itself to wanting to encourage people to run for municipal government. Itís like the same issue around the provision of debt relief.
So we are willing to agree to have that paragraph struck from the preamble. If the minister would agree to do that, then we could just move on.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We spent a lot of time drafting this act and trying to make it specific to Dawson City. I recognize some of the member oppositeís concern with regard to the preamble. I have looked at this fairly closely in discussing it with my colleagues and also with my department, and we feel that these items are important as part of the act.
Mr. Cardiff: So the minister changed his mind. A few minutes ago, he was willing to look at it, and now it is important.
On the issue of debt consolidation, the act speaks about the consolidation of Dawsonís debt and the issue of a new debenture to cover the consolidation of the debt. So Iím assuming that the minister is willing to do that. It also states ďthe retirement and cancellation of the whole or any portion of the existing debenture debtĒ ó but it doesnít commit the minister to do that. It just says that the minister is able to do that. Can the minister tell us what his intentions are? It is not just for our satisfaction and for our information; it is for the residents of Dawson City and potential candidates. Is there a willingness on the part of the government, of this minister, to reduce the debt in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I wish to reiterate the facts that I stated earlier on several occasions. We are looking at a financial plan for Dawson City, and until such time as the audit is complete for Dawson City ó both for last year and the previous two years ó we wonít know what the bottom line is. It would be premature of me to say anything with regard to what weíre going to do with the debt in Dawson City until we know where we are on that particular issue. I will assure the member opposite that we are going to look at the situation in Dawson in regard to what theyíre capable of handling on a financial basis, as well as what is necessary for them to operate on.
The leader of the third party brought up the issue of being equal and fair. We have to take that into consideration when weíre reviewing this also. We have to look at what weíre providing Dawson and how we will provide it to Dawson. That has to be taken into consideration. We also are taking into consideration that they have a very unique situation in comparison to any other municipality. That is a true and given fact. Weíll be taking all those things into consideration when weíre looking at the debt in Dawson. This act gives me, the minister responsible, the ability to allow for that to happen. That doesnít necessarily mean that it will happen or that it is going to happen.
Mr. Cardiff: I think it would provide some reassurance to the citizens of Dawson if the minister were able to make a commitment in that respect. Iíd like to ask about the length of time that this act is going to be in force. It says ďfor a period of five years from the day on which it came into force, or until the total principal amount of Dawsonís debt is reduced to three percent.Ē Does that mean that after five years, if it hasnít been reduced to that three percent, it will still be in force?
Hon. Mr. Hart: A five-year term, and/or the three percent, has been put in there as a trigger for them to be reviewed ó that particular situation. For example, if the debt is lower than the three percent, as per the Municipal Act, then the issue will be reviewed. They will fall under the Municipal Act. At the five-year term, they will be reviewed, depending on what the outstanding amount is, and it will be reassessed at that time.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd just like to revisit the idea of the preamble. Preambles are not necessary in legislation. They are not required by law. They arenít enforceable. They are words on paper and, in this case, there is no ó sure, itís great to recognize that a municipal government is an accountable level of government. So are the members opposite, but the first thing they did was repeal the accountability act. The very first act when they got into government ó repeal accountability.
The minister need not be tied to the idea of this preamble. Itís not required for good legislation. Good legislation has to be clear; it has to be enforceable; it has to be achievable; it has to be doable.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Kluane is suggesting that itís a violent act involving the orbit. This fourth paragraph is a violent act involving the ďeyeĒ. I think heís suggesting that for reasons other than whatís written.
However, the fact is we donít need to put that particularly offending paragraph in the preamble, which we donít need at all.
The Member for Mount Lorne asked very politely for the minister to consider an amendment to withdraw that preamble. At first the minister was willing but is now absolutely not.
Will the minister reconsider that? Will he reconsider either withdrawing the entire preamble ó all the paragraphs ó or, at an absolute minimum, paragraph 4?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I reviewed, in consultation here ó Iím not prepared to remove all the preamble the member is requesting. I looked at the possibility of 4 in this particular aspect, but I still believe this is an issue that is part of the complete package and Iíd like to go forward on that process.
Ms. Duncan: It might come as a surprise to the member opposite, but I beg to differ. Weíre at a stalemate. The minister has said no, they wonít remove that particularly offensive paragraph ó itís not necessary to the legislation ó and thatís truly unfortunate.
Iím not going to belabour the point, particularly in light of the fact the cooling system seems to have malfunctioned or is not functioning in the Legislature today. Iíd encourage the minister and those who are assisting him in Committee of the Whole not to wear a suit jacket. The cooling systemís not working, so letís not make everyone suffer unduly.
I wonít belabour the debate about paragraph 4. Itís offensive; it doesnít need to be there; the minister doesnít want to remove it.
I have not seen or heard an argument as to why we had to have this specific legislation. Why was there a decision made to have this legislation, as opposed to amending the Municipal Act? Apparently the Municipal Act doesnít deal with what was required.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Amending the Municipal Act to put this particular aspect in would have involved a substantial amount of consultation with AYC, and time. In essence, to address the situation for the member opposite as well as for members of the opposition of trying to get an election for the city council in Dawson City, it was felt this specific aspect would complement the Municipal Act and deal with the situation specifically for Dawson, thereby not affecting the other municipalities, which working with the Municipal Act would have done.
We would have had to go through a lot of process in order to have it so that it deals specifically with Dawson City. That is the main reason why we went forward with this bill, in trying to deal specifically with Dawson City. We tried to make it as specific as possible. We addressed that situation. We advised the Association of Yukon Communities of that particular issue. Their main concern was that it wasnít going to affect the other municipalities. Our concern was that we try to emphasize to them that it was specifically for Dawson City because they have a very unusual situation. Thatís a very unusual situation for any municipality in Canada, never mind just in the Yukon, and that is the main reason that weíre trying to deal with Dawson City in this manner.
Their situation is such that things have happened in the past and have been happening over a substantial number of years, and I think what we want to do is to provide the venue in which a new council can operate: they know specifically where they stand, they know what issues have to be before council, how they have to go through that process, and I believe that is an important issue.
As stated earlier, once we know what our financial situation is and what we put forth for that particular council, they will be aware of that also. As I indicated earlier, I truly hope to have something for this fall for the election to take place, as does my colleague, the trustee for the City of Dawson, and we are working toward that.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister just said is that we ó ďweĒ being the Yukon Party government ó have to have this legislation, because they refuse to follow the process and take time and consult with the balance of the municipalities. That is extremely startling. There isnít a Yukoner that is unaware of the forensic audit or Dawsonís financial situation. It has been dissected ad nauseam. There is absolutely no reason the Yukon Party and the minister responsible could not have worked with the other municipalities to deal with an amendment to the Municipal Act instead of singling out Dawson City. They refused to take that course. Thereís no reason they couldnít have. The municipalities have shown every effort to cooperate with the government. The minister has not. No, theyíve chosen to single out Dawson. The members opposite can stand up all they like and say, ďIt was that Liberal governmentĒ, in varying tones of voice. Unfortunately that doesnít come across in Hansard; itís just the words ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to remind the members opposite that the minister himself stood on his feet moments ago ó less than an hour ago ó and said that Dawson City didnít have the money. What are we supposed to do? Well, lo and behold. They have a rec centre torn down. They have a capital financing arrangement loosely negotiated by the previous government, a swimming pool half built, and no money. What were we supposed to do?
Do what the Municipal Act says, and we followed the Municipal Act, despite the Member for Klondike repeatedly demanding that the then Minister of Community Services ďgo to Dawson and take the keys.Ē The minister has to recognize that singling Dawson out in this manner is not fair. Itís a draconian piece of legislation that he has put forward. He could have, and he should have, taken the time ó he had the time ó and sought the assistance of the municipalities.
Everybody recognizes that Dawson is unusual. The whole Yukon can point to a number of times where weíve argued weíre different ó that we have to have this, for this and this reason. Everybody has argued that point. The minister could have, and should have, sought the assistance of the municipalities, and he did not. That is what he has reflected on the floor of the House today.
Hon. Mr. Hart: That was a very good rendition of whatever book sheís reading.
In any event, Iíll try to address this situation the best that I can. I believe that we need this act to move forward. The members opposite have accused me of not allowing them to go to an election as soon as possible. In fact, if I recall from the last sitting of the Legislature, the members opposite and my critic ó Iíll forgive him ó were very emotional, in fact exuberantly emotional, about why I wasnít going to allow them to go out there and vote, why we had to wait for this, and why I kicked the council out of there and all the rest of it.
I think that I would just fall back on what Iíve been trying to say. I want the potential new council for Dawson City to know where they stand financially. I want that peace there. I want an election in Dawson City as soon as possible. We felt this piece of legislation would allow us to do it over the summer and allow us to finish the financial program and allow the citizens of Dawson to see what is there and look forward to an election in the fall. I am looking forward to doing that. I am doing the best I can based on the information provided to me to get to that stage. That is why we put the act forth on this particular aspect. This act also allows us certain issues that the Municipal Act doesnít provide, but the big point is that weíre looking at providing the citizens of Dawson with a mechanism allowing them to see what is going to take place and what is required of them in order for it to take place.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is concerned about accusations he has endured with respect to getting a municipal election as soon as possible. Everybody wants that. Everybody wants to see a duly elected municipal council.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike says ďnot reallyĒ off microphone. Interesting.
Weíre not going to spend all afternoon on the various accusations that have been hurled across this floor. Iíve endured a fair amount of them myself, some of which I have had the opportunity to answer this afternoon; some of which are answered in the forensic audit, the book I happen to be referring to. The minister has not said why we have to have this draconian piece of legislation in order to have a municipal election and have the people running for office with the figures in front of them. You donít need a piece of legislation for what you can do. What he said as to why they didnít go with the Municipal Act is that he doesnít want to take the time to consult with his partners in a government-to-government relationship by working with the municipalities.
There is no reason why we couldnít do this right ó there isnít ó and the right way would be no preamble and the provisions would not be this legislation. It would be the provisions he thinks are required in the Municipal Act.
Our job is not just for today. Our job is for into the future, as well. Nobody wants to see this sort of a measure have to be imposed on anybody else. We have the steps in the Municipal Act. We took the first of them. The minister proceeded along those lines and then went the step further as more evidence came to light. I do believe that this could and should have been done far better by the minister. We donít need this legislation, he should have consulted with the municipalities, and the provisions that are required could be in the Municipal Act with their concurrence.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, you know, I believe this is sort of like the student and a teacher in a classroom. Iím getting lectured on what I could have done better on my test and what I should have done better on my test.
I think what I would like to remind the member opposite is that weíre following through with a process that we believe will allow us to have an election in Dawson City as quickly as possible to address the situation of, as she indicated, the town wanting to have their own council and have a say in the process. We believe this act allows us to do that as quickly as possible. That doesnít say that we wonít be working with Association of Yukon Communities on other changes to the act.
As the member opposite indicated before, when the act was originally brought forward, it took a long time to get ready. There were several people involved in the particular aspect. For us to make changes to that act would take a lot of consultation process over a period of time and wouldnít allow us to go forward and provide the citizens of Dawson with an election in the fall. Therefore we are proceeding this way so we can relieve the trustee of his duties in Dawson and let a duly elected council take over the operation of the town.
Ms. Duncan: Who is going to advise the public with respect to the RCMP investigation? When will it be concluded? Whatís the progress? To whom do we direct questions? How do the people in Dawson get answers on that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite as well as the citizens in Dawson and members of the opposition, the RCMP will be asking that. Theyíre the ones who will be making that decision. This government doesnít tell the RCMP what to do and how to do it. Itís the RCMP that indicate whether they have sufficient material to go ahead or not. Thatís their responsibility. I donít tell them what to do.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didnít suggest the minister tell the RCMP what to do. I asked how the public and the people in Dawson were advised. It was with great difficulty that we even found out that this information had been forwarded to the RCMP. We had to drag that out of the government.
The RCMP is on contract to the Yukon government. At what point does the public ó is it up to the media to ask the RCMP? Is it up to us to ask the Justice minister? How do we find out what the progress is and when we can anticipate this? It has been referred to them; is that as much as weíre able to be told? If so, then so be it. The minister just has to say so, but Iím asking how the public finds out this information.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thatís where the item is right now. It has been referred to the RCMP. Itís up to them to decide to move ahead. It will be up to them, Iím sure, if they decide to go ahead, whether or not there will be indications that theyíll be doing their investigation. Iím sure that their communication people will be advising the citizens of Dawson of that.
Ms. Duncan: What about the lawsuits against the Government of Yukon? Iíve asked the Minister of Justice three times in this Legislature throughout the life of the government members opposite ó the Yukon Party ó to provide a list of outstanding cases against the Government of Yukon. I havenít seen that information yet. No, the former Justice minister told me to go to the courthouse and look it up myself. It was routinely provided by other governments. Is there a list of outstanding civil cases against the Government of Yukon? How are we to know? The Justice minister wonít give us this information. How are we to know if there has been a civil suit launched against the Government of Yukon as a result of this audit or the way it was tabled? The Minister of Justice wonít answer the question; will the Minister of Community Services?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As far as Iím aware, there is no civil action taken against the Government of Yukon with regard to the Dawson audit.
Ms. Duncan: The minister indicated previously that he has had legal advice on this particular matter. Is the minister aware of any time frame? Thereís no statute of limitations for this type of civil action, is there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím not a solicitor, a barrister, or whatever I would be. I have not been advised by our independent legal counsel if thereís a specific timeline as to when an individual can sue the government on that particular aspect. I have been advised that it would be very difficult for someone to take that action but, as far as the period of time, I have not been advised if there is a statute of limitation.
Ms. Duncan: It has happened in the past where independent legal advice has been obtained by the government and has been provided to members of the opposition. It has happened. The Economic Development minister tabled the legal opinion he had received regarding the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. Will the minister provide the independent legal advice he received on this particular matter? Will he provide that to members of the opposition?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, I guess this is an unusual circumstance, but we donít usually provide the legal opinions in that particular manner. I will advise the member opposite that if she wishes to contact the solicitor, Iím willing to provide her with a name and phone number.
Ms. Duncan: I recognize that it was an unusual situation. It was an unusual situation before, and it was an unusual situation then, and it did happen, so Iím asking the minister to do the same. I want more than just the name; I want the opinion.
Will the minister ask ó given that he has the name already ó if he can then provide it to us? It has happened before.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll take the memberís request under advisement, check with the solicitor and get back to her.
Ms. Duncan: I would trust that the minister, who has been very timely with information, will get back to me before the session is out.
One of the other concerns I have about this legislation is not just in the preamble. With respect to the debt, again, does the minister feel ó this is in clause 2 of the bill. Itís overall and speaking to the context of the bill. Does the minister feel, and can he substantiate, that that is absolutely required in law? I go back to my earlier comments. The minister said, ďDawson City didnít have the money to operate. What were we supposed to do?Ē
Of course we gave them the money. Dawson City has extraordinary debt. Now, I understand the issue of fairness and other communities. But in terms of being able to provide assistance, is it absolutely required in law that we have this kind of ó not only clause 2, but this legislation for the minister to work with Dawson on restructuring the debt and/or in providing assistance?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite well knows the procedure required for acts and the processes for the act to be completed. We go through legal advice. We go through the Department of Justice to ensure that the information that is here is as required under the act. Weíve gone through that process. Weíve gone through the process of the CCL, through the law process, as the member opposite well knows. I just didnít show up at work one day and present the bill to be passed. I can assure the member opposite that there was lots of discussion on this particular bill and lots of advice back and forth as to what should be included and what shouldnít be included. It was felt that this information was necessary. It met the requirements. We feel that the information in here, because it is specific to Dawson City, is necessary. I believe that the information with regard to the requirements for debt reconciliation is required, and we have been advised so.
Ms. Duncan: Another issue that I have a particular concern with is this idea of additional powers granted to the minister and also this indemnity bylaw, this idea that the minister ó I mean, sure, the mayor and council, when we finally are able to hold elections might say weíd like the mayor to be paid XYZ, but the minister signs it off.
The minister is micromanaging to the nth degree in terms of travel rates and everything else. Yes, thatís what was recognized in the forensic audit, and that audit has been made public. Why are we punishing the future council? Why are we making the consequences ó everybody understands there have to be consequences for actions, but why are we being so draconian with future councils? Itís like debtorsí prison.
The difficulty is that the new council may or may not have incurred the debt to start with, or had this happen. It seems very harsh.
If a business is sold, all the financial statements are listed. If there are loans or mortgages, all that information comes to light. It is passed on and is paid by the future, but that financial information, I understand, has to be presented. The old owner doesnít transfer with the business. You donít have the territorial government saying ďNo, no, noĒ every time the municipality tries to do anything.
This subjects the municipality ó we may as well leave the trustee in place. Does the minister recognize how draconian and punishing that particular measure is?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I feel, and this government feels, that these measures are required to ensure that Dawson City doesnít fall off the tracks again. That doesnít mean that Iím going to walk in there and say if a council comes in and indicates that they want to request an increase for the mayor or the council or whatever it is, and if they justify the means, am I going to say no? If they can justify the process, why would I? In essence, why would any minister?
The essence here is that we have a five-year clause, or the three-percent clause. Thatís what weíre looking at with regard to Dawson City. We anticipate that it will take some period of time for Dawson City to get out of its debt requirement. Weíre not willing to strap Dawson City to the fact that itís going to be behind bars for the next five years either. Until such time as we get this financial information, we wonít know what thatís going to be. We will try to come up with a formula and a system that will allow Dawson City to be sustainable and recognize the fact that it has a responsibility for its outstanding debt.
That, for the member opposite, is to also take into consideration the fairness of the whole aspect with regard to other communities around the Yukon. We are very cognizant of that fact. We will be taking that into consideration. Iím sure that Iíll probably be hearing a lot of that when I go through Association of Yukon Communities on Saturday, but in essence we are trying to deal with this. We want the people in Dawson City to understand what is required of council, what is needed in council so that things are open. They havenít been open for some time. I want people to see whatís there. We have a term on the act. If in fact it comes forth at a later date that Dawson City is operating immaculately under this process and they wish to carry through, Iím sure that the minister of the day will take that into consideration.
If they need to work on that process, they can deal with it at that particular time. Itís like any other piece of legislation. When things are operating and seem to be going along the way they should, then the minister of the day can take that under review, even if it is prior to that time.
I would expect that, if the town is moving along and it is operating like it should be, then so be it, they can make that request. But in essence, I think what we have to do is ensure that the town is operating like it should, and we feel these items are necessary guidelines for them to operate under. The town will operate like it should on any given date. It is only when they want to make changes to that particular aspect that they will have to make that consideration. They will have to justify it and bring forth the reasons for that to take place, just as a trustee has to take it and bring it forward to us.
But in essence I believe that these are items that demonstrate to the people what is required in Dawson to ensure there is an openness and transparency within their council to all the citizens of Dawson. We believe these are very important issues so that everybody understands whatís there, not just what happened.
The member opposite talked about the sale of a business. Previous councils had financial statements and knew what was there. What happened? Look where we are: weíre trying to prevent that from happening again. Weíre trying to assist them to get a better grasp on what is required to operate Dawson City. Weíre trying to do that. We believe that this will allow us to make this happen and, as I stated, weíve run this through our process, through the governmentís process, on getting through the act. Weíve done our legal due diligence and information, and we believe this is a good piece of legislation to enact for Dawson City to move forward. We think itís one element of what is required for Dawson City to move forward. Itís not all of the elements; itís one of the elements.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has said that we are trying to move the City of Dawson forward, we are trying to give them all the information about the finances, and itís critical that everybody understand the financial aspects of the town. Absolutely ó nobody is disagreeing with that. Itís the way the Yukon Party is going about this that is the essence of the disagreement.
I would point out to the minister, as he well knows, that clause 5 isnít a ďmayĒ and ďWell, yes, the minister might have to do it, and itís just there if itís required.Ē No, itís ďshallĒ require that Dawson enact an indemnity bylaw. Every town has an indemnity bylaw. When the minister is satisfied that the indemnity bylaw ó no amendment to the bylaw shall have any force or effect unless it has been approved by the minister.
So the minister in Whitehorse is going to sign off on how much the mayor in Dawson makes and sign off on Dawson Cityís travel rates. This isnít about helping the people of Dawson. This is about hamstringing the future council and mayor. Yes, itís very crystal clear to everybody what went wrong. Itís all laid out.
The MLA for Klondike wants to give the minister advice, and Iíll sit down while he does so.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I think I know where the member opposite is trying to go. I will state that we are looking at trying to correct the situation in Dawson. We believe these are necessary items. As I mentioned earlier, if they want to make a change, they can make that recommendation and, provided itís justified, they can send it up to me. Yes, it will require some additional work on behalf of the minister initially once the council is in place. If they make that change or recommendation, itís there.
But letís not forget that one of the reasons we put it in is so that the next council just canít come in, wipe it all out and start without any ó shall we say ó accountability to the Yukon government or the taxpayer on this particular issue. Thatís what we are doing.
Ms. Duncan: There is some information on one of the philosophies of life that was recently sent to me. One of the 10 points in it was when you lose, donít lose the lesson. There isnít a Yukoner who has lost the lesson contained in the forensic audit. Youíd be hard-pressed to find anybody in the City of Dawson who hasnít learned lessons from the forensic audit as well as the last number of months. Every member who has ever put their name forward for elected office in that city, or who has been involved, has asked themselves, ďDid I do the best I could?Ē So if there is a proposed change to a bylaw, once we do have an election, you can bet everybody in Dawson will be watching those council meetings, providing theyíre televised, and theyíre going to be watching the mayor and council very closely, as well as the administration ó everybody.
The minister could and should have taken a less draconian approach. The minister could have had the option of ďthe minister may requireĒ instead of ďshallĒ require. Itís a subtle amendment but it would make the world of difference.
Given the previous track record on amendments and the minister taking the issue to heart, Iím not going to go tothe formality of proposing an amendment and asking the minister if heíll consider it. I would just like on the record, rather than there be such a hard, debtorsí prison type of approach to that particular community, singling them out and making them stand in the corner behind bars, while thereís still an investigation underway and who knows what else is going to happen, the minister could have softened the approach ó a more cooperative approach.
He could have consulted with the municipalities as to how they could do it, in fairness. He could have written the legislation in such a manner that, instead of reading ďshallĒ, it read ďmayĒ. In that specific instance, we can bet that council, in wrestling with the financial issues, is going to look at how much the mayor and council are paid and at the travel rates. Theyíre going to recognize the lessons. Nobody has lost them.
I have a suggestion for the minister. I am not going to belabour the issue. I believe that the minister has recognized that there have been a series of points made by both the official opposition and me. Certainly we have established, on the record, that the minister and I are not going to point fingers. Other members may wish to; we do not. What we are trying to do here is get the best legislation we can for Yukoners. I think the Yukon Party, in this particular instance, could have done a better job.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I thank the member opposite for her comments and suggestions.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will proceed with line-by-line.
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
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
Mr. Cardiff: I think weíve already stated how we feel about the preamble. The minister has chosen to ignore the wishes of this side of the House on that and Iíd just like the record to show that.
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Chair: That concludes Bill No. 56, Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: Mr. Hart has moved that Bill No. 56, entitled Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Duncan: It is customary to have a recess at 4:30. May I suggest we take our customary recess now and allow the opportunity for officials to come in and for those of us who are engaged in the same debate to have additional notes with us?
Chair: Would members like a 10-minute recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, with Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am pleased to introduce the 2005-06 mains budget for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Energy, Mines and Resources is responsible for managing and developing Yukonís land-based natural resources, and our budget for 2005-06 focuses on fulfilling this mandate. The departmentís efforts support the governmentís commitment to revitalize Yukonís resource economy.
Over the coming year, the priorities for Energy, Mines and Resources will be the following: adopt appropriate policies and administrative structures to manage Crown land; continue to monitor and enhance the streamlining of the land application process and make land available for communities, residential, recreation and resource use in partnership with Community Services and through our spot application processes; responsibly develop and manage Yukon resource sectors, including forestry, agriculture and energy, which includes oil and gas, pipelines, land resources and minerals; help create regulatory certainty; continue to implement the major project oversight committee as part of the integrated resource management; promote investment in Yukonís resource sectors by providing competitive regulatory regimes; ensure that benefits from resource development, including northern pipeline projects, are available for all Yukoners; work with Yukon First Nations to involve them in Yukonís resource economy; continue our work with Canada to secure appropriate funding for the care and maintenance of orphaned and abandoned mines while maximizing local benefits; prepare to receive the Energy Solutions Centre within our energy and corporate policy unit, resulting in increased capacity to respond to the growing focus on energy and climate change; and advance discussions with Canada on shared offshore administrative and legislative responsibilities for oil and gas management in the Canadian part of the Beaufort Sea.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources remains focused on responsive client service and expanding Yukonís resource-based economy as we enter our third year of management and administration of forestry, lands and mineral resources transferred from DIAND.
Operation and maintenance ó the department received a total increase of $2,328,000 over last yearís forecast in its operation and maintenance budget. O&M recoveries increased by $1,996,000.
The departmentís capital budget has increased by $365,000.
There is an increase in revenue of $2,386,000.
Iíd like to outline some of the highlights of Energy, Mines and Resourcesí 2005-06 main budget. In oil, gas and mineral resources, our government has allocated $850,000 for the continued support of the Yukon mining incentive program, or YMIP.
This funding helps to promote and enhance mineral prospecting, exploration and development activities in Yukon. The program provides a portion of the risk capital required to locate and explore mineral deposits. We are implementing improvements to our mineral regime by streamlining permitting processes and/or initiatives to support the industry. We will continue to implement the major project oversight committee as part of the integrated resource management ó IRM. This will improve and coordinate the access proponents have to government and help them through the permitting process.
The government is also continuing its support of the very popular Yukon mineral exploration tax credit. This tax credit helps companies raise capital and leverage funds for Yukon-based programs.
We continue to support the Yukon geological survey program to provide baseline geoscience information in support of mining and oil and gas exploration and development.
We are directing and overseeing the orderly planning and abandonment of type II mine sites and are working to secure suitable funding arrangements with the federal government for agreed-upon work. The total Government of Canada funding of $11,915,000 is being secured for activities such as the care and maintenance of Mount Nansen, Clinton Creek, United Keno Hill and Faro sites. We continue to work with Canada to assist marketing of UKHM and continue to administrate the care and maintenance of the property pursuant to our authority under the Waters Act and the Quartz Mining Act. At BYG Mount Nansen, the interim receiver PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. is currently developing a marketing plan to move this site to closure as quickly as possible to meet the desires of all three levels of government. The plan will also address the outstanding credit claims.
The Yukon government will manage reclamation work and contracts to ensure Yukon contractors and communities benefit from this work. The department continues to support the work underway to develop a new framework for Yukonís placer regime. We are working collaboratively with the federal governmentís Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Council of Yukon First Nations, and the Klondike Placer Miners Association to design and develop a proposal for the new placer authorization.
We are continuing the Yukon mineral exploration training initiative. The $500,000 contributed to the Yukon mining exploration training trust flowed $100,000 during the last two years and the final $400,000 is to be provided in the year 2005-06. The oil and gas development and pipeline unit has received an increase of $160,000 O&M and $371,000 capital to support the increased activity in this area.
We are working to ensure that Yukon natural gas will have access to pipelines via all routes, including the Mackenzie Valley route. We are also working in collaboration with partners including First Nations, other jurisdictions and regulatory bodies to develop a clear and effective regulatory process for the Alaska Highway pipeline in Yukon. Our focus has been, and will continue to be, on ensuring our interests are met, regardless of which regulatory process is followed. Yukon must have access and regress to gas and we must be able to benefit financially and socially in order for the Alaska Highway pipeline to proceed.
Yukon is supportive of the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and its objectives of providing a coordinated First Nation approach and response to matters pertaining to the Alaska Highway pipeline project. To this end, we are providing funding of $200,000 to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, an increase of $45,000 over last yearís forecast.
In sustainable resources, we will continue to enhance client services by working to streamline access to program and regulatory information on Yukonís land and natural resources. We continue to develop a forest policy framework to guide management of forestry and undertake policy work in preparation for new forest legislation. It is our intent to make timber available as soon as possible to help rejuvenate Yukonís forest industry. To assist in this, we are continuing the forest engineer program with funding of $500,000, 100-percent recoverable over the next three years. This program works with industry and First Nations to develop timber lots for harvesting.
The forest management planís implementation program, previously called ďforest renewalĒ, has been expanded by $120,000. This will lead to economic activity in the form of timber harvesting associated with commercial timber permits, forest health initiative and wildlife hazard reduction. Continued funding of up to $321,000 will be divided by the federal government for the federal agricultural policy framework agreement. The five-year agricultural policy framework focuses on sector profitability and competitiveness. This agreement will help the agricultural industry develop in the areas of economic viability, food health and safety, environmental sustainability, business development and science and innovation. We are treating regional land use planning as a priority and are working to put plans in place to help coordinate and balance economic development and conservation on Yukon lands.
In corporate policy and energy, the Kyoto Protocol became legally binding on February 16, 2005, and the Yukon government is committed to taking action to address climate change. We are negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the federal government, which will outline our intention to work collaboratively on climate change issues so that the maximum benefits can be realized by both parties. We are currently preparing for the transfer of the Energy Solutions Centre from Yukon Development Corporation to Energy, Mines and Resources. It is expected that the transfer will take several months and will provide government the ability to review and set annual program priorities and reduce duplication of efforts among government departments. Energy, Mines and Resources, in cooperation with other key departments and Crown corporations, is in the initial stages of developing a comprehensive energy strategy for Yukon.
This concludes the introductory comments for the main estimates for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Deputy Ministerís Office
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we would like the minister to give us a financial breakdown about every line item. We would request him to stand up and automatically do that, rather than having to ask him on each item.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to remind the member opposite that that is why we bring the expertise into the House. It is so that we can give him factual figures. Itís not a guessing game; itís serious. We certainly will comply with whatever your request is, but I will be involving my deputy minister in giving that information.
Ms. Duncan: I think there was a miscommunication here. What weíre looking for on this side is, rather than each time you say ďcorporate services, activities, deputy ministerís officeĒ and so on, if the minister could give a breakdown of the corporate services without us having to ask each time. Corporate services is a line item, if you will, or a section of the Energy, Mines and Resources budget.
Could the minister, without being prompted, simply stand up and say where the money is being spent, such as ďThere is collective agreement increase of $13,000 in the deputy ministerís officeĒ and what the reason is, rather than being prompted.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly I can do that. Corporate services: personnel, 3.5 FTEs, on the mains is $322,000. Others are travel, $24,000; contracts, First Nation liaison, $82,000; miscellaneous communications, office supplies, and membership is $19,000. That gives a total of $447,000.
In human resources: personnel, 6 FTEs, $442,000; others are travel, $8,000; contracts, $15,000; miscellaneous communications, office supplies, advertising, room rentals, $55,000. That gives a total of $522,000.
In finance and administration: personnel, 23.1 FTEs, which is $1.649 million; directorís office, branch Outside travel, communication, miscellaneous, for $14,000; administration, records management, pool vehicles, supplies, minor office renovations, miscellaneous, for $72,000; systems, community and Whitehorse area networks, Internet access, computer software, licensing, miscellaneous hardware, for $219,000; library, program materials, communications, supplies, and others, for $108,000; finance, communications, supplies, photocopy, maintenance, for $10,000. That gives us a total of $2,072,000.
In communications: personnel, 4 FTEs, for a grand total of $307,000; travel, $4,000; contracts, $6,000; miscellaneous communication, office supplies, membership, room rentals for $16,000. We have a grand total of $333,000. So in total, corporate services is $3.372 million.
Allotment changes from forecast, personnel ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, the minister is breaking with established practice. We do one line item at a time. What the minister should be doing is providing a breakdown for the $447,000 in the deputy ministerís office, and stop. Once that clears we can go on to the next line item. Heís doing four or so all at once here, and itís very difficult to track all this. We need to progress in a logical and controlled manner. I would ask the minister to proceed with established practice and do one line item at a time; we donít jump ahead to future ones.
Chair: The line under discussion is currently the deputy ministerís office, with a value of $447,000.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I thought it was a little ó when he made the first request, considering the situation, that would be a lot for the member opposite to consume, so we will go back to the deputy ministerís office. Again, personnel, 3.5 FTEs ó full-time employee, thatís what FTE means ó $322,000; travel, $24,000; contracts, First Nation liaison, $82,000; miscellaneous, communications, office supplies and membership, $19,000. The grand total for the deputy ministerís office is $447,000.
Mr. McRobb: Can we get a breakdown on the $24,000 for travel? Specifically, is this for travel to any types of Outside conferences and, if so, which ones?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That $24,000 is for external and internal travel for the deputy ministerís office, understanding agriculture and mining and all the other travel the department has to do to answer the questions Yukoners expect us to.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps the minister didnít hear the question, which was: are there any specific conferences this $24,000 includes and, if there are, can he identify which ones?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, this is just a figure weíre working with. We understand the travel is required to run the department and certainly that budget line will be utilized. With our long management skills, $24,000 is what the figure will be. If we were to look back at years past, thatís roughly what the figure is.
Mr. McRobb: All right, on the other item, $82,000 for First Nation liaison, can the minister give a breakdown on that? Is this for one person, for one contract? If so, can he tell us what itís for?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That figure is for our First Nation liaison officers we work with throughout the government. Energy, Mines and Resources utilizes the resource to make sure weíre working in a positive light with the First Nations. Itís money set aside to handle individual costs for doing that job.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, perhaps the minister didnít hear me, because none of the questions were answered. Iím asking for a breakdown of the $82,000 and whether this is for contracts to specific people and, if so, can he identify what the purposes of those contracts are?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is one contract and, of course, it is a contract for an individual, for a liaison. Thatís an individual. Certainly, working with the First Nation and the department, itís a very necessary part of managing Energy, Mines and Resources.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, was the contract sole sourced or was it a position that was in any way Public Service Commission-assisted? I am certainly not asking the minister to name names. Was the contract sole-source?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, it was sole-source. We got the best individual for the job so, at the end of the day, it is very important that we get product from the individual.
Ms. Duncan: And following up on the ministerís last comments, what would be the accountability framework built into the sole-source contract? Is there a certain reporting structure that the First Nation liaison officer has?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There certainly is. He reports on a monthly basis to the deputy ministerís office to make sure that the liaison officer is giving us as government an update on what the liaison officer is doing. So it is on a monthly basis that we get reports.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister just advise us of the parameters around this particular contract? Has it been the same over a period of time? Is it a continuation of last year and this is where itís budgeted or is it a new contract that is being entered into? I do have a question about travel, as well.
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is a contract; itís a continuation of one that existed last year.
Ms. Duncan: So we can further examine it, I trust, on the Web site. As a sole-source public contract, it has to be available, so we will do that. Can the minister just confirm that it is on the Web site?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is public information, so it certainly is on the Web site.
Ms. Duncan: Before we leave this section on travel, there is $24,000 budgeted. Does that include ministerial travel?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Is the ministerís travel, with respect to his portfolio, in the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, it is, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $447,000 agreed to
On Human Resources
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, theyíre playing with me.
Human Resources includes personnel, which is six FTEs ó full-time employees ó for $442,000; travel, $8,000; contracts, $15,000; miscellaneous, communications, office supplies, advertising and room rentals example, $55,000, for a grand total of $520,000.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Ms. Duncan: The human resources section of the department would deal with the issues. In this department in particular we arenít always able, through the Public Service Commission, to staff positions. For example, in oil and gas itís extremely competitive so to be able to get a specific engineer requires contracting as opposed to necessarily being able to hire. Am I correct that it is the human resources section of the department that would deal with those contract issues, and the requirement to staff a position with a contract as opposed to a staff position because of the nature of the industry?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Human resources is part and parcel of what the member was discussing, but the specific areas of the department would pay out the resources. In other words, if we were to hire oil and gas expertise or contract that kind of expertise, it certainly would be part of human resources to flush out and find somebody thatís qualified to do it. At the end of the day, it would fall on oil and gas to pay that contract.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that. The money for that position is found in oil and gas, but the people who deal with the position are in this line item. My question is: whatís the current level of vacancy in the department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In the time that Iíve been the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, two and a half years, we run about a six- or seven-percent vacancy just as operating in a business. Thereís about a six-percent or seven-percent vacancy rate.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister just send over by way of letter, at some point, how many of the positions within the department we have to ó by nature of the industry ó contract as opposed to being able to staff.
Hon. Mr. Lang: We can certainly do that. Iíd like to remind all members in the House that in Energy, Mines and Resources much of the contracting is a bit distorted because of type II mine sites. We do a lot of the contracting work between First Nations and the mine site, so that gives us a bit of a distortion on it. Those resources, of course, come with expertise involved, but all the resources, in turn, come from the federal government to manage either the closing or the management of the type II sites.
Weíll give you a list of, I guess, the vacancies.
Ms. Duncan: Good try, Mr. Minister. That was a valiant effort on the part of the minister; however, I trust his officials will be happy to send over to us the list of contracts, as requested, and as the minister started out committing to.
Human Resources in the amount of $520,000 agreed to
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Lang: On finance and administration: personnel, 23.1 FTEs: directorís office, two FTEs; financial operations, 5.5 FTEs; informatics, five FTEs; administration and records, seven FTEs; library, 3.6 FTEs. Thatís where we get the 23.1 full-time employees. The total is $1,649,000.
Directorís office: branch Outside travel, communication, miscellaneous, $14,000; administration, records, management, pool vehicles, supplies, minor office renovations, miscellaneous, $72,000.
Systems ó community and Whitehorse area networks, Internet access, computer software, licences and miscellaneous hardware ó is $219,000, Mr. Chair. Library ó program materials, communications supplies and other ó is $108,000. Finance ó communication, supplies, photocopier maintenance ó is $10,000. Mr. Chair, the grand total of finance and administration is $2,072,000.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is very anxious to enter into debate on this. I just have a question about the infomatics and the information systems in the library. This may be buried in the other line items, but it seems to me we were working toward having ó our mining mapping is second to none in the country. They do a fabulous job, and there is a great working relationship with exploration and with the mining industry. We were working toward the same in oil and gas and our infomatics. Is that all done and up and running, and is there money in here for any improvements required at the mineral assessment branch or with the mining to ensure that the oil and gas is complete in this area, or is it in those parts of the department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The geoscience is taking a lead role in the oil and gas, and we certainly are moving toward addressing just that issue ó about expanding from the mineral into the oil and gas so that eventually weíll have both of those resources in. But this line item is just an ongoing upgrading of the high-tech of things. So I imagine down the road this would be a constant improvement as we go along, as we move toward streamlining our operation.
Ms. Duncan: There is no major systems purchase in this line item, is there?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The answer is no.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $2,072,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Lang: Communications ó again we go to personnel. There are four full-time employees, for a grand total of $307,000; travel is $4,000; contracts are $6,000; miscellaneous, communications, office supplies, memberships, room rentals, are $16,000.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Well, I think so.
The grand total is $333,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I do have one question. We had quite a discussion last year with respect to the use of computer systems, mapping and producing documents that can be done by the private sector in the smaller offices throughout the Yukon. The communications produced by the department, which is able to do more and more in-house, means less and less work for the private businesses in the Yukon. So, have we reached an accommodation with the private businesses? How is the minister proceeding in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís a good question from the member opposite. We are aware of the competitive nature of what we do in our department. We have addressed that. I do monitor those figures to make sure that itís not disproportionate. We try to maximize the outside input into our department.
Certainly we understand the nature of our business. Mayo, the outlying areas, donít have the access to this kind of equipment that we have in Whitehorse in the hands of the free enterprisers, so we certainly modernize our offices in Mayo, Watson Lake and Dawson to make sure they get the same access to mapping as you do in Whitehorse, understanding that there are no free enterprise people in those communities to do the job. We are monitoring what we do outside the House to make sure that we maximize the outside businesses to make sure theyíre participating and understanding what the reality of the situation is in a community like Mayo.
Ms. Duncan: I just want to ask the minister, one free enterpriser to another free enterpriser, to consider that there is an opportunity for a business in Mayo. Given the high-speed Internet access and the wonder of modern communities and high-speed Internet access available throughout Yukon, letís not forget about the opportunities for business, why weíre trying to set up these offices. Just a suggestion for the minister. I understand he has reached an accommodation. Now Iíd like to ask him to look beyond that and to work with private business. Iím not talking about displacing any government employees. Iím not suggesting that. What I am concerned about is that we ensure that we have looked for the business opportunities as well.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to clarify our position on this side of the House. We certainly try to maximize and get people involved in the smaller communities in any kind of business arrangement we can, so we certainly would encourage people who are capable of doing jobs or have an aspect of their businesses that we could benefit from, we certainly would encourage that.
Communications in the amount of $333,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any debate on the total corporate services of $3,372,000?
Mr. McRobb: Yes, I have a question on this one. Can the minister indicate if there is any new office space being rented or leased by this department in Whitehorse in this budget? We notice that the branches for this department are spread all over town. Can the minister provide us with a listing of where each of the branches is physically located? But first the question is: is any new space being leased in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, we are certainly concerned how, through devolution and meshing the territorial government with DIAND, there was a logistical issue. We are certainly working on that logistical issue to consolidate as many of our departments as possible. But the member opposite understands the obligation we have for leases and other obligations we have in place. Itís a work in progress. We are trying to consolidate the departments.
As far as new rental at the moment, weíre not renting any new spaces. We are working with what we have.
Mr. McRobb: The minister said ďat this momentĒ, but the question was ďin this budget.Ē So can he just clarify if the new space answer applies to the budget for this fiscal year?
Furthermore, I would like him to answer the second request, which was to provide a listing of where each of the branches within this department are located. Would he do that too?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will tell him where the branches are. So I will say: first of all, the Elijah Smith Building; second, Shoppers Plaza; third, the Professional Building; and fourth, 918 Alaska Highway. So those are the four locations within the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister is being rather obtuse. I would like him to provide full information.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I believe the characterization of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources as obtuse is contrary to Standing Order 19(i), the use of language that is insulting and likely to cause discord, and I would ask you to have the member retract that statement.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, the rules specifically prohibit recognizing a member when he or she is not in their chair. When you recognized him, he was not in his normal seat.
Chair: As the member is fully aware, during Committee of the Whole there are exceptions and members can be recognized when they are not in their own seats. Perhaps the minister could be a bit more specific in his answer.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, how much more specific can I be? Weíre in the Elijah Smith Building. Weíre in Shoppers Plaza. Weíre in the Professional Building, and weíre at 918 Alaska Highway ó 918 is forestry. The Professional Building is mining. The Shoppers Plaza is oil and gas and mining, and Elijah Smith is everything else. We have the four locations; we manage as well as we can out of those four locations, and we will send a list over to the member opposite of those four locations.
Mr. McRobb: It seems to me last year this same minister indicated there was space being leased upstairs in the Yukon Electrical Building by one of his branches. Can he just elaborate on that? Is that something he missed in his breakdown?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I donít have any recollection of saying that we had any space rented in the Yukon Electric building, upstairs or downstairs.
Ms. Duncan: I think the Member for Kluane is thinking the Aboriginal Pipeline Group might have been there. Foothills had an office there at one point in time and Iím not sure who took it over.
I do have a question, and Iím glad the Member for Kluane raised the issue of space. The white building on Second Avenue opposite the Dairy Queen ó which building is that that the minister is referring to? Am I correct in that I understand there is to be an increase in rent for that building that weíre currently undergoing, and is there money budgeted for it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís called the Professional Building. Geological survey is in there and, at the moment, I donít, as the minister, get into the rent issue, so I guess at this point, according to my learned partner here, we are in discussions, I guess, with the individuals.
Ms. Duncan: I wish the learned officials well with those discussions, and if thereís an opportunity to consolidate the department somehow, Iím sure that the deputy minister will ensure that that takes place. I appreciate the opportunity to raise the concerns about our current tenancy in the Professional Building.
Total Corporate Services in the amount of $3,372,000 agreed to
On Sustainable Resources
On Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office
Hon. Mr. Lang: Moving right along with sustainable resources and the ADM's office. Again, we have personnel, and there are three full-time employees for $286,000; travel, contracts and miscellaneous are $42,000: travel is $15,000, contracts are $15,000 and miscellaneous is $12,000. That totals $42,000. Add that together, and the total ADM office O&M is $328,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the department were to consider contracting an individual to do, say, public consultations on land availability, would that be issued through the ADMís office? The minister read off an amount for contracts. Do they envision any kind of a public consultation process or mediation ó or somebody outside of government who can work with municipalities and the government on a land disposition policy?
†Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, we certainly are working with private individuals who have some expertise. We have in the past and we will in the future.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not sure about the time frame ó whether it was last year or the year before in debate with the minister about this issue ó but I had suggested to him at the time that we get a third party mediator for these land issues. The minister stood on his feet ó and I can dig up the Hansard ó and said that that was a good idea from the member opposite. Unfortunately, it hasnít happened. Is the minister reconsidering that approach, or is he prepared to have an individual in place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, we have individuals who have worked with us and it has been very successful. I would like to thank her for those recommendations last year.
Ms. Duncan: Why didnít they use that person in the Fish Lake dispute then?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question of the member opposite, we used the process thatís in place and it never got through the LARC process. At that point, it was a moot point, but we have used the mediator on other land questions out there very successfully.
Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $328,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Lang: Personnel, 25 full-time employees, $1,892,000. The makeup of that is: directorís office, three full-time employees; land use, seven full-time employees; lands client services, nine full-time employees; programs and policy support, six full-time employees. That makes a total of 25 full-time employees, and the total for the cost of those 25 individuals is $1,892,000.
Travel, $43,000; contracts, $25,000; advertising, land sales, LARC review, $12,000; communication, $15,000; printing, $16,000; miscellaneous program materials, maintenance, rentals, $32,000; and that gives a total of $143,000, for a grand total of $2,035,000.
Mr. McRobb: I have a couple of questions here. Iím sure my colleague from Porter Creek South has even more.
The objectives for this particular branch include ensuring land is available for Yukoners and Yukon development projects. We know there is a land shortage in the Whitehorse area and in some of the communities. Can the minister indicate to us how he is resolving those shortages and what type of a process is envisioned for each of the land developments he has coming under the front burner?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I thank the member opposite. We are certainly very concerned about the land situation in the Yukon for the general public. Weíre working on those issues. We have been working with the First Nations and have also been working with the City of Whitehorse on trying to get some clarification of the availability of land in the territory. So, weíre very active on that file.
Mr. McRobb: Iím afraid that the minister was very broad in his answer. I was looking for more of a specific response, in terms of which areas he will be opening up, along with the process that will be used for developing those areas.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, we are certainly in dialogue with concerned parties and in partnership with First Nations. Certainly, as it unfolds, we will be making the public aware of what has transpired.
Mr. McRobb: Which specific areas is the minister looking at developing in this coming year as part of the land development, which is the basic objective for this branch?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At the moment, we have a number of proposals being worked on. I certainly respect the member oppositeís concern because we are both concerned about land being out there. As soon as we know a concrete decision-making process, the general public will be notified on the land available.
Mr. McRobb: Well, concrete is one way to look at it. The other way is: which plans is this particular branch of the government, the lands branch, currently working on? Can he identify for us areas where the branch will be opening up land as a result of this item in this yearís budget? Can he tell us that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are certainly working with Community Services, which is a partnership in land development. Certainly, theyíre working with the City of Whitehorse, trying to resolve some of the internal issues in the city itself, and we certainly are working with hamlets that are outside the City of Whitehorse. We have been meeting with the First Nation in Teslin, seeing what their demands will be in the future. So we are working with different components of our communities to answer these questions that the member asked, and Community Services are of course a very important part of the equation because in the City of Whitehorse they work with the City of Whitehorse to open up and to make sure that the community plan is followed. So, as far as pinpointing in what hamlet or what area land will become available, I think itís premature to bring it up here in the House because weíre at the working stage, the policy stage with these hamlets, to address some of their issues that they have in these individual areas that will be affected if and when we put expanded access to land in them.
Mr. McRobb: Itís not premature at all. As a matter of fact, thatís what this House is for: going through the budget. Itís usual practice for the minister to even table proposed lot development maps for each area. Weíre not even getting close to requesting that type of specific information here. All we would like him to do is identify which in areas lots will be opened up by this branch as a result of this expenditure in his budget, and itís our right as opposition members to request that at this opportunity. I would like a response from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly I appreciate the urgency in the memberís voice about this issue, but again when I say ďprematureĒ, our job on the government side is to give factual information. Until I have factual information, I canít give the information to the member opposite.
Weíre working very diligently on the land issue. It is a question Yukoners ó the first question they ask is about access to land. Weíre working on that. But until we as a department can have factual information to give in this House, it is premature to give information that isnít factual so, in answering the question, once we have the facts in front of us, once weíve done our due diligence, once weíve communicated, consulted and done all the process that we do, that information will come out and I will certainly inform the member opposite when that day arrives.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís a really weak answer. The minister is hiding this information from the House. We know that certain areas have been identified, and the minister is well aware which areas those are and that the branch will continue to work toward development of those areas, yet heís telling us nothing in here. Again, that speaks for the lack of accountability by this Yukon Party government.
Obviously, the rules are inadequate. I canít force the minister to answer that question.
Can he tell us if the Yukon Land Use Planning Council is funded from this particular item? I know there is federal funding for the council. Can he at least identify for us what the areas of priority are for that commission? Even if itís a federal body, Mr. Chair, itís this ministerís responsibility to be fully informed of its activities. Can he tell us what the priorities are for the Yukon Land Use Planning Council?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, as a government or as individuals, we have the responsibility to answer the questions in the House in a very prompt and credible way. To insinuate that we do anything else is not fair to us. Until we have land available and go through the process, I canít stand up and pinpoint any specific spot where this land will be available. I wish I could do that today, but we have a process. We have policy, and we have a process that we have to follow.
In correcting the member opposite, itís not a matter of hiding land from the member opposite. I am just giving pertinent, correct information in the House. The pertinent, correct information is the fact that we donít know at this moment where that land will be available. We are working on it.
As far as the Land Use Planning Council goes, the money does not come out of this department. The member opposite is correct in that the money is a federal fund thatís put together. The North Yukon Land Use Planning Commission is up and running. The Peel Land Use Planning Commission is up and running. We are working on the Teslin Land Use Planning Commission right now, to bring it forward. By the last report, they were about 60 percent finished their land use plan.
It is hoped that the three of them will work toward getting their land use plans out and in place, so that we can move forward in managing the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: I still contend that the minister must be aware of the areas the branch is working to develop. Another bullet under the objectives for this branch is: ďTo develop resource management policies to implement big game outfitter land tenure ÖĒ Can the minister give us an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, I canít.
Mr. McRobb: Why not? Itís one of the objectives stated here in the budget weíre looking at. Heís the minister.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Because of a conflict I have, the Premier handles that file.
Mr. McRobb: Well, can somebody from the government answer my question?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, when the Premier is here, he could certainly answer that for the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Iím sure you can appreciate that thatís impossible once weíve cleared a line item. We canít go back to it. Perhaps the minister can undertake to provide a legislative return to resolve this problem.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Could the member repeat the question, so we make it very clear in our legislative return?
Mr. McRobb: It will all be in Hansard.
Iíll move on to my next question, and that is: what is the department doing to develop resource management policies to implement residential placer occupancy?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Before devolution, DIAND had been working on this file to get some rationale for residents on placer claims. We have continued that work, and hopefully weíll have something in front of Cabinet soon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís pretty vague. Can he tell us what heís doing to develop resource management policies to implement land tenure for commercial wilderness operations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, on the wilderness industry thing, we are working with industry to try to put a policy in place that we could unfold in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: Are there any specific commercial wilderness lands the minister can identify for us that the branch is working to develop?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess to clarify, the Wilderness Tourism Association and the government have started work on a policy research project, but to specifically point fingers at a specific Wilderness Tourism Association land situation, I donít have that available. Weíre working on policy at the moment and trying to get it done in a timely fashion.
Mr. McRobb: I assume there will be no commercial wilderness land developed in this fiscal year and, if I am incorrect, I invite the minister, when he provides us with a legislative return, to provide some detail with regard to any exceptions.
I would like to just close my questions on this line item by asking him what heís doing to develop resource management policies to implement land tenure and spot land recreation tenure.
Hon. Mr. Lang: We in the department have certainly been working on policy and moving forward on recreational land and how it will be managed. Of course, again we go back to the fact that land is a very big issue in the Yukon and people are concerned about it, so we are working diligently to try to address the concerns of the citizenry out there to make sure that there is land available for Yukoners in the recreational field so that they can get access to land and live a lifestyle that I would say most people in the Yukon have come to the Yukon to live.
Mr. McRobb: What policies or guidelines is the minister using in developing spot land recreation tenure?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre committed to of course work with First Nation governments and the relevant boards and committees, interest groups and the public prior to considering any policy changes in that field.
Mr. McRobb: I didnít ask who the minister was working with on any policy changes. I asked the minister to identify which policies they are using to develop spot land recreation tenure.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíll commit to send him information in writing so that he can approve it and go on.
Mr. McRobb: Itís not up to me to prove it; itís up to the minister. More specifically, are some of the policies guiding this spot land recreation tenure the cottage lot guidelines and shoreline lot development guidelines? Those probably arenít the precise names, but Iím sure that will help the minister recall some policies. Can he indicate if those are indeed the policies that are helping to guide this development?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess, to answer the member opposite, a lot of this we inherited through devolution and, of course, policies were in place through that process. Weíre looking at options on how we could handle this spot recreation land. Remote areas are different from on a lake per se in the Teslin area. There have to be some options there.
In clarifying what the member asked, this is what we are working on now to try to get some options over there and answer some of the questions of the individuals out there who have different needs for different spot recreation lands. Those are just options weíre looking at.
Mr. McRobb: I was looking for a specific answer to the policies identified. Obviously, the minister didnít answer the question. Iíll give him some extra time to think about it. Iím sure the leader of the third party has some questions on this item. Before itís cleared, I would like the minister to answer the question ó at some point.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to follow up with questions on land. There are quite a significant number of them.
Iíd like to start with this whole cottage lot ó lot for the cabin ó issue that I believe the Member for Kluane was getting into.
Very directly, the minister himself said that itís something that most Yukoners dream of at some point ó owning their cabin by the lake. The difficulty for the average Yukoner today is getting the land and having it available. The problem for government is that those lots at the lake are the latest retirement community and there are a whole different set of services that are required. So there needs to be some planning going into this process, but we also have to make the land available.
We heard in the budget speech about the land being made available for residential homes in the Haines Junction area, but what land is being made available this year for the lots by the lake?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly understand, as government, that managing land is important to all Yukoners. We donít have to rehash that again.
The question about retirement ó more and more people are retiring in the Yukon. If you had a place at Marsh Lake, say, in 1964, you see it now in 2005 when all of a sudden it becomes a resource for those people to retire, somewhere they can spend a lot of their life. So, as far as second-guessing what people are going to do with this recreational land, I guess it changes as your life changes, as you grow older, and as your children leave home and you shrink down the home as an operation. At the end of the day a cabin at Marsh Lake or a cabin at Kusawa looks very desirable.
I also understand the obligation that the government takes on when that little lot is first sold in 1964. Things change, and all of a sudden we need a fire hall and a school bus ó all the things we see in the Southern Lakes area, which I think is now the second largest community in the Yukon as far as population goes.
There is a demand for that. As far as what lots we have out there for recreation, I would have to say that I donít have that available to me at the moment. I donít want to point fingers at another department, but Community Services has a responsibility and they have sort of an inventory, so if you could wait for that memberís debate, he could bring clarity to your question.
Ms. Duncan: The difficulty Iím having is that itís my understanding that Community Services makes land available within municipalities, but itís the minister who deals with making recreational land available. Then, of course, we have the Premier who deals with land under the land claims selections ó special management areas. So how does the average Yukoner find out what land is available for cabins and to buy that cottage lot? Iím going to call them cottage lots. I know that ďcottageĒ is an Ontario expression and Yukoners go out to the cabin but, for the sake of the public service parlance, itís cottage lots: recreational property. Does the government have any intention of making cottage lots available within this budget cycle?
A couple of years ago, a number of years ago, there were a number of lots made available in Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake ó and Little Salmon, Iím reminded by the Member for Kluane. So what are the plans for this year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To clarify what Community Services does, theyíre responsible for the delivery of community land functions such as local area planning, zoning, subdivision, applications and development of planned subdivision including recreational lots. So that again is Community Services, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: So the recreational properties in the areas outside of communities are not the responsibility of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources; theyíre the responsibility of the Minister of Community Services. Fair enough. I will leave that.
Within municipal boundaries ó so within the City of Whitehorse, itís the Minister of Community Services, and within the City of Dawson and with the Haines Junction lots that are going to be developed, thatís the Minister of Community Services. The problem we have in the Whitehorse area is that when there isnít land available in the Whitehorse area, the pressure on the Ibex Valley and Mount Lorne hamlets goes way up, and there are many people over the years who have wanted more country residential property and it just isnít available. So there are a fortunate few who have some, but the vast majority of Yukoners would like country residential and donít have it. My question, then, for the minister: is it correct that the hamlets in these areas are the ministerís responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In clarifying, we still work with Community Services in a planned process. So at no point do we not work in unison with Community Services.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I was not suggesting the government doesnít work with Community Services. The problem is hard to describe in Hansard, but for the average Yukoner walking to government saying, ďHow do I get that cottage lot?Ē or ďI canít get a piece of land to build a homeĒ or ďWhy isnít country residential land available?Ē and what they hear or see is ministers ó and I donít want to point fingers, but thatís what theyíre doing. They are saying, no, itís him, no, itís her, no, itís the other guy. The average Yukoner just wants a piece of land and the ability to get a piece of land. The minister didnít answer this question: is it the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources who has the lead role in working with the municipalities and the hamlets and the unincorporated communities?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering, we certainly have the lead but again, on the planning end of it, we work with Community Services. So, we do have the lead in hamlets but, of course, we work with Community Services on the planning end of it and, of course, we work with the hamlets and the affected First Nations. So, there is a process, and there is certainly a land issue out there. We as a government are committed to move forward to get land available in a structured way by partnering with First Nations and hamlets so that, at the end of the day, we answer some of those questions on land issues that are out there.
Ms. Duncan: I have a very specific question for the minister, then: how are we getting to that point? The minister says he works with the First Nations ó so we have the Premierís responsibilities for Executive Council Office; we know where the special management areas are and settled land claims. We have that to deal with, and First Nation governments ó a respectful relationship. We have the unincorporated communities that feel the pressure when there isnít land available in the incorporated communities. We have the cottage lot issue and we have the overriding desire for land and the pent-up demand. And the government wants to answer that.
How are we getting to that point? What is the process the minister refers to? Is it a committee of deputy ministers? Is it a meeting of ministers? What is the process and where does the Yukon public fit in all this? How do we know that, at the end of the day, when weíve satisfied this demand for land, weíre going to end up with the kind of Yukon we all want to raise our children and grandchildren in?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly work with hamlets. Of course, it involves local people it will impact if, in fact, this land development goes ahead. We do work with the local First Nation to make sure that all their questions are addressed. We certainly maximize the input of the general public in any area in which we move forward in land development.
I certainly watched the process in Whitehorse. I was not very impressed with the fact that a lot of the communication was done after the fact rather than before the fact, which got us into an issue where, at the end, we were doing things we should have done before we got started. Again, thatís looking backwards. What we have to do as a government is look forward, answer these questions and get the input before we are at the point of planning and working physically on the ground. We want to make sure we maximize the input of all individuals, First Nations, hamlets and the surrounding areas that will be impacted by any decision we make as a government.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that the minister has laid out the best of intentions, but he hasnít answered the question as to how. I have followed this debate as much as the average Yukoner, if not more at times. We have the Land Application Review Committee. We have three ministers, at least, on the government side, no matter what their political stripe, who have responsibilities in this area. We have at least three governments. Fortunately, weíve managed to devolve from one of those governments. I understand, as the minister said, that itís their intention to consult people on any land development issues. The problem is that it may not affect me this instant if the department plans to develop lots in, letís say, Haines Junction. Certainly I have an interest in that as a Yukoner.
So where does the public consultation fit? It was well and good for the government to say, okay, weíre going to develop residential lots in Haines Junction, so the municipality is involved and maybe LARC is involved and the Minister of Community Services is involved and the other two ministers are also aware. Where does the general public, the rest of the Yukon, fit into that decision? Whatís the land use planning process for the whole Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: When weíre dealing with the Ibex Valley hamlet or Mount Lorne, we certainly as a government involve their hamlet governments and of course, through LARC, the process is there for Yukonís input to maximize the input that concerned citizens can have. I think probably if you were to look at our process of consultation, as the member said, we have the territorial government and First Nations, and of course we have either hamlets or municipalities. We have the territorial government. Of course, as the member opposite said, Community Services has the planning end of it; we have the land inventory. Community Services comes to us and says that we would like to do this, this and that, and of course we are open to the department that has the expertise to do that kind of planning.
We certainly commit to maximizing local input to make sure, at the end of the day, we have as much input from the locals as possible so the process can work. So, the process is that, if we as a government decide to work with the Mount Lorne hamlet, we would first of all talk to the hamlet itself. In unison, we would talk to the First Nations that are affected, to make sure that everybody buys into the proposal. Then, of course, we move forward with the LARC process. After LARC, if itís agriculture, you go to ALARC.
So, all of these steps are set out so that, at the end of the day, people can voice their concerns at every level. I think what we have to do, as we as a government understand, is get more planned land out there. Weíre working with the First Nations to see where we can work in partnership with them to address this. I think the issue out there is land ó I think the process is all right ó but land is not available, and how do we get land available?
How we get land available is to work with the hamlets, First Nations and ourselves in a very proactive way to make sure that, at the end of day, we do have recreational land out there and that we organize the recreational land in such a way that the recreational land is in the right spot, again considering, as the member mentioned, the fact that services will be demanded as the Yukon grows in population and as we have recreational land. We all know about insurance and we all know about the obligations the homeowner has. There is going to be a question about insurance, there is going to be a question about fire halls.
As minister, I certainly advocate planned recreational or residential or agricultural land so that when a customer comes to our desk, regardless of what department thatís in, they can be pointed toward an area where land is available and, at the end of the day, that is where I as the minister would hope we would be. But first of all we have to get over the challenges we have today, address those challenges and work forward so that we have access to land, whether itís agricultural, recreational or residential: all these questions come up, and not everybody wants to live in Granger.
I mean, those are options that are there. At the end of the day, we had pressure on an area like Granger where the majority of our population is being sort of funnelled to.
Again, I think we should give people options. We do have Crown land outside the City of Whitehorse. We are certainly very actively looking and working with the First Nations to see how we can address some of their issues. They are a government. They have selected land that they would like to develop. We have Crown land that we would like to take a look at, and weíre very optimistic that weíre going to come up with some land and some flexibility so people can go into the land office. If you want to look back, the only way people could get recreational or residential land was to go through the agriculture policy. At the end of the day, we were working with an agriculture policy because somebody wanted country residential because that was the only way the average guy could get country residential land. I want to address that saying, look, donít hide behind the agriculture policy. Letís get residential land out there and in the hands of the people who want it and take some of the pressure off places like Granger and these expanded areas that weíre looking at today. I mean, weíre looking at an influx of individuals into the Yukon who are putting on more pressure. You just have to look in the newspaper for residential land. The value of land in the Yukon, or homes, has grown by 10 or 15 percent.
Why? Well, because we have to get land out there. We have to make land available so that people can either build their dream home, a hobby farm or any other place people dream of in the Yukon. This government and this minister are committed to working with the other governments to make that a reality.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think we have a couple of minutes left to debate.
I understand the ministerís answer and I certainly appreciate it. I hope he can appreciate the difficulty that Iím about to present to him.
What he said in his answers is that if we decide, then we talk, and so on. Then thereís LARC and then there is ALARC. The difficulty is that not once in his answer did I hear the word ďlistenĒ. Thatís the problem. The public desperately wants land; we agree on that. I agree with the minister that there is absolutely pent-up demand. There were situations where people were trying to go through the agricultural policy to get their country residential lot.
We did devolution. That presented tremendous opportunity ó also tremendous responsibility. We have to deal with this land issue in a manner that is acceptable to Yukoners. I agree with the minister that not everybody wants to see residential land developed in the City of Whitehorse on the smaller sized lots that are made available in Granger.
The lot designs ó I can tell the minister that when we were in government the plans were sent back to the department at least four times: make the lots bigger; thatís what Yukoners want. And yes, they are prepared to pay for them.
The problem we have is that, while the minister and I might see it that way, there are also people who say we need higher density housing and that our city shouldnít be as spread out, and thatís just in the Whitehorse area.
There are people who donít want to see particular lakes developed with cottage lots, and there are others who do.
The point is, we need to find some way that Yukoners feel they have been heard in these discussions and they have some kind of an opportunity for input. Yes, the elected governments have to work together. The average Yukoner also has to have a say in this, somehow. There has to be the point, more than just voicing concerns at LARC and more than just voting for a mayor or a council or a hamlet councillor or a member of the Legislature. We have to be cognizant of what weíre doing, we have to plan it out, and we have to make the land available. So the question I want to ask the minister is: how in that process does the public have a say in this? I would really encourage him to give some thought to that idea of listening to the public. I understand that, yes, they do listen to the public. The public has an opportunity to speak at LARC. But the minister used the phrases ďtalk toĒ, ďwe decideĒ, and those arenít inclusive of the average Yukoner out there who just wants to get a cabin at the lake, no matter what municipality they live in, or they want their municipality to grow economically and they want more people there.
They want the opportunity to say where those residential lots will be developed and they want a say in what the future of their community looks like beyond just at the government-to-government level. Theyíd like an opportunity for input. The process is not clear to the average Yukoner. Itís not clear how they have input. Itís not clear how land is being developed, or not, and how the government is going to make those decisions. Itís a major issue. We agree on that.
In light of the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 56, Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act, and directed me to report it without amendment. Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of 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 honourable 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 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 9, 2005:
Public Accounts, Standing Committee on: Second Report (dated April 2005)† (Vol. 15)† (Hardy)
The following document was filed May 9, 2005:
Driving Yukon Highways 2005, information regarding: published by the Department of Highways and Public Works† (Hart)