††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, May 16, 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 remembrance of Pete Sudeyko
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of all Members of the Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to the late Pete Sudeyko. In October of 1997, Mr. Sudeyko suffered a major stroke that robbed him of his ability to tell a joke, as he so loved to do. He bravely carried on for the past number of years with the loving support of his wife, Marlene. We often ask ourselves, Mr. Speaker, who nurtures the nurturers, and a tribute to Pete must also recognize the support provided by the staff of Copper Ridge, the Thomson Centre, Macaulay Lodge and home care. Your love and kindness for this member of our community is what makes us in the Yukon who we are.
Pete Sudeyko was respected for his honesty and integrity during his 28 years as the Fuller Brush salesman throughout the Yukon and northern B.C. In 1963, he was named Canadian salesman of the year.
Beyond his career, he was a lifetime member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, having moved to the territory at the age of 18.
He began his career here driving a bus and an ambulance, and was also a civil servant for the military.
He and Marlene were married at the Old Log Church in Whitehorse. He and Marlene began a new life together in that church in 1956 and, on Saturday, many, many Yukoners bid fare thee well to Pete Sudeyko at the church next door.
It is an honour to recognize Mr. Sudeyko here today; however, his greatest tribute was there and earlier today at Copper Ridge. The community gathered as one.
On Saturday, Hank Karr sang it best, including the Yukon Book of Memories and, most importantly, the mark of a man, his family ó Marlene, Bob, Rick, Alan and Barb ó was there.
Bob spoke so eloquently of the love of his father and with his, I suspect, inherited ability to tell a story of how to hold the trouble light for his tinkering father and with thanks to his mother for their partnership and support for his father. Bob, being the oldest and a professional broadcaster, is a hard act to follow as we who worked with him know so well. However, Barb spoke of her father as only the youngest and a loving daughter can, especially when she is telling tales on her older brothers and their inability to find a spare tire.
Marlene, Bob, Rick, and Alan and Barb have joined us in the gallery today. Marlene, many of us in the Legislature went to school with your children. Mr. Hardy could tell tales about sports in school, probably more sports than school with Rick, and Alan speaks fondly of being a member of the same student council I served on at F.H. Collins.
Please, on behalf of all of us, we extend our deepest sympathy on the loss of your father and your husband. Pete Sudeyko was a very special member of our community and he will be fondly remembered and very sadly missed.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It is with sorrow but great honour that I rise today to pay tribute to a devoted, caring and very generous Yukoner, Pete Sudeyko.
Mr. Speaker, I came to know Mr. Sudeyko many years ago as a child growing up in Watson Lake. Today Iím here honouring the life of a constituent but, more importantly, someone I considered a very familiar face and a friend of our family.
As a Fuller Brush dealer, Pete became fondly known by most Yukoners, including my family, as a man of kindness, generosity and spirit. As a child, I recall always looking forward to Mr. Sudeykoís visit, as he was not only the Fuller Brush man, in our minds, but rather a friend of the family coming to visit and share his stories of adventure.
I can assure you there certainly were many laughs shared with Pete.
I distinctly remember how he was always genuinely interested in how we were doing and how our lives were progressing. Pete was indeed a kind man. Pete was also very generous, and I can recall this shown through the number of samples of goods that he would leave behind in the community for everyone to enjoy. Pete was an excellent salesperson and was deservedly awarded Canadian salesman of the year in 1963 for his commitment of 28 years, integrity and honesty to the Fuller Brush dealership.
Pete also held a strong sense of family values, of which he shared a wonderful life with his wife of over 50 years, Marlene, and together had four children: Bob, Rick, Alan and Barb. He is also survived by five grandchildren: Ryan, Leah, Lauren, Cecilia and Dominic.
On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I would like to also express our deepest sympathy to the Sudeyko family and to assure them that all our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time.
Pete will indeed be missed by many but will forever be remembered as a well-respected Yukoner with a heart of gold.
Mr. Hardy: First off, Iíd like to welcome the Sudeyko family. I would like everybody to join me in welcoming the Sudeyko family to the Yukon Legislative Assembly. The leader of the third party did our tribute for us and she spoke eloquently and conveyed our sympathy to you.
But I would like to say just one thing, and it just happened a few months ago. I was driving through Porter Creek, and I drove up the street again and was going by the houses. I was looking at the houses and remembering the families that used to be there. I went by the Sudeyko home and remembered the family and the kids growing up there. Every once in awhile I would come around there and meet your father. I just wanted to convey that the memories are warm, and I believe they are shared by many people of the Yukon.
In recognition of Aboriginal Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize that next week is Aboriginal Awareness Week in Canada. Designed to increase awareness of aboriginal people among federal public service employees, through various activities in the workplace, Aboriginal Awareness Week is held annually on the four days that follow the Victoria Day long weekend. The commitment to create awareness on topics related to aboriginal people is the critical element of these four days. In the Yukon, aboriginal people are an integral part of the social and cultural fabric of community life. Yukon First Nation languages are taught in every Yukon community, in the schools and through community programs in all eight languages and the many dialects that are here in the territory.
Cultural awareness programs are offered regularly through the Department of Education, First Nation health programs at the hospital, and also through the Yukon Public Service Commission.
Yukon First Nations have been leaders in terms of modern day treaty negotiations and self-government agreements for the entire country. Today, there are 10 self-governing First Nations in Yukon, an achievement we can all be very proud of.
To create more effective governance in the Yukon, the Yukon Forum has been created to formalize the government-to-government relationship with these self-governing First Nations. The Yukon Forum creates an opportunity to work on issues collectively, based on mutual respect, consultation, and cooperation for the benefit of all Yukoners.
We trust that the increased awareness at the federal level through Aboriginal Awareness Week will also contribute to greater understanding and commitment to fully implement Yukon First Nation final and self-government agreements. The Yukon can be counted on to provide its full support for movement in that direction.
Mr. Hardy: I rise on behalf of the official opposition and the third party to pay tribute to Aboriginal Awareness Week next week, May 24 to 27.
Many times Iíve heard that language is the key to cultural identity. First Nations and Inuit people make up 52 distinct cultural groups located across Canada from sea to sea to sea. They speak over 50 different languages and many dialects. Aboriginal people are making steady headway in increasing the preservation and use of their languages, and I believe all people recognize that the use of languages will keep cultures strong, and many people believe language is culture.
Aboriginal people in Canada have taken on many other responsibilities apart from the preservation and advancement of languages. We all know the many difficult trails that aboriginal people have had to travel and will travel in the future.
The displacement of children from their families and cultures by residential schools is a disgrace we have still not fully dealt with. Itís remarkable how First Nations have adapted and maintained their identity when bombarded by a completely different and often over-powering culture.
The latest United Nations report on well-being across the world would place Canada at number 48 out of 174 countries, if only aboriginal well-being were considered. I consider that a shame, Mr. Speaker. A national survey a few years ago told us that Canadians place aboriginal concerns as one of the top three problems in Canada. This awareness has changed, and thatís a big concern for all of us. I believe very little of the problems have changed, but unfortunately Canadian people have shifted their attention from this matter, and that is something that should not have happened.
Despite this sad legacy, aboriginal people continue to find ways to deal with what has been put in front of them and display an admirable adaptability and creative strength in facing many of these challenges. They continue to become stronger every day with each new effort they have to take on.
We in the north are very fortunate that there is more general awareness of aboriginal concerns than with our neighbours to the south. In part, this is because of the land claim settlements and self-government agreements. They have the potential of being aggressive acts of Parliament, bringing many benefits and positive social developments to First Nation people and to everyone in the Yukon.
First Nations have an exciting future ahead of them in the Yukon, in which they will play a vital part; however, this is only possible if the commitment to change is taken beyond the paper that it is written on. We must live the intent of these agreements every day to fulfill the potential that we know is possible for First Nations in the Yukon.
On Aboriginal Awareness Week, we challenge everyone to take advantage of the many opportunities in the Yukon to learn more about First Nation culture, their history and the agreements made with them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of National Police Week
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today on behalf of this government in recognition of National Police Week, which runs from May 15 to 21. Police Week is an annual event that began in 1970 as a collaboration between the Government of Canadaís Office of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and its provincial counterparts.
The purpose of this week is to build stronger partnerships between police services and the communities they serve. This yearís theme is ďTogether weíre better: Working together for safer communities.Ē
Currently in the Yukon there are 109 regular RCMP members, four special constables and 49 civilian members and support staff.† Iíd like to start by thanking them for the hard work and dedication they put into ensuring the safety of Yukoners.
The first day of Police Week, May 15, is recognized internationally as Peace Officer Memorial Day. I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
The RCMP is a critical player in making us feel safe in our homes and in our communities, but excellence in policing can only occur when there is a healthy partnership between the police and the communities they serve.
As members of this Assembly are aware, we are currently undertaking a policing review in the territory. This review will give us valuable information about what Yukoners want from a police service. We will be asking them to identify top policing priorities for their respective communities. Once these priorities are identified, this government will be working closely with the RCMP to help them deliver a service that builds on communitiesí needs and values. That is the purpose of this review, and that is the underlying theme of National Police Week.
During the next week, local RCMP detachments across this territory will be holding community barbecues, open houses and family events such as bike safety rodeos. Keep your eyes open for the Cops for Cancer event on May 19, where six female constables will shave their heads to raise money for cancer. The City of Whitehorse will be holding a safe community event on May 18.
Corresponding with National Police Week this year is National Road Safety Week. This is a time for Yukoners to be reminded to buckle up, not drink and drive, and to share the road with vulnerable road users like cyclists and motorcyclists.
The Government of Yukon is committed to working with and supporting Yukoners and the RCMP in an effort to make our communities, neighbourhoods and homes safe and healthy. I encourage all members of this Legislature to take time out of their schedules to help celebrate our police services.
Joining us today, I would like to have the House welcome Chief Superintendent Dave Shewchuk and Commanding Officer for M Division and Sergeant Guy Rook, who are present in the gallery today.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the official opposition, the NDP and the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Police Week and to welcome our visitors to the gallery.
In addition to the 176 Yukon RCMP employees, policing in the Yukon includes many volunteers who make up victim services, citizens on patrol and auxiliary officers. They all deserve our heartfelt thanks for they are so much more than an enforcement agency or keepers of the peace. They are part of our community of Yukon. An immediate example, as mentioned by the Minister of Justice, is that on May 19 over two dozen officers, including a number of female members, will be shaving their heads to raise, they hope, $10,000 for cancer. The bike auction and safety rodeo is coming up and this week all Yukon detachments will be holding open houses. I urge all Yukoners to take the time this week to visit the detachments and personally recognize the efforts and hard work of our police force, the RCMP, in the Yukon with thanks.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I have for tabling a few more documents that were requested by the opposition during the debate on Economic Development.
Mr. Hardy: I have for filing pages 92 to 106 of the Charles River report, draft form, regarding military use of the railway.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 7
Ms. Duncan: I rise to present a petition. Early this spring, a number of young people, residents of my riding, came to be of the belief that the trees in the forest they regularly visit in school and while playing were going to be cut down.
They started going door to door with a petition that urged City Hall not to do that. A number of parents and adult residents were motivated by actions of these young people. As a result, I have a petition that Iím presenting today that urges the Yukon Legislative Assembly that the following Yukoners desire to protect the diverse ecosystems, including McIntyre Creek and the other natural attributes of the Commissionerís lands within the City of Whitehorse described as bounded by Rabbitís Foot Canyon on the Alaska Highway in the southwest, the residential neighbourhood of Takhini in the south and east, the residential neighbourhood of Porter Creek in the north and Range Road in the north and east, as shown on the attached map.
Therefore, 251 residents have asked the Yukon Legislative Assembly to urge the Commissioner in Executive Council, Government of Yukon, to establish a territorial park within the area described in the manner allowed for in the Parks and Land Certainty Act.
Speaker: Are there any other petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Wildland fire suppression contingency plan
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to advise members of this House of a new funding contingency for wildland fire suppression.
The 2004 forest fire season was the largest on record with hot, dry weather, record-breaking temperatures and a record number of lightning strikes. In all, 280 forest fires burned just over 1.8 million hectares of Yukon forest. This represents just over six percent of the entire vegetated area of the Yukon.
Of the total area burned, about 140,000 hectares of forest burned in the areas of highest priority for fire management, including areas in close proximity to our communities, people, subdivisions and highways. In these areas, we utilized initial attack crews and many resources to ensure the safety of people, properties and other valuables.
The bulk of Yukon fires, representing about 1.5 million hectares, or 83 percent of the area burned by wildland fires, occurred in wilderness zones, areas in which wildland fires are expected to fulfill their natural and ecological role in the boreal forest.
Our priority in this zone was to monitor the fire behaviour and deploy structure protection to remote lodges, cabins, and other valuables in the wilderness.
Last summer was a powerful reminder that the Yukon remains at risk from the threat of forest fires. As part of our preparation for this summer, we have established a $7-million forest fire suppression contingency fund to ensure there is an ample budget to address any extraordinary expenses related to keeping Yukoners safe from forest fires.
As members will recall, the devolution transfer agreement provides the Yukon with $6.5 million per year to fight forest fires in the Yukon. Last year, the cost to fight forest fires was approximately $21 million, or three times the annual budget. The devolution transfer agreement also provides, for a five-year period, a cost-sharing arrangement for forest fire costs over $6.5 million.
For the first year, the split was 80/20. It finishes with a 40/60 split in the fifth and final year. The federal share for 2004 was $70,000 and is estimated to be about $11 million. For 2005, Canadaís share is 60 percent.
The light rains weíve had for the past two days helped to cool the forest and provide some moisture; however, the reality is that fires can begin very quickly, and weíre planning for them in a number of ways.
Firefighter training is underway as we speak. The air tankers begin to arrive this week, and equipment resources are being deployed around the territory as part of our regular preparations.
Setting aside $7 million for this forest fire suppression contingency is one more way we are ensuring the safety of people, property and the environment.
Mr. Cardiff: We thank the minister for his statement today about the creation of a $7-million fire suppression contingency fund. We recognize as well, as I think all Yukoners do, the seriousness of the situation that presented itself last year and the potential for a serious situation again this year.
Out of last year the government initiated a wildfire review. It would have been useful to have had that information earlier this year to use in the planning and strategizing in preparation for the upcoming fire season. Itís unfortunate that that information isnít available yet. We hope that the government will make that information available as soon as possible.
The minister also talked about the limitations of the devolution transfer agreement and how the federal government is going to be providing less and less funding toward fire suppression in the coming years. Itís interesting to note that both the Premier and the Member for Klondike, when they were on this side of the House, were very critical of that devolution transfer agreement and yet, once they got into government, they chose to sign that agreement anyway without making the changes they were requesting that they felt were necessary to provide for more fairness and provide for stabling funding to meet the needs of forest fire suppression in the Yukon.
The minister is announcing $7 million in a fire suppression contingency fund, and I think whatís unclear to us on this side of the House and is unclear to members of the public at this point is whether or not this is new money, whether or not this $7 million is actually contained ó and the minister can clear this up when he responds ó in the $12.5-million line item in the fire suppression budget, or if this is new money. Thereís no disputing the fact that if weíre faced with an extreme fire season, money is going to be needed, but what weíre unclear of is if this is money thatís budgeted for or if it is something that the government will use special warrants for. This is something that would be a good use for special warrants. It would be warranted, unlike other times when they have used special warrants or when potentially they will be using special warrants in the near future.
So we would like that cleared up. Is it in the budget now, or is this something that they will be bringing forward in a supplementary budget in the fall or be using special warrants for? So we thank the minister for his statement and look forward to his response.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the ministerial statement coming forward today, particularly in such a timely manner, as it also serves as an opportunity to remind all of us on the forthcoming long weekend to be very careful with fire ó not only this upcoming weekend but throughout the summer ó and itís an opportunity to wish our fire suppression crews and the individuals working in the field to keep us safe, to wish them all the best and to let them know that our thoughts are with them.
With respect to the specifics of the ministerial statement today, I remind the minister that when he brought forward the legislation that allowed for the creation of the fire suppression fund, I supported it. All Yukoners recognize the difficulty of last summer and hope and pray indeed that we do not have the same kind of difficulties this summer.
The Member for Mount Lorne has noted that, although the Yukon Party did not sign the devolution agreement ó it was the Liberal government that signed the agreement ó the Yukon Party did campaign that they wished to change the fire suppression provisions and financial arrangements in the devolution transfer agreement. The Premier has stated that in the past in this House, people make promises during a campaign and should be accountable for them. Thatís a direct quote. The minister could perhaps explain what changes have been achieved to the devolution transfer agreement by the Yukon Party and also explain the clarity surrounding the source of the $7 million ó where this money is contained and how the $7 million will be funded.
So I thank the minister for providing the opportunity to wish Yukoners well and to be careful this summer and to be mindful of our tinder-dry forests. If he could perhaps indicate in his response answers to a couple of key questions with respect to changes to the devolution transfer agreement and the source of the $7 million.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I thank the leader of the third party for clarifying who signed the devolution transfer agreement.
I will try to provide some quick responses with regard to the fire review. We were expecting the fire review to be completed in time for this fire season. We have been advised it will not be ready until the end of this month. The steering committee still has some negotiations going on with the stakeholders that require some additional time; however, the draft form is underway, and we anticipate having it by the end of this month.
They have provided us with some indication of what we should be looking at for this upcoming season, so weíll be looking for that report just as much as the members opposite. As I indicated, once we have that report, weíll provide copies to members of both opposition parties.
With regard to this fund, I will state that the $7 million is a contingency for the program, as we stated. Whether it becomes part of the revolving fund or not will be answered at the next sitting of the Legislature through the debate on a supplementary budget, when we bring it forth ó just for the members opposite, so they can address that particular issue.
The leader of the third party discussed the issue of what we were doing with regard to trying to improve our devolution transfer agreement with the federal government. We have been in contact with the federal government, and we have written directly with regard to asking him to open the negotiation of the five-year agreement, based on last yearís commencement of fires.
The outlook for this year indicates that weíll have weather similar to last year. If that is indeed the case, weíll definitely be looking at a season similar to last year.
In my opinion, it would also help to address the situation with the federal government so that we can bring them back to the table and provide us with opening up the renegotiation so that we can get a more realistic value of whatís available for fire suppression. We are working on that particular aspect as mentioned earlier.
I would like to at this time also reiterate that our fire crews and personnel have worked hard to manage the Yukon fire program in a cost-effective manner. We anticipate that our guys will be much more ready this year than last year. Weíve had a season ó both a quiet one and a light one. We did have approximately $4 million carry-over for the first year in which we were in charge of fire suppression; however, that was eaten up totally in last yearís process, so we are starting with an empty kitty except for the $6.5 million thatís coming to us under the devolution transfer agreement. We feel this is an important step to hedge our bets as seed money for the possibility of the season. I look forward to the rain thatís out there and I also look forward to a very successful firefighting season.†
Motion of urgent and pressing necessity (no. 2)
(Standing Order No. 28)
Representation by Member for Copperbelt
Mr. Hardy: I rise pursuant to Standing Order No. 28 to seek unanimous consent of the Assembly to debate the following motion as a matter of urgent and pressing necessity:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the sexual exploitation of children or adults cannot be tolerated in any society;
(2) all Members of the Legislative Assembly have an obligation to demonstrate ethical leadership; and
(3) the residents of Copperbelt constituency have a right to full representation from an elected member they can respect and trust; and
THAT this House calls upon the Member for Copperbelt to resign his seat immediately so that the residents of Copperbelt constituency can elect a new representative before the next sitting of this Assembly.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: There is not unanimous consent.
The House will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Government-First Nations relations
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, last Thursday in this House, I tabled a letter that the Minister of Economic Development received from a number of First Nation leaders expressing their concern about the lack of concrete action on this governmentís promise to involve them as full partners in the territoryís economic development. The minister said a response was being prepared. The Premier avoided the question and once again launched into a grand speech about what a wonderful job this government is doing. Outside the House, the Premier said he had written a lengthy response to the chiefs. Will the Premier explain why the chiefs who wrote to the minister over a month ago havenít received a reply, and will he table the response referred to today?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, we have corresponded as a government in a corporate manner to the self-governing First Nations in question, including, I believe, one that is still in the ratification process. With that, and with all due respect to First Nation governments, our correspondence, should they want to release it, would be fine. This was a letter directed to First Nation leaders and specific First Nations. Thatís correspondence that is not a matter for public consumption, but if the First Nations wish to publicly release the response that the government made, we would not oppose anything like that. But we would not do it unilaterally.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, this isnít the first time this Premier has stepped in to bail out a minister who is under fire, and it certainly isnít the first time he has had to intervene for this particular minister. More than a month after this letter was sent, the chiefs still have not had the courtesy. Their concerns were about that minister and that department. The chiefs wrote specifically about losing out on timely opportunities because of what they called ďa process of never-ending analysis, study and final expectation of no further commitment from the Government of Yukon.Ē
What direction has the Premier given to the Minister of Economic Development ó since heís not willing to tell us on this side ó to address the specific problem cited in the chiefís letter?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There are no problems cited. In fact, itís quite the contrary. Letís use a specific example. When it comes to a housing initiative to create a manufacturing sector in the Yukon Territory, the government has been very forward on that particular initiative, offering to work with the First Nations in question on accessing northern economic development money ó accessing federal equity money, as committed to by former Minister Nault; accessing the investment from Canada with respect to their commitment for adequate housing for aboriginal people by the year 2008; offering training and capacity. We are doing our part, but itís important to understand that economic partnerships are not based on how much funding the Yukon government can provide; theyíre based on reciprocal contribution and investment.
Mr. Hardy: I canít believe this. The Premier says there is no problem, yet we tabled a letter that identified many problems. The letter I tabled mentioned a number of specific projects in which Yukon First Nations wanted an opportunity to participate. Thatís what it was about.
Outside this House, the Premier made this statement: ďThe partnership does not mean that we directly hand First Nations these projects or these contracts. Thatís in violation. We donít do that as a government.Ē Now, I have heard from a number of people who found the Premierís comments both dismissive and insulting. When will the Premier stop evading this issue and take some concrete action to live up to his election promise about making Yukon First Nations full partners in the territoryís economic development? We need actions, not platitudes. When will the Premier listen to what the First Nations are saying?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It has been very enlightening to listen to First Nations through the course of this mandate so far. In listening and working in partnership with First Nations, weíve been able to accomplish a great deal. It begins with our fundamental fabric of partnership, which are the final agreements, both land claim and self-government. Thatís a fundamental component of partnership. It moves on to a consultation protocol in all the areas where we will consult with First Nations on a government-to-government level.
It includes the Yukon Forum, formalizing that government relationship, working on matters like the northern strategy and jointly developing the Yukon draft chapter on the northern strategy, which is about investing in Yukonís future. Itís about commitments to First Nations, such as royalty sharing and a partnership that created a huge increase in the production of natural gas in southeast Yukon, where all self-governing First Nations will share in that increased revenue.
It includes agreements like the Champagne and Aishihik forestry agreement, under the leadership of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, developing a forest management plan in partnership. It includes the capital partnership in Old Crow and investing millions in that community. It includes the northern economic development accord with the northern First Nations here in the Yukon Territory.
It includes Destination: Carcross, under the leadership of the Minister of Tourism. The list is far too long, and I donít want to be repetitive.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. McRobb: While the Energy, Mines and Resources minister was wondering last week how many more sleeps he had until the end of the sitting, the Premier of the N.W.T. was in Ottawa lobbying for new federal funds to help break the impasse on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Unlike our Energy, Mines and Resources minister, who came home empty-handed, Premier Handley returned with a commitment for $100 million per year in new money.
Mr. Handley will return to Ottawa this week along with First Nation leaders to make a pitch for the money to cover social and economic spending in areas such as education and community infrastructure. Will the Energy minister try to arrange for Premier Handley to lobby on behalf of the Yukon Territory, or is he content to count potatoes in his sleep?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In response to the member opposite, we certainly went down with the Yukon Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and put a workplan in front of the federal government. We met with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, met with the Department of Industry, Science and Technology. We met with the Department of NRCan and put our proposal forward. The word is that itís moving forward and weíre going to get our resources.
I think we did quite a job and Iím not going to worry about the Premier from the Northwest Territories. I think what we have to do is work within our jurisdiction, work with the federal government and get the funding in place for the coalition.
Mr. McRobb: According to the business section of Saturdayís Globe and Mail newspaper, the Deputy Prime Ministerís office has said the $100 million per year in funding is only a starting point for discussions ó only a starting point.
The Yukon is missing the boat. Weíve heard the Yukon Party boast about how itís good at lobbying Ottawa, how itís part of a united front on a pan-northern approach, how it has a memorandum of understanding with the N.W.T. on pipeline matters, but whatís the net sum in terms of federal pipeline funding? A big zero ó thatís what it is.
Since our House adjourns tomorrow, thereís still time to get to Ottawa before Thursdayís big budget vote. Will the minister take the Premier with him to Ottawa, team up with Mr. Handleyís group and seek a similar funding commitment from a federal government eager to spend to stay alive? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, again, the Northwest Territories certainly has its challenges in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, and certainly the federal government is addressing them as we speak. But as far as our government, weíre working with the federal government very positively. I assure the members opposite there will be funding available. At the end of the day, the Yukon Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition will get funding.
We ourselves have partnered with the coalition and also with the federal government so that there will be resources in place. We have hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent in the prebuild. The federal government now has issues with regulatory certainty, whether it is going to be the Northern Pipeline Act, or a greenfield pipeline. Those are all questions that have to be answered from Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, we understand the challenges Northwest Territories has, but we also understand it isnít in our jurisdiction. Our job is to manage the resources and the issues in the Yukon, and thatís what this government is doing today. We are putting the resources together. We are working very positively with the federal government. The money will go in place, and the coalition will move forward. So itís a good-news story, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Those words ring hollow, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the minister should also meet with the quasi federal Finance minister Jack Layton.
Speaking of the NDP, Mr. Speaker, we are firmly in support of the Yukonís right to a similar funding arrangement with Ottawa. If the Yukon Party were to follow up on this suggestion, we would gladly assist in lobbying the federal NDP leader.
If the Yukon were to get a similar agreement, we too could properly prepare in time to meet the many challenges of an even larger pipeline project here. Such funds are needed to address some of the many issues, including the need for affordable housing in our communities, even though our Justice minister believes there is no poverty in the Yukon.
What is this governmentís plan to fund all the preparations needed for our pipeline and to resolve the many social issues before the start of a regulatory process here?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the Member for Kluane is somewhat confused. The Northwest Territoriesí focus, outside of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline as a specific project, is devolution and resource revenue sharing. The Yukon has already achieved devolution and resource revenue sharing from Canada, as negotiated by the NDP when in government in the 1990s and concluded and signed off by the leader of the third party when in government, the Yukon Liberal government.
Weíve achieved a huge investment from Canada through devolution. We are already masters in our own house. Letís not forget the difference between the Mackenzie line and the Alaska Highway pipeline. The Mackenzie line transports Canadian gas to the marketplace. The Alaska Highway pipeline transports American gas to the marketplace, allowing Yukon to access and egress that line.
In place is an existing easement and corridor ó not on the Mackenzie line. Certificates are in place under the Northern Pipeline Agency for the Alaska Highway pipeline ó not on the Mackenzie line. Hundreds of millions of dollars of pre-build are in place for the Alaska Highway pipeline.
I would suggest that the members opposite are misconstruing the facts in this matter. We support the building of both pipelines. We want to see $25 billion-plus invested north of 60 to benefit all our citizens.
Question re: Representation by Member for Copperbelt
†Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Premier. About 10 minutes ago, the Premier and his colleagues were asked to support a motion asking that a member convicted of a serious crime be asked to resign from the Legislature, and the government refused to debate it.
A similar situation happened in Nunavut in 2000, when an MLA was convicted of a crime and resigned. He did so at the request of all members of the Legislature.
The motion was brought forward today, and the Yukon Party refused to support it. Why does the Premier think Yukoners should have a different standard from that evidenced by our northern neighbours?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member well knows that the issue before us, the matter at hand, is in the courts. Itís within the justice system and itís incumbent upon all of us to allow due process under the law to evolve and conclude. Thatís all weíre doing. The member opposite well knows that there are certain individuals out campaigning already in the riding, and weíre not going to pre-empt or compromise the law and our justice system. It still has a ways to go on this matter.
Ms. Duncan: There was a similar situation in Nunavut and the Premier has failed to recognize that. In 1999, federally, a member of the federal Reform Party was convicted of a serious crime and shortly after a member of the Reform Party called upon the individual to resign. The quote from the Member of Parliament was as follows: ďI think that he should resign his seat in Parliament, and I think that given the conviction the Party should ask for his resignation. It just demands a harsh penalty. You cannot tolerate this.Ē
This requires leadership. The motion was brought forward for debate today. The Premier refused to debate it. Why is the Yukon Party government unwilling to provide this kind of leadership?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This government provides the kind of leadership that will not play politics on matters such as this. The system of justice is engaged. Everyone has the right, the fundamental right, in this country to due process under the law. Thatís leadership. Thatís what this government stands for.
Ms. Duncan: I raised an example where an MP had been asked to resign by his own party. I cited another example from Nunavut where the entire legislature requested an MLA to resign, and he did. Itís the right thing to do. Will the Premier do the right thing and allow the motion to come forward for debate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me begin by saying that the member in question is not a member of this side of the House. The members opposite well know heís an independent member of this Assembly.
He has a right to due process under the law. Mr. Speaker, we are showing leadership. Weíre showing leadership that this countryís fundamental fabric is built on, and thatís human rights. Weíre very concerned about what has transpired here, Mr. Speaker, but we as a government are not going to compromise and intervene in the justice system. It will evolve; it will conclude; and thatís exactly how we should proceed on this matter.
What this government will not do, and what members on this side of the House will never do, is play politics with matters like these. Thatís not whatís happening from across the floor.
Question re: Roads to resources, committee agenda
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Environment. On Thursday, the Minister of Highways and Public Works revealed there is an internal Energy, Mines and Resources committee dedicated to advancing this governmentís agenda on roads to resources. Highways and Public Works is providing technical support to the committee.
What is the Environment departmentís involvement in this committee?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre doing exactly what we should do: weíre looking at the issue of sustainable development, and weíre a monitoring agency under the appropriate regulations.
Mrs. Peter: This information is news to the Yukon people. Itís another secret this government is not revealing to the public. New resource development comes with a price to the environment. This government has a habit of seeking consultation after decisions have been made.
When was the minister going to inform the Yukon people about the existence of this committee on roads to resources and allow input?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our party campaigned on a platform of restoring investor confidence and moving forward on the economic development of the Yukon, creating jobs here in the Yukon. It is all about responsible development, and that is exactly what the Department of Environment in the whole scheme of things, the whole issue here ó thatís how we plug into it. We are a monitoring and compliance agency in some respects. We have a number of issues that we address, and we will continue to do so as we are required to do.
Question re: Carmacks school
Mr. Fairclough: About 170 citizens of the community of Carmacks let their names stand on an advertisement last Friday. They signed the letter showing their opposition to a decision made by this government. Now, Mr. Speaker, all parties did agree to a design of a new school, but this government ignored that democratic process and decided to do things on their own.
Now, the Yukon Party said that there were people in the community of Carmacks who agreed with them, and no doubt there are. But what they are doing is pitting people against people when they canít get their own way. So will the Premier start listening to the people who signed this letter, or will he continue to shut off their democratic voices?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. Mr. Speaker, something that I find very interesting in the comments from the member opposite just now is pitting people against people. That is very untrue. Mr. Speaker, I believe ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I just heard the Justice minister say that our memberís words were untrue. Clearly, Standing Order 19(g) says ďA member shall be called to order by the Speaker if that member Ö imputes false or unavowed motives to another member.Ē
Speaker: There is a point of order from the Chairís perspective. I would ask the Minister of Education to not call into question the memberís honesty.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: † However, I will continue with this line because it has been brought to my attention that the leader of the official opposition plus the MLA for the Mayo-Tatchun riding had made this trip to Carmacks to meet with the First Nation but never ever met with the mayor and council. I find that kind of curious and rather interesting.
Mr. Fairclough: The question did go to the Premier, and the Minister of Education decided to answer the question but was far from it.
We heard very strong words from the Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. He said that there could be disruption in the construction of the school.
Things are getting out of hand here. The poor working relationship between this government and the First Nation resulted in this threat, so can the Premier tell us how heís going to deal with this very serious matter?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The government already has. First, there was clearly a demonstrated need in the community of Carmacks considering the conditions that the children of Carmacks are trying to learn in ó the learning environment ó so we committed to build a new school. We also committed to the community and the First Nation that hereís the design, hereís the square footage space, and with any extra space involved here you can decide what youíd like in that space. It could be a cultural component; it could be other community initiatives. We are providing them a brand new learning institution with more options available for the community. Itís all about investing in healthy communities and improving our education system. Thatís what the minister has done. Thatís what this government is investing in and weíll continue to do exactly that.
Question re: Housing
Mr. Cardiff: Over the past two and a half years there have been numerous press releases about affordable housing, and here are some quotes from those press releases: that the program would provide social housing; that there was a commitment to provide housing for those most in need; that there was a commitment for funding affordable housing for those in the greatest need.
Now, thereís no way the Falconridge or Normandy Manor projects this government has chosen to fund meet those needs. Will the minister admit today that he changed the rules to serve a different objective than those laid out in those initial press releases and communications, and that those who are most in need of affordable housing will be left out in the cold this winter?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Once again the member opposite is confusing a program of social housing with an initiative of the federal government called affordable housing. Affordable housing is a federal government; itís a federal agreement; it has a set of guidelines saying that we have a choice. The member opposite is correct: we have a choice. We can either accept the guidelines and build affordable housing under that agreement or we cannot utilize the money.
Instead, with the first $1.4 million put out under this program, we have initiated nearly $23 million of construction of affordable housing ó putting people to work and making affordable housing available. Social housing is a program; it is not related.
Mr. Cardiff: It just goes to show you that this minister cares more about money than about the people who need housing. Heís bragging about $23 million of investment. What about the people who need a house?
Now, Manitoba has taken up the challenge of delivering affordable housing, and Iíll give you a couple of examples. They have announced new rental housing for low-income renters. They are going to work on rehabilitating severely deteriorated properties and they are going to have a down payment assistance program. They are targeting revitalization of urban areas and encouraging new housing in remote areas. There is nothing in the ministerís program for anything outside of Whitehorse.
The minister in Manitoba is committed to helping people with the needs they have, and this minister is changing the rules of the affordable housing program to deny those most in need. Will the minister guarantee on the floor of the Legislature today that the new money coming for affordable housing will be used for real affordable housing and not to build more middle-class condos?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iíd like to respond to that while the member opposite catches his breath and calms down a little bit.
It is a federal program that we can either utilize or we can give the money back. Is the member opposite suggesting that we should say, ďNo, it isnít quite what we want to do, so weíre not going to utilize that. Weíll pass on $23 million of construction.Ē
There are other programs. We have a home ownership program, an owner-build program, a home completion program, an extended mortgage guarantee program and a green mortgage program. We can then start going into the home repair program, we can go to upgrade in the green mortgage program, the home repair enhancement program, or residential audit. We can go into self-help courses. We do have an extensive social housing program with a very large number of units in inventory. We can go on and on with these programs.
If the member opposite wants to talk about the federal affordable housing program, a copy of which I believe Iíve tabled in this House, it is set on federal guidelines.
If the member opposite doesnít like the terms of reference, then by all means, have that chat with our MP, whoever that is after Thursday.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíve asked the minister for the changes to the agreement. Now, they renegotiated the agreement and they made the changes. Iíve asked them to provide that agreement. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, again, it is a federal program. It was negotiated over a number of years. It required territorial input. Yukon Housing Corporation very adeptly got the federal government to consider Copper Ridge Place as our contribution, which allowed us much broader latitude of what we could do with that program. But it is still a federal program.
Locally, we can go into the mobile home upgrade program, mobile home emergency repair program, rental suite program, rental rehabilitation, mobile home relocation assistance, the Mountainview Place lot sales, the R-2000 program, and community and housing industry development. The programs go on and on.
Affordable housing is a federal program. We use it, and the way weíve used it so far is the first $1.4 million is generating $23 million of construction. You donít have to be a mathematician to work that one out, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Representation by Member of Copperbelt
Mr. Hardy: Just a few minutes ago, we tabled a motion in this House asking for unanimous consent of this Assembly to debate the motion itself. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party government refused to allow that debate to happen in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I am very, very concerned about that, because that is what we do in this Legislative Assembly: we debate motions, we talk about principles, we talk about ethics ó and we were denied that opportunity. The Yukon Party government blocked that. After I visited the Premier and the leader of the third party to tell them what was coming, they refused to allow this debate to happen.
My question to the Premier is: does the Premier believe that Copperbelt has been well served by his former colleague?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The government will continue to serve all ridings to the best of our ability, as weíve demonstrated across this territory. Thatís what the government side will do.
With respect to the motion tabled, I think the government sideís answer was quite clear: there is a due process under the law; it is evolving; it will conclude. Thatís what we have responded with.
The other thing weíre not doing is running around in the riding, campaigning. I find that unacceptable.
Mr. Hardy: Iím not sure what the Premier is alluding to when he makes a comment like ďrunning around in the riding, campaigning.Ē Iíd like some clarification on that, if heís willing to talk about it.
But I can assure you that the people in that riding are running around looking for their MLA, because he hasnít been in this ó excuse me ó questions have not been asked in the Legislative Assembly by that MLA. For over a year there hasnít been proper representation.
Earlier the Premier alluded to the fact that they do not interfere with the justice system. Mr. Speaker, I can give you an example. Itís called the tow truck case.
That minister actually interfered in a decision, and that was for a tow truck. We know the scandal that erupted around that and they defended that action. So why will the Premier not allow debate on this motion? Will he allow us to bring it forward again and debate it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I donít know how much clearer we can be on the matter. As we said, due process under the law will unfold as it should. The leader of the official opposition makes a comment about questions being asked in this House. If the members opposite were so concerned about the constituency of Copperbelt, why didnít they give the independent member some questions during Question Period?
Furthermore, I think itís important that we recognize whatís going on here. The government will stick to the fact that everybody has the right of due process under the law. The members opposite want to somehow expedite that process. I think leadership on this side of the House is clearly being demonstrated. The members opposite can say and take what position they choose; we have clearly responded on what the governmentís position is.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier is wrong. The House leader asked every single day if that member was ready to ask a question and he refused to ask questions. Maybe before he spoke he should find out what the facts really are. He is willing to bend the rules for a friend but heís not willing to work for the public good in this case.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Member for Porter Creek North, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: ďBend the rules for a friend?Ē That clearly crosses the line.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, ďbending the rules for a friendĒ is within the boundaries of acceptable speech in this Legislature. We do have something called freedom of speech and we are expressing and exercising that right.
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), itís imputing false or unavowed motives to another member. Itís clearly out of order, in my opinion.
Speaker: The Chair will make the rulings. I wait for the members to give me advice, but the Chair will make the rulings. In this instance, this is a dispute between members. There is no point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Iíll just give another example. This government conducted a computer use investigation that was based on ďYouíre guilty until youíre proven innocent.Ē They targeted the public servants that serve the Yukon Territory ó over 4,000 of them. They were vicious in doing that.
So my question is: will the Premier allow us to do the public good and have that motion come forward and have that public debate today, now? Thatís what the public expects us to do in here, so letís do it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can understand the anxiety the member is displaying around this issue. The government is very concerned about what has transpired. We feel strongly for all the people involved. This is a terrible tragedy, but due process under the law must and will unfold as it should. There is no place for politics on issues like this, and this government will not ever play politics with the law.
To suggest that the Minister of Justice, acting under the law ó her duty is to carry out her obligations and responsibilities as a minister. To compare a tow truck to this issue is unacceptable. The members opposite should rethink what theyíre doing.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. I understand the next department under debate is the Public Service Commission. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, with Vote 10, Public Service Commission.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Public Service Commission
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It is indeed my pleasure to be able to present the operation and maintenance budget for the Public Service Commission. This yearís budget, 2005-06, is estimated at $18,106,000. This is an increase of $1.747 million from the forecast for 2004-05, and it is an increase that can be applauded in terms of our employees and in terms of services to Yukon people.
The Public Service Commission is the central department in government that provides key services to other departments. Further, the Public Service Commission hosts a range of programs for individual public servants who carry out the work of those departments as they serve Yukon people.
The commissionís forward-thinking approach, for example, has been the impetus for developing opportunities for young Yukoners who may be contemplating a career in the public service.
The Public Service Commission has exemplified leadership in promoting initiatives like the cooperative education program for Yukon students to come home on work placements as part of their university co-op programs. The co-op education initiative and the job experience program policy that pulled together existing job experience programs both support this governmentís commitment to give hiring preference to Yukon post-secondary students for employment with the Yukon government.
I also wish to reference the work of the Public Service Commission to establish the workplace diversity employment office. This is yet another initiative that builds on the commissionís purpose to help make the Yukon government a desirable place to work in order to deliver the best possible services to the people of the Yukon. This purpose, stated in the commissionís strategic and operational plan, is especially pertinent to the workplace diversity employment office. Established just last year to include the positions of the representative public service consultant, disability employment consultant and an administrative assistant, this office positions our government to better meet our commitment to encourage the employment of persons with disabilities and to fully honour ongoing representative public service responsibilities.
As such, Mr. Chair, I am pleased with the allocation of an additional $200,000 to the First Nation Training Corps and an additional $200,000 for a new training and work experience program for people with disabilities, resulting in eight additional paid training positions that will add to a more diverse workforce.
The commissionís dedication in these initiatives is also applied to ongoing corporate policy work. For example, the expanded employee participation policy makes it possible for the government to support the Canada Winter Games 2007 by providing paid leave for employees to volunteer for games tasks. Further, it is this policy work that provides the framework for secondments of government employees to the host society to help ensure the Canada Winter Games are a resounding success. As I have stated in this House on a number of occasions, Canada Winter Games is a tremendous opportunity for the Yukon, for which there will be a requirement for anywhere between 4,500 and 6,000 volunteers to actually host these games. As a government, we are certainly fully committed to supporting the games and we are very pleased to be able to extend this policy to include the good work and the dedication and commitment of our own employees.
For most people, the face of the Public Service Commission is the career postings that we all see from time to time in the newspapers. Recruitment, pension and benefits, work and the Public Service Commission goal to play a strategic human resource role within the government are all important aspects of the public service.
Mr. Chair, an exciting initiative that our government announced earlier this year is the ďinvesting in public service, serving Yukon peopleĒ initiative. The IPS, as this initiative has come to be known, is a major investment in the public service that will have a profound effect on the organization and its ability to continue to deliver quality programs and services.
Planning for this initiative has been in the works for several months, and Iím pleased that our government has dedicated $1.382 million. With this support, our government is expressing its commitment to continued investment in its employees and to developing and sustaining our organization as one that provides top-quality programs and services to Yukon people.
The IPS builds on the successes of programs and activities already underway. For example, the Yukon government leadership forum and the coaching program are two key corporate initiatives that make a significant positive difference to the work of government.
These programs help to identify and develop key skills in the people who will lead this organization in the coming years. Besides developing individuals, these two initiatives also help employees use their skills to the greatest advantage of the public service in developing other employees.
Governments across Canada are facing two significant challenges: first is to find ways to address the issue of a possible surge in retirements and the second is to attract younger people to the public service as a career option of choice.
By committing $1.382 million to the IPS initiative, our government is taking a stand on the need for sound succession planning in the public service so we can continue to deliver high-quality programs and services to the public and offer employment options that will attract our younger people back home to work after graduating from university or college.
Five parts of the IPS include a step to develop and implement a comprehensive policy framework, a step to address issues related to succession planning, a step to invest in safe and healthy workplaces, a step to recognize public service excellence and a step to communicate with employees so theyíre aware of the opportunities brought about by the IPS initiative.
Another part of the IPS includes work that is currently underway to develop an organizational cultural framework. Key projects in the corporate human resource plan form the foundation of this step. Projects include developing a comprehensive orientation system, modernizing the recruitment process, promoting flexible work arrangements to support employees balancing work, home and community commitments, and reviewing human resource policies to support learning in succession planning.
The training and development aspects of the IPS that support the succession planning step are specifically addressed in this budget. They include $440,000 for the employee developmental assignment program that offers on-the-job learning opportunities; $165,000 for an internship program to give Yukon graduates from post-secondary studies an opportunity to gain valuable experience in government; $35,000 for our first-line supervisors in management program; $150,000 for the employee in a career assessment program, which establishes a place where employees in the organization can access standardized instruments to assist them in planning employee development and to improve the effectiveness of the recruitment process; as well as $300,000 for professional development and technical training to support employees in their efforts to maintain skills that keep pace with industry standards. Another $220,000 has been allocated for the investing in safe and healthy workplaces step in the IPS that includes $110,000 for the healthy employees and workplaces program to keep the government up to date with changing legal obligations related to safe and healthy workplaces, as well as $110,000 for work placements to assist employees with disabling conditions to return to work when they are ready to do so.
We also want to build on successful initiatives in line departments like Energy, Mines and Resources, where the work to establish Energy, Mines and Resources as a department of choice is an inspiration for leadership development and a positive example of the benefits of investing in employees.
The IPS budget allocation includes $72,000 for an awards and recognition program for employees. A program of this kind provides a framework for recognizing the valuable work that public servants do. Recognition for efforts well done reinforces the public service culture work environment that promotes excellence, respect, integrity, and high quality service.
The point of all this is that we must focus on transferring the knowledge of our experienced workers to future leaders and employees. Our employee population is aging: 70 percent of Yukon government employees are 40 years of age or older. Without this investment, we will have real difficulty competing in highly competitive hiring markets to attract and retain employees who are capable of providing programs and services to meet the needs of the Yukon public.
Some may ask why we are doing this. First of all, the government has demonstrated its commitment to facilitating economic development for the betterment of Yukon people, and this includes people who work for the Yukon government. Second, the IPS initiative is another part of the continuing prosperity of the Yukon. When employees benefit from professional development and career aspirations, and when the Yukon government can attract skilled people to work in the public service, the transfer of professional and technical knowledge will be assured. This means that the Yukon public can, quite simply, continue to benefit from government programs and services.
The IPS initiative also supports our governmentís priority to build a healthy economy and our long-standing promise to engage Yukon government employees in the decisions that affect them.
Our government has delivered on many of its commitments to strengthen the public service, both as an employer and in terms of its continuing ability to deliver programs to Yukon people. To paraphrase a statement made by the Premier in his Budget Address, we can achieve so much more by working together than we will ever realize by working separately.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my remarks. Before sitting down, Iíd like to extend our sincere thanks on behalf of my government Cabinet and caucus colleagues for the good work that the Public Service Commission has done in preparing this budget and particularly in working on this very important initiative called IPS.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a few questions on this department. I heard what the minister had to say on the new initiative that she tabled in the House ó the yellow copy ó of IPS. It sounds like a long apology to the employees because, when the Yukon Party first got voted in, the first thing they did was to launch an investigation of their own employees over the misuse of computers. This angered so many of the government employees that itís still being talked about to this day.
A lot of the information gathered seemed to be kept within government. Weíve asked questions in the House about when itís going to end, what the final cost was, if itís ongoing, and no real numbers came forward. Iím concerned about that, I guess, because it seemed like it was ongoing.
Here we have an attempt to rebuild our relationship with the public employees, and we on this side of the House donít necessarily disagree with what has come forward. Itís something new. There is a lot in there that needs to be questioned and probably would unfold in the months to come. I asked the question before about the cost of the investigation of the use of computers and misuse of computers within government. I know that the minister is going to come forward and say that there was some money spent, but there is a lot of it that cannot add up, with the number of people who were involved with the investigation. I guess the departments across the government are unable to keep track of those times. I would like to know when this investigation will be complete. I know that the minister said in the past that the initial, major part of the investigation was done. There were results in some disciplinary action, but not that many, for the amount of money that we spent on it. I would like to know what positive came out of this, and how many more recommendations that resulted from this investigation can we expect to be implemented?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The initiative, the investing in employees ó or I should say Investing in Public Service: Serving Yukon People initiative ó is something that Iím very excited about. Itís a very positive initiative. Itís an investment in our employees and I think itís an investment in the delivery of services and programs for Yukon people, because Yukon people, after all, stand to benefit from the programs and services that the Yukon government has to offer. So I have to say that Iím very excited about this initiative. I congratulate and commend the Public Service Commission for working with our government and coming forward with such a comprehensive initiative, some of which I have already outlined.
I just wanted to say for the member opposite that we on this side of the House are not the only government that is investing in our Public Service Commission. I just want to refer to a bit of newsworthy information that came forward to our office a little while ago. Itís from Nova Scotia. The government of Nova Scotia, in fact the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, introduced an initiative and it was based solely on the number of public servants expected to retire in the next five to 10 years and how similar that situation is to the Yukon and our public servants and the need to retain and attract new employees to the public service. This is an initiative that Nova Scotia saw fit and they introduced very similar investments, but I have to point out that their total investment was about $2 million and it was to cover, basically, a civil service of about just under 7,300 public servants. Compared to the Yukon, we have just shy of $1.4 million in this IPS initiative, which will benefit about 3,500 public servants. It certainly shows that we are very sincere in our dedication and our commitment toward the health and well-being of our public servants, which will result in enhanced services and programs to the Yukon public.
I just wanted to bring that to the attention of the member opposite because this is something. We have some serious issues and challenges before our public service that we have to look at, and now is the time to look at them. I just say to the member opposite that itís our government that chose to put just under $1.4 million toward this initiative. Itís an initiative Iím very proud of and one I look forward to seeing the results of and see progress come to fruition.
Again, itís an initiative that shows that we are committed to continued investment in our employees and to developing and sustaining our organization as one that provides good quality programs and services to Yukon people. Without this investment, I canít stress enough that we will have real difficulty attracting and retaining employees who are capable of providing program services to meet the needs of the Yukon public.
Again, this initiative builds on the good work that has been done to date so far: the corporate human resource plan; I referred to a couple of other initiatives, the coaching program and the Yukon government leadership forum, which build on these types of initiatives so the government will be viewed as an employer of choice and we will be able to maintain our competitive advantage in being able to recruit good quality candidates and will be able to continue to deliver programs and services to Yukoners. Thatís the most important thing.
As the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I and my government colleagues have the utmost respect for all employees of the Government of Yukon. Our government also remains committed to a work environment that is free from discriminatory or harassing behaviour.
I think we should just look at our recent investments toward enhancing support through increasing funding to the workplace harassment office, with special emphasis placed on prevention and education. Working with our employees is another thing our government can take great pride in.
As members opposite are aware, a settlement was reached last year between the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Yukon Employees Union, in which it was announced that all matters arising out of the computer use investigation were resolved, including all outstanding grievances and appeals brought forward by employees and the union.
Our government respects the settlement made with the union, and we are committed to upholding its provisions, including those requiring full confidentiality on the matter. That is where we will leave the investigation.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess it was one heck of a battle that had to take place to get the government to recognize that this was, I believe, a violation of government employees. Weíve gone a long way with this matter. It cost the government a lot of money. The unions, as part of their job, had to step in and protect the employees because this was a very serious matter.
Now, the minister just said that the issue of confidentiality of information gathered was also settled ó that an agreement was reached with the union. That is on the governmentís information of its employees. What the government also did in this investigation was gather all kinds of information on other people ó First Nations, for example. Those emails that were sent back and forth ó a lot of that information was gathered by government. What happened to that information, and what protection do people have that the information gathered will not be released in any way?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Again, by agreement with the union, a full and binding settlement was made by an arbitrator in a process that was agreed to by the government and by the union. As I stated earlier, the government respects this agreement and is committed to upholding all its provisions, including those regarding confidentiality. I am not in a situation to make any further comments ó period ó about the computer investigation. Again, as I mentioned, a full and binding settlement was made by an arbitrator in a process that was agreed to by both the government and the union.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I believe the minister does have a duty to answer questions in regard to this, even though there was a settlement that took place, an agreement made, a process established. It was the Yukon Party who launched this investigation. Now we have all kinds of people drawn into this investigation because of e-mails going back and forth. I know that every First Nation in the territory and many people are listed in this information that was gathered ó many people. The union fights for the employees. What we have is information gathered as a result of this investigation that involves many First Nations, municipalities and so on. I want to know what happens with that information. What is going to happen with that? Is it going to be destroyed? How is the confidentiality of that information going to be kept from getting out into the public?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I will reiterate again for the member opposite that a full and binding agreement settlement was reached by an arbitrator in a process that was agreed to by the government and the union. Any information pertaining to the investigation is just that: it remains sealed. An agreement was reached between all parties, between the union and the government. Iím not in a position to be able to comment any further about the investigation. Again, a settlement was reached by an arbitrator in a process that was agreed to by the government and the union. Thatís where it has been left.
Mr. Fairclough: There are lots of holes in that. The minister said there was a process set up but sheís not willing to talk about any of that. Iím talking about information the government gathered that had nothing to do with employees, but other employees of different governments and different organizations. Thatís what Iím getting at and the minister said she canít comment on that. She says that itís sealed away, that all this information was sealed away. Is it destroyed? Whatís going to happen with this information? Because a lot of the information gathered is very confidential through the different departments ó communications. The government did look at peopleís e-mails. They had to go through the whole list and look at the e-mails and determine which ones were in violation, which were worth investing. What happened to that information? The First Nations are asking me about that. They communicate with government regularly. It has nothing to do with government employees now. It is information gathered on other governments. Whatís happening with that information? Can the minister assure us that it will not be let out in the public and in no way will any of this information be leaked out? Would she guarantee that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As I mentioned earlier, the information has been sealed. Thereís no reason to utilize that information, because a full and binding settlement was made in a process that was agreed to by both the government and the union. Thatís where Iíll leave it.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is not doing her duty then. Thereís a protection of employees, but this Yukon Party government gathered information beyond its employees, and thatís what I was getting at. I know the minister is saying itís sealed away. I donít believe that it is sealed away like that. She said there is a process in place to deal with it. Sheís saying two things here, and thatís my concern. Iím not going to go on and on about this matter, but I believe the minister does have that responsibility and should not be skating away from that by saying itís sealed away and that thereís an agreement. This government has a duty to answer to all the people in the territory.
I would like to ask about a different department. I know the firefighters and the auxiliary emergency on-call firefighters are government employees now, but they are still receiving a wage that is less than any of the permanent employees. It was a policy change that was made by this Yukon Party government before taking over the firefighting positions. When will we see this change, and can the minister assure me that the change will happen before this is taken to the Human Rights Commission?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †For the member oppositeís clarification, this was just another item that was negotiated by the previous government under the devolution transfer agreement. Again, under the agreement, I understand there is a provision for an annual review. That annual review is currently underway, and we are working with the Department of Community Services on this review, as is provided within the agreement pertaining to the emergency firefighters.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít provide the answer I was looking for. I wanted assurance. It was the Yukon Party that made changes to the policy ó not other governments nor other parties. It was the Yukon Party government that made changes to that policy. As a result, we now have basically two levels of workers doing the same job.
What happened to equal pay for equal work? Right now we have employees who are making between $8 and $9 per hour. The seasonal workers hired are making $18 an hour. The same employee on a second day of rest will be making just over $8 an hour, while we could have double time and a half for an employee who is a seasonal worker ó doing exactly the same job. Is that fair?
I know the minister talked about the yearly review, but the changes arenít made and havenít been made in the two and a half years this government has been in power. So, when are we going to see changes made to this policy? Will the minister do it before this case is taken to the Human Rights Commission?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Again, Mr. Chair, the agreement in place requires that the pay schedule be reviewed on an annual basis. That annual review is currently underway.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, this minister could make the change right now, if she feels that everybody should be treated equally. They havenít made the changes for two and a half years. Is this something the Yukon Party, this minister, is going to lobby for ó to ensure those workers, those emergency firefighters, who just happen to be mostly aboriginal people, are going to receive equal pay for equal work?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Again, I believe it is policy 3.58 that requires that the pay schedule be reviewed on an annual basis, and for the member opposite I will repeat myself in saying that that annual review is currently underway.
Mr. Fairclough: That doesnít help the firefighters this year, does it? Theyíre already starting to work. The minister has to do something about that. Itís about fairness. Why would we treat our employees that way? Itís the ministerís employees ó one has been treated one way, barely over the minimum wage, and another with full benefits. The minister refuses to deal with this matter as a high priority. Instead weíre basically waiting for a review of the employeesí wages, which could not result in increases to wages for emergency firefighters. I think the minister knows that. That issue has to be dealt with separately. So will she do that? Letís go down that route. Will the minister take this on separately from the annual review of the employeesí wages? Will she commit to that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †A review is currently underway.
Mr. Fairclough: This Yukon Party government fighting for the fairness of its employees ó itís evident right here on the floor. Iím surprised the minister didnít take on that challenge.
Can the minister tell us what it would cost government to bring the wages of emergency firefighters up to normal standard wages that they provide for seasonal employees? What would it cost approximately? Take last yearís season for example. How much more would it have cost government to ensure that the workers are treated fairly and they do get the proper pay?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Thatís completely hypothetical. I donít have any information at my hands. As I mentioned before, a review is currently underway.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís a hard-hitting, fighting Yukon Party government for workers. Weíre not going to get anywhere with this minister on it, obviously. Like many matters, maybe it has to go before the courts. Maybe it has to be taken before the Human Rights Commission. Unfortunately, thatís where it could go. I know the minister opposite is hoping that it wonít go that way because it takes a bit of organization to make it happen. I believe that it is going down the route. I gave the minister a perfect opportunity here to address this matter. I will leave it at that because this is an issue that is very important and not so important for this government to address.
I would like to ask the minister about First Nation hire throughout the departments. There are definitely not the numbers there. When are we going to see an increase, and what major effort is this department putting forward to ensure that all departments follow some hiring process that would look at more First Nation people in the departments?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Just getting back to the emergency firefighters, they are very important employees and are very important positions within the Government of Yukon. As was committed by the minister responsible for Community Services, a review of the pay schedule is currently underway. So for the member opposite to make reference to this government as not recognizing the importance of emergency firefighters, I believe itís not accurate.
Just for the record, that review is currently underway, and we hope to have some discussion and a decision very soon.
When it comes to First Nation representation in the public service, again, I donít engage in individual hiring decisions, although we are committed to meeting our obligations under land claim agreements as well as in the representative public service plans. To this end, the Yukon-wide representative public service plan, developed under chapter 22 of the Umbrella Final Agreement, is based on six core strategies that address a range of factors that affect employment, including partnerships, communications, monitoring review, accommodation of culture, developing Yukon First Nation labour force and employment.
Some of the ongoing activities related to the representative public service plans include providing training and development opportunities for First Nations and reducing barriers in staffing procedures. We are actively supporting exchanges with First Nations, as well as providing fully paid training opportunities to the Yukon First Nation Training Corps; encouraging temporary assignment opportunities with First Nation governments to encourage knowledge sharing; using preferential hire in some competitions and including First Nation representatives on interview panels for positions in communities.
As I mentioned earlier in the onset of my remarks, we have invested an additional $200,000, for example, toward the First Nation Training Corps, which we have in place. This is pretty accurate, but we actually have 12 positions right now in place under the First Nation Training Corps. This is a very, very good initiative and very good news. For example, weíre working with the Department of Justice, and one of those positions is for a counsellor, offender programs. Again, this was under the First Nation Training Corps with the end goal to enhance First Nation representation in this field of work, to provide work experience, to improve the participantsí chances of successfully competing on positions at either the First Nation or the territorial government level.
We also have a position in Tourism and Culture. The title of that position is community arts coordinator. Again, the goal is to build capacity of First Nation citizens with respect to developing their cultural heritage needs. We have a joint position where we are partnering with the Taían Kwachían Council. Again, that is a position, network analyst, with the Department of Health and Social Services, again with the end goal of providing work experience, to enhance participantsí abilities to successfully compete on positions at either the Yukon government or the First Nations government level.
We have a position with the Department of Education in the Teslin Tlingit Council, and that position is the labour market development officer, again, to build work experience in this area.
We have another position with the Department of Health and Social Services for a family support worker. Itís a joint initiative with the Kluane First Nation. We have a position with the Department of Environment, partnering with a person who is of Kwanlin Dun First Nation ancestry. Thatís environmental monitoring. We have a position right in the Public Service Commission for a policy analyst and that individual is a person who is of Champagne and Aishihik First Nation ancestry. We have a position that is a joint partnership between Highways and Public Works and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for a heavy equipment operator. We also have three positions with the Department of Tourism and Culture ó one with the Selkirk First Nation, again to help build capacity, for this individual to help meet the cultural heritage needs of the Selkirk First Nation. The other partnership between Tourism and Culture and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation is the position of a community arts coordinator, again, to enable the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to address its heritage and cultural needs. We have a position with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation and the Department of Environment for a park ranger. Again, this is toward meeting governmentís obligations regarding employment opportunities in Tombstone Park, for example. Again, another position through the Department of Tourism and Culture is that of a program coordinator with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
So there is a whole host of examples where we are working with First Nations and the First Nation Training Corps, and allocating an additional $300,000 to this is but one example. Our government has also increased its emphasis on the workplace diversity office by creating this particular office. The representative public service consultant has been made into a permanent position supported by an administrative assistant. That position actually was filled in February of this year. Among the tasks will be to review the status and the implementation of respective plans and also to continue discussions with First Nations that have recently signed agreements but do not have a representative public service plan.
We also support an attempt to foster First Nation culture in the workplace and specific provisions in the collective agreement speak to those specific provisions. As I mentioned before, we do have our employment equity policy, through which we have several programs and actions that help create a more diverse workplace successful to Yukoners, which I alluded to before, including workplace diversity employment office, including First Nation Training Corps, and of course we have the Yukon-wide representative public service plan under First Nation final agreements along with plans for some of the traditional territories as well.
As I mentioned earlier, there are temporary assignments, preferential hire and also participation by First Nations in government workshops and development programs to work with First Nations in developing some of those courses.
These are all examples of how we are working with First Nations and also enhancing employment of First Nations within the Yukon government.
Mr. Fairclough: I didnít ask for all the positions that resulted from the land claim agreements and now result in government employees. I asked about how the minister could increase the number of First Nations working in all departments. I didnít get a clear answer from that, but there are some things the minister said they were doing.
The emergency firefighters are relying on them to address the wage issue. Itís a policy issue that will address this matter, not the wage scale. Right now, the Yukon Partyís policy has two different categories of workers doing the same job. Thatís the issue right now.
I donít believe the review will clearly address this matter, and thatís what I was trying to get at. The minister could do something about the policy they created, which has divided the workers.
Iíd like to ask the minister about whistleblower legislation, but I think itís still a broken promise. I think the blame game would be voiced by the minister, so I wonít go there. Iíll turn it over to my colleague for further questions.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a few questions for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. STEP ó the student summer employment program ó has been around for quite some time, and it is a very effective program. There are a few issues that have been brought to my attention and I would just ask the minister that, if she perhaps has information about them, she could share it or take it under advisement. One is that studentsí university program or post-secondary can be four years or it can be five years ó it can be quite lengthy. These jobs are much sought after. Is there a limit to the number of times that you can be a STEP student or participate in the program?
The other question is: sometimes there are some departments that are particularly busy in the summer months only and, in fact, a STEP position could be a temporary position, so is it possible that departments could have both or that students having experience in STEP could fill a temporary position in the department? Can that be done, and is it possible that we could look at perhaps making more of the temporary positions available in addition to STEP?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †STEP is actually mandated under the Department of Education, under their specific policy. So with respect to turning student positions into temporary positions, I suppose that is something that is under the mandate of the Department of Education, and Iím not sure if theyíve looked at that or discussed that, but thatís something that I can pass on to the Minister of Education.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I donít think I put that very clearly. Each department ó Highways and Public Works is a good example. It has a number of temporary positions in the summer that are filled, so what Iím advocating is that there be not only STEP but also the temporary program, because the temporary position would be higher paid than the STEP, and a student who maybe has filled a STEP position two or three times could in fact fill a temporary position as opposed to being a STEP student.
The longer they go to school, the more expensive it gets, and the grant runs out after five years. Iím just encouraging all departments, through the Public Service Commission, to make as many positions available and to perhaps examine some returning students for some of those temporary positions. I certainly donít want to displace any Yukoner. Iím just concerned about the number of students who are finding it very financially burdensome. I just wanted to raise that point with the minister.
Is the patriation of the pension still on hold? Principles were agreed to by a previous government. Their discussions have ended. Is the issue still on hold?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Going back to the STEP students ó itís something that I will pass on to the Minister of Education, and I thank the member opposite for her comments regarding temporary positions.
With respect to STEP students, not only did our government actually increase the number of positions eligible under the selective training enforcement program, but we actually increased the wages for the STEP students this year. Those were two very positive initiatives that our government has recently undertaken.
Yes, to the member oppositeís questions regarding pension patriation. It is still on hold.
Ms. Duncan: As much as I appreciate the governmentís efforts with respect to STEP, Iím still not voting for the budget. I do applaud the initiative, but Iím not going to vote for the budget.
The classification lineup ó the Public Service Commissioner will forgive me, but I ask this question every single session. What is the current status of those either awaiting an appeal of a classification or reclassification of their position? Sometimes the lineup has been quite lengthy, and sometimes it has been reduced, thanks to additional resources and initiatives by the government. What is the current status of the lineup?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †There are approximately 200 waiting for classification.
Ms. Duncan: There are 200 awaiting classification. What is the current status in terms of the reclassification and appeals process?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Maybe Iíll just start with the devolving employees. Again, that was something our government committed to in the last election ó to revisit job descriptions within the first six months of devolved employeesí employment with the Government of Yukon, and to submit any revisions to the Public Service Commission for classification review.
As such, devolved employees were given the right to appeal the classification level of their initial job offer. As a result, I understand that 233 job descriptions were revisited and that 191 revised job descriptions were submitted to the Public Service Commission from the departments. All of those have been reviewed and classified.
I believe that the most updated note I have says that there are currently 10 outstanding appeals covering 10 positions, and that these appeals are being given priority and continue to be addressed through discussions with the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Also, just on the other classification requests, we have 16 outstanding renewal-related requests on record with the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission has received job descriptions for three of these requests, again from the departments, and is waiting for 13 job descriptions from the departments before the remaining classifications can be completed.
I think that is just about all that I have to report.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have a time frame when we might see resolution of these 10 outstanding reclassifications? Theyíre currently under discussion with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Are we hoping it will be done by the fall, or do we have any kind of a time frame?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †We work with the respective union to arrange a mutually convenient time to hold a hearing, so that is what weíre doing and what weíll continue to do. Itís basically up to both parties to agree on a set-aside date.
Ms. Duncan: There has been an initiative regarding an allowance for additional clothing for our volunteer ambulance attendants. I believe thereís also an initiative for our firefighters in Energy, Mines and Resources. Those are different departments, but I would believe or expect that there is a clothing allowance policy that is administered ó perhaps not ďadministeredĒ ó by the Public Service Commission, but could the minister explain how the departments apply a clothing standard allowance and how it works through the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Chair, under the collective agreement that we have negotiated between the respective union and the Government of Yukon, there is a food and clothing allowance for which employees of the Government of Yukon have the opportunity to apply. When it comes to volunteers, however, volunteersí clothing allowance would be managed by the respective departments.
Ms. Duncan: When a department undertakes an initiative to provide particular work boots or some type of specialized clothing for auxiliary members or firefighters or the government department undertakes an initiative to provide specific clothing for, in the case of health, our volunteer ambulance individuals, what role does the Public Service Commission have in ensuring that the policy is fairly applied or that those clothing allowances are fair and consistent across the board? I understand itís different, of course, between volunteers and auxiliaries, but this has been raised as a concern to me, and I am trying to determine what the role of the Public Service Commission is in ensuring there is fairness between the departments and employees and individuals.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I should first start off by saying that we work very closely with our unions to identify any concerns or any immediate needs that might be raised within a specific department or a specific area, and we work with the respective union to meet those concerns or address those needs.
Again, when it comes to volunteers, that is something that you could say is managed directly by the specific department at hand. If there is a specific concern or area that the member opposite wants to raise with me, Iíd be very happy to undertake it.
Ms. Duncan: Iíll leave it at that.
Have there been any changes to any of the Public Service Commission policies or management policies? Most specifically, have there been any changes with respect to the conditions under which we advertise out of the territory?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: By and large, we endeavour to advertise positions first locally within the Yukon so that Yukoners have the first opportunity to apply. The occasion may arise where a position is not able to be filled by a local person in the Yukon, at which time that position will be advertised Outside.
Ms. Duncan: Have there been any changes to any of the management policies with respect to the Public Service Commission in terms of hiring, or changes such as restrictions or loosening of the use of auxiliary on-call positions and temporary assignments? Have there been any changes with respect to the administration of personnel in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †When the member opposite was referring to auxiliary on-call positions, we do have something relatively new in the collective agreement that was struck two or three years ago, which was a joint committee of union and government representatives to review the auxiliary on-calls within the departments and to make recommendations to the respective departments.
Ms. Duncan: Is that committee reviewing the use of auxiliary on-calls? Is it also reviewing the terms and conditions of employment? A department such as Justice, particularly at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, has a tremendous number of auxiliary on-calls. The difficulty with being in that position is that, although youíre doing full-time work, there arenít the benefits of being full-time. Is this committee reviewing this throughout the government? Iím not singling any department out; that was an example of where auxiliaries are used. Is this committee reviewing that situation, and are they making recommendations? When do we anticipate those recommendations?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The committee is looking at all auxiliary on-call positions across the government. As I referred to earlier, they do have the opportunity to make recommendations to the respective departments for changes, as the member opposite made reference to earlier.
Ms. Duncan: This committee makes these recommendations on an ongoing basis, or are they making a formal representation to Cabinet? Do they have the opportunity to make a representation that might say, ďLook, after a certain number of hours of work, these auxiliary on-calls should be extended the benefits of full-time employment, given that they have worked full-time.Ē?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The process that I was referring to earlier is set out within the collective agreement that was negotiated recently with the respective unions. The process does include the committee making a formal recommendation to the respective department ó for example, the deputy minister of the department. The deputy minister can either agree to it or reject it, in which case it could then be referred to adjudication. So there is a formal process for looking at auxiliary on-calls, at least the use of auxiliary on-calls, in particular hours being worked.
Ms. Duncan: I realize this is a hypothetical question. I do believe it has merit, though. If the joint committee comes back to the deputy minister and says we have a certain number of auxiliary on-calls and they should be extended the same benefits of a full-time employee, we could end up then with auxiliary on-calls in another department saying, ďWell, if they get it, we get it.Ē It has impacts for the whole collective bargaining unit. Perhaps the answer is that the joint committee comes back and says that these have to be full-time positions. The minister is nodding. All right.
I appreciate the opportunity to walk through that with the minister because it is a concern. People have been auxiliary on-call for years and donít have the benefits that others do. It seems to be unfair. So itís good to know that there is an avenue for representation.
The last question that I would like to ask ó and I know the minister has dealt with it and I would ask for a brief answer ó is about an initiative of the government. Iím just going to get the correct title. The Investing in Public Service ó Serving Yukon People document that was tabled was a plan and very much in its initial stages when the budget was read into the record in late March. What is the current status? Is it well along its implementation plan? Does the minister anticipate results by the fall?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I had a feeling that the member opposite may ask that question. The Investing in Employees ó Serving Yukon People document encompasses a number of different initiatives, some of which I outlined earlier for members opposite.
There are currently items, initiatives that are currently underway, some that will be ready immediately, some that will be timed for early fall, some that will be rolling out this summer, and others that may be rolling out during the spring. So certainly within the next few months a number of initiatives should be all falling out.
In particular, though, we have the succession planning, for example. That is the employee developmental assignment program that will be ready for this fall. The internship program should be ready for this summer. Again, training first-line supervisors and managers ó we hope to have that component ready for this fall. The career assessment program ó we are looking at having that ready for next spring. Under the banner of supporting knowledge, transfer of experienced workers, we have the fall coaching program. That will be this fall. Supporting professional development, technical training for Yukon government employees ó that weíre looking at this fall, into the winter. Again, investing in healthy workplaces ó that initiative weíre looking to staff this summer in the next couple of months and have ready to roll out in the spring. The work placements for employees with disabilities ó thatís immediate. Awards and recognition program ó we are working on that right away, working on all of it right now but that should be ready to launch right away.
Staffing a position for communication with our employees will be done right away as well. Recruitment is currently underway.
We are, for example, developing a comprehensive orientation system and we are looking at that to be completed this summer. Modernizing the recruitment process ó we are looking at that this fall. Promoting flexible work arrangements ó that has been underway already and is very well received, I might add. Also, reviewing and improving classification system ó that should be rolling out soon. It actually will be commencing this fall.
I think that just about sums up pretty much all the initiatives. They are currently underway. Some of them will be rolling out immediately; some are currently underway and already completed, and some will be coming out in the spring and this fall.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the information from the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. As I have no further questions in general debate, in discussion with the official opposition, I would respectfully request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 10, operation and maintenance and capital expenditures, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 10, Public Service Commission, cleared or carried
Chair: Before I put the motion forward, is there any further general debate?
Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 10, operation and maintenance and capital expenditures, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
†Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted. That concludes Vote 10, Public Service Commission.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $18,106,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $52,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Executive Council Office
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am willing to begin general debate on the Executive Council Office while we await officials to get here. Is that fair?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, as we all know, the Executive Council Office is a very important department within the government corporate structure, providing analysis, advice, and direction for line departments. The Executive Council Office is also the area where our land claims sections are housed under the direction of the Executive Council Office, the Youth Directorate, and there are a number of other important activities or initiatives that are undertaken by the Executive Council Office in its day-to-day operations.
The Executive Council Office provides a great deal of support for Cabinet, Management Board, for organizing the governmentís annual calendar, its travel, its involvement in intergovernmental forums and meetings, its involvement in such things as First Ministers meetings, and Council of the Federation meetings. I think itís fair to say that the Executive Council Office is a very important element of the overall government corporate structure, and I want to extend, at this point in time, a great deal of appreciation to those within the Executive Council Office who carry out their duties in such an exemplary manner.
The Executive Council Office budget forecast overall operation and maintenance spending is $18,990,000. This represents a small increase of one percent over the 2004-05 forecast of $18,850,000 attributable mostly to collective bargaining increases on the personnel side of the ledger. The budget allocation for land claims and implementation secretariat of $9,189,000 of funding included in this budget, representing approximately 48 percent of the total Executive Council Office budget, clearly indicates that this government is focused on working closely with First Nation governments on a number of fronts: implementing land claim agreements, building government-to-government relationships with First Nations and supporting the preservation and development of their languages. This funding will support activities across the government related to implementation of land claims, negotiations around program and service transfers and development of stronger relationships between our governments.
Intergovernmental relations allocation is $1,000,028 to carry out their work of developing positive working relationships with other governments. This year weíll see major work on the northern strategy as we go forward with our northern territorial partners toward a common vision and a long-term plan for a sustainable north. The only change of any significance from a budget perspective this year relates to the development assessment process, commonly known as DAP. The reduction in the budget this year reflects a decrease in the number of major projects requiring comprehensive studies in the coming year.
While the majority of the devolution work is completed, activities continue in a number of departments relating to the transfer of programs from Canada.
The budget for 2005-06 remains unchanged from last year to support this work. All the funds voted in this line are managed corporately by Executive Council Office and distributed to line departments for approved work during the fiscal year. Major work continues in record management relating to devolved programs, and monies have been allocated in 2005-06 to support the successor resource legislation working group involving First Nations. I am pleased to confirm that the Executive Council Office will continue to support a number of youth organizations providing services directly to youth within the budget.
Three principal youth organizations ó Bringing Youth Toward Equality, Youth of Today Society, and the Whitehorse Youth Centre Society Boys and Girls Club ó will each receive contribution funding in the amount of $110,000 this year. In addition, the Youth Directorate supports eight smaller rural communities offering youth activities during the summer, with a contribution of $5,000 each upon application from the community; 73 percent of the total budget for the Youth Directorate in operation and maintenance directly supports the work of organizations in the community with our youth. In addition to direct financial support, the Youth Directorate organizes the youth leadership training program and provides support to communities in the development of local youth councils as well as the territorial events supporting bringing youth from across the territory together to discuss issues of common concern. In Whitehorse, the Youth Directorate provides direct support to a network of 30 youth service providers who share information, provide updates and develop partnerships for youth initiatives.
The very valuable work of the statistics branch will continue this year with a combination of corporate research, providing statistical indicators used by all departments, as well as numerous projects supporting the mandates and strategic plans of individual departments.
Government audit services became fully staffed during 2004-05 and will complete a full range of internal audit services for departments in 2005-06. With the completion of a major Environment Act audit in 2004-05, the budget has been reduced slightly, as external resources will not be required to complete the planned audit work this year.
New software allowing monitoring of government expenditures in a number of categories has been implemented over the past year, and work has commenced to provide valuable information to management during the coming year. This valuable service complements the work of the office of the Auditor General in providing risk management assessments for senior management, providing advisory services to departments on procedures and practices and identifying ways that government-wide business areas could be improved.
With these brief comments, I look forward to answering any questions the members may have on the budget for the Executive Council Office for the fiscal year 2005-06.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for giving the brief overview of the department and activities that are happening under the various items he has mentioned. I will be asking a few questions, but I wonít be asking a lot. Many of the questions I have had have been asked either in Question Period or in general debate of the budget as a whole at the beginning.
I feel that the minister has given us some good information as it is. I do have some questions regarding the land claims and implementation secretariat. Letís start with that one. Before I do that, I just want to make it clear to the minister ó so he doesnít ask us to wait until we get into line-by-line debate ó I donít anticipate doing line-by-line. I would prefer to do it through some specific questions in general debate and deal with it in that area, if thatís all right with the minister.
In the land claims and implementation secretariat, I would like a breakdown of the allocation of the money ó where itís going, the emphasis of spending with respect to negotiations and with respect to implementation. If he doesnít have all that information in front of him, Iím quite happy to receive a written response for that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On the land claims and implementation secretariat front, the overall summary shows $7,936,000 in total. The completion and implementation of First Nation final and self-government agreements is obviously, given 49 percent of the overall budget in this department, in this particular area. It breaks down in this manner: there are 39.8 FTEs funded from this budget line, with a total budget for salary and benefits of $3,209,000; there are 16.5 FTEs in the secretariat and 20.3 FTEs located throughout government to support implementation projects. These 20.3 FTEs are funded through implementation funds.
Operating costs have been forecast at $1,425,000. Of this, 80 percent is recoverable money identified for implementation activities. Transfer payments for the program total $3,540,000: $3,490,000 is to pay for the cost of boards and councils established pursuant to the settlement agreements; $60,000 is for First Nations for initiatives related to completing agreements, including ratification support and implementing protocols or other government-to-government agreements. In total, $5,990,000 has been identified for a specific implementation or specific implementation projects and funding to Umbrella Final Agreement boards and committees in 2005-06.
Individual departments are carrying out initiatives with recoverable federal funding flowing through the land claims secretariat or through direct targeted funding received through the formula financing grant.
Key budget changes: the budget provides for an overall increase of $348,000. The majority of the increase is due primarily to salary lapses of last fiscal year being reallocated within the department in the supplementary budget being reinstated as positions are now staffed.
On personnel, an increase of $416,000, or 16 percent ó this increase is solely due to funds given up in the 2004-05 supplementary budget due to staff vacancies being reinstated as those positions are now staffed. Adding to the increase is the collective bargaining increase and merits. On transfer payments, a decrease of $68,000, or a two-percent decrease ó this decrease resulted from one-time contributions to First Nations for work on the ratification votes ending November 2004, February 2005. If you look at the implementation side, there is a total of $6,897,000, of which $5,990,000 is recoverable. Thereís an administration and policy cost of $517,000 and negotiations of $522,000. I hope that provides some detail and sheds some light on this particular area of the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to thank the minister for the answer. That was quite good.
He mentioned filled positions in the department. Are there any unfilled positions at the present time in the department, or have they all been brought up to date?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I understand it, there are three remaining vacancies in the last vacancy report, all under recruitment.
Mr. Hardy: The minister mentioned the recoveries, and I was looking at that and comparing it to the spending. What is the agreement with the Government of Canada with regard to the amounts? Whatís the length of the agreement and when is it up for negotiation with regard to the recoveries that we will continue to receive? Iím trying to find out what the timelines are and how they will adjust. If all of a sudden we have all the land claims settled, for instance, how does that adjust? Is it adjusted according to the settlement of land claims and implementation now or do we have to go back every three years or five years in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This particular area ó land claims implementation ó is a total of $4,790,000, of which, if we were to end negotiations, there would be a one-time payment of $1.3 million for three First Nations: Kwanlin Dun, which is now over; Carcross-Tagish and White River, approximately $430,000 each. That would be done ó one time. There is still a long list of recoverables that go with implementation of the claims themselves. That includes a total of $3,490,000. Territorial boards, as I pointed to earlier, and renewable resource councils are $1.9 million. The Yukon Land Use Planning Council is another $519,000. North Yukon Land Use Planning Commission, $354,000; Teslin, $354,000; Peel region $354,000, for a total of $1,590,000. Various initiatives that are for completing agreements like ratification, $50,000. That covers the implementation and negotiation area.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for that answer. I will shift a little bit here. I want to cover some things fairly quickly. How many memoranda of understanding and accords are out there that this government has signed? I believe there is only one bilateral agreement. If I am wrong, I would appreciate the ministerís correcting me on that, or any other agreements. How many do we have existing to date, and what are their deadlines, if there are any on any of them?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Actually, I think the list is quite extensive. Some of the agreements go back into previous governments, and weíre following through with those. So Iíll just go off the top of my head and list some of the things that have transpired since we took office in December 2002.
We concluded the consultation agreement, a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation relative to their final agreement and our obligation on capital projects for the Yukon government in their traditional territory that are at a $3 million-plus threshold. Should the Yukon be the sole proponent, we have a section in that claim that lays out our obligations.
The bilateral, of course, was an agreement with the Kaska, where there is no land claim or memorandum of understanding for a claim. There are memoranda of understanding that exist right now with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and White River First Nation that relate to the land claims themselves. We have a capital agreement with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. We have the governance agreement that created the Yukon Forum.
We established agreement on the ó was it the northern strategy? I think we reached another arrangement there, through the forum, where we established agreement.
Iím just trying to think if there are any others. There is a long list, to be sure.
We have in north Yukon an economic development accord with three north Yukon First Nations.
We have an arrangement with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations on forest management in the southwest Yukon in Champagne-Aishihik traditional territory.
This is not so much a memorandum of understanding, but an obligation under 17.7 to negotiate that particular chapter with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation, which has to do with education. Of course thatís part of their agreement, but weíve established an approach to the negotiations that is about a workplan and a mandate to negotiate.
Thatís just the list of some of the things I can think of off the top of my head.
Mr. Hardy: Knowing that it is a fairly extensive list, I would much prefer to have a more accurate summary of whatís out there. Would the minister make available to me and, I am sure, the leader of the third party, a written list for us? We would like to get a handle on this.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, but I think we should determine how far back we go. So, my suggestion would be that we would provide a list of agreements that go back to ó how many years? Do you want to go back to 2002?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We will start at 2002 and go forward from there.
The other thing I forgot to mention is the forestry memorandum of understanding in the southeast Yukon that was signed by three governments: the Kaska, the federal government and the territorial government. We will compile a list from January 1, 2002, forward.
Mr. Hardy: I appreciate the minister promising to do that. We might want to look at it a little bit earlier than that at some point, but I think that would be adequate for now. Obviously, there is a lot of activity happening around agreements.
When the minister supplies it, I do have a couple of questions based on timelines, but Iím sure that will be included in that list, so that we can understand what these agreements are. The list could provide the name, the timelines and the signatories to it, and what progress has been made on them.
I have a couple more questions. There has been an indication that French language services is going to have a secretariat. Can the minister explain how thatís going to work and in which department it will be? Does it stand alone? What are the costs anticipated around that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The French language services agency is housed in the Department of Highways and Public Works. It is another residual from renewal. This government has made the decision to create, in that area, what we call the French language directorate. So we are giving it a title of directorate but it will remain housed in the Highways and Public Works department.
Mr. Hardy: Thanks for the clarification on that. Is the minister anticipating any extra cost in setting this up?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: At this time, I donít anticipate that. That doesnít mean we donít look at areas of improvement. Much of what we do within this particular initiative is a result of our agreement with Canada on providing French language services within the government corporate structure.
Mr. Hardy: Can the minister tell me what the timelines are to have this up and running?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Seeing as Highways and Public Works has already come and gone, Iíll respond to the member opposite. We are in the process of hiring for this position of the directorate. We anticipate having that done sometime this summer and we anticipate getting this thing rolling by this fall.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to remind the Minister of Highways and Public Works that highways never end; they just continue to go on and on.
I have a couple more questions. Just recently I learned about a new magazine that was coming out ó I think itís being put out by the Blue Feather youth organization. Itís a magazine called Grassroots. It said that $40,000 has been contributed to put this magazine together, but it didnít indicate whether it was federal or territorial money. Could the minister explain, if he knows where itís coming from, if itís territorial or federal?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This amount would not be part of the core investment into our youth groups. As I pointed out, $110,000 a year is the amount we have contributed through the Youth Directorate for core funding for groups like the Youth of Today Society. That does not mean they did not receive funding from Lotteries Yukon or other positive activities like the community development fund.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No, but weíll look into this to see where their other funding came from. But the core funding for these groups is out of Executive Council Office through the Youth Directorate.
Mr. Hardy: Iím very pleased to see the funding has continued, and even increased slightly, for the Youth Directorate. I believe itís extremely important for the territory and the youth today. Thatís excellent.
I have just a couple more questions. One of course is the traditional question every minister gets asked, and thatís about travel. What I have in front of me, what was supplied ó which I do appreciate ó was travel dated up to March 15, 2005, ministerial travel and others. Basically Iíd like the whole package. If I could get the final numbers on the travel to year-end, which would be March 31, I believe.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can table this document right now, which gives us the accounting for travel up to March 31, 2005. The total inclusive of in-territory and Outside is $199,948, somewhat below 2003-04 but obviously a little higher than 2002-03. I will table this document, and Iím sure our Clerks can make a copy as this has been a spur-of-the-moment decision.
Mr. Hardy: Oh, I like it when the minister thinks on his feet. I would like a breakdown at some time down the road. The minister has been very good at supplying the travel up to March 15, 2005, so if we can have a completed breakdown of all the ministerial travel and MLA travel, weíd appreciate it at some time in the near future. Thereís no big panic. Iím not asking for it immediately.
There are other agreements and memoranda of understanding that I was interested in ó of course, the one that has been signed with the Alaskan governor. But we have explored that already to some degree.
I just have one more question at this moment, and that is the steady increase in Cabinet office. Can I get a breakdown of that spending? Itís under Cabinet office personnel ó I see again another increase, and itís a seven-percent increase. I think we would appreciate it on this side.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís personnel increase of $117,000, Mr. Chair, related to merits and the collective bargaining increases from the collective bargaining agreement. That is the total seven percent.
Mr. Hardy: Those are my questions for now. Iíll turn it over to the Member for Porter Creek South.
Ms. Duncan: For the increases that the minister just detailed for Cabinet offices as merit and collective agreement, were there any reclassifications or any new positions added? Was there any reclassification of positions?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No, not in this budget, Mr. Chair. This is directly related to the merit and allotment increases, in total, and collective bargaining. So the total is $117,000, or seven percent.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as weíve debated this budget, in other departments the merit and collective agreement increases have been in the neighbourhood of three percent. So that is why Iím curious as to why this seems so much higher.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís to do with the fact that the staff members coming on in the Cabinet offices are new. They get the full increase as they go forward. They havenít reached their high threshold. So, thatís why the difference. Itís the same cycle as any other time that a government comes in and staff goes into Cabinet offices. They havenít reached their full threshold yet.
Ms. Duncan: Iíll accept the ministerís explanation for that.
The travel records that have been provided to the leader of the official opposition ó I donít know where there has been a gap in communications, but I donít have that information. Perhaps the minister could make sure that I get it as well.
First Nations relations is, of course, a key element of the responsibilities of the Minister of Executive Council Office. Could I ask the minister to just run through the current status of the outstanding land claims? For example, the Carcross-Tagish First Nation† is coming to a vote, and White River ó is there current correspondence with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development? Has the Premier of Yukon entered into those discussions? What is the current status of the Kaskaís bilateral?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member is correct ó the Carcross-Tagish First Nation is going through the ratification process. With respect to the White River First Nation, the Minister of DIAND has corresponded with that First Nation on the federal position with respect to that claim. Of course we all know they have ceased their mandate in the Yukon. As far as the Kaska bilateral ó because of the 90-day timeline on the abeyance approach by the Kaska with Canada, weíve extended the bilateral for that same period.
Over the next 90 days, Canada and the Kaska Nation will be in a process to try to reach an abeyance agreement with the bilateral ó compatible in terms of its timeline of the 90-day extension.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to deal first of all with the White River First Nation.
The minister said that the federal ministers corresponded with the First Nation. He would have been copied on that letter. Could he provide it to us or indicate what the substance of the letter is? For example, under what terms and conditions does the federal minister anticipate any discussions? They are operating, of course, as an Indian Act band, given the fact that they are not negotiating at the moment. Are there any particular special provisions in light of the years they have spent negotiating?
Most importantly, what has the Yukon government done in this instance? Has the minister approached the White River First Nation and asked how the government can work with them on specific projects? What is the current status of the Premierís relationship with the White River First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, as is the case with all First Nations, the government is finding ways to work with First Nations to address the challenges we all face. One example of that is where, as a government, we have implemented a way in which we can provide assistance for capacity within First Nation administration. We have been involved with a number of First Nations on that front.
As for the White River First Nation, the federal government has corresponded, asking the White River First Nation to notify the federal government when it feels ready to proceed with ratification. At this time, the First Nation has not responded in terms of whether or not they feel they are ready to proceed with ratification or about timelines. I think we all know from recent developments that there is an issue around the most recent election. All those things are in the works as we speak.
Ms. Duncan: White River is of special concern in that thereís no local government per se in the absence of a self-governing First Nation. Weíve got the community of Beaver Creek. What specific initiatives has the government undertaken to be of assistance to the community of Beaver Creek? There has been an election of a new chief. We may or may not have a new minister. Thereís a state of flux right now in that community and in the interim you have a Yukon community that is anxious to see work for the summer and improvements to their community. It makes for a very difficult working relationship in some respects, so Iím wondering what specific initiatives the Premier has made to work with that particular community.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíd have to go back to the budget itself and look at the breakdown, for example, of investment by the government in Beaver Creek. The White River First Nation conducts business, operates as an Indian Act band under all the regulatory and legislative frameworks that go with that. We have assisted in the past with the capacity issue on the administration front, for example. Yukon Housing Corporation has worked with the First Nation on building new houses in the community. Other investments I believe weíve made already are around a fire hall; I think there are other discussions with respect to the nursesí residence and renovations there.
With respect to the community, albeit unincorporated, we still work on initiatives that are important to the community itself. The community development fund, for example, is another mechanism; the rural roads program is another mechanism that can be used by the community and the First Nation. Of course, it is our border, so Customs is maintaining a presence there and monitoring the traffic flow in and out of the Yukon across that particular border.
Indeed, tourism is a huge issue and initiative for the community and continues as we focus on growing our tourism industry. Beaver Creek continues to benefit from those travellers who are travelling in or out of Alaska. Weíll look for other areas we can be supportive in. In fact, tomorrow weíre going to launch the rural economic planning or development initiative, of which this particular area of the Yukon may very well be a beneficiary because the Department of Economic Development has the means to provide assistance in developing those rural economic plans that are so important regionally in the Yukon.
All in all, considering the situation on the land claim front, weíll continue to work with the First Nation and Beaver Creek as a community. The First Nation will continue to operate as an Indian Act band under all those frameworks and the community of Beaver Creek will continue to operate as an unincorporated community.
Ms. Duncan: Carcross, of course, is having a vote in the very near future. The other two First Nations that remain without a land claim agreement are Liard and Ross River. The minister indicated that the bilateral with the Kaska had been extended because there was a 90-day abeyance agreement or discussion with the federal government.
Could the minister provide further detail with respect to that abeyance discussion? Is it all the court cases with the Kaska where theyíve named the federal government? What are the terms of the abeyance agreement? What does the minister anticipate happening during this 90-day period?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís important to recognize that the terms of the abeyance agreement are between the Kaska and Canada. During the period between now and the end of 90 days, we are hopeful that the Kaska Nation and Canada will finalize an abeyance agreement setting aside all litigation against Canada, so that we can conclude the claim, because Canada will not negotiate, in any way, if there is litigation present. So, simply put, that is what is going to transpire.
Based on that 90-day timeline for abeyance, we thought it to be very prudent to extend the bilateral for that same period and then await the outcome of what will transpire over the abeyance negotiations. Of course, even the bilateral is clear and specific in the fact that a conclusion of the land claim is one of the main priorities.
Ms. Duncan: Iím well aware that the agreement is between Canada and the Kaska; however, as another party at the table, we have a great deal of concern and interest in this area and a great deal of interest in seeing progress made. So, does the minister anticipate that one of the key issues in the conclusion of the land claim agreement that there would be discussions, or that heíd be calling together his Cabinet with respect to the mandate for Yukon to return to the negotiating table? What work is going to be undertaken by the Yukon government during that 90-day period?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the first instance, we are not a party to the abeyance negotiations themselves. Thatís between Canada and the Kaska Nation. We have sent correspondence to the federal minister, supporting abeyance, concluding an abeyance agreement and urging Canada to approach this constructively and positively.
We will continue to work with the Kaska on a number of fronts that were established, whether it be the economic table, whether it be the stewardship council, whether it be forestry itself, whether it be the mining initiatives we started, oil and gas in the southeast Yukon ó and we await the outcome of the abeyance agreement. Are we negotiating land claims with the Kaska as we speak? No, weíre not. We need a third party at the table; that is the federal government and, should an abeyance agreement be reached, we will then be very much involved in what the federal mandate is for concluding the land claim itself, because they have stated publicly that there is no more mandate in the Yukon. So we would want to determine exactly what it is they are doing, should they reach an abeyance agreement to conclude the claims themselves, because if they donít have a mandate, they will obviously need a new mandate for the department to enter into the processes to conclude the claim.
Chair: Order please. We have reached our normal time for an afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with general debate on Vote 2, Executive Council Office.
Ms. Duncan: Just before the break, we were discussing the abeyance agreement and the status of negotiations with the Kaska. There were a number of comments made by the Premier that caused me to frown, for lack of a better description. I fully understand that there is a mandate by the federal government and that the mandate has passed. There is an existing agreement that was initialled off at the land claims table with the Kaska, but not presented.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, there was. The Premier muttered, ďNo, there wasnítĒ but there was. It was not signed off or presented to the membership, but there was an agreement of sorts reached at the table. Nothing has happened with that because of the litigation and because of the end of the federal mandate, because there hasnít been a table of negotiations. There may be a table of negotiations. The Yukon is an integral part of that.
My question: what has the Yukon government done to prepare to return to the table? For example, has there been a full and complete briefing of what existed on the table prior to the end of negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Of course, what was negotiated to that point in time is well known. Letís just go back and reflect on that period. As we all know, then Minister Robert Nault made an announcement that by March 2002 there would be a cessation of land claim negotiations and we entered into signing memoranda of understanding, including an extension, until the final hour, with the final stroke of the bell, the Kaska decided not to sign the memorandum of understanding. It was at that point that the federal government vacated land claim negotiations with the Kaska, and from there the Kaska launched litigation against Canada. It also included the Yukon with respect to devolution. Upon coming into office, we managed to get the Kaska Nation to stand down on any litigation with respect to the Yukon and its area of jurisdiction, and the litigation went forward against Canada only.
So now weíre at a process where Canada has been notified that the Kaska wished to set aside their litigation and enter into an abeyance negotiation. Once concluded, if itís a favourable outcome and the litigation is set aside, Canada would then have to convene a table to conclude the land claims. Without a mandate today, Canada would have to come forward with a new mandate. The Yukon is a party to that, and thatís exactly what we will be. Right now, our efforts are in encouraging both sides to conclude an abeyance agreement, and then we can move ahead and conclude the claim itself.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister point to any specific actions taken by the Yukon government to encourage the abeyance agreement ó a letter to the federal minister that the Premier can table or a letter to the Kaska that the Premier can table or anything else? Is there any information the minister can then point to, to outline the Yukonís initiatives in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Letís begin with the bilateral and the joint position in the bilateral and the commitment that the conclusion of the claims is of high priority for both the Kaska and the Yukon government. I have recently corresponded to the federal minister, encouraging Canada to enter into abeyance negotiations so we can get on with concluding the land claim. Thatís a letter this government has sent in support of abeyance to Minister Scott and we have yet to receive a response. The Kaska have also corresponded themselves. Thatís not correspondence I can commit to providing. The member wants to see a copy of the letter to the minister. Obviously the member is maybe not accepting what Iím saying, that we have corresponded in favour of abeyance. I can certainly extend debate with the member opposite in this area. I think itís important to recognize, though, that the bilateral itself commits the Kaska to concluding. All you have to do is read the bilateral and the area that is specific to the claim itself.
Ms. Duncan: I would encourage the Premier to just relax and enjoy the debate. Iím not suggesting I donít believe him. Iím not suggesting that I donít appreciate the government has made efforts. Itís just that I am a visual learner rather than an auditory learner and Iíd like to see the letter. Iím just asking if he would table it and provide me with a copy of his letter to Minister Scott. Iím sure itís not a difficult task and I donít need it tomorrow. Itís just if he would send it over, over the course of the coming recess, I would appreciate it. We will get to the end of the debate, all in due time. Thereís no need to be concerned that there is some other motivation for asking for the tabling of the document other that I would just like to see it so I can read it as opposed to hearing it.
Na Cho Nyšk Dun and Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation have indicated that they have expressed an interest through the media in drawing down education further to the land claim agreement. Can the Premier indicate ó as he is the minister responsible for First Nations relations and heís also the minister where program service transfer agreement discussions are discussed ó if he has received formal notification of a desire by these two First Nations to draw down education? Could he also indicate if he would be prepared to share that response?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On the formal plane, right now the government is negotiating section 17.7 with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin. Weíve received indication that Little Salmon-Carmacks and Na Cho Nyšk Dun want to take down education. We are obligated to enter into those negotiations with any self-governing First Nation that wants to exercise that particular PSTA process, and we would also have to have the federal government involved in that process, obviously.
At this time, Iím not aware of any formal discussions or negotiations going on with an education PSTA outside of the formal proceedings with TríondŽk HwŽchíin on section 17.7.
Ms. Duncan: Has there been any progress on the section 17.7 discussions with TríondŽk HwŽchíin? Are there any time frames associated with those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, itís fair to say weíve made progress. There are a number of areas where the government and the First Nation arenít in total agreement, and there are some other areas that will require further discussion. So, progress is being made.
Thatís another situation ó the favoured nation clause has been triggered in this matter because of section 17.7, which is an area specific to the TríondŽk HwŽchíin claim. Weíve received notification on the favoured nation clause around section 17.7 from other First Nations.
Ms. Duncan: Is the Premier able to share with the House which First Nations have requested it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Outside of Kwanlin Dun, which was not a self-governing First Nation at the time, I think all self-governing First Nations have indicated their interest in section 17.7 with respect to the favoured nation clause.
Ms. Duncan: Before we leave the First Nations relations discussion, could the Premier provide an update on the transboundary discussions? There are transboundary claims ó I believe there at least two with the Northwest Territories as well. What is the current status of those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are waiting for the federal mandate to proceed. As we are all aware, under the Umbrella Final Agreement we have an obligation on transboundary. We are a third party at the table, and the federal government must come forward with an acceptable mandate so we can get on with transboundary negotiations. One would hope they would place as a priority the abeyance issues with the Kaska, so we can also advance and conclude that claim.
I think we understand that under the Umbrella Final Agreement the Yukon is obligated. The Yukon does have a clear position within that process, in terms of what transpires because we are now at the table. That wasnít always the case in the past. We await the federal government to bring forward their mandate for negotiating transboundary.
Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of other initiatives that are in the Premierís portfolio as minister responsible for the Executive Council Office. Executive Council Office includes the internal audit function. Could I have a current status report of what is on the agenda for the internal audit? Can the Premier provide any internal audits that have been concluded under his watch?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The areas that the internal audit branch is working on are: marketing for tourism and culture; the governmentís performance on the Environment Act for the period of 2000-03 is nearing completion; an audit around the contribution agreements is well underway, with fieldwork in five departments to be completed ideally soon; a planned audit for the pharmacare program is not advanced this year because of the workload associated with other audits, but it is expected that we will be approving the 2005-06 internal audit plan and we will go forward from there.
Ms. Duncan: Has the structure changed at all, or does the minister still chair the internal Audit Committee?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I had the great and distinct pleasure of firing myself as the chair of this particular area. The deputy of Executive Council Office has taken over, with the deputy of Finance as vice-chair. They are now sitting in that seat. I fired myself, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Ports and intergovernmental relations are also under the Premierís bailiwick. How will the ports be paid for? Can the minister also outline the memorandum of understanding with Alaska on the commitment to the railway? We should have the terms of reference and, shortly, I would expect that there will an announcement on the working group and overall committee for the commission that is going to study the railway.
The money can flow for that particular initiative in a variety of ways: a special warrant, a supplementary or from existing funds. I know the Premier was asked this question in Question Period but, in a calmer time of Committee of the Whole, perhaps the Premier could elaborate where the funding is going to be drawn from for the railway commission?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a commitment of expenditure investment that is new, beyond the confines of the 2005-06 budget. Itís not in here, but we certainly have a healthy surplus, so as things go forward, we will determine how best to flow this money, and Alaska will be expending money long before we will. The issue for us right now is to conclude the scope, the framework, of how we want to go forward and get the advisory committee and the management committee up and running.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in his eagerness to discuss the railway ó and I appreciate the ministerís information that this is new money ó the question of the ports remained unanswered. The minister has repeatedly stated in past sessions of the Legislature a desire to see the Yukon purchase the ports, and he has reinitiated the discussion of the ports. How does the Premier anticipate that they would be paid for?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, it is truly unfortunate, Mr. Chair, that the options that were in the hands of Yukon under that memberís watch were cancelled. But I am pleased to be able to say that we do have a supportive State of Alaska for allowing that access to tidewater. We have an arrangement with White Pass & Yukon Route. Early in our mandate, we entered into an arrangement with that particular corporate entity vis-ŗ-vis ports. Itís clear in that memorandum of understanding, and we are in discussions with Alaska right now on how this would go forward with the Government of Alaskaís support.
Then I think we can determine on a better level what options are available to the Yukon to ensure and guarantee tidewater access over time.
Itís also a national issue and it will be brought to the Council of Federation. The western premiers have all agreed that itís time the federal government brought more focus into the west and the north because of our growing economies in ports, roads, railroads and airports ó transportation infrastructure that requires investment. It went on to point to the fact that thereís a balance left of gas tax or fuel tax, a portion of which should be allocated or earmarked for this type of infrastructure investment, especially in the west and the north. I think that fits with where we are in the Yukon, where the western jurisdictions are and where weíll be nationally, as we go forward in the immediate future.
Ms. Duncan: That didnít answer the question; however, perhaps more specifically, could the Premier outline if thereís a specific memorandum of understanding with Alaska in relation to the ports or with the private sector in relation to the ports? Thereís one that has been in existence with White Pass regarding the use of the Skagway ports, but is there any other memoranda of understanding with the private sector in existence today with the government or under discussion with the government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I stated, there was a relationship where the Yukon had options on tidewater access, but those are gone based on a decision made by the member opposite when the member was shouldering the responsibilities of Yukonís future.
What weíre dealing with here beyond the White Pass & Yukon Route memorandum of understanding thatís specific to access to Skagway dock and port is a relationship at the government-to-government level with Alaska. Those discussions are a work in progress. What we are very encouraged by, though, is the support from the State of Alaska and its government in ensuring that Yukon has tidewater access.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of other questions with respect to overall in terms of government for the minister who is up next, by way of information.
With respect to overall commitments of the government and the Yukon Party, the number of appointments to boards and committees ó the boards and committees secretariat is under this particular Executive Council Office and the Cabinet offices ó and with respect to the all-party committee on appointments, the Premier could move this particular commitment of the Yukon Party forward and have the all-party committee struck. Is there any intention by the Premier to do this? When is that commitment to an all-party committee going to be fulfilled?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: A fulfillment of that commitment requires a reciprocal commitment from the members opposite, and that has been lacking in a number of areas. Even though the government has managed, on many occasions, to garner unanimous support in this House on a number of initiatives ó by way of motion, for example ó itís clear that there are certain areas the members opposite have a clear agenda on and arenít reciprocating in a cooperative manner. This is one of those areas.
The other point is on legislative renewal. The government side has pointed directly to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. The members opposite made a big issue of: ďThat wonít work. The government has a majority.Ē No, the government doesnít. The members on that committee, which havenít changed to the best of my knowledge, show three members from the opposition benches and three members from the government side. So, the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges is another mechanism to work these things out, but we canít get the members opposite to participate in a SCREP meeting.
So, if we are going to proceed with all-party committees in such areas as appointments to boards and committees, the idea of cooperation must be reciprocated by the members opposite. We are offering cooperation; the response has to be a positive, cooperative one from the members.
Ms. Duncan: Well, unfortunately, the minister has not been properly briefed on that issue. It might come as a surprise to the minister, but I am only one seat in this House and Iíve been more than prepared to participate in SCREP. I have repeatedly asked, since 2002, to establish the all-party committee. I canít ask for more seats on that committee; I only have one at the moment. So I would strongly suggest and encourage the government, in the spirit of consensus and collaboration and all those other initiatives that we mouth, that we walk the talk and, over the summer months and the coming break, get this commitment fulfilled. We need to work with all sides to ensure that it happens.
The issue facing us as a country is the growing centralization of our population. We tend to congregate ó in Alberta, for example, there is Calgary and thereís Highway 2, and east and west of that are our smaller communities that are not always necessarily enjoying the economic boom. Similarly, in the Yukon, Whitehorse is doing well in part. The communities, economically, are not. There is great concern.
I am wondering if the Premier has given any thought or had any discussion to the decentralization of any government departments in this regard to work with communities. Are there any plans in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are certainly not averse to looking at providing more services and program delivery in rural communities. What that may mean remains to be seen, depending on what programs and services we are dealing with specifically.
But we also have recognized the tremendous potential in rural Yukon, and I think we have to reflect on a lot of the facts that have transpired since December 2002. Firstly, the creation of the Department of Economic Development has the ability, the mechanism, to do regional economic assessments. The Kaska bilateral allowed us to proceed with oil and gas and mining in the southeast Yukon once again, which, I am pleased to say, is showing some very positive signs with initiatives like Yukon Zinc, which has spent all winter under development. So Yukon Zinc has gone from exploration to development. They are one of the mines that has an application in advancing toward production. That is a good example. Cantung is back on.
The member opposite says it has to do with market. Well, market is only one element. There is a lot more to do with mining than just the marketplace itself. But thatís not a debate for here. Thatís a discussion the member could have during an election campaign. The member could show Yukoners her view of mining and the industry and how it works, because itís quite an intricate industry from the prospector who first finds something to where you wind up in terms of a production mine site.
The issues in rural Yukon are somewhat challenging, given the fact that Whitehorse has long been the dominant population base. But it is important to recognize that a vibrant, resilient economy in rural Yukon makes a very positive contribution to the City of Whitehorse. That is why we promote responsible development. That is why we removed impediments like the Yukon protected areas strategy. Thatís why we are investing in areas like resource development, like feasibility studies for railways, like the Alaska Highway pipeline Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, like things the members opposite vote against: the rural roads program, the continuance of the community development fund, the FireSmart program, developing agreements around forestry that we have in the southwest, proceeding in the southeast in respect to forestry itself.
The long list of potential is something that we will continue to articulate to the Yukon public. Tomorrow morning we launch another initiative with respect to economic development in rural Yukon. I think itís fair to say that we are proceeding positively. There are many challenges in rural Yukon, though, and that is to a great degree the problem or the residual of how, for many years, past governments ignored diversifying and developing further areas of potential in rural Yukon and got very complacent about huge mines operating, like Faro, and mine sites that were outside of the territory itself, such as Cassiar and Cantung. We definitely felt the impact in rural Yukon much more than possibly Whitehorse did, but itís all relative. The Yukonís economy is interlinked and thatís why we focus not only on the City of Whitehorse, but on rural Yukon.
Look at the capital investment weíre making across this territory for the short-term economic benefit of Yukon communities. Weíll continue to advance responsible development, continue to balance the investment, continue to do everything we possibly can to keep the Yukon population increasing, to keep Yukon communities healthy and well and experiencing the economic potential and growth that they should. Itís going to take a lot of work, but I think weíre starting to gain ground and I look forward to whatís ahead, because the Yukon has a very bright and optimistic future: the potential, great; the interest, increasing; and, under the appropriate management, leadership and governance, and working cooperatively, I think we can experience a great deal of that potential and see it come to fruition.
Ms. Duncan: As I have no further questions in general debate, I would request the unanimous consent of Committee of the Whole to deem all lines in Vote 2, in both operation and maintenance and capital expenditures of the Executive Council Office, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 2, Executive Council Office, cleared or carried
Chair: † Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the †Committee to deem all lines in Vote 2, Executive Council Office, operation and maintenance and capital expenditures, cleared or carried, as required.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent. That concludes Vote 2, Executive Council Office.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $18,990,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $1,205,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Department of Community Services
Chair: I understand that we are continuing with the Department of Community Services, which is Vote 51.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am proud to introduce members of the House to the 2005-06 budget for the Department of Community Services. This budget is about reinforcing healthy and safe communities, fostering strong government relationships and continuing to grow the Yukon economy.
During the Premierís community tour last fall, community infrastructure was a popular issue in almost every location. This yearís capital budget reflects some of what we heard during those meetings.
This is an ambitious year for the Department of Community Services, as we focus on the community infrastructure projects, which will contribute to cleaner water, safer waste disposal systems, enhanced tourism opportunities through waterfront development initiatives and, of course, new jobs for Yukoners. These infrastructure investments are one more building block in our strategy for revitalizing the Yukon economy.†
The 2005-06 main estimates show that the department is planning to spend nearly $28.5 million in operation and maintenance and just under $54 million in gross capital disbursements. Our capital recoveries are estimated to be $25.5 million, and our operation and maintenance recoveries are forecasted to be $3.7 million.
Under capital projects in rural communities, we are making a number of crucial investments in the rural communities with this budget as we address some projects that have been needed for some time.
Improving recreation facilities is a priority in Teslin. Upgrading the arena is a particular concern for the community, and especially for its youth. The capital project for 2005-06 includes $1 million to complete the renovations for the recreation centreís second floor mezzanine and to install an ice plant for that facility. These upgrades should be complete in time for the 2005-06 winter season and will provide a longer season for hockey and skating and enable Teslin to host recreational hockey events with more room for spectators.
Recreation, especially for youth, is also a priority in Ross River where the new community hall project is well underway, with a total budget of almost $2.1 million. The foundation system was installed last fall, and the design has been approved. The capital budget for 2005-06 includes $450,000 for construction of the community hall in Ross River this summer.
The contract has been awarded to TSL Construction, and there will be opportunities for local employment during that construction.
For Mayo, the 2005-06 budget includes $100,000 to stabilize the Mayo River dike. This yearís budget will pay for environmental assessments, design and regulatory approvals. Next year, construction is scheduled to be completed. By reinforcing the Mayo River dike, we will be reducing future operation and maintenance costs on the structure and will also remove potentially harmful construction materials used to build the original dike in the early 1960s.
For Old Crow, the 2005-06 budget includes $300,000 toward stabilization of the Porcupine River bank to prevent it from eroding into the communityís roadways, enhancing public safety, especially during the severe spring break-up conditions similar to the ones we experienced this spring. The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is managing this $1 million project under a contribution agreement that we signed with them last year. Work is scheduled to start this summer, following environmental and regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed next year. Since the project is being contracted locally, it is providing substantial local employment.
The Ross River round table has requested upgrading of a walking bridge over the Pelly River to ensure its safety. This bridge was built during the 1940s, during the construction of the Canol pipeline, and it continues to be well used by local residents, as well as being a popular tourist attraction. In response to the Ross River request, we have budgeted $100,000 for repairs. The Department of Community Services and the Department of Highways and Public Works are applying to have the work done this summer following professional assessment of what is required to restore this infrastructure.
The Dawson City budget includes $500,000 to renovate the old liquor store for the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. This project is scheduled for completion later this year.
Under sewage system development, community sewage treatment systems are a priority to ensure healthy communities. This government is responding with the funding for water and sewer infrastructure in many communities to meet the needs in rural Yukon. For Carmacks, we are committed to investing up to $5.1 million to leverage matching funds from Canada through the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, or CSIF. Community Services is working to develop a strategic infrastructure funding application to address Carmacksí needs and the upgrades for a replacement sewage treatment plant to meet waste water service requirements of the entire community for the next 20 years. Planning and design began last year and this year we budgeted $2 million for the project. The Yukon government and the Village of Carmacks plan to finalize a second contribution agreement for the construction of the sewage treatment system, wherein the costs are more clearly defined through the selection of an appropriate treatment system and water licensing process.
For Carcross, we are budgeting $100,000 this year to complete the last phase of the $3.9 million Carcross sewage treatment and disposal system. A new storage and treatment facility was completed in 2004 and disposal facilities will be designed this year for the construction when required, based on the performance of the existing storage lagoon. The Carcross sewage treatment system provides the community with an appropriate treatment facility for its waste water with very low impact on the environment. The design will accommodate the communityís needs as it grows and develops and will provide the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the tourism development projects being considered for that area.
$600,000 is budgeted to begin construction of a new multi-celled sewage lagoon just south of Burwash Landing, which will replace the existing facility in the centre of Destruction Bay. Construction of a new environmentally approved facility is expected to be completed next year. The new facility will better serve the needs of both communities and end the long-standing odour problems in Destruction Bay.
For Dawson City, we have committed $1.5 million to leverage matching funds from Canada through the Canada strategic infrastructure fund. Community Services is working to develop a CSIF application to address the long-standing issue of sewage treatment in Dawson City. An irrigated lagoon system is presently being pilot tested, and an alternative treatment process in Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta is being investigated to determine whether they would work as well in Dawsonís climate. The Yukon government has agreed to assume a management role for this project, and is determined to find an appropriate solution to improve the downstream water quality and provide a reliable sewage system at an affordable cost for the residents of Dawson.
On subdivision land development, the growth of the Yukon economy is clearly evident in our real estate marketplace. Many homes are being bought and sold, and many new homes are being built to satisfy the growing demand. In Whitehorse, a record number of 170 lots were sold in 2004, compared to just 78 in 2003. In response to the market demand, new lots will be developed in Copper Ridge, Porter Creek and Riverdale.
The City of Whitehorse and Yukon government aim to provide a two-year supply of fully serviced single-family residential lots available for purchase. To achieve this land inventory, this yearís budget includes $3.25 million for sewer and water construction for the last phase of the Copper Ridge development, $1.6 million to upgrade the Marwell sewer trunk, the Hamilton Boulevard pump house and to complete construction of the Hamilton Boulevard improvements. There is $750,000 for land development as identified in the Whitehorse community plan for new urban residential/commercial lots, including the Porter Creek lower bench area, beyond Copper Ridge and the Porter Creek Pine Street extension area. The Yukon government will continue to work with the City of Whitehorse as it identifies areas suitable for development.
$4.5 million is identified for road construction and subdivision development for the Whitehorse Copper and Mount Sima road area, pending Whitehorse city councilís subdivision approval. There is a potential for up to between 20 and 25 country residential lots to be made available for sale late this fall.
In Haines Junction, another Yukon community requiring more property for their growing real estate market, a new 14-lot subdivision will be located just north of the community, near the Haines Junction airport. $250,000 has been earmarked to complete road construction, BST road surface, and install overhead phone and power lines. The lots are scheduled to be ready to be sold by lottery later this year.
Under waterfront development projects, recognizing that river travel was a traditional transportation method when many Yukon communities came into being, our history is linked to the waterfront in so many ways. Our waterfronts are a key attraction for visitors and a place of enjoyment for all of us.
In this budget, we are advancing the waterfront development for two key projects. In Whitehorse, initiatives are aimed at the urban development along the Yukon River, which will upgrade the function and appearance of the waterfront and enable further improvement activities.
These initiatives include water, sewer and street improvements and upgrades to the Kishwoot Island suspension bridge and relocation and restoration of specific heritage buildings.
Through this budget, we will invest $3.5 million in 2005-06 as construction begins on these improvements on the waterfront as design continues with public input on other elements, such as arts and culture facilities, dock improvements and the trolley track expansion.
In Carcross, the funding will enable community clean-up, water, sewer and road improvements, landscaping upgrading, and construction of the riverside structures. The Yukon government will invest $3 million this year, as community consultation and detailed waterfront planning begin in Carcross.
Mr. Speaker, in about 680 days, people from all parts of the nation will be arriving in the Yukon to cheer on their teams as they compete in the 2007 Canada Winter Games. This is the second to last budget before the 2007 games, and we are investing to ensure these games are the best ever.
Through the City of Whitehorse and the games host society, the Yukon government has committed a total of $19 million for the games infrastructure, including $12.1 million for the athletes village and $667,000 as agreed to on the multiplex contribution agreement. These facilities will remain following the games, and we are working to ensure that Yukoners gain the optimum benefit from them in the future.
Under the Canada-Yukon municipal rural infrastructure fund, that is a brief overview of the capital projects that we are undertaking within this budget term, but we are also working for the future as we are discussing some big-picture developments with local municipal governments and First Nations. In addition to the projects already identified, Yukon communities will have access to $32 million in funding over the next five years through the municipal rural infrastructure fund program. Through our agreement with Canada, we will have access to more rural infrastructure funds than ever before. This year, we have a total of $8 million in projects that are jointly funded by Yukon and Canada through the municipal rural infrastructure fund process.
MRIF projects can include traditional infrastructures, such as potable water supply, waste water and solid waste treatment systems and local road improvements; but infrastructure is also related to public transit, culture, tourism and telecommunications improvements.
Last summerís forest fire season was the most significant on record. I know I share the hopes of all Yukoners that this coming summer will not be a repeat of last year.
Due to the extent of last yearís forest fires, many locations will remain much safer from fire for the years to come. However, we must remain diligent and prepare for all emergencies, including wildland fire threats. Iím pleased to advise the House that the FireSmart program is being well subscribed to by Yukoners in all parts of the territory. Funding for FireSmart in 2005-06 remains at $1.5 million.
Last fall a strong windstorm downed a large number of trees and caused considerable damage to some residential properties. Some remedial activity was carried out prior to the heavy snowfall arriving, but there is still more work that needs to be completed. I can state here today that we are working with the City of Whitehorse to address the outstanding windfall trees and that programs similar to those last year will be available for the affected property owners.
Under property, public involvement via consultation, I mentioned at the beginning that community consultations have revealed that Yukoners consider it to be important in their communities and what they want improved. We are learning more as we begin to focus on the specific projects and continue involving the public on how to approach these developments. Infrastructure development achieves positive results for residents and communities. It increases their health and their safety in the provision of critical services, such as sewer and water, and it creates jobs for rural residents at the same time. This budget is designed to provide those critical investments and to help further stimulate the Yukon economy.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for his opening remarks. It cleared up a lot of questions and may have raised a few more.
In his opening comments, the minister talked about the department and one of its mandates to build strong and healthy communities. There were lots of projects scheduled for this year, and he alluded to the fact that there were many requests for infrastructure projects out there in the communities. I would like to start out by asking the minister ó because itís not indicated in the budget documents; it indicates what projects are slated for this year. But it would seem like a good idea in planning for future years to lay out some of the direction that the government intends to go on some of these other projects.
Now, the minister said that there were many requests. Is there a multi-year plan? There is a multi-year budget plan in the Budget Address book, but there are no multi-year plans in the budget. Formerly there were, in previous budgets, multi-year plans with some indication of the governmentís plans for future years. Itís not in the budget book. Does the minister have a document like that? Would he be willing to make it available?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is no specific plan, other than what is in the budget, for the communities. We are working with several of these projects that will take two or three years to complete. That is what weíre utilizing.
On the other issue, several of the applications for infrastructure are dependent on federal government program money. Of course, we have to wait and go through that process on those individual projects and find out which projects will proceed and which will not proceed. We will move forward from there.
Mr. Cardiff: Specifically around the municipal rural infrastructure fund, I have some concerns with the way that some of those funds are being handled, I guess. The territorial government has a seat at the table to decide whether or not projects go ahead. The territorial government is at the table where those decisions are being made.
As the minister indicated, thereís a lot of money coming from the federal government. We have the infrastructure Canada program. There is the municipal rural infrastructure fund. There is the Canada strategic infrastructure fund. We are in negotiations for the gas tax money. He says that there is a lot of money coming for communities.
What Iím wondering is, when the territorial government came to the rescue of the Canada Winter Games Host Society and negotiated with the city how that would work around the athletes village, it appeared that one of the requirements was that the city had to apply for municipal rural infrastructure money for two projects: one was the Takhini North project, and the other was the Hamilton Boulevard project.
Iím just wondering about the ministerís vision. Theyíre at the table deciding which projects go ahead and, at the same time, theyíre asking the city to apply for these funds. When you look at it, it says ďmunicipal rural infrastructure fund.Ē In a national context, the Yukon, by itself, is a rural type territory, but in a territorial context, Whitehorse is the large urban centre. There are lots of rural needs out there.
Iím just wondering why the minister would want to direct the city to apply for those funds when it would make more sense ó the City of Whitehorse is getting the lionís share of the Canada strategic infrastructure fund. Iím just wondering why more emphasis isnít being placed on directing these funds to rural Yukon.
The minister is saying that a large portion should be spent here in Whitehorse. Can he give me the rationale for that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to correct the member opposite. A substantial amount of the CSIF funding has actually been distributed throughout the Yukon, and it is involved in water and waste projects as well as highway projects throughout the Yukon. Those projects have already been pre-approved.
In regard to MRIF, as the member stated, we accepted a substantial number of projects on April 15 from many, many rural Yukon communities in that process. Those will have to go through the review of the committee, which normally involves, as the member indicated, that we have a seat, but so does the federal government. Not only that, Association of Yukon Communities has an observer status on that particular aspect.
In conjunction with that, we have been working with the Association of Yukon Communities throughout this whole process with regard to MRIF, and they have indicated that they would like to put emphasis with regard to the rural communities on this MRIF program. So it is there.
But as far as CSIF goes, the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, that program, as I indicated, is widely spread throughout the Yukon. In fact, very little of it is in Whitehorse at all in that particular venue.
In essence, to date, most of that work has been completed on our highways throughout the Yukon, and we are working with, as I said, many communities on their waste and water projects throughout the Yukon right now. Our intention is also to complete projects, as I mentioned, in Dawson, Carcross and Burwash on those issues. We intend to follow through with those projects. We are working with the City of Whitehorse on Hamilton Boulevard. We believe thatís a key piece of infrastructure that requires some improvements to improve the safety for that particular area of the city.
The city also recognizes that fact. We are working with them on completing a second egress through that community via the Hamilton Boulevard extension.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I agree that it is an important access. I donít disagree with that.
Where Iím coming from, I guess, is regarding the recent announcement that there is going to be over $20 million spent on waterfront development through the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, and the majority of that is being spent in Whitehorse. Iím not saying that there are no other Canada strategic infrastructure funds, but the majority of the last $25 million that flowed to the Yukon appears to be going to Whitehorse. Thatís all I was saying.
The minister also talked about sewage treatment in various communities. In Carmacks, theyíre using the Canada strategic infrastructure fund money. Is that money over and above the money that was designated for waterfront in Whitehorse and Carcross? Is it from the same pot of money? Perhaps the minister could provide an explanation on that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have spent $32 million of the first section of money under the CSIF program on highways. That money is already underway. In fact, we are working on the second year of that money.
As the member opposite indicated, we have $22 million allocated for waterfront developments in the future under the CSIF program ó $19 million for Whitehorse and $3 million for Carcross. Those are the costs as far as developments go.
In respect to his question with regard to Carmacks, that amount of money for the water and sewer for Carmacks was included in the first section of the first portion of the CSIF program ó the $20 million identified. That, I will reiterate for the member opposite, was an agreement made between our government, the Yukon government, the Member of Parliament for the Yukon, as well as AYC. In fact, part of the agreement to proceed with the highways improvements was a tag from the federal government MLA indicating that the waterfront developments had to be part of the second portion before he would approve that first portion.
Mr. Cardiff: That cleared up the question. I have some other questions Iíd like to stick on this subject as well. The minister talked about this in his opening remarks. He indicates that, for Dawson City, the government has committed $1.5 million to try to leverage funds from the Canada strategic infrastructure fund to address the long-standing issue of sewage treatment in Dawson. He talked about pilot projects with regard to aerated sewage lagoons. I noticed that the Department of Community Services has also applied for lands and that was before LARC, possibly for sewage treatment facilities in Callison and on the island just upriver from Dawson.
Iím just wondering what the ministerís intentions are. As well, he said in the budget speech that they were looking at alternative treatment processes in Alaska, northern B.C. and Alberta. Could he tell me what those alternative processes that theyíre looking at are? Obviously, there is something different from aerated sewage lagoons. So, Iíd like him to explain that and advise what their intentions are for the land in Callison and on the island.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at trying to address the long-standing situation in Dawson City. We have an obligation to meet under a legal process by court of law. We are in the development stage of working with the federal Department of Environment on this particular issue and looking at ways and means of how to meet our objective for 2008, as well as making sure that weíll have a system in place that will meet whatís required of us in that particular venue.
We are looking at other sewage facilities in other areas, as both the member opposite and I indicated, where they are operating similar types of sewage facilities. We are trying to concentrate on areas that have a climate similar to that of Dawson. Thus, we are looking strongly at a facility in Alaska, because it does experience the same cold temperatures and itís also operating in a community of a similar size ó a little bit bigger, I might add, but still something we can deal with.
We are also looking at the other alternative. We havenít dismissed the mechanical aspect yet, but we are looking at the irrigated sewage lagoon in a real positive sense, and we are concentrating on that, and thatís why we have a pilot project going on there right now in Dawson City.
With regard to the land issue, as the member opposite indicated, we have set aside land reserve in that particular area for the potential of a lagoon system if it proves out to be a positive and affordable way for the citizens of Dawson to utilize it as their sewage facility. Until such time as that pilot is complete, we wonít be in a position to determine that, but we are putting that land in reserve in case it is deemed the way to go.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I have a couple of other questions around this. There was a report that the minister indicated that there is a pilot project going to see if aerated sewage lagoons are going to work there. Itís just a pilot project, and the announcement about it was made in late February, early March. But itís my understanding from the report that they want to see this pilot project concluded by November.
Now, if weíre going to deal with Dawsonís climate, it would seem to me that a pilot project looking to see if it works that runs between the end of February or the beginning of March through to November is going to exclude some of the coldest temperatures of the year.
Can the minister tell us why it wouldnít run for a full year?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is a pilot project that weíre dealing with. We are also going to be doing this assessment during the peak period that this sewage facility will be operating in Dawson City. We will be utilizing the information we have from other areas with regard to how the operation handles in cold weather.
The main reason for this taking place in Dawson City is the fact that that is the peak period for the sewage facility for Dawson City and thatís when there is the biggest problem with effluent and when they have the most difficulty meeting the requirements from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is also when they have the most difficulty dealing with the tourism aspect. Itís also when most of the hotels are open and there is a substantial amount of soap going into the river. That is the main reason for our flow to go through at that particular time. Thatís when we expect to have the greatest amount of sewage effluent going into the river, as well as through the system.
Mr. Cardiff: So the minister is telling me that the weather doesnít play a role in whether or not the sewage lagoons are going to work, that the temperature is not a factor.
I have one more question around this area. The minister is indicating $1.5 million to leverage the federal funds. That would be a total of $3 million. What is the anticipated cost? There have been a number of figures that have floated around over the years for the cost of providing an adequate facility in Dawson to treat the sewage. Does the minister have any idea what the anticipated cost of that is going to be and where those funds are going to come from?
Obviously theyíre not going to come from the Member for Klondike.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to provide just a brief history, if I could, on the situation in Dawson City. Dawson City has had a great deal of difficulty with its sewage system. I would dare say that it relates back to the late 1970s or early 1980s with regard to its sewage system. I also believe that there have been several companies that have come up with wonderful ideas on how the sewage system in Dawson can be improved and put on, you know, the show. Theyíve given me a dog-and-pony show and Iím sure the councillors in Dawson have seen many of those issues come forth on how and when they can improve Dawsonís sewage system.
Now, also in that period of time, the rules and regulations with regard to the effluent output have changed substantially. Iím sure the member opposite will have to agree on that particular aspect, and I would say we need to look at whatís required to meet the new standards that have been identified under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Not only our government but previous governments have been working with Dawson City on this particular issue ó some with varying success, and some with no success. We are working very closely with them on this issue, as I mentioned previously. We have a legal obligation, and we have to get there. But they have tried to narrow down their sewage facilities and what their needs are. They also, in the late 1990s, put in a metered-water system to help reduce the amount of water or sewage going through the system.
That has also created another problem. By reducing the amount of solids going through the system, it has made it difficult to get the system to operate properly. Thatís what has really led to the system theyíve been working on previously, to our government moving in and identifying what was supposed to be costing $5.6 million and ended up costing $19 million, not to mention that it was going to cost a substantial amount of money to operate it on an annual basis.
It was at this moment in time that we took a look at the situation and realized that we couldnít put that kind of money into a town with a population of approximately 1,200 to 1,400, not to mention that it wouldnít be for the entire area of Dawson City.
In August 2004, the Chief Justice of the Territorial Court replaced the original court order with the order that Dawson City construct and operate a sewage facility by the end of 2008 and that Dawson shall report progress to the court every six months.
We are in the process of doing that. The first report was submitted before, done February 28, 2005.
At Dawsonís request, the Yukon government has agreed to assume management of their role in this project, which we are doing. We have held public information sessions with regard to the sewage system in Dawson. Pilot testing for the irrigated lagoons and other options began in March and will continue through the summer to find a cost-effective and suitable treatment process. An evaluation of this system will be made once this is completed in November, hopefully by next spring. We continue to look at alternative treatment processes, as mentioned, in Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta.
We are looking at an application process to be prepared under the Canada strategic infrastructure fund. That is how we anticipate the funding for the Dawson City sewage facility will be accounted for. We do have to do our homework, in conjunction with the federal Department of Environment as well as our own Department of Environment, with regard to the requirements for water and the effluent going out of the sewage facility in Dawson.
Weíre also looking at the possibilities of refined screening there as another alternative for that particular facility. Weíre looking into other jurisdictions that use that type of facility. I would like to also state that the City of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is receiving honours for improving their system of sewage facility, which is exactly the same as the one theyíre utilizing in Dawson City, yet weíre the ones being brought on the carpet for breaking the law. So there is an inconsistent process with regard to the effluent across Canada, and we are working toward that process. I anticipate that weíll get there.
Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Hart 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: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report 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 government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
The following documents were filed May 16, 2005:
Micro Loan Report (Yukon) for year ending March 31, 2005† (Kenyon)
Economic Development Funding and In-Kind Contributions to Yukon First Nations (as of April 1, 2005)† (Kenyon)
Business Incentive Program statistics for the years 2002-03 and 2003-04† (Kenyon)
Alaska-Canada Rail Link, proposed: pp. 92-106 of a draft copy of A review of Potential Benefits re: Relevant Policy Issues and Assessment of Potential Public Benefits† (Hardy)