Tuesday, November 29, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Withdrawal of motions
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House that Motion No. 29, Motion No. 414 and Motion No. 502, which are government motions, have been removed from the Order Paper, as the mover of these motions, the Member for Klondike, is no longer a minister.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Disability Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I rise today in this House to ask my colleagues to join with me in celebrating this week as Disability Awareness Week in the Yukon. This week continues the tradition of National Access Awareness Week, first established in 1988 to promote better community access for persons with disabilities. In the Yukon, the week will culminate with the 4th Annual Disability Expo, organized by the Yukon Council on Disability. The continued success of the expo is a tribute to YCOD itself and to the individuals living with disabilities in the Yukon.
We are fortunate to have a very vocal community that lets us know what they want and what they need. Like us, they are trying to get an education or a job, working, dealing with family and enjoying living in the community ó all the while, coping with a disability.
They donít ask for handouts or special favours; they simply want to be treated with dignity and respect. Iím pleased that this government has acted on several initiatives to increase support to the community. We funded the Yukon Services Guide Book for individuals with disabilities for two years and have recently reactivated a strong policy about handicapped parking at government buildings, ensuring that signage is clearly visible and creating a warning system for offenders.
We have a very active staff in the workplace diversity employment office who are working throughout government to get across the point that persons with disabilities can offer skills and expertise that have been often overlooked or underutilized in the past. New technologies and increased access to post-secondary education mean that persons with disabilities are capable of doing work that many employers would never imagine. Persons with disabilities have considerable life experience, solving challenging problems on a very regular basis.
Itís a whole new world and we should be very proud of that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Mitchell: †I rise today on behalf of the opposition to pay tribute to Disabilities Awareness Week. The International Day of Disabled Persons aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. More than half a billion persons are disabled as a result of mental, physical or sensory impairment, and no matter what part of the world they are in, their lives are often limited by physical or social barriers.
In the Yukon, we have the Yukon Council on Disability, which is a non-profit society with a volunteer board that has cross-disability representation. YCOD is a resource organization for Yukoners with disabilities on issues of equality, community awareness, government policy and employment. The resource centre also assists people with disabilities and service providers in accessing information on available services and programs like providing assistance and applying for funding to Human Resources Skills Development Canada. Yukon is fortunate to have a great number of resources.
As full citizens of Canada, persons with disabilities should enjoy the same rights as all Canadians and we must work together to ensure these rights and that the barriers of discrimination are removed. Full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities is the ultimate goal.
We thank the many front-line workers, service providers and volunteers who work tirelessly on behalf of the disabled to make a difference in their lives.
Speaker: † Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Business loans outstanding
Mr. Hardy: A week ago, the Premier got a wakeup call. More than 80 percent of voters in the Copperbelt by-election rejected the Yukon Party way of doing things. That was a very clear message given. After three years of warnings from this side of the House, I hope the Premier is finally paying attention.
Yesterday we saw a dramatic shift in this House, because the Premier finally got the message about how angry Yukoners are, specifically over his handling of the Cabinet ministersí loans. My question is this: why did the Premier wait so long before telling his former colleague that the jig was up, deal with the loans or get out of Cabinet? Why three years?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: † Well, in the first instance, Mr. Speaker, it is this government that has committed to a collection process with respect to the delinquent files. In this case a demand, as far as the government knows, was made and the results of that are before us. The evidence is before us here in this Assembly. We took the ethical, fair and balanced approach to this whole process. We allowed people time to address their delinquencies and some came forward. We repatriated over $500,000 to $600,000 to the federal government, and we forgave an amount of money to NGOs ó by definition ďnon-profit organizationsĒ. The balance of the files remaining are delinquent, and we are now in the collection process.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier is sadly mistaken if he thinks he can pat himself on the back for solving the loan scandal that has been around for the last three years. He hasnít solved it all actually. Yukon people are very fed up about this. They are demanding some ethical leadership from this Premier and they arenít seeing it yet. The forced resignation of his Deputy Premier hasnít ended the loans scandal. Thereís still another Cabinet minister who hasnít made good on his debts to the Yukon people. It is still not paid up.
The Premier just said they took an ethical, fair and balanced approach. Well, whatís fair and balanced when there is still somebody in Cabinet who still owes money to the government? Will the Premier now give that minister the same ultimatum he gave the Deputy Premier ó pay up or pack up?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I guess now the official opposition views even those who are current at making payments on their loans as delinquent files. Well, this government doesnít share that view whatsoever. The whole purpose of the process that the government undertook was to get repayment of the loans. The member opposite is now implying that thereís another member of this government who is delinquent ó not current and not paying their loan ó and that is not the case. So I think the member opposite should do a little homework here and make sure he brings the facts to the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the Premier loves to split hairs, Mr. Speaker, and it doesnít matter if one minister owes $300,000 or the other minister owes $50,000 ó whatever the figure is. The principle is the same, and this is what the principle is, and this is what the Yukon people have had a difficult time in dealing with: how this Premier has favoured people. Someone who has an outstanding debt to the taxpayers shouldnít be in Cabinet, whether they are making payments, after being forced into doing it ó if we go back in history, we can find that out ó or not. Theyíre making minimal payments. Now, the Premier shouldnít have put him there in the first place, Mr. Speaker, and he shouldnít be keeping him there now. The remaining minister who has an outstanding loan is a person with means. This person has money. He has the money to pay his debt, and the Premier should insist that he does. He can write a cheque today. The Premier can turn around and ask him. So will the Premier demonstrate some ethical leadership right now, by telling that minister to cut a cheque for the outstanding balance today or leave Cabinet tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would challenge the member opposite to demonstrate some ethical leadership in this matter. These are corporate entities that received loans from the past NDP government. In the instance the member refers to, the corporate entity is paying its loan, as it should, on a regular basis. Thatís what this is all about. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, after decades of this delinquency in place, we now finally are at a stage where the remaining files that are not in good standing are being collected. Thatís exactly what has transpired here. That is a demonstration of ethical leadership, because weíre doing it the correct way. We are collecting the debt; weíre not lynching people in the streets.
Question re: Government ethical standards
Mr. Hardy: Not ditching people ó
I have another question for the Premier on the same issue. Even after the very clear warning he got last week, it seems the Premier still doesnít listen at all ó either that, or heís continually in denial. Iíll be very blunt: voters want change. They feel betrayed by the democratic process and they feel abused by the people in power.
Weíre in a federal election right now because of the Liberal Partyís lack of ethics. Weíre witnessing that today. The Premier just lost a by-election and a deputy premier over the lack of ethics ó thatís very clear.
When will this Premier start paying attention and bring forward some very concrete proposals to restore public trust in government? When will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It begins with the ethical approach of collecting the delinquent debt to the government and the Yukon taxpayer. It also includes full disclosure and the financial position of the Yukon Territory, something the benches opposite never accomplished. Thatís why they continued to get qualified audits. It includes changing the exodus of the population from this territory to a return of growth of its population; it includes a real dramatic decrease in the unemployment rate and more Yukoners working; it includes a sound financial position for the Yukon Territory; it includes, in a very ethical manner, a huge investment in our education system. It includes, in a very ethical manner, increases in the health care system and providing better health care services to Yukoners; and it includes, very ethically, a strengthened social fabric. I guess the question here is: what standard of ethics are the members opposite actually portraying?
Mr. Hardy: Well, thatís typical of the Premier across the way.† He canít answer the question so he throws it back this way.
Now, the Premier might as well stand here today and rip up his partyís last election platform ó might as well rip it up. He has completely failed to provide the better government that he promised ó it hasnít happened.
Yukoners know where the New Democrats stand. We put forward numerous ideas on democratic reform. Weíve tabled responsible legislation to prevent the kind of abuses that have flourished under this Premier, and what happened? They had a choice on that side, and what did they do? The Premier and his colleagues dismissed them out of hand. The Premier has shown the same lack of concern about ethics and the democratic deficit as Ottawa Liberals have.
Will the Premier now revisit the proposals our party has put forward and support an agenda of reform to restore public trust in government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This government will not entertain proposals from the NDP that would diminish the role of the private sector. This government will never accept policies and proposals from the NDP that are anti-profit. This government will stack up its social record against the NDPís any day. This government will stack up its standard of ethics with respect to the standard of ethics the NDP employ because ethics include factual information, Mr. Speaker. And furthermore, weíll let the Yukon public judge in the next general election. Itís all about who is best able to lead this territory toward a better and brighter future. Is it the NDP, the Liberals or is it the Yukon Party? We are more than prepared to allow Yukoners to make that judgement ó pass judgement on us and the opposition at the same time.
Mr. Hardy: Well, well, well, the Premier is saying that they are more than willing to let the public make that judgement, but he wonít call an election, will he? The Premier thinks everything is just fine, but we know itís not. There have been broken promises, broken MOUs with First Nations, boards and committees stacked with government pals, sole-source contracts flying around like confetti, ministers who wonít consult and who ignore advice from public advisory bodies and a government that humiliates and demoralizes its own employees. Mr. Speaker, it has to stop. I agree with the Premier across the way ó it does have to stop.
Maybe the Premier needs another message from the voters, similar to the one they got last week. So, will the Premier now do what the Ottawa Liberals have been shamed into doing ó put the question of ethics and trust into the hands of the voters? Will he do that, since he said he will? Letís do it now.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Of course, the government will put the question to the public when the time is right. The government still has considerable distance in its mandate. It still has considerable work to accomplish on top of what has already been accomplished for this territory.
In choosing this line of questioning, the member opposite is reflecting on the fact that, by definition, ethics is the study or philosophy in human conduct. Is the member suggesting that the conduct of any member of this government results in wrongdoing? I think the member has a problem here, Mr. Speaker, because there is an ethical standard of providing that burden of proof of wrongdoing. The member has not done that to date. I think the member has a challenge. Provide the evidence of wrongdoing. Thatís exactly what the definition of ďethicsĒ is all about.
Question re: Care facilities construction
†Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, my questions is for the Acting Minister of Health and Social Services. Before the MLA for Klondike resigned, he was busy spending his days micromanaging the Dawson City health centre. He was busy laying out floor plans, expanding the rooms and picking out the furniture. He interfered so much, in fact, that construction of the health care centre has been delayed indefinitely.
I know the Yukon Party is desperate to distance themselves from the actions of the former minister, and here is an opportunity. Will the acting minister commit today that the government will go back to the professionally designed plans and get this project underway? Residents in Dawson have waited too long already. Will the minister make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: At this point in time, I have to admit that I havenít seen the plans for either the original facility or the old facility.
And micromanagement is certainly something that can be a problem. I agree with the member opposite about that. However, giving input in the early stages that incurs no change orders or cost by a local representative ó in terms of where the building faces to give the best view, size of rooms or noise of the mechanical area, which are the examples that have been given in this House ó seems to be reasonable input from any member of an architectural firm or the department or the elected officials. Itís part of the normal input. But I do promise to the member and commit to the member opposite that I will take the information under advisement and go back and look more directly at this project.
Mr. Mitchell: †The Yukon Party government canít have it both ways. They would like the public to believe that the MLA for Klondike was the problem ó letís get rid of him before the next election and all our troubles are gone. Yet the government continues to operate the same old way. The former minister interfered in the design of the Dawson health care facility. It was so bad that officials in the department were uncomfortable with the interference. If the government is turning over a new leaf, this is a perfect chance.
Will the minister commit that he will go back to the professional design and that this project will get underway as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again to the member opposite, if he listens to the answer, I certainly commit to go back and revisit the issue and to look at it. When the member opposite says, doing things ďthe same old wayĒ, I would suggest that, 26 hours into the job, I would prefer to give some thought to this.
I canít commit to go back to any individual design. I can commit to go back to the proponents, back to the department, back to the architects, and to look at the overall design of the whole thing and discuss it. I think thatís a reasonable approach. To commit in this House to one design is not good government.
Mr. Mitchell: †Another mess the former minister was involved in was the Watson Lake health care facility. Under the former minister, the Yukon Party government was busy handing out contracts without any competition. The MLA for Klondike handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars with no competition.
Last week, the Yukon Party government thought this was a good idea. I want to know what the position of the Yukon Party is today. Was handing out these contracts without competition a good idea, or will the minister commit that the balance of the projects ó some $4 million ó will be publicly tendered?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Going back and revisiting these projects is the appropriate way, but I would remind the member opposite that heís not saying that any of us on this side of the House are responsible for othersí actions. They are actions that should be revisited under any circumstances, and thatís just the way things work.
I know in my former life that having plans built for very specific things by people who donít know the specifics adds problems. For instance, in the round medical sciences centre at McGill University, it was great fun trying to design animal caging and research facilities into what became triangular walls ó something the architects hadnít designed, nor do I think the designers of an Ontario seniors centre, which I used to drive by on a regular basis, thought about the marvellous view they had created for the residents, which overlooked the local cemetery. It needs local input; it needs to be revisited, and that is a commitment I will make.
Question re: Computer use
Mr. Fairclough: A couple of years ago, this government decided there was a need to crack down on a handful of employees suspected of misusing their computers at work. Using the model of the Ontario ministry of Natural Resources, the Yukon government took disciplinary action against a number of employees, including a few firings.
This past summer, an independent arbitrator ruled that the Ontario process was unfair and improper. The Ontario government was ordered to rehire the fired workers.
In light of that decision, will the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission now admit that this government acted too harshly with its own employees for allegedly misusing their computers?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, the investigation that the member opposite refers to surrounding the misuse of computers was, in fact, a personnel matter involving a breach of the Yukon governmentís workplace harassment policy, as well as a violation of the Human Rights Act. The Public Service Commission therefore, by law, was required to act. That it did, by investigating, and that is what transpired.
As we have stated on a number of occasions, there certainly was no political interference or involvement in this process. Rather, the investigation was a matter dealt with by the Public Service Commission of the Yukon government.
Mr. Speaker, as the members opposite are fully aware, by agreement with the union, a full and binding settlement was made by the arbitrator in a process that was agreed to by the government and the union. As I have stated on a number of occasions in this Legislature, the government respects this agreement that was settled between both parties and is certainly committed to upholding all its provisions, including those regarding confidentiality.
Mr. Fairclough: Now, the minister cannot hide behind another process. It is the minister who is responsible for the Public Service Commission, and she has to answer to this, just like other governments across Canada do, Mr. Speaker. At the time the Yukon government embarked on this computer use investigation, there was no clear policy in place. That investigation, especially the way it was conducted, had a profound effect on employee morale. It had a profound effect on individuals and their families, and those wounds have not all been healed. Will the minister ask the Public Service Commissioner to rescind the disciplinary measures imposed on Yukon government employees at the time when no computer use policy was in place? Will she do that?
†Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I will just reiterate for the information of the members opposite, again, that there was absolutely no political involvement within the whole investigation surrounding the computer misuse. Rather, the investigation was dealt with at armís length by the Public Service Commission.
I will again reiterate for the member opposite that it was by agreement with the union that a full and binding settlement was made by an arbitrator in a process that was agreed to by both the government and the union. Now, our government respects the agreement that was reached, as well as the particular provisions that refer to the full confidentiality surrounding this settlement.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am asking the minister to get serious about this matter and not just skate away from it. The government finally got around to releasing some kind of policy on computer use last month. Weíre still not sure whether itís a policy or just a set of guidelines. Either way, it was done in isolation and without consultation with the union that represents government workers. This new set of rules has also been criticized for being too vague and too intrusive.
So, will the minister take some responsibility for this issue by sitting down with the Public Service Commissioner and the new leadership of the Yukon Employees Union to work out a process for developing a computer use policy that is fair, clear and less invasive than the one currently on the table? Will she do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: These guidelines were issued by administration as part of the responsibility of Highways and Public Works. I understand these draft guidelines were provided to the union earlier this year. I would strongly encourage the union to provide comments and bring forward their concerns directly to the administration to see if their concerns can be addressed.
Also, these guidelines provide the employees with over-arching principles for the computer use and greater clarity on what is or isnít appropriate for a work environment. They were developed to help the employees understand what is expected of them when they use publicly funded resources. They explain what is expected of the Government of Yukon employees and other people who are authorized to use the government computers and systems when they use governmentís technology resources.
Employees are responsible for how they use the office equipment, including computers. It is up to all of us to make sure that we maintain professional, ethical and legal standards for the secure and efficient operation of the government computers. There are many forms of political instruments. Guidelines are one. These guidelines are clear and intended to be helpful for references for the employees about what is and what is not considered to be acceptable use.
These guidelines, in fact, provide direction to employees regarding computer use. That is the prime objective here. If they are in administrative use, in the minds of some ó ďRegarding the matter of useĒ is the specific wording ó
Speaker: Order please. Thank you.
Question re: Canada Games Games, athletes village project manager
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the same minister ó the Minister of Highways and Public Works. Several Yukon government and construction projects have fallen behind schedule. By the admission of several ministers, the multi-million-dollar athletes village project is going to be a squeaker with a very tight construction timetable. This minister has admitted that there is a shortage of experienced, well-qualified project managers. Can the minister explain why is he allowing that situation to get even worse by letting a well-qualified project manager slip from the governmentís grasp at the end of this month ó tomorrow, in fact? Why is that happening?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, if the member opposite is trying to say we are micromanaging the department, I am totally not aware of the project manager who is leaving tomorrow. I am aware that we are having difficulty filling spots for project managers. Weíve gone out twice to get these positions filled. In fact, earlier this year we were successful in obtaining somebody to come to the Yukon to assist us in our projects; however, they were provided a better offer prior to coming to the Yukon. The member opposite is completely right; we are having difficulty getting all skilled labourers into the Yukon, and itís because of our economy thatís doing quite well, and our construction of buildings that is demanding the use of these skilled labourers. We are looking at trying to fill our own project management positions, and we are in the process of looking at hiring for these particular positions, but I will remind the member opposite that theyíre difficult to find anywhere, basically, west of Winnipeg.
Mr. Hardy: Maybe I should bring the minister up to date on whatís happening in his department, especially since he knows so much about the difficulty of finding project managers. He seems to have all that information. Maybe he should find out what project managers he has to date and whatís happening to them and treat them with some value, because Iíll tell you right now, this person is currently managing seven projects for the government. His credentials are not in question, Mr. Speaker. During his time in government, his performance evaluations have been excellent ó no problem whatsoever. In fact, he didnít even apply for the position he holds right now. The government sought him out and asked him to take the job.
Why is this person being let go at a time when the minister admits the government is hard-pressed to find experienced project managers? Why is this happening, and whatís going on over there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated, if he wishes, I will look into the situation that heís referring to and deal with the situation regarding this particular individual. However, this is a personnel matter, and I believe that my department, or the deputy minister, is responsible for handling this particular situation, and I allow him to do his job.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, I wish the minister knew what was going on. This government is sole sourcing project managing contracts to outsiders. In the case of the athletes villages ó and this is a matter of public record ó a sole-source contract worth $30,000 has now ballooned into a sole-source contract worth over $300,000 ó ten times the original amount, to a project manager the construction industry has said it doesnít want to work with.
Will the minister now put all his cards on the table? Why is the government letting a qualified, experienced and respected Yukoner go when he has admitted here in the House that there is a shortage of good project managers? I think he knows.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we are dealing with a project manager for the athletes village. This individual has the expertise to deal with this particular type of project. He has the history in this particular entity. He is also utilizing local project manager assistance on this project and heís doing quite well in moving this project along. This is a specific project for a specific stick-build operation, and this contractor is doing what heís supposed to be doing.
Question re: Government attitude
Mr. Hardy: † Well, yesterday, this House and the Yukon public saw a graphic example of a government in meltdown because of a lack of ethical leadership. There is no question about that. We saw the result of three years of conflict and division within the government ranks. We donít know all the details, but the change in seating arrangements in this Assembly was clearly the result of a showdown between two notoriously headstrong individuals. The Premier may think he has scored a victory, and we have seen that on the faces of many of the former colleagues of the member who was sent packing yesterday, but I assure him, from the public view, itís not a victory. What we have seen is the Premierís chickens coming home to roost, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier do now what he promised Yukoners he would do three years ago and stop governing by confrontation and unilateral action?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, is the member opposite suggesting that working with our neighbours, Alaska, N.W.T., Nunavut, British Columbia and Alberta, is governing by unilateral action and confrontation? Is the member opposite suggesting that the Yukon forum and the Co-operation in Governance Act is governing in confrontation and unilateral action? Is the member opposite suggesting that the processes like the Childrenís Act review in partnership with First Nations, educational reform, correctional reform are governing through confrontation and unilateral action? Weíre doing it in partnership with First Nation governments. Is the member opposite suggesting that the joint position on the northern strategy, developing the Yukon chapter, the joint position on the northern economic development fund developed with First Nations ó does the member opposite refer to that as confrontational governance and governing with unilateral action?
This is all evidence, factual evidence, that the government side is presenting, and the evidence bears out the position the government takes. Thatís not the case from the members opposite, Mr. Speaker. So the government is very collaborative in its approach and certainly is not unilateral whatsoever.
Mr. Hardy: He seemed to omit the public, the Yukon people, in that little list. The employees know exactly what Iím talking about in this regard: First Nations demonstrating for the first time ever outside the Legislative Assembly because of unilateral and bullying action; the public knows exactly what happens when theyíre cut off boards and kicked off boards so friends of the party can be put on them ó thatís bullying action.
This is a government and a leader who operate by bullying the opposition. They bully the media ó weíve seen that on T.V. Weíve witnessed that. Weíve seen them bully First Nations, municipal governments, volunteer organizations; weíve seen them bully government workers, as Iíve already said; and weíve seen them try to bully private citizens who have a right to seek compensation when this government puts them out of business.
Will the Premier make a commitment right now to stop treating Yukon people in an abusive and dismissive manner, and will he start by changing his attitude here and now in the House?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thatís a strange one, Mr. Speaker. I kind of like that question because I think the optics the Yukon public is seeing here in this House are quite the opposite of what the leader of the official opposition is suggesting, and who is bullying whom?
Frankly, the evidence thatís out there in this territory is clear: collaboration is the fundamental principle of this government and Iíve listed some of the examples, and there are many more. The Yukon economy did not happen by being unilateral; it happened by working with the federal government on our financial position; it happened by working with the mining industry to bring them back to the territory; it happened by working with the oil and gas sector. For the first time in 30 years, a drilling program took place in this territory, which has increased our own-source revenues.
These are again examples of collaboration and a cooperative approach, unlike that of the members opposite. We will continue to govern in that manner, Mr. Speaker. Furthermore, we intend to do more and build on what weíve accomplished to date in leading this territory toward an even better and brighter future than theyíve experienced to date under this governmentís watch.
Mr. Hardy: † Yukoners are really fed up to the teeth with the Premierís attitude and the Premier taking credit for the work of so many other people. Theyíre fed up with the broken promises, and thereís a list of them. Theyíre fed up with the secrecy. Thatís constant over on the other side. Theyíre very, very fed up with the favouritism that we have witnessed and everybody else has witnessed.
You know, Mr. Speaker, theyíre fed up with the continual power struggles in Cabinet and the lack of respect for any opinion that is different from the Premierís, and theyíre fed up with the Premier using their hard-earned tax dollars like his own treasure chest to spend on whatever agenda he feels or the Governor of Alaska wants to pursue, and we have already witnessed that as well.
Speaker: The Chair has allowed a lot of latitude in this Question Period. I understand that the leader of the official opposition has a process that he is putting forward. However, it has bordered on being out of order for the majority of the Question Period, and I would just ask the honourable member to consider that. You have the floor. You have another 30 seconds to finish asking your questions. Please carry on.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will try to be nice to the Premier. Now, I am going to try to do a favour for the Premier on the other side. Before somebody else on that side is driven out of Cabinet or out of government and comes over to this side and puts that government into a minority position, which could possibly bring forward an election, which I know many of the people in this territory want, will the Premier set a date for the next election for the people of this territory and for us in here and abide by it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member knows full well what the end-date for this mandate is. Thatís ahead of us. We continue to govern, as we were elected to do, and we will continue that process throughout the course of our mandate.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has made this insinuation of favouritism. Well, this government can be criticized in any way the members opposite would like to, but the one thing that is important here is we have showed favouritism: favouritism for this territory, favouritism for the people in it, favouritism for building them a better and brighter future.
Ask Yukoners today: is this territory in better shape now than three years ago? It is financially; it is economically; it is health-wise; it is in education and it is in our social fabric. It is better and Yukoners will pass judgement on us, on what weíve done and on what we intend to do in the future, as they will on the members opposite.
I would caution the leader of the official opposition not to get too far ahead of himself.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
Notice of government private membersí business
Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), Iíd like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, November 30, 2005. They are Motion No. 541, standing in the name of the Member for Southern Lakes, and Motion No. 524, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Cathers: 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 acting government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. The matter under discussion is Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works. 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.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Highways and Public Works ó continued
Chair: The matter before Committee of the Whole is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. The matter under debate is Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works. We will continue with general debate.
Ms. Duncan: Yesterday, in discussing the supplementary funding required for Highways and Public Works, I reviewed a few questions with the minister and I was just taking the opportunity to have a quick look at yesterdayís Hansard. We discussed at length the permafrost issues and technical difficulties on the north Alaska Highway. I appreciate very much the minister following up on my suggestion to work with Yukoners on this particular issue. The minister very kindly followed up on my suggestion about distributing the brochure on highways and highway construction to all Yukon residences this summer. That has been very well received, and I appreciate him following up so that weíre all on the same page in explaining to our visitors and our friends the challenges that are encountered by Department of Highways and Public Works in dealing with that particular section of the road.
We also talked about the heavy equipment rental contracts, and I understand that what the minister committed to is the analysis of the HERC fund and the contracts being tabled in the Legislature on Monday.
Iím concerned that the mobile communications system ó we havenít quite connected all the dots of the original funding. Last year we voted a certain amount, and the minister has indicated the $2,436,000 funding in this supplementary is a revote, which I would take to mean that we havenít spent all the money originally voted. The minister has pointed out to the House that this is a live procurement issue ó in other words, weíre in the middle of a bidding process ó so itís very difficult for him to share too much detail. But if he could provide any more information on that ó how weíve spent the money to date with Partnerships B.C., and in evaluating the work that has been done and what has been spent and how it is anticipated the balance will be spent ó I would appreciate that.
The minister also carefully provided an explanation several times in the House about the additional monies and the timelines for the airport reconstruction work. I appreciate the information and I wonít ask the minister to needlessly repeat that.
When we left debate, however, we were discussing the Red Line train. Itís an asset of the Department of Highways and Public Works but the agreement is with Economic Development. I guess the best way to start the questioning this afternoon would be for the minister to elaborate further. He says 37 jobs were created with the purchase of this train, and he also pointed out the asset is owned by the Government of Yukon, Department of Highways and Public Works, but the use of the asset, if you will, is through Economic Development.
So, whoís going to evaluate if taxpayers got value for money? Is it Economic Development or Highways and Public Works? Could he just elaborate on his answer of yesterday afternoon?
I donít have a tremendous amount left to debate in the supplementary with the minister. I would like an elaboration of the MoCS funding ó the mobile communications system funding ó and if he could answer those questions on the Red Line train, there are just a couple of other issues and then Iíll be turning it over to my colleague from Mount Lorne.
Hon. Mr. Hart:†††††††††††† I donít have the exact numbers right here, but I could provide for her in writing what weíve expended on MoCS. Also with regard to the Red Line train, itís an asset thatís attributed to the Yukon government ó itís put into Highways and Public Works. It represents an arrangement made between the Department of Economic Development and White Pass & Yukon Railroad. Part of the arrangement was that we would purchase the train for X dollars; those dollars would be utilized by White Pass to repair and build the track from Lake Bennett down into Carcross. That took place last year, and that has created, like I said, 37 jobs. I will qualify that by indicating that I was informed of that by the Minister of Economic Development. In addition, it was to improve the roadbed ó railway, that is ó to get the train into Carcross coming from Lake Bennett. The objective was for White Pass to promote the line, market the line, and get some tourism into Carcross. Part of that deal was also to lease back the train from us and use it. We have received the lease payment from White Pass ó that has taken place for this year. However, White Pass is still having difficulty marketing the program, and I guess, for further details, the member opposite can question the Minister of Economic Development relating to that. But in essence, the asset has been transferred to the Department of Highways and Public Works. We keep it in our yards for use in the Department of Economic Developmentís agreement with White Pass, when called upon to do so.
Ms. Duncan: There are a number of questions arising out of the ministerís response. We own, under this arrangement, this asset. So could the minister refresh the Houseís memory and the publicís memory: what are the dates on this agreement? What is the expiry? And there is a certain cost associated with keeping this asset.
The reason Iím asking the minister these detailed questions about this is that the money is voted in his department. So the Minister of Economic Development might be implementing the agreement, but he has responsibility for it because of the money. With every other piece of equipment ó for example, the graders we own, the dump trucks we own ó the minister and his Cabinet colleagues set the equipment charge-out rates; it seems to me that thatís a Cabinet discussion once a year. This is another piece of equipment. We know what the value is of having that equipment. We know what it is charged out at. Is there an evaluation of the agreement and of owning this asset? Has there been a Management Board submission, a Cabinet document prepared that says, yes, we got value for money, or no, we didnít? And I want the minister to restate for the record: did in fact White Pass live up to their agreement, and did they pay their end of it?
As the minister well knows, weíve had discussions about other corporate entities and whether or not theyíve paid their bills. So I think that question is going to come under Community Services, whether are not Argus has paid their bill. So it seems to me the last time we talked about that it was in discussions. So Iíll leave that one for Community Services ó heads up for the minister that itís coming.
This asset is in Highways and Public Works. Did we get value for money, what is the shelf life of the agreement, and what is the cost of keeping this asset?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The lease payment for the Red Line train for the 2005 season was paid by White Pass & Yukon Railroad. The value for dollars ó I guess we would have to state that that value was provided for and identified by Economic Development.
The cost of maintaining the train is basically storage in our yard right now, so we are not incurring any real costs per se on that particular unit.
Depending on what comes out of discussions with White Pass & Yukon Railroad between now and the spring, we will know what the use will be for that particular unit. Thatís what we have as far as the Red Line train goes.
As I said, the value is provided by the White Pass & Yukon Railroad based on records maintained for that piece of equipment ó an agreed-to price between Economic Development and White Pass & Yukon Railroad.
Ms. Duncan: Now that the federal election has been called and we all know when weíre going to the polls, there is, of course, unfinished business with the Government of Canada. In the ministerís department, that includes the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund applications. The minister has a puzzled look on his face.
The Canadian strategic infrastructure fund applications ó what is outstanding. We are in the middle of a writ period, so what happens to this funding? Itís not necessarily like the health funding that was put in trust by the Government of Canada. Do we have outstanding applications? Do we have outstanding payments weíre waiting for? Are we waiting for Canada to say yes on some applications and then we might get the funding? Or is some of this funding at risk, in light of the federal election period?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Phase 1 of the CSIF program was basically Highways and Public Works, years 1 and 2 are now complete, year 3 will include next summer, and we will be submitting our claims as normal, but the funding under CSIF 1 is not at risk.
Ms. Duncan: Funding under CSIF 1 ó the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund 1 ó is not at risk. Are there any funding applications? Iím sorry, I didnít hear the ministerís response. It seems to me this funding was used for bridge repair, and partly, it seems to me, for the bridge at Johnsons Crossing. Perhaps the minister could outline what the projects funded were. Is there nothing outstanding under this fund?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The CSIF funding for phase 1 was basically to do with highways and public works, which included roads and bridges. Years 1 and 2 have been completed, as far as the identified projects were concluded. We have one year remaining of funding in that particular process and donít believe thereís any risk of losing our funding in that because it has been previously identified and committed to, and we are submitting our claims as normal.
These projects had been identified and, as I said, have been cleared with Ottawa, and we are maintaining our normal operations with regard to claims against this particular fund.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that, Mr. Chair. The minister has stated that the funding is not at risk. A number of projects are managed under the public works side of the ministerís responsibility. I would just like to ask about one project that has come up many times in Question Period, the Watson Lake health centre. This was sole sourced. It was done under a different minister; nonetheless it is a public work that is being undertaken in the Yukon. To date, a portion of the health centre in Watson Lake has been sole sourced. Will the minister make a commitment that the balance of the work on the Watson Lake health centre will be publicly tendered as opposed to sole sourced? Public works are under this ministerís responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The authority to manage the work that is being done on the Watson Lake health centre has been delegated to the Department of Health and Social Services, and that is who is managing that particular project.
Ms. Duncan: All right, thank you. We will reserve that question for the acting Health minister then. It is a question that the contracting community is very concerned about, and the minister does have property management and project management and public works within his purview. Perhaps he would like to extend my lobbying of him to lobby the acting Health minister on behalf of the contractors.
The last question I have for the minister at this point in time is around the Dawson sewage lagoon applications. Perhaps he may wish that I wait for Community Services, or he might want to deal with them now. Could I have a status update on them, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I prefer to discuss this under Community Services. I will advise the member opposite that the department is working within the confines of the court order, and we are following what we need to in order to ensure that weíre making advancements on the Dawson sewage system.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to thank the minister and his officials for their responses over the last day and a half with regard to the questions on the supplementary budget. I appreciate the minister enlightening the House and the public on these expenditures. It has been difficult times for the Department of Highways and Public Works ó in particular with the recent weather patterns ó and I would like to thank them for their work in keeping Yukoners safe.
Mr. Cardiff: I just have a few quick questions for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. I requested some information on October 19 regarding the rural roads program. Specifically I asked for a list of projects, including the locations, the costs of the projects and the contracts awarded. I would still be happy to receive that ó either by a legislative return or by a letter in the near future, if possible. When I made the request, apparently there was an additional $55,000 in funding approved in the budget for the rural roads program, and I was wondering how that had been allotted? If he could send that information over at some point in the near future, I would be happy to receive that.
The minister has stated that thereís a big demand for the rural roads program. Iím just wondering if there is any money in this supplementary budget to expand the rural roads program, or if they are anticipating increasing the amount of the allocation in next yearís budget for the rural roads program, because of the high demand for this program?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have been advised by my staff that they are in the final stages of completing the draft letter for the member opposite with regard to his request for information on the route, and it should be coming to him shortly.
In regard to the rural roads program, as I stated, itís a very widely sought-after program for improvements to rural areas, and we will look at the situation in the main budget for next year for this particular line item. Depending on our resources, we will look at dealing with it; whether we increase the monies under that item will depend on where we are budget-wise.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for that answer. I appreciate that, and I look forward to receiving the letter and finding out in the spring just how much money goes into the rural roads program.
On a similar topic, in my riding, there is whatís known as the triple-C road. I made a request earlier in the fall to have it graded because it was wash-boarded. I think there needs to be something more done with the road. I believe the road is maintained by the department. What it really needs is an upgrade. What happens in the spring is it gets really muddy.
This is a different road than the one I was talking with the minister earlier on this summer. This is on the Carcross Road ó itís called the triple C road ó and there are a number of people living on that road. I put in a request to have it graded because it was really a wash-board and Iím not sure ó it did get done, but, from what I could gather, the job that was done didnít seem to meet with the requirements. There were large rocks left on the road.
I think they need to have a look at that for next year, to perhaps do some upgrading on the triple-C road. Could the minister commit to looking at that, at least?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I could commit that the department would look at the triple-C road. I may suggest the member opposite contact those individuals on that road and ask them to make a formal application under the rural roads program. That would just formalize it for us to look at it.
Mr. Cardiff: That kind of opens up a bit of a can of worms to some extent. Itís interesting that they are to bring forward an application. I did have a constituent who brought forward an application on a road where there are three families living, and the department said they couldnít do that. That was along a side road off Gentian Lane. At the same time, the road into the Annie Lake Golf Course was upgraded in record time, with no application. How the minister can justify that, Iím not sure.
I only have one more question, and it was a question I raised last Thursday when the chair of the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board was in. The question is about the government contracting and making it a requirement to have the certificate of recognition program that is being administered by the Construction Safety Association, I believe. The Construction Safety Association has recommended that the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board lobby the government and work with the government toward making the certificate of recognition a requirement on government contracts.
There may be a threshold; maybe it wouldnít be on smaller contracts, but on government contracts.
Itís to ensure that workplaces are safe and that the contractors have safety programs in place and it reduces injuries on the job, makes the workplace safer and, in the long run, it will actually reduce the cost to the taxpayer, both for the compensation system and for projects, because there would be fewer injuries.
The board chair indicated that they have had some discussions with the government and that there were some positive things coming out of that. What I would like the minister to do is to tell me where he is at with regard to the certificate of recognition program and making it a requirement on government contracts.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the chair of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board indicated, they had been discussing the situation with the government. Public Service Commission is the lead on government policy. Highways and Public Works is implementing it in our workplaces. We are following the current model used by the City of Whitehorse. However, we anticipate it will be about a year before we get into the situation the member opposite is discussing.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Iíd like to thank the minister for his answers and thank the department officials for being helpful today. I appreciate it. As the Member for Porter Creek South said, weíve experienced some trying times with regard to the weather lately, and our hats are off to all those employees in Highways and Public Works who are out there doing a great job keeping the roads safe.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. There has been a tremendous effort of late in right-of-way clearing along the various Yukon highways. Can the minister advise the House if this program is going to continue, and is there additional funding in the supplementary for this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We donít have the extra money in the supplementary for vegetation. We will continue with the program next year. We have a vegetation management system. We will be following that, and depending upon the resources allocated to this program next year, that will determine the amount of work that gets completed.
On the issue with regard to brushing, we tried an experiment in the wintertime once before, and we didnít have very good success, as the member opposite well knows. It cost a substantial amount of money to clean it up in the following season. We are very cognizant of the vegetation that is growing on the sides of all the roadways throughout the Yukon. Weíre endeavouring to do our best to keep it at a minimum and try to catch up, where possible, on areas that provide some serious road hazards to the travelling public.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given that there were a number of new highways in the Yukon named as part of the national highway system, the standards for those highways require a certain right-of-way clearing on both sides of the highway. Is it the governmentís intention to bring all the highways in the system up to that standard, and what will be the timelines for doing so?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The new designation of roads is considered northern and remote, versus the core roads ó i.e. the north Klondike and Dempster, versus the Alaska Highway. We are undertaking a review right now, trying to determine what the specifications will be for those two particular routes. Once we are in possession of that criteria, we will look at trying to bring them up to the standard that is determined.
Mr. Jenkins: I wasnít aware of any designation under the national highway system for northern roads, Mr. Chair. Perhaps the minister could apprise the House as to where this designation came from. There is only one standard and that standard is for a certain right-of-way clearing on both sides of the highway. Where did this new undertaking come from? If weíre opting into a system, which we have done for the north Klondike Highway, the right-of-way is not in conformity with existing standards, let alone the standards that are recognized for highways in the national highways system?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The core designation criteria were established in 1988, and the northern and remote rural aspect was as a new designation under the national highway system. It was recently successfully agreed to in addition to the feeder aspect that was identified as new national highway standards.
Mr. Jenkins: I was aware of the new standard, but just for feeders, not for the highways themselves. Could the minister just confirm that, on the principal highways, there is a designation for northern routes? I was told it was just the feeders, such as the Dempster Highway. That is not a principal highway, like the Klondike Highway, which originates in Skagway and terminates at the Klondike River corner.
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are three designations, as I mentioned. First, thereís the core, which is the Alaska Highway and the south Klondike Highway; two is the feeder, which we donít have in the Yukon; and three is the northern remote, which is basically the Dempster and north Klondike.
However, Iím prepared to provide the member opposite with a written designation of just exactly what all the designations of the routes are, if he so wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: Under the designation, gross vehicle weight will be increased year-round and is maintained year-round. Currently, the north Klondike Highway is only to the standard as far as Tatchun Hill, then 75 percent legal axle loading or less is brought into effect during the spring breakup, but the Klondike Highway, right from Skagway right through to Tatchun Hill and then right through to the mine site at Faro, was all 100-percent legal axle load 12 months of the year.
When will 100-percent legal axle load be made available on the north Klondike Highway, right to the Klondike River corner?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With respect to 100-percent GVW commitment, we can get into arguments about what it is but, depending on our resources, weíll look at what we have for upgrading the road between Carmacks and the Klondike corner when we get to that particular aspect, in addition to confirming with the federal government whether or not we can obtain funding for this type of upgrade on that particular road.
Mr. Jenkins: † What I heard the minister say is that to upgrade the highway under the national highway system to the standards of the national highway system has not yet been confirmed with Canada?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is nothing specific from the federal government. Itís on a year-by-year basis and we compete with all the other jurisdictions for those monies. In some years we may be successful and in other years we may not be.
Mr. Jenkins: Whatís the lead time on this initiative? How far in advance do we know and how far into the planning process can we get and how far ahead do we have applications moving forward?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The new designations under the national highway system, northern and remote as well as the feeder system, have just been declared. We havenít got into any discussion with the federal government. Given the recent election, we anticipate it will be some time before we can get into that particular venue. In addition, the funding relative to major projects under highways will probably take place under something similar to the CSIF program ó itíll be CSIF 3 or CSIF 4 that we anticipate it will be under.
Mr. Jenkins: Just a point of clarification. I can understand the Dempster Highway being referred to as a northern and remote highway. Is the member opposite referring to the north Klondike Highway as northern and remote? Is that its designation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That is correct.
Mr. Jenkins: Other than the Alaska Highway, all other highways in the Yukon are northern and remote or feeders ó is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, the Alaska Highway is the only core that we have designated in the Yukon and the other two designated routes in the Yukon fall under remote, which are the north Klondike Highway and the Dempster Highway. My apologies ó the south Klondike Highway is classified as a core highway.
Mr. Jenkins: Thatís very interesting, Mr. Chair. So, the highway from Haines to Haines Junction is also northern and remote. Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will try to go through this for the member opposite just to make sure. The Alaska Highway and the south Klondike Highway are considered core highways. The northern or remote highways are considered the Dempster and the north Klondike. As I indicated before, those two designations are brand new under the national highway system and the criteria are being developed for those particular items as far as funding goes.
In addition, the member opposite talks about the Haines to Haines Junction highway, and that is considered part of the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise the House when the highway from Haines, Alaska to Haines Junction became part of the Alaska Highway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will have to correct what I just said. I have been advised that the Alaska Highway and the south Klondike Highway are the only core roads under the national highway system and that the Dempster and north Klondike are new designations under the new national highway system, as northern and remote. There are no other designations under the national highway system in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the south Klondike Highway is a core route, and given the road from Haines, Alaska to Haines Junction is a major arterial route into the Yukon and indeed into Alaska, it doesnít have a designation ó can the minister confirm that, Mr. Speaker? And if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska road does not meet the criteria identified on the national highway system.
Mr. Jenkins: So could the minister advise the House what is its designation? And the standard of that highway, Mr. Chair, is, to the best of my knowledge, equal to the standard ó and probably in excess of the standard ó on the south Klondike Highway. So why the variance? They both link up to major ferry terminals in the State of Alaska and are highways into the Yukon? Whatís the issue here? Why is there such a difference, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Haines Junction-to-Haines road does not meet the criteria as set out by the national highway system, as designated by the federal government. The condition of the road, shall we say, if you want to call it that, or the standard provided from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska, was an agreement made between the federal government and the American government under the Shakwak agreement, and that is why the condition of that particular section of the road is there. But there is no designation on this particular route from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska under the national highway system other than what I indicated. We have two routes, that being the Alaska Highway itself and the south Klondike as our core, and our northern, which was just recently designated as the Dempster and the north Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: † It sounds like weíve taken a step backward in some areas. I can fully understand the issue of the Alaska Highway being the major core highway, but I canít comprehend why the case couldnít be made for an equal core road for the south Klondike Highway and the Haines Junction-to-Haines, Alaska route, given that the standard of construction probably far exceeds many of our other routes and highways here in the Yukon.
Can we dwell on this issue, and will the minister be making a case to bring that highway into the core highway, as well as the north Klondike Highway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to the criteria on the national highway system, it deals with more than actual highway structure. It deals with usage, it deals with volume, and it deals with the significance to Canada. There is a public document we can table that lists all the criteria and rationale for the designations throughout Canada, if he wishes, and weíre prepared to do that.
Is it a step backward? I disagree with the member opposite. Under this process we were successful in getting the north Klondike and Dempster into the national highway system, which we didnít have before. Yes, they are classified as northern and remote, but at least theyíre on the system, and they were agreed to.
Itís also a fairly long highway, and weíve been very successful in getting the other jurisdictions to support our request for this particular aspect. I would state that this is a very positive sense for us. It will take some time to work out some of the criteria base and funding requirements for the northern road. I believe that when it comes through weíll be successful in obtaining a portion of that funding.
Mr. Jenkins: † For the record, the government has entered into an agreement with Canada to have these highways ó the north Klondike and the Dempster ó become part of the national highway system. The core route through the Yukon is the Alaska Highway and the south Klondike Highway, but not the Haines highway. All the other designations are northern and remote highways. There has to be an advantage to the Yukon to get involved in this process. How much in the way of dollars will be flowing to the Yukon as a consequence of this arrangement with Canada, and when will that start? Because this designation could be used to stop any undertaking by way of working or upgrading until such time as we see this new federal money. Is this money, if any, going to be flowing in the very near future for the upgrading of these highway systems ó the northern and remote highways?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will reiterate with regard to the highways. The Alaska Highway and the south Klondike are considered core under the national highway system. The north Klondike and the Dempster are considered northern and remote, which is a new designation under the highway system. Those are the only routes that are designated under the national highway system.
Canada has recognized the Dempster and north Klondike as part of their national highway system, as I stated earlier. The advantage is that we are now eligible under the Canada strategic infrastructure fund. Previously those particular areas were not. The CSIF is being held up because of this election process. As I indicated earlier, it may be many months now, depending on who gets elected and if this program continues or whatever. I believe the issue is that the designation of the route of the north Klondike Highway and the Dempster are very positive aspects, as recognized under the national highway system. I believe that now that they are, there is another source of funding that the Yukon government can reach into to get some improvements on those highways.
I canít tell the member opposite exactly when thatís going to take place because, as I just explained, the criteria for the northern remote system is still being worked on. In addition, the Canadian strategic infrastructure funding is going to be subject to the election process, and I believe it will probably be four to six months before we will be able to look anywhere positive on that particular event. We will be applying for funding under the program when it becomes available and once we have criteria that have been identified under the national highway system.
Mr. Jenkins: So for the record, Mr. Speaker, Yukon is under agreement with Canada for this new initiative, for the designation of the north Klondike and the Dempster as part of the national highway system as northern and remote highways and any funding that would be forthcoming is subject to the federal election that is underway, because there has been no money approved under the budget envelope currently. This initiative is basically another federal Liberal election commitment. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The national highway system has been recognizing our highway since 1988 through that process. With regard to funding, yes, that is tied up under the election process. Hopefully, the funding will take place under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, as I mentioned, but that is the process in which we operate. The national highway system has designated the remote system as a new category under the national highway system, and the North Klondike and the Dempster have been recognized under that particular agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: † We now have an agreement with Canada, with the results of any potential funding to be realized for Yukon pending this election. Would the department have any order of magnitude of the funds that may flow to the Yukon for these highway upgrading initiatives? Has any due diligence been undertaken or any assessment of the potential amount of funds that may flow to Yukon under CSIF for this northern remote highway system?
Hon. Mr. Hart: All jurisdictions have recognized the national highway system, not just the Yukon. Funding levels are controlled by Canada, in particular Infrastructure Canada, and thatís currently under discussion.
Mr. Jenkins: Will the department or the minister be going back to the federal government to see if the Haines highway can be upgraded in stature to a core route? If we can make the case for the south Klondike Highway, we certainly must be able to make the case for the Haines highway, and if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Once I table the criteria document under the national highway system, Iím sure it will become evident to the member opposite why the designation is as it is.
Mr. Jenkins: That it has to benefit Canada is my understanding of it. Could the member explain how the highway from, letís say, Haines Junction to the Alaska border ó and the volume of traffic there, which is not local traffic; itís not Canadian traffic. By and large, thatís U.S.-bound traffic, either north- or south-bound, and a lot of it originates from the ferry system in Haines, Alaska.
So it must be to our advantage to upgrade the highway system, as much as possible, to the national highway standards and get them designated as such. I would see this as a very positive move. I would encourage the minister to go back and look at this again. Will he undertake to do so?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We pursue Canada continually, trying to get designations for our routes in the Yukon and will continue to do so ó to encourage Canada to look at our routes, to see if we can get additional routes identified under the national highway system in order to improve our system.
Mr. Jenkins: † I think it is an issue of more than just pursuing it, Mr. Speaker, with Canada. I think itís ó take a logical approach to the issue and look at the highway systems and there has to be an advantage, not only for Canada, but for Yukon and I would see the designation as applying to a number of other routes in the Yukon, other than ones mentioned by the minister.
Letís leave that alone for now and go on to another couple of areas. In my community of Dawson, Front Street is badly in need of asphalt, new pavement. Itís in need of reconstruction; itís in need of drainage, which was part of the dike plan that was overseen by Community Services and Highways and Public Works. The last time that Front Street was chipsealed, Mr. Chair, was quite some time ago. Itís broken up and it now consists of more patches than it does actual chipseal.
Itís going to take hot asphalt to bring this up to the standard adequate drainage. The last time it was chipsealed, the oil ran all through the community and it incurred a great cost for the Department of Highways and Public Works to send the cleaners up to the community to clean up a lot of the floors in the businesses along the Front Street. My constituents donít want to see that happen again, Mr. Chair, but we do want to see a road thatís more than potholes and great big patches. Some of the cold patches now stretch a block long.
Where is the department at with plans to provide for surface drainage, to provide for adequate shoulders and to provide for hot asphalt on the government highway, the Klondike Highway, through the City of Dawson? Because Front Street is a highway, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We recognize that work on Front Street needs to be done, and it is part of the north Klondike Highway; however, we will be looking at work that is done on there, and we will be discussing the situation with regard to the road. We will be discussing this with Dawson City on their involvement with maintaining curbs and gutters on Front Street. We will have to be looking at our engineering work on that particular aspect also. As the member opposite well knows, it is difficult to drain water away from Front Street, so we will have to look at that particular aspect and deal with that situation when the results come back.
Mr. Jenkins: For the ministerís information, Mr. Chair, there are no city curbs and gutters along Front Street. It is a highway under the total care and control of the Yukon government, from a maintenance standpoint through to its upgrading and chipsealing. Why has this section of highway in Dawson been ignored for so long, and why is it not being brought up to the appropriate standards? It is a disgrace. It is a deterrent to our visitor industry and to the citizens of Dawson. Why is there not work underway to bring this section up to the appropriate standards? Asphalt it ó you canít use chipseal in the community for a number of reasons. Chipseal will not sustain vehicles stopping and starting. It will not sustain turns. It is very, very good on a highway that has light traffic, but in high traffic areas and high density areas it will not work. The Department of Highways and Public Works knows full well that is the case, Mr. Chair.
One only has to look at the community of Faro when they chipsealed and asphalted their community. The intersections were done with hot asphalt and the main runs were chipsealed.
When the highway in front of Dawson was last asphalted in the 1970s, it lasted for a considerable period of time ó I believe it was about 20 years. Since that time, it has been chipped twice and both times its life has been considerably reduced.
I am looking for a commitment from the minister to have the engineering done in this supplementary to upgrade and provide for the drainage thatís necessary and to have this work undertaken in this next summer. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Currently the big issue in his particular riding is the future of the Dawson bridge. We have some definite engineering issues to upgraDE Front Street. I donít disagree, as I mentioned earlier, that the road will need some repair; however, as a priority, Front Street may not rate as highly as some other areas the government currently faces throughout the Yukon.
So weíll be looking at these issues for the member opposite when we look at our budget in the mains.
Mr. Jenkins: † There are vehicle counters at the entrance to Dawson that give a very clear indication as to the volume of traffic that Front Street has. To use ó letís call it what is it, Mr. Chair ó the excuse that weíre waiting for the bridge to be built before we pave Front Street is not acceptable. Thereís no one who would like to see a bridge in Dawson City more than I and the majority of my constituents, but that said, that might very well not occur in the foreseeable future.
So to use that as a justification for not paving Front Street or re-paving Front Street again, I find totally unacceptable. Iím looking for more of a commitment and not that there are priorities more justifiable elsewhere, Mr. Chair. Dawson has been ignored. Dawson has been ignored for quite some time. In fact, if you look at the amount of chipsealing and cold patch that has been put on Front Street, it has probably exceeded the cost of paving it. So Iím looking for a commitment that the engineering work will be done and this will be tendered subject to legislative approval the next budget cycle ó the paving of Front Street in Dawson City.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to the member opposite and discussion on the bridge, I remind the member opposite the economy of scale available to YTG for a bridge and Front Street would be considerable. It should not be discounted.
In regard to whether Dawson has been neglected, I would advise the member opposite that we are rebuilding the Callison to Crocus Bluff. We just spent millions on the Callison Crocus Bluff Road. So I donít believe the member opposite can say weíre ignoring the community wholesale.
Mr. Jenkins: The Callison to Dawson upgrade was justified under the NDP government based on vehicle traffic counters. So that goes back some seven or eight years. That engineering work was in place, and that project was ready to go when the Yukon Party came to power. It was delayed by one year. Now, that has been completed, save and except that somebody forgot to order the light bulbs for the 20 lights odd along the highway, and theyíve only recently arrived and been installed. But that said, thatís history. Let us look forward to the planning.
I canít get my head around the memberís reasoning that there are other priorities of the government when Front Street is a main public highway, it has the vehicle count to justify hot asphalt, and yet the government refuses to do it. It appears the excuse is that we donít want to do it until we find out what weíre going to do with the bridge.
Can the minister just confirm that the engineering for the crowning of Front Street and storms will be done this budget cycle and that, subject to legislative approval, Front Street will be asphalted this coming summer? Something has to be done with this route. It is just one pothole to the next. Iím looking for that undertaking, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Front Street will be considered in light of all other priorities, as I mentioned to the member opposite. Engineering isnít completed and can only be committed to in light of other engineering priorities, but we will consider it, like all other priorities, as I mentioned previously to the member opposite.
I will also indicate that we recognize the condition of Front Street and we will take that into consideration when we look at our mains for next year and improvements we plan to make on the north Klondike Highway.
Mr. Jenkins: † Well, given that the north Klondike Highway under the Canadian highway system ends at the Klondike corner, how can we say that about the highway in Dawson City? I still didnít get a definite commitment ó it will be looked at in the total scale and scope of things, but Iím afraid thatís too little, too late. This should have been paved about five or six years ago, Mr. Chair. Weíll leave that one alone and weíll go on to another area, Mr. Chair.
The Dome Road, which is another highway just outside the municipal boundaries of Dawson, is another government highway. The chipseal is falling off it. In fact the grade on it is such that it is very hard to keep chipseal on it. Is this scheduled to be chipsealed? Is there engineering work? Is there anything in this supplementary for that route, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in discussions with the City of Dawson on this particular section of road, both on their section and our section. Itís really too early for us to commit for 2006-07, but we are in discussions with Dawson on this particular road and when itís going to take place. Weíll be bringing it up in our mains.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I canít but encourage the minister to move forward. There are sections that are sloughing. The City of Dawson was forced to take over this highway by YTG, and they subsequently had to take it back because there was no ability within the city to maintain the chipseal. Thatís the issue. It is a very famous visitor route, and it will be a burden on the backs of the taxpayers of the community of Dawson if the government doesnít upgrade it and doesnít chipseal it again. Look at all the areas that the government has been remiss in addressing in Dawson over the last three years; there have been many. The upgrading of the highway system coming into Dawson ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
†Chair: Order please. Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: It seems to me that the minister has indicated that the issue being raised by the Member for Klondike will be taken under consideration and that the Member for Klondikeís comments this afternoon are starting to border on the verge of needless repetition. They are not focused on a line in the supplementary budget, and the member himself has said that the issue at hand is the supplementary budget. He has also and often been heard to say ďQuestion asked and answered.Ē I believe the minister has answered.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. Thereís no need for further discussion. Weíre still in general debate; there is no point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: † One of the other areas where it looks like thereís a lapse in Dawson is the fencing around the Dawson City Airport. It was tendered last year, and then it wasnít awarded for some reason. I couldnít get to the bottom of it. Then right near the end of the summer, in the early fall when the ground was freezing, the Department of Highways and Public Works, which didnít award the contract, wanted to award the contract and wanted the proponent, the low bidder, to undertake its installation. This has been carried over into the next summer.
Could the minister advise why it wasnít awarded within the 30 days? Why was there a considerable lag before the award was granted? Why did the department wait so long? What was the reason for the late awarding? How much additional cost will be incurred for not awarding it within the appropriate timelines?
Given that itís steel fencing, thereís the cost of material. The minister might suggest this is paid for totally by Canada, but there is a limit. They have a contract with the Yukon for this undertaking.
What were the issues surrounding the fence around the Dawson City Airport?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite is absolutely right. The funding is 100-percent recoverable from ACAP and it will be installed next year. It has been awarded and, as far as providing the details, we can respond in writing about what exactly happened with regard to the award.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Chair, there just doesnít appear to be any reason why the award didnít go out within the 30 days. Why did it take so much longer? The minister didnít answer the question as to how much more additional costs will be incurred with the delay of tendering it and with the work going on next year. Whatís the additional cost, and will that be borne by Canada or by Yukon?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: † While the minister is deliberating with his officials on an answer, on the point of time this afternoon ó because the opposition parties have to work together to schedule time on the departments, and having the independent member as a wildcard is affecting our time ó I would like to suggest maybe the independent member should ask the government for a briefing on the supplementary. Perhaps with the new government House leader, the request might be granted.
Chair: Order please. While it was an interesting suggestion, itís not a point of order. We are in general debate, where all members will have an opportunity to ask questions. Weíll continue with debate.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We do have funding in our supplementary on the individual line basis. I would be more than happy to discuss further on that in particular once we get to line-by-line discussion.
Mr. Jenkins: † With respect to the fencing, are there additional costs that will not be covered by Canada that will have to be picked up by Yukon? Thatís the issue, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated previously, the funding will be 100-percent recoverable from ACAP.
Mr. Jenkins: Letís move on to the bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City. This was originally proceeded with as a pilot project and a request for qualifications was answered by three firms. One firm, Epcom, was disqualified for reasons, I am given to understand, of having no financial viability component ó even though it was clearly indicated SNC Capital ó and no northern experience. Given that the consortium in Epcom consists of a number of First Nations here in the Yukon as well as a major Yukon contractor as well as the EPC ó engineering, procurement and construction ó being Lavalin, I canít understand why theyíre disqualified and the basis for disqualification. It appears to be totally unreasonable.
Could the minister confirm that the officials who did the evaluation rejected Epcom from bidding on the bridge because they had no northern experience and because they didnít have the financial viability?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The procurement process analyzes many factors. The full process received due diligence through the committee. An external fairness audit was performed; the factors the members raise have in fact been considered for Epcom and had a significant impact on the submission. We are prepared to recommend giving the member opposite a full technical briefing, if he wishes, because many of these issues are beyond taking up here in the House.
Mr. Jenkins: † The bottom line is Epcom was rejected because of having no financial viability, even though they clearly indicated SNC Capital as being the funding vehicle. By the way, Mr. Chair, SNC Capital is financing the RAV line, which is in the billion dollar-plus range, a number of bridges in British Columbia and all across Canada and around the world. Iím afraid that is not an adequate reason for rejection.
At the same time, Epcom was rejected because they had no northern experience. They were referring to one of the subcontractors that also bid with one of the other proponents. That subcontractor has a major construction undertaking in Alaska. The last job Iím aware of him completing is a major concrete structure in Kodiak. There are also bridges this subcontractor has done in the Northwest Territories. Thereís a whole series of undertakings this subcontractor has done; yet, here in the Yukon, we consider him to have no northern experience.
One of the major shareholders in the consortium ó Epcom ó is a large contractor here in the Yukon. The justification for eliminating Epcom does not appear to be substantiated by the position taken by the review committee, and this just doesnít seem to have any merit, Mr. Chair. That said, the cost of the bridge, which was estimated at some $25 million to $30 million, came in at some $49 million. At what price would the Government of Yukon consider building the bridge in Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Epcom did not, after prompting, provide an adequate financial response to the process. Epcom did not provide adequate representation of northern experience in the conditions associated with Dawson City. With regard to when we will build a bridge ó as we stated before ó when it is reasonable and when it is economically viable.
Mr. Jenkins: † If a bridge could be built, predicated on the savings from not operating the ferry nor replacing the ferry, would the government proceed with it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The procurement process is completed, and the government has determined that we cannot build a bridge in Dawson for the value that was identified in the process.
Mr. Jenkins: That wasnít my question. Would the government consider a proposal, if the proposal were to construct the bridge for the value of the savings from the operation of the ferry, which is some $1.112 million a year, ongoing, and the replacement cost of the ferry in a couple of years? That would appear to be a very worthwhile and workable model, and I am advised that it can be done on a design/build/construct basis.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We can only look, as indicated previously, at the Dawson bridge if it is reasonable and economically viable, as I stated before and as this side of the House has stated before.
With regard to the building of the bridge, we are currently in the process of doing some environmental work on the bridge, as well as some engineering assessments, in addition to the request from Parks Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Weíre still looking at the possibility of building a bridge when the current conditions subside a bit and the cost of the bridge can be a little bit more determined.
Whether we do it on a public/private partnership or design/build, thatís up to the question in the future time. Right now, as I mentioned before, we finished a procurement process. The procurement process came up with a price that we did not feel we could support economically, and thus the project was cancelled until such time as we get something different in the process, and we donít anticipate that will happen shortly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that still didnít answer the question. The question for the minister is this: would the government consider a design/build if it could be done from the savings resulting from not operating the ferry, on an annualized basis, as well as its replacement cost in a few years? Itís an equation based on cost-savings and net savings and moving that money over into capital. Would the minister consider that approach?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Deputy Chair, you know, Iíve been trying to be cooperative with the member opposite. But I guess itís time to use his tactics. I fail to see any connection between the memberís line of questioning and our items under discussion, which is basically our supplementary.
Mr. Jenkins: † In the supplementary, there is a considerable amount of money for the Water Board and ongoing costs associated with the bridge. Thatís what Iím here to discuss ó options for the bridge that would deal with this in a straightforward manner, because there is the issue of net savings and the capital replacement cost of the ferry in a few yearsí time and amalgamating all of that pool of money and seeing if it would justify constructing a river crossing at Dawson City. Itís a business equation and business model. But itís obvious that the minister opposite is just going down the road of a process. Itís nothing to do with looking at options to build a bridge.
Once again, for the minister, would the minister consider building a bridge for the net savings on operating the ferry as well as the replacement cost of the ferry in a few yearsí time? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With all due respect to the member opposite, I think itís an interesting concept that he brings forth and thatís what it is: a concept. As I mentioned previously, we are continuing our work with regard to the bridge in Dawson City and dealing with the possibility of building a bridge there once it is economically viable. The member opposite has brought up a situation that may or may not be in place. We donít know what that opposition is going to be. Thatís something weíll have to consider in our next budget process. But I donít want to get too far down the road. I donít think the member opposite wants to get too far down the road. We have advanced quite a bit on the bridge issue in Dawson City and, regardless of the situation, I think we want to keep the options open. We have maintained our process. We will be continuing to work on that. When the government determines that we have an economic situation that we can fly with for a bridge over the river, we will take it.
Mr. Jenkins: † I would encourage the minister to look at what has transpired recently in the Northwest Territories. The lady whoís in charge of this area has just had this same situation arise, and they ended up doing a design/build at a considerable cost-savings over what was originally envisioned for the bridge. Iíll send over the name of the individual in the N.W.T. to speak with for an understanding of how they did it.
Weíre not here to reinvent the wheel. Letís look at two other areas where they have the same situation and theyíve constructed bridges. Theyíre doing it all the time through the N.W.T. and through British Columbia, through Alberta and Alaska. There are viable options, but we have to get an understanding of the business side of it.
Could the minister advise the House as to where weíre at with the overall presentation and when we expect the Water Board to rule on the bridge in Dawson City? Hearings recently took place in the community. Where is that at?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has supported a request from Parks Canada and they are Department of Fisheries and Oceansís regulatory agent, and DFO will allow Parks Canada between six and nine months to do a heritage or cultural review for the bridge, and the water licence will have to wait for the submission of that process to take place.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, at the end of the period of time, we have been engaged in a tremendous process but there is no product, once again, Mr. Chair. Just in closing off on that area, I would encourage the minister to contact officials in the N.W.T. and have a look at what they did with one of the recent bridges that is going to be constructed there very soon. It initially came in at an astronomical cost. They went the design/build route, and it came in at a level that was affordable. In the total equation, if the bridge at Dawson could be done for the net savings on the operation of the ferry as well as the capital replacement cost of the bridge, I see no problem in not supporting it.
Iíd like to explore with the minister a number of other initiatives that are contained within the supplementary with respect to the issue of mining roads in the Klondike district. The ongoing upgrading and opening of those roads at the beginning of the year ó will that continue or is it site-specific?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The department opens the roads in Dawson as part as our O&M. We open them as early as possible. It may not be early enough for the member opposite, but we go in there as early as we possibly can. We are also working on a committee with Energy, Mines and Resources to integrate our road plans with potential mining operators in the area. Last year, we were reasonably successful in assisting those people with upgrading the roads. Working with them and cooperating with them we have been able to upgrade some of the roads, and I think theyíve been reasonably satisfied with the work that was done last year. We are planning to, as I said, continue and integrate with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on this issue, and I look forward to our continued work with them.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Chair, there has been some progress made this last year, and Iíd like to thank the department for that progress. Could the minister just confirm that it will be the same level of expenditures this next go-round in this area as it has been in the past, the same order of magnitude of undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will commit to the member opposite that we will look at and consider our assistance to this program, depending upon what comes up in the mains with regard to next yearís budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Sewage treatment lagoons in the community of Dawson ó the force main and the lift stations will have to be contained within the highway right-of-way, and the force main will have to be attached to the Klondike River bridge. This will be the third attachment to the Klondike River bridge after the water main and the sewer force main, and there was the walkway that was added. Iím given to understand that there might be an issue surrounding the structural integrity of the bridge if a third force main were added in this area. Is that not an issue, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Again, I will stress that that is not part of the supplementary identified in the particular issue. With regard to the bridge, I will be more than happy to bring up that issue in next yearís mains.
Mr. Jenkins: † There is the issue of progress on secondary sewage for Dawson City. There is no money budgeted in Community Services or in Highways and Public Works for this capital undertaking and the city and the Government of Yukon are under court order for a specific date. Should the chosen system be a lagoon system, it would probably take a year and a half to obtain the land and to do the land planning and permitting before installing the lagoons. There are issues with the lagoons being upstream of the water supply for Dawson; there are issues with lagoons being centred in an area that is an industrial and a residential area. I guess when you are living in Whitehorse, you donít really worry about how the aroma is going to originate from a lagoon in a far off place like Dawson. But what are the plans, and can the government confirm that they are going to be able to meet the timelines for the installation of this? Because I canít see how, with that type of sewage treatment plant ó the government can meet the court-ordered date for its installation.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite again, I can see no relevance to the supplementary with regard to that question, and Iíll remind the member opposite that our staff ó our professionals ó are handling this situation. They are dealing with it in a professional manner, and we are doing our utmost. We intend to try to meet, wherever possible, the requirements provided for under the court order or any other order.
Mr. Jenkins: † Given that all this structure will have to be contained in the highway right-of-way, if itís located in Callison ó there are issues surrounding that initiative, and the design/build of the force main out there is certainly a major undertaking, but weíll leave that for another day and weíll go into a replacement for the MDMRS system.
We show an additional amount of $2.4 million for additional work. Could the minister explain why thereís a need at this juncture for that additional funding, given the original amount was just under $5 million? This would bring it up to about $7.5 million total cost incurred to date, with no selection on the system. How did we incur that tremendous cost without having some product?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If he were in the House yesterday afternoon, he would have heard me answer this question on several points, several times. We are in a live procurement for the MoCS. This is a revote of unspent funds and itís an estimate for this project. We cannot provide the member opposite with any financial details, as I said, because weíre in a live procurement, and itís merely a revote of what we estimate the cost will be.
Mr. Jenkins: I did read the Blues from yesterday and I did see a lot of questions that remained unanswered. I understand there is a live procurement process underway, the details of which canít come out. Can the minister assure the House that the costs are not on a runaway-type undertaking currently, given the original amount of budget envelope has been far exceeded and given thereís a revote? We donít know what weíre getting yet, whether itíll be a cell system that we can all access, along with the government ó that was the original intent. Where are we at in the live procurement process to the terms that will require this rollover or revote?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The budget will not be exceeded for 2004-05 or 2005-06. We are in a live procurement, as I mentioned several times. I cannot comment further than what has been currently in the public accounts. We canít comment on the level of service because there is a possibility that it would indicate one proponent over another. I tried to stress yesterday several times on this particular issue that we donít want to tip the hand, and we canít. I am sure the member opposite is well aware ó I hate to use that phrase ó of what is involved in that process, and we are trying to stick within that realm to ensure we have a fair and open process.
Mr. Jenkins: The last time the House examined an initiative of this nature, it was called Connect Yukon, and it was another initiative where the understanding of what was going to be provided was A, and what was subsequently provided and the cost was B, and there was quite a gap between them. Iím just hoping we donít see a repeat of that initiative.
Is it anticipated that there may be balloon payments in this initiative, like Connect Yukon, which saw a tremendous balloon payment down the road of millions of dollars ó some $7 million ó to have bandwidth extended all across the Yukon that primarily serves AT&T Alascom, where they rent a lot of space. It also serves the Mackenzie Valley now, Iím given to understand. But the bandwidth has extended to the border in Beaver Creek ó the fibre optic as well as up, and then, from Barlow Lake it goes to microwave ó so there is bandwidth going north as well.
Where are we at in the financial envelope? Or is the member not at liberty to discuss that? Iím seeking his assurances that this is not another Connect Yukon where we ask for A and we get B, and then a few years later we all forget about it.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to try to address this as much as possible. MoCS basically equals the cell plus the radio. Both are under separate procurement. Both are under live procurement at the present time. Management Board will make the final decision. I cannot comment on the payment arrangements, because we are in live procurement. I donít know how else to put that. Iíve said that several times. I canít discuss any of the financial items here while weíre under live procurement.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I appreciate the information, Mr. Chair, and weíll move on.
Mr. Chair, there are a number of capital projects that have been completed a short time ago. Is there any money contained in the supplementary to repair the foundation under the Mayo school through the Property Management Agency or through Highways and Public Works?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there any money in this supplementary to repair the structural deficiencies in the Copper Ridge Place, in the roof and in the exterior walls? There apparently is an envelope problem.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, no.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím given to understand there may be some structural problems with the Johnsons Crossing bridge. Where are we at, and what additional costs may be incurred there, and is anything budgeted in this envelope cycle? What are the costs, and what are the problems there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are no structural problems with the Johnsons Crossing bridge. Yes, there are some deficiencies, but there is no structural damage. There are no safety issues with the Johnsons Crossing bridge.
Mr. Jenkins: † Mr. Chair, I do have difficulty with the way a number of these capital projects have been undertaken and the resulting product. We only have to look at the Mayo school. Iím given to understand PMA wants to go ahead with repairs to the foundation but the money has to come from the Education envelope. The Department of Education is saying, ďWell, itís a brand new school, so why should we pay to fix the foundation?Ē The same holds true for Copper Ridge Place. The roof there has been ice damming, and it has had problems since the early stages of construction. Last winter, water pipes in the outside wall were freezing and breaking and clearly showed a lack of proper insulation, vapour barrier ó a properly constructed building envelope. As well, Mr. Chair, hoar frost was coming in around the electrical outlets on the outside wall in a wing. I know that Highways and Public Works or PMA wanted a quarter of a million dollars to look at who is responsible for it.
Just where are we at, as a government, with addressing these initiatives? Because it just seems like the end-use department pays and pays and pays and no one is responsible anywhere in this whole process that is in place, and why is that the case, Mr. Chair? We have quite a number of buildings that are brand new that are not serving the function and purpose that they were designed for in a cost-effective manner as a consequence of either poor design, poor construction techniques or lack of supervision ó or perhaps all of the above. The costs are downloaded to the end-use department. Why should that be the case in a brand new building, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The frustration of brand new buildings falling into the ground was discussed yesterday. It has been an issue for not only this government, but for previous governments also. With regard to the Mayo school and the foundation, analysis has been done. Itís being monitored and, for 2006-07, we are considering a plan in concert with the Department of Education to perform some remediation on the Mayo school.
On Copper Ridge Place, as the member well knows, we are working with Health and Social Services. As the member also well knows, weíre trying to deal with the legal issue regarding the facility. We are working on that particular venue and trying to come up with a solution that will remediate the problem and allow us to move forward with the renovations to the roof.
Mr. Jenkins: So in a brand new building, why should the end-use department constantly be required to pay the costs? From the onset, the end-use department budgeted the original capital amount; the PMA has undertaken the construction and overseeing of the project and, at the end of the day, thereís an inferior product, yet the end-use department has to pay.
There must be some guarantees and issues one could take up with the designers and the contractors. I could see it with a building thatís 20 or 30 years old or so, but with a brand new building, right from the get-go, this is totally unacceptable.
There appears to be an approach to it where no one is responsible and no one really wants to do anything unless theyíre pushed to do something. Why should that be the case? Weíre talking about the expenditure of taxpayersí money that has gone through all due process. It has all been tendered correctly ó the tís were crossed and the iís were dotted ó but at the end of the day, the Yukon has ended up with a substandard product. Who pays? Is the burden going to be passed on to the taxpayers, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Property Management Agency is a delivery body on behalf of the other users, as the member indicated. Issues are taken up with the designers and the contactors on buildings. Pursuing lawsuits can occur, but normally governments prefer to work with the contracting community versus having confrontations and lawsuits and that sort of thing. But in essence we are still looking at the probability of dealing with engineering defects or deficiencies.
With regard to Copper Ridge Place, we are dealing with that particular issue, for example, and trying to come up with a solution that will enable us to make renovations to the facility and improve on the deficiencies the member opposite discussed.
With regard to the end-user paying, ultimately the government is going to be responsible. It doesnít matter whether itís the Property Management Agency or Education, the end result is that the government pays on these deficiencies and/or we go to court. The member opposite knows that these cases can take a long time. In fact, I would state that itís difficult to find a situation in the past where the government has taken an engineering firm to court.
We all want to see value for our dollar. We all would like to see our facilities built to a standard that once the door opens it is going to remain open and serve the purpose it was originally built for on a regular basis for many years to come.
To answer the member oppositeís question is sort of like answering the question with regard to the highways and issues on permafrost. We have to look for a solution. We have to look for ways of improving and mitigating the problem, and sometimes we may be forced to take legal action right to its core. But right now, we are looking at that particular possibility. In the meantime, we still have to provide service to the public, and that is still the number one goal of this government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís look at the time lapse from when the problem was first identified in the Mayo school foundation. It has been some three years plus, Mr. Chair, and nothing has taken place yet. The government is monitoring it. No one has gone after the contractor. No one has gone after the engineering firm. No one has gone after anyone with respect to that.
With respect to Copper Ridge Place, Mr. Chair, the issue was known before substantial completion was granted. One only has to go and look at the file on that building, and it was raised toward the end of construction. If it holds true, Mr. Chair, the cost of remedying this deficiency or defect will be in the millions of dollars. It could potentially be several million dollars, because weíre talking a complete new roof on the one wing. Weíre talking about a building envelope that doesnít conform to any standards. If any of us here had a home constructed where the roof dammed up with ice and the water subsequently leaked through the roof and hoar frost came in and pipes froze on the outside walls, we would certainly take it up with the contractor as soon as it came to our attention. We wouldnít wait a year or two or three years, as is the case with this building, Mr. Chair.
In both situations, weíre talking about a lapse of some three years. It would appear that people somewhere have been sitting on their hands. Why canít we move forward expeditiously and get a resolution of this matter before itís a major capital undertaking for the necessary repairs to bring these buildings to an acceptable standard?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to Mayo, I disagree with the member opposite. Weíve had a number of meetings with the consultant and a number of site visits, and we have monitored the situation. Monitoring has been done on the Mayo school, contrary to what the member opposite has indicated.
With regard to Copper Ridge Place, the member opposite had an opportunity to deal with this situation and stood in the way.
I believe itís important that we understand, if heís going to complain about lack of movement on it, then we should move on the process. We were looking at taking the consultant to task on the issue, and that indeed was revoked by the member opposite when he was in his previous position.
Regardless of that, again these are issues weíre dealing with and weíre working with the consultants and the appropriate entity when weíre dealing with the Mayo school.
Mr. Jenkins: Whatís wrong with this picture, Mr. Chair? Here we have a brand new government building, and the end-use department has asked for a quarter of a million dollars to explore the legal potential for going after the contractor, the architect or the supervisor. Whatís wrong with that picture? Thatís certainly a major issue.
The question still remains unanswered: is the government getting value for its money? Is the government receiving value for its money? The answer is certainly no, through this process on these two buildings.
Letís explore another area with the minister because obviously there is no acceptance of responsibility on this issue, but if I could leave this issue with one suggestion to the department overseeing the construction of these buildings, it is that they have to do their work and oversee these buildings. When there are problems that arise, they have to follow up at the earliest opportunity. That has not been the case, Mr. Chair; that has certainly not been the case. If you want to look at the first year that Copper Ridge Place was up and going, $60,000 was expended by Health and Social Services to fix the roof, and there was a request for additional sums of money on a brand new building ó not for an alteration to the building but for repairs to a brand new building. Thatís not acceptable, Mr. Chair.
There are other issues surrounding capital projects that I am very uncomfortable with ó as to who is responsible ó and there doesnít appear to be anyone responsible anywhere for these undertakings. Thatís pretty sad.
Iíd like to explore with the minister what is contained in the supplementary for additional office space in Whitehorse. Are there any funds for additional office space, either directly or indirectly?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, there is money in the supplementary for government office moves to accommodate departmental changes, reorganization in government, and also as a result of devolution.
Mr. Jenkins: † Could the minister share with us some of the details of these changes?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít have the details right here, but if the member opposite wishes, we can provide him with a copy.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister explain what is happening at 9010 Quartz?
Hon. Mr. Hart: 9010 Quartz is being taken over by Highways and Public Works, which is moving its entire department into 9010 Quartz Road from the Performance Centre. The Canada Winter Games staff is moving into the Performance Centre and, as such, we are working on a solution right now for the Department of Health and Social Services. We havenít finalized it yet, but we are in the process of doing so.
Mr. Jenkins: † The add-on to 9010 Quartz Road cost how much additional money, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: By moving to Quartz Road we are actually saving money.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the member opposite just said that there has been an expenditure of money to move, and there has been new space acquired at 9010 Quartz. How much is that additional cost to the government?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we save approximately $9,000 a year by moving to Quartz Road.
Mr. Jenkins: That wasnít the question, Mr. Chair. How much is the additional cost that the government is incurring for 9010 Quartz Road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated, there is a savings in moving to 9010 Quartz Road ó $9,000 a year.
Mr. Jenkins: That might be an overall saving in one department, but additional costs have been incurred because a substantial addition has been put on to 9010 Quartz Road to accommodate the governmentís requests. How much is the total cost for 9010 Quartz Road? How much is it? How much is it a square foot? Is it triple net? Is it net usable, and what kinds of costs are we incurring overall?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will repeat again: we are saving approximately $9,000 a year moving from the Performance Centre to Quartz Road.
Mr. Jenkins: † Well, the saving is not an overall saving. Itís a saving from the one department that is moving, from the appearance of the presentation that was made here today. I would like to know from the minister what cost the government has incurred for the additional space that they have acquired at 9010 Quartz Road.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will repeat it again. There is no increase for Highways and Public Worksí move from the Performance Centre to 9010 Quartz Road. We are actually saving money.
Mr. Jenkins: † Letís go over this once again from a different angle. What are the costs, per square foot, at 9010 Quartz Road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It is $9,000 savings per year with the move to 9010 Quartz Road.
Mr. Jenkins: † Let me help the minister here. Can the minister confirm that the cost to the government of 9010 Quartz Road is $35.12 per square foot, net usable?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No, I canít confirm that.
Mr. Jenkins: † Those are the numbers, Mr. Chair. The member might want to confirm that via the contract registry.
At the end of the day, there has been a considerable increase in costs overall to the government for additional office space in the Whitehorse area. To say that there is a net savings of $9,000 ó that net savings may accrue to one department, but the overall costs are what we have to look at.
There were many issues surrounding 9010 Quartz Road some years ago. How did the government get to engage the owner of that property? Donít get me wrong, Mr. Chair, itís a very upstanding office space. It lacks parking space, which was agreed to at the onset. How the owner got out of supplying the parking space, I do not know.
At the end of the day, weíre speaking of $35.12 per net usable square foot, so weíre on the high end of the scale. I would like to know how the government got from A to B on the additional space, and why wasnít this tendered out?
Hon. Mr. Hart: 9010 Quartz Road was previously tendered by the Liberal government for that space on a 10-year lease, and the current space added was done under a change order to the existing lease.
Mr. Jenkins: And how many more square feet of net usable office space were acquired under this change order?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe it was approximately 4,700 square feet.
Mr. Jenkins: Isnít it usual for another 5,000 square feet of office space to be tendered out, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have an understanding with the local real estate market that anything over 5,000 would be tendered; anything under that can be sole-sourced.
Mr. Jenkins: The total amount overall was over 5,000. Net usable was under 5,000. But really, one has to look at it overall. So this is something that concerns me greatly, given the going rate for office space in Whitehorse, Mr. Chair. Even front-line showroom in downtown Whitehorse on Main Street is still approximately $10 a square foot less. Why would we engage in a long-term contract for that amount of money, $35.12, without tendering it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When we took over the building it was already under a 10-year lease. We made an amendment for the current space available. The actual amount that we use is what weíre paying for ó 4,700 square feet.
Mr. Jenkins: † The actual amount that the government is paying for in that building is way in excess of 4,700 square feet ó way in excess. Thatís a major, major rental agreement for an extended period of time.
Burns Road has been extended ó the contract was renewed at the same time. What was the reason for that? Why are there additional monies in this supplementary for that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member well knows the Burns Road contract and lease were renewed before we came into power.
Mr. Jenkins: I am just getting these issues on the record because there hasnít been any change in the governmentís procurement and the adherence to rules. One was tendered ó 9010 Quartz was tendered at the onset ó but the subsequent agreement with the same owner of both these buildings was just extended by way of change orders. In my opinion, that does not follow proper protocol.
Can the member give us some justification for extending leases for a considerable period of time without a public tender?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have not extended the lease on 9010 Quartz Road. We just purchased additional lease space at 9010 Quartz Road. There has been no extension of the lease for the additional space required.
Mr. Jenkins: † There is a major acquisition that resulted in major additional construction to the building at 9010 Quartz Road and the government subsequently agreed to lease it up front. Iím just very uncomfortable with that whole procedure and how the process unfolded. The question has to be raised as to whether the government received good value for its dollars. What weíre doing is increasing the overall amount of office space.
In this budget supplementary, is there money identified for an overall review of office space and office space use in the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We donít have any money in the supplementary for the overall transition for downtown, but we will be looking at a process for the City of Whitehorse at a later date.
Chair: We have reached our usual time for a mid-afternoon break. Do members wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Department of Highways and Public Works, and continue with general debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate, I was asking the minister about what was contained in this supplementary for the overall program of office evaluation in Whitehorse. I was told that there is no money contained in the supplementary. I donít recall it being voted in the mains. Is this just an internal movement of money for this assessment?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at doing a Yukon-wide space plan. We plan it to go out to an RFP. If we need the money, we will find the process for that within our own budget.
Mr. Jenkins: † Currently there are a number of initiatives underway to relocate various departments within Whitehorse. How is that proceeding? Iím not aware of anything being tendered out.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, as he well knows, all leases are looked at by Management Board and they are all reviewed and technical information is provided on all leases to ensure that we are following the process that has been designed and that itís done fairly.
Mr. Jenkins: Thatís not my understanding of the regulations. My understanding is that Management Board approves them above a certain quantity of square footage. That has only recently been implemented and there were a number of changes where the minister could sign off in prior periods. Iím sure that that was the case, Mr. Chair.
Letís move down to the actual undertakings now in Whitehorse. Some of the costs for rental of space are coming back and PMA is negotiating in the range of $50 a square foot overall for basically storefront office space. How do we get into that range so quickly, given that there are ads in the paper for storefront in downtown Whitehorse on Main Street for $26 or $27 a square foot?†
Hon. Mr. Hart: To respond to the member opposite, we were not aware of any project thatís in that price range ó none whatsoever. Plus, if we are negotiating anything in a live procurement state, itís inappropriate for us to discuss in the House anything related to that.
Mr. Jenkins: †But the issue remains ó how are we ensuring as a government to get value for the dollars spent for leased space, given that there are usually a number of components? There are leasehold improvements that may amount to $10 to $15 per square foot, on top of the base amount.
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are three items we look at in trying to address leasehold. We look at trying to meet the clientís needs; we follow the public procurement practice; and we follow the contract regulations and directives.
Mr. Jenkins: And would the minister confirm that that has always been consistent with what has transpired under his watch, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would say that we follow procedures at all times with regard to contract regulations.
Mr. Jenkins: I wasnít just looking at the contract regulations, Mr. Speaker; I was looking at it overall.
Letís move on to another office area that was under discussion but PMA rejected. Letís look at Dawson City. Letís look at Chief Isaac Incorporated and the assignment of the office space lease from the federal government to Yukon under devolution and the subsequent requests of the department, primarily Energy, Mines and Resources, for additional space, and this request went in. Chief Isaac suggested it would be more appropriate to build a new office building than add on or renovate the existing space. PMA subsequently turned them down. Why, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite is asking me to provide proprietary information with regard to the proponent in this case. In addition, one of the other things we were dealing with is that we want to deal with rent and lease because thatís the business that weíre in and thatís not what the proponent was proposing to us.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a copy of their proposal and Iíd be happy to send it over for the ministerís review. Thatís not what it says. It was a rent or a lease ó it was at the governmentís option. It had a cost per square foot, net usable, and at the same time the government insisted that if it was two storeys, it had to be barrier-free access ó rightly so ó and there was some additional capital cost to configure the building the way the government officials requested. So, this information is public information. Itís not proprietary. I just canít understand why PMA refused to accept what was offered and on the table.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to this particular building, we tender for lease and rental space. Itís something we like to consistently do. The proponents were asking us to do something else. It was something that the government doesnít do.
Mr. Jenkins: I would ask the minister to correct the record. This is exactly the same as what happened at 9010 Quartz. There was an agreement for a certain number of years with Chief Isaac Incorporated to rent office space. The government was asking to add on to that office space. Chief Isaac said that, rather than adding on or reconfiguring the existing building, they were quite prepared to build a new building. Much the same happened with 9010 Quartz. There has been a major undertaking to add more office space to 9010 Quartz.
We have very similar situations with 9010 Quartz and Chief Isaac. Yet the request from Chief Isaac was rejected. I encourage the minister to go back. I read the proposal before I came into the Chamber. I donít have it here today, but I would be happy to send him over a copy tomorrow. Both individuals were treated differently by PMA ó why?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite just stated, he tried to make a comparison between 9010 Quartz Road and the Chief Isaac building. Well, he canít. He canít do that ó 3,500 square feet is an addition to an existing building, and itís right there. Chief Isaac is proposing a brand new building in a different location from where the previous building was. I rest my case.
Mr. Jenkins: †Well, thereís a 3,500 square foot addition on to one building at 9010 Quartz Road and the request from Chief Isaac was for 5,000 square feet. Now, thatís the order of magnitude of the square footage. What they currently occupy in Chief Isaac is about 600 square feet less.
Now, I still havenít received a succinct answer as to why the owner of one building was treated differently from the owner of another building. Chief Isaac was prepared to add on to the existing one, but suggested a new building, and that was declined. Why, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With respect to this building, as I stated earlier, we added on space to an existing facility. Chief Isaac is a brand new building, in a different location, plus they had other issues that they wanted that werenít part of our normal process in dealing with leased or rented space.
Mr. Jenkins: †Iíve been over the lease for 9010 Quartz Road, and Iíve been over the lease that was proposed by Chief Isaac. Theyíre very similar, yet the government treated one firm differently from the other. Iíd like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The lease on 9010 Quartz Road was in addition to an existing building. The operation in Dawson City with regard to Chief Isaac was a new building and a new location. Different process and different issues requested by the proponent that were not part of our standard leasing and rental accommodations.
Mr. Jenkins: † Well, thatís certainly not the case, Mr. Chair. In Dawson City, Chief Isaac was a lease that was entered into by the Government of Canada to house what has now been devolved to Energy, Mines and Resources in the Government of Yukon, and it included the continuation of the lease on that office space on the ground floor on Front Street. There was a request from Energy, Mines and Resources for additional space and it went into the process. PMA sat down with Chief Isaac and they proposed a number of different ways of proceeding and one was a new office building. That new office building would have been located about two blocks away on 2nd Avenue ó on the corner of 2nd and King. In fact, the footprint of the building already exists on that site and it was done by Chief Isaac, but PMA cancelled.
These two undertakings are of a very similar nature. I would like to know why the government treated Chief Isaac differently than they treated the owners of 9010 Quartz. Was there a sweetheart deal made with one firm and not with the other? What happened?
Hon. Mr. Hart: 9010 Quartz Road is an addition to an existing facility. Chief Isaac was a new building and at a separate location, and Chief Isaac had conditions that would not meet the standard requirements that we deal with on lease and rental accommodation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I canít leave this one alone, because this one is one of the major issues in my riding, along with the Dome Road, the bridge, the multi-level care facility, the paving of Front Street, the sewage treatment system, the finances of the town. Nothing has really transpired for the last three years.
Mr. Chair, there is an issue here ó and everything being followed and adhered to in an appropriate manner. Mr. Chair, Chief Isaac is the investment arm of TríondŽk HwŽchíin. They entered into an agreement with Canada to build and lease them office space in their main administration building on Front Street. The programs contained in that office space were devolved to the Yukon territorial government, to Energy, Mines and Resources. During that transition stage and shortly thereafter, the Government of Canada was discussing with Chief Isaac Inc., the need for additional space. After devolution, Yukon government took over and various proposals were submitted, but the issue of the comparison of 9010 Quartz to Chief Isaac is a very valid comparison as to how the government treated both proponents ó quite differently, Mr. Chair.
There could have been an add-on to an existing building but the government wanted more space. Chief Isaac Incorporated said, ďFine, we will build more space for the future. Weíll even build you a new office building.Ē The discussions must have been proceeding along very favourably for quite some period of time, because all the site preparation was done and all the foundation was laid. Then everything stopped. It stopped because PMA said no, they didnít want to go down that road. Why were both of these firms treated differently? What is the issue with Chief Isaac Incorporation?
Tomorrow, I will be happy to send over to the member opposite a copy of the proposal from Chief Isaac to the government. I have a copy that was provided to me. I couldnít get anywhere with the department as to how this issue should be addressed, but I would be happy to share a copy with the minister. I could send him a copy to look at and compare with everything else.
My constituents and Chief Isaac officials want to know why the government could not move on this undertaking, given how far down the road they were on this initiative.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I accept the memberís offer. Submit the paperwork to me, if thatís what he would request. But I disagree ó Chief Isaac was not treated any differently than the 9010 Quartz Road proponent. They were not. They were different situations and there were different items that were addressed. I will be more than happy to accept the memberís offer from Chief Isaac, if he presents it tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would be happy to provide that to the minister. I can do so tomorrow under tabling of documents, but I would like to defer the debate in this area until next Thursday, if we could. If the minister would agree to that, we could move on and come back to general debate on this matter.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Itís not a problem to keep general debate on this topic going until 6:00 p.m. so we can stay in general debate next Thursday, Mr. Chair. I am just offering, so that we can proceed with other matters. I would like the ministerís concurrence to come back to this next Thursday.
Will the minister agree?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Since there doesnít seem to be an appetite to deal with the matter of Chief Isaac, we will continue with general debate on the supplementary and move forward on the initiatives of office space in other areas of the Yukon.
How is the department evaluating and what kind of money is in the supplementary for office space evaluations across the Yukon Territory? Many initiatives have been brought to the government by First Nations to lease office space in their respective buildings. Where are these initiatives at?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We would look at any proposal brought forward by the First Nation proponents who own buildings. We are in the process of looking at our office space on a territory-wide basis, so we would definitely look at what comes forth.
Mr. Jenkins: †What the minister is saying is that itís not necessarily tendered out. It is dealt with on a government-to-government basis.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre going out with an RFP for a space plan for the needs of the whole Yukon. Thatís what weíre going out for. As I stated earlier, if the First Nations have space available, then weíll definitely consider that when they bring it forth.
Mr. Jenkins: †Well, the First Nation governments are not in a separate undertaking. They have to respond to an RFP.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Itís an RFP to plan our space needs for the entire Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: †And timelines for this undertaking? When do we expect to see something occur in this region, given that space needs are clearly demonstrated by a number of departments in the Whitehorse area specifically, where theyíre being moved or pushed out of existing envelopes. Can we do the space assessment and tender out the space requirements and get it all packaged in a timely fashion? What are the timelines for this whole undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The RFP will be prepared and going out. We anticipate it will be ready in early 2006. Weíll have to work the requirements of that through the 2006-07 budget and possibly even into the 2007-08 budget.
Mr. Jenkins: †I guess moves that are contemplated immediately will not be involved in this process. Thereís a separate procurement process thatís currently being negotiated. Could the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are some moves planned to satisfy immediate requirements of certain departments, but they will still form part of the major overall space plan for the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I am not completely comfortable with the responses that the minister has provided this afternoon in a number of areas, and I will in all probability go back to those next Thursday afternoon.
Now, let me move on to another area, Mr. Chair. Let me move on to the issue surrounding airports, CARS and airport security. This has become a major issue here in the Yukon; there are really only two ports of entry ó three if you count Beaver Creek ó but two when you look at scheduled airlines. Could the minister advise if there is any additional funding provided in the supplementary, either as a flow-through from the federal government or otherwise to enhance airport security to ensure that our international arriving and departing aircraft meet the tests, or are fully compliant with Canadaís new regulation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister elaborate on where this funding is designated, what it is going to entail and what it is going to do? I know it is going to concentrate primarily on Whitehorse, but Dawson is in danger of losing its airport as a port of entry because of a lack of adequate facilities, Iím given to understand, for both deplaning passengers arriving from Fairbanks ó primarily on a scheduled flight, which is slated to resume operation in the summer. That said, Mr. Chair, what enhancements are going to be provided, either as a flow-through from the federal government or directly by Yukon, to ensure that the airport in Dawson remains a port of entry, and what is being contemplated for international arriving flights in Whitehorse, specifically to meet compliance with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, with regard to security ó yes, heís right. We are expending an increase of security for the renovations at the Whitehorse Airport of approximately $982,000. $790,000 is recoverable from Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, or CATSA. We are also spending $13,000 to complete the Whitehorse Airport baggage system upgrade, again a Department of Transport requirement.† We are also looking at a $23,000 increase for Whitehorse terminal security renovations ó again, this is due to phase 1 being completed early and is a revote from 2004-05.
Mr. Jenkins: † Would this bring Whitehorse Airport in full compliance to accept the wide-bodies on a continuing basis?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Would the member opposite provide his definition of wide-body?
Mr. Jenkins: Itís a class of aircraft; itís a weight configuration, Mr. Chair. The 757, 767 and 747 are considered to be wide-body. A330s and up ó the terminology in the industry is they refer to them as wide-bodies.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently in compliance with CATSA requirements and we are in discussions with the Canada Border Services Agency on the additional request for space that the member referred to.
Mr. Jenkins: Will that request for additional space be met for the upcoming visitor season next spring, Mr. Chair, given that we are scheduled to see an increase in wide-body services via Condor out of Frankfurt? Thatís a very important aspect of our visitor industry and we donít want to put any impediments in the way of increasing their flights or even indeed their flights.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with Canada Border Services Agency on their required spaces. Once we have identified what that space will be we will agree to build the facility required. As for it being ready for this summer ó actual building construction ó I doubt we will be able to meet that requirement. But we have negotiated with CBSA the requirements they will need to accommodate the additional flight that will be required this summer.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for the information. One of the issues with international arriving and deplaning flights is the servicing of the aircraft. Any of the garbage taken off the aircraft from an international arriving flight, save and except from the U.S., is considered to be hazardous waste and must be incinerated. How does the government plan on dealing with that, given that theyíre the operator of the airport?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The handling of the garbage is the responsibility of the airline in question.
Mr. Jenkins: If that were the case, I wouldnít be asking the minister the question. The handling of the garbage off arriving international flights is the responsibility of the receiving airport. They must have in place adequate facilities for garbage, grey water and wastewater. Those are the realities of today. Otherwise, they are not considered to be an airport, certified for international arriving aircraft.
Once more to the minister: what is the departmentís plan for waste that is off-loaded from the aircraft arriving from international airport, excluding the United States?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít have the details that the member is requesting. We will have to get back to him on those questions.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue is one of an appropriate incinerator. Does the government have any plan to construct such a facility at the Whitehorse Airport?
Hon. Mr. Hart: At the current time, we donít have any plans to construct an incinerator at the Whitehorse Airport.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the government have any plans to contract out this service to a third party?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That may be a possibility.
Mr. Jenkins: We might look at this as being a line of questioning that is totally out of line. The bottom line is that we, as a destination airport for international flights, must have the appropriate service equipment available to look after that aircraft. Whether that be security, adequate customs areas and clearance standards, the ability to off-load waste ó they are all issues that have to be resolved.
So, Iíll accept the member oppositeís information, but perhaps he can provide it orally on Thursday during general debate on this subject matter, in order to save writing a whole bunch of letters. Can the minister provide that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll provide the member opposite the information in writing, once we have obtained it, and put it on paper.
Mr. Jenkins: †Letís move into the issue of security at the airport in Dawson City. Whatís transpiring there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Maybe the member opposite could come up with a specific question with respect to security.
Mr. Jenkins: †The issue of security for international flights arriving from Fairbanks.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Is the member asking about a specific issue with respect to the plane that comes in from Fairbanks? I understand now that that plane will actually commence operations in the summer period. But are we dealing with a situation brought forth, for example, by an issue with respect to the airline thatís flying in there? Is it an issue with respect to an international flight at the terminal building itself? Be specific, please.
Mr. Jenkins: †The issue is the airport needing the appropriate federal certification required to receive international flights arriving from the U.S. There are two different standards; thereís one for international arriving flights inbound from the U.S., and there are other guidelines for wide-bodied jets and flights from overseas arriving at major international airports.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, there are many security issues. I would ask again if you would be specific, and maybe we could try to respond to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there is the issue of security around the runway. I know that that is being dealt with, with the fencing that is going to be partially completed. The whole airport is supposed to be fenced, but there is the issue with the occasional moose or dog or fox or coyote running onto the runway. Thatís contained by perimeter fencing. What Iím referring to, Mr. Chair, is the issue of security for deplaning passengers arriving on a scheduled flight from the U.S. Is everything adequate, and does it meet the test so that there wonít be any loss of Dawson Airport being an international port of entry?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím glad that he is discussing the issues in the supplementary. The runway fencing is in the supplementary, so we are looking at making improvements in that area. Weíre also working on a wildlife management plan for the airport and hope to get that underway once we have a fence in place.
With regard to security from deplaning from the U.S., it is difficult for us to make a response to the member opposite because weíre not sure what heís fishing for. But in essence, weíll try to ensure that that the Dawson Airport is complying with all the regulations under Transport Canada. Thatís about all we can provide the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me help the minister out a little bit. Wildlife management on the airport runway and taxiways ó itís called a fence. I would encourage the minister to move forward very quickly and fence the entire airport and not just a part of it. Thatís what is currently underway.
There are issues with animals on the runways: moose, fox, coyotes and dogs.
Let me help the minister a little bit more here. Dawson City Airport does not currently conform to Transport Canadaís regulations. The centre line of the runway is too close to the highway. The terminal building is too close to the centre line of the highway. There are a whole series of issues here.
I do not want to see Dawson lose its status as an international arrival port of entry. That is paramount to our visitor industry. It slowly appears to be eroded, despite tremendous amounts of money that have been invested in a fire management and tanker base, as well as paving and upgrading of taxiways and fencing. At the end of the day, I am seeking the ministerís assurance that there will be no impediment to Dawson keeping its status as an international port of entry because of non-compliance with the safety standards and Canada Customs and Revenue Agencyís requirements. Can the minister provide that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, I am glad that we got back to discussing fencing and wildlife management because these are issues that are in the supplementary and we can talk about them.
The initial question was dealing with deplaning from Fairbanks. Now heís talking about moose, the centre lines, terminal building position, et cetera. I can assure the member opposite that we are doing everything we possibly can to ensure the Dawson interests are looked after. What I can assure the member opposite is that I have absolutely no control over what the Government of Canada does or will do with its future regulations in transportation. I am having a hard enough time keeping up with the ones that are already here.
But we have an understanding that we will look after Dawsonís interests the best that we can with the regulations that come up from the federal government.
Mr. Jenkins: There are issues surrounding security and accessing clearance for Customs. Thatís where Iím going. Itís a space requirement by Canada Customs and Revenue Agency in the terminal building that is not being met. Will the government be meeting that request?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The space in the terminal required for Customs will have to be looked at. Obviously, we will have to expand or construct a new air terminal building in Dawson. It will probably have to be on the other side of the airport. There is no planning work done on that as of yet. Right now, there are other priorities that are competing with that process, and currently that is Whitehorse.
Mr. Jenkins: † Thatís exactly where I was heading, Mr. Chair ó that there is a grave potential for Dawson losing its status as a port of entry for international arriving flights, and that would be a tremendous deterrent and detriment to our visitor industry. Also, it would not allow the scheduled service to start up again out of Fairbanks, and this is a Yukon-based carrier serving Yukoners that, because of the number of conditions this last winter, has elected to shut down its service to Fairbanks. So, Yukon does not have any direct link to the State of Alaska. The scheduled service to Juneau is gone, and the scheduled service Whitehorse-Dawson-Fairbanks operates seasonally ó hopefully. But I am very concerned that the government isnít doing everything in its power to ensure that the planning is in place and the space is in place for Customs to occupy to clear deplaning passengers, and itís becoming very evident that this is certainly the case.
While we are on the subject of airports, Mr. Chair, one of the other serious concerns I have ó and I donít know if there is any other additional money contained within this supplementary ó is the issue of CARS service in the remote airports around the Yukon, and the funding flows from Nav Canada to Yukon and subsequently on to the various contractors employed by Yukon to provide CARS service, community aerodrome radio station service. My community is one; they are all around the Yukon, Mr. Chair, and yes, there are some RCOs ó remote communications outlets ó remoted out of Whitehorse but by and large the service is CARS.
In the event of a medevac, Mr. Chair, CARS have not been contracted to come out and provide the service so that that medevac aircraft can land at some of the outlying airports ó Faro and Burwash, to name just the two.
This appears to be as a consequence of the way the contract between Yukon and the proponents was negotiated. What steps is the government taking in the operation of their airports to ensure that CARS service will be available in the event or need for a medevac from those two communities óspecifically Burwash Landing Airport and the Faro Airport?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to Faro, CARS is not legally required for a medevac. Alkan Air has said they want CARS. What happens is that CARS contracts here in Yukon volunteer to be on standby. The Faro CARS operator has refused free standby services ó and I use the word ďfreeĒ in quotations.
Weíre working right now on a solution to try to deal with this situation. Weíre working on training an ambulance attendant to do this work, except for the meteorology service, and we have talked to the airline in question, and they have indicated an acceptance of this particular issue. For this particular item in Faro, thatís what weíre working on.
Mr. Jenkins: What is occurring with respect to Burwash Landing Airport?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If we can get the Faro situation to work and Health and Social Services supports this process, then we will look at expanding it to Burwash Landing.
Mr. Jenkins: †Itís not an issue of Health and Social Services supporting the initiative. Itís a situation where the pilot has to make a call, and he has to know certain information, specifically before embarking on a medevac at night; and one of them ó or, letís say outside the hours that CARS operates. The meteorology is very important, but runway conditions are also very important, because you never know when thereís going to be snow coverage.
And letís bear in mind that medevac flights have priority, and theyíre not dispatched unless theyíre needed. Itís an emergency situation, but itís the call of the pilot, and they need all the tools at their disposal to get to their destination, pick up the injured or sick, and transport them to the acute care centre here in Whitehorse ó or sometimes beyond.
So, that said, could the minister advise the House as to when this new procedure for Faro will be implemented? What appears to be transpiring is that the government will train some of the highway or ambulance workers to go to the airport ó and I donít know how theyíre going to communicate with the pilots, unless they use radio telephone or the MDMRS system. But is the minister suggesting that theyíll be able to access the radios in the terminal buildings? Is that whatís going to transpire to communicate the information to the pilots?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, we are in the negotiation stage with the departments. We are trying to come up with a solution for this. I also stated that weíre dealing with the company. They seem to be satisfied with the process. Once we are in a position to provide the member with the results, we will provide them.
Mr. Jenkins: This is a matter of urgency at this time of the year, and it will be probably for the next six months until the daylight extends and weather conditions improve. Weather conditions, as the minister knows full well, are constantly changing. We are talking about medevac flights that will not be dispatched unless the carrier and the pilot know with some certainty the weather conditions and runway surface conditions in these areas and at the airport that the pilot is destined for.
We do not appear to have a solution. It sounds like there are a lot of discussions going on and there will be something that is tried, but nothing hard and fast. To be certified someone as a CARS operator, one has to take a complete course. It is actually given in the north, in Hay River, and is a very worthwhile course. That said, the timeline for getting someone from the communities to get involved to back up the CARS operators is not there. There may be an infringement on the CARS operators jurisdiction, and there is certainly the issue that to operate the radios, one has to have a radio operator licence.
I would like to know more details. I would like to know how the minister is going to make this work, because itís needed. It could be needed tonight or it could be needed imminently in any of these areas. There are a lot of CARS operators in a lot of stations that are providing these services. If there is a call that comes in the middle of the night, they will assist, save and except for two airports and two CARS operators.
I want to be assured by the minister that the department has in place a backup plan that is tested and works. This is not something that is new that occurred overnight. This is something that has been in place. It was recognized last winter, but no one took the steps to find a solution. The solution doesnít yet appear to be in hand.
We have an option, so I want to know specifically when this is going to be implemented. The answer I donít want to hear is that the pilot doesnít have to have that information. The minister might want to check directly, because there are major issues surrounding a medevac flight.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít know what the purpose of all these questions is. He already knows the answers. The member opposite was in this position as it was his previous portfolio. He well knows what the situation is, yet he is bringing it up here in the House.
This situation didnít just occur yesterday. He makes it sound like it happened last night, but it didnít. I am disappointed that the member opposite would get down to this particular venue. He knows full well the medevac situation in Faro. There is also the fact that this isnít even on the supplementary. I would like to just remind the member opposite that he was in this portfolio specifically. He was hands-on with this particular issue, and it didnít just happen yesterday.
We are looking at it, yes. He makes it sound like weíre not caring for the individuals on the medevac flights. Thatís just not so. We are working as hard as we can to solve this situation for all Yukoners, not just for those in Faro. We are doing it in consultation with the airline in question. There is no question about it.
If he wants to carry on all day, I guess we can do that; and we can get up. But I would like the member opposite ó heís making a point, yes. We have a problem. We have been dealing with the situation at Faro, and weíre trying to solve it, and weíre trying to do it in the most humane way possible. To imply that we donít think this is a serious situation is ridiculous, and I would like the member opposite ó I agree, we can get there. But he knew full well the situation; it was in his portfolio, and it just didnít happen yesterday.
Mr. Jenkins: What I do know, Mr. Chair, is the responsibility to ensure that the airports are operated properly is in the Minister of Highways and Public Worksí domain. All I know is that the Department of Health and Social Services contracts with a third party to provide medevac services. Weíre a user of the ministerís department with respect to airports, and they have to be available in the event of an emergency.
The issue seems to stem, Mr. Chair, from the contract that has been arranged with the proponents in these CARS stations and the number of hours that the principal of the contract must be on-site. That was changed during the last contract negotiations by the Department of Highways and Public Works, which has resulted in this situation arising in Burwash Landing at the airport there and at Faro. This is a serious matter.
The Department of Highways and Public Works has been admittedly working on this for over a year but, right at the last minute, there appears to be an initiative to train some of the ambulance attendants and train some of the highway workers to go on-site and communicate the runway surface conditions and perhaps prevailing winds and some other meteorological information ó which I donít know if they are trained for or not ó but the issue remains, Mr. Chair, is that safe medical evacuations by air depend on information of the airport that the medevac flight is flying into, and that includes runway surface conditions, meteorological conditions and the whole gamut, and that cannot be provided in the manner that the member opposite has suggested it can be.
So, itís a sad day, and I would encourage the minister to move forward on the issue of providing adequate coverage of the airports in Burwash Landing and in Faro. Because an accident is going to happen ó a medical emergency is going to arise ó that will necessitate that somebody moves out of these communities into Whitehorse and that can only be done when that airport is safe to fly into and information about its condition is available to the pilot.††
But thatís not the case under the current arrangements with Highways and Public Works. From my review of the matter, it stems from the contract the department has negotiated with the CARS agents.
Can I ask the minister why there was a change from the last CARS contract to this one with respect to the issue of standby?
Hon. Mr. Hart: CARS is not legally required for a medevac. Alkan Air, or the successful medevac candidate, is the one that has requested CARS. Weíre trying to work with them on the issue of trying to deal with their request. The member opposite, you know, as I stated previously, knows full well what is happening here. This is not new news to him.
But I will state for the record, officially, that we are very cognizant of the importance of medevacs in any community, not just Faro. And I would assure the House that weíre doing everything we can to ensure there is a safe delivery of the medevac plane and exit of the plane from any Yukon community it lands in.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would encourage the minister to have a full and thorough briefing on a lot of the areas that we explored with him today that are contained within this supplementary, and weíll return to general debate with the minister on Thursday.
Seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that we report progress.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. We have three and a half minutes to go. Mr. Chair, letís go back to the CARS situation. On the CARS situation, the minister suggests that the pilots and the carrier do not need CARS. I would encourage the minister to find out more about this very important issue. This is an issue of the safety of not only the person or persons who are being medevacíd, but the air crew. They have certain requirements by their insurance carriers, and they have to take all the appropriate safety precautions.
A medevac is an emergency flight. They fly into airports that are not certified for VFR conditions or nighttime. They fly into airports that are not certified for medevac flights. Medevac flights have a lot of leeway, but the decision to go or not to go is left solely with the pilot. To deny the pilot the tools necessary to function in a safe manner because of some change in contracting and the contracts from the last time CARS was implemented and agreed to ó to this last cycle when CARS was implemented ó is not appropriate. Itís not appropriate. Some of the CARS operators in the rural communities are seeking pay for standby time.
That may or may not be necessary, given that the frequency of medevacs is sometimes very high and sometimes very low. But the issue remains that, unless the CARS station has the proper information for that pilot, there is a good chance that they will not fly into some of the airports and we could jeopardize someoneís life.
Medevac flights are not called up as taxis. They are not scheduled airlines. They are there at a great expense to the health care system to serve Yukoners, and serve Yukoners they must. The Department of Health and Social Services may be the department that pays the bills but the operation of the airport that determines whether a plane can land or take off and the conditions in that airport are determined ó
Chair: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the Chair will report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.