Tuesday, December 6, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the government in recognition of National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Mr. Speaker, December 6 is marked in Canadaís history as the day women were murdered because of their gender. On this day 17 years ago at Montrealís …cole Polytechnique engineering school, 14 women were murdered, the reason being they were women.
Canada has marked December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women so that we may speak out and take action to ensure respect, equality and safety for all women and girls. Taking action to eliminate violence against women is a long-term goal. It requires action at many different levels. We must work to address the sexism and racism in our everyday lives that leads to devaluing of contributions by women and girls to our families and communities.
We must address the objectification of women in our media and our private jokes and conversations. We must support and encourage womenís leadership and independence in all areas of economic and political life so that gender equality is realized.
To achieve this, our government is committed to working with all our partners, community organizations, government leaders and all Yukoners, to find ways to reduce violence in our communities. Focusing on the synergy of effective policy, responsive front-line services, and public education is paramount to encouraging social change.
Through the recently launched public education campaign that addresses violence against women and children and various policies and programs, including changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act, as well as the development of safety kits, for example, government continues to work in this regard.
During Woman Abuse Prevention Month, the Womenís Directorate released safety kits ó an initiative tied to our long term public education campaign on violence against women and children. The kit includes a series of pamphlets with information on abuse, local resources, safety planning and steps toward independence to be used by women living with violence and their supporters.
Developed in collaboration with Kausheeís Place and the family violence prevention unit, the safety kits are now going to a second round of printing, as demand from front-line workers in the communities has been so high.
Today at the Elijah Smith Building, a community vigil was held, coordinated by the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, in commemoration and honour of those 14 young women who were killed in Montreal on December 6, 1989. It was a moving event that instills in us the conviction that, without gender equality, we will never eradicate violence against women.
Beyond commemorating the loss of those 14 women who lost their lives, this day represents a time to reflect and take action on the prevalence of violence against women and girls in our society. Iím proud to say that we in this House and in the Yukon are taking action to eliminate violence, marked by our agreement in this Legislature last November to dedicate government efforts to addressing the high rates of violence against women and children in the Yukon.
Together our combined support of victims can help to make change. Our communities can be healthier, our families can be safer, and our children can be happy.
Mr. Hardy: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to commemorate this Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This is a day of mourning for all Canadians. We mourn for the 14 women tragically murdered this day, 16 years ago in Montreal, and for their grieving families. Their loss is a loss for all of us. With this terrible act, we lost the futures of bright, young, educated women who would have contributed much to the well-being and advancement of our society. But we also grieve because this murder was a highly symbolic act of vengeance. These women were strong, progressive individuals who had chosen a path, only recently opened to women, toward becoming engineers. They simply wanted to work as men do. The single deranged mind that committed this brutal murder reflected our societyís ingrained, gender-based violence. Despite many advances, women still suffer physically, emotionally, economically and even politically in this country. There is a strong resistance to the full integration of women, and it is often displayed in acts of violence against women.
This is a day for mourning ó and that is right and just ó but it is also a day for action on violence against women. We must take positive action to educate ourselves, our families and our friends about the truth of what happened in Montreal and what continues to happen. Not facing the reality of violence against women means that it will continue to happen. Itís not enough to wear a white ribbon for a few days. The daily lives of both men and women should be conducted in a manner that reflects the rights and dignity of women in our society. When we see bullying of women in the workplace, when we refuse to contribute to unpaid work done by women such as caretaking of children and seniors, when we donít vote for a woman because sheís seen as a weaker candidate because of her gender, those are the times when we must remember the reason for the murders of 14 young women in Montreal. Those are the times to remember to act on violence against women.
In our daily life we must be warriors against violence. We must fight for peace. We must stop what has been happening for hundreds of years. It didnít just happen and start to happen in 1989. It has been in our society and culture for far too long.
Today I was at the Elijah Smith Building at the memorial ceremony. I heard the words spoken by many people who were all saying the same thing ó that it has to be stopped. I can tell you truthfully, Mr. Speaker, that unless we as individuals stand up and speak out and if we do not correct somebody or stop them when they say things that are derogatory, that are harmful to other people ó to women, to children ó it will continue. If we do not do that in our families, if we do not do that on the streets, if we do not do that at parties, at gatherings, in bars, and if we do not do that in our volunteer activities, we are part of the problem. It has to stop.
Some of us have been involved in coaching or teaching youth. I have. I always made it a policy that there would never be any language that put down another person in that change room, but I can assure you that that is not common. We cannot allow this to continue. We have areas and avenues to teach, to stop violence against women, to stop that attitude that exists in our society. But we as individuals have to stand up and do it. We have to be leaders. Itís not good enough to list off a bunch of programs and a bunch of money being put toward a problem. The change will happen individually and as a group when we say no, enough is enough, no more.
We have to become more involved. We have to fight for peace in a peaceful manner. We have to lead by example. Itís not good enough to stand here one day of a year and list off programs and where money is being spent or talk about this one day of the year. It must become part of our lives. That is the only way change will happen and that change is what is needed in this country.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the third party and join with my colleagues as we did at noon today at the Elijah Smith Building to pay tribute to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
This day of recognition was established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada. On December 6, 1989, 14 young women at l'…cole Polytechnique de Montrťal were targeted and tragically murdered simply because they were women. Today, December 6, is not only about the commemoration of the tragic murder of these 14 young women, it is also a time to pause and reflect on violence against women and children. It is time to have a special thought for all the women and the girls who live daily with the threat of violence or who have died as a result of deliberate acts of gender-based violence.
Violence against anyone is unacceptable. This is a day for communities and individuals to reflect on concrete actions that each of us can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women. As men, we wear the white ribbon as a reminder of our responsibility to eliminate violence against women. But I encourage all men not only to wear a white ribbon but to behave in a way that promotes equality, dignity and respect for all women. I encourage all men not to be bystanders but to actively oppose all gender-based discrimination in every aspect of our lives. We must each take responsibility for building a nation where no one lives in fear because of their gender and where we can all live freely and participate fully in society.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
In recognition of United Nations Climate Change Convention delegation
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the House to talk about members of the incredible Yukon and northern delegation that is attending the United Nations Climate Change Convention in Montreal this week. Today will be especially important, as it has been designated Arctic and Aboriginal Day. Our presence will help raise awareness of the unique circumstances in the north and the pan-territorial cooperative efforts of the three territories on the climate change front.
A lot of people have put a lot of effort into our presence in Montreal. This Yukon initiative includes contributions from the Yukon government departments of Environment; Energy, Mines and Resources; Executive Council Office; Community Services; and Tourism and Culture.
The Council of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Conservation Society and the Northern Climate Exchange at Yukon College are also representing the Yukonís interests as part of this delegation. We are there in this international gathering as part of the Canadian delegation so we can raise awareness of our Yukon and northern climate change issues and showcase the impact of climate change on the north, its environment and its people.
Todayís events in Montreal will feature aboriginal and northern Canadian perspectives and experiences dealing with climate change impacts. Premier Fentie is there with his counterparts from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where they will emphasize the unique challenges and impacts facing the north and focus on the cooperative efforts of the three territories.
The Premier will also be part of the launch of the new climate change video, prepared by the Arctic Athabaskan Council. He will note the many initiatives undertaken by the Yukon government to address climate change, such as programs to increase energy efficiency in buildings, R-2000, home repair, green mortgages, the commercial energy management program, commercial energy auditor service and EnerGuide for houses; also developing ways to reduce energy consumption, increase energy efficiency and to encourage technological developments and alternative energy sources, such as wind power, small hydro development and biomass; and recognition from the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, where the Yukon is placed among the top jurisdictions in Canada in the past four report cards, receiving an A in 2004.
He will tell all assembled that itís important that we hear from our elders and use that traditional knowledge to realize what they and all northerners are facing as a result of changing climate patterns. He will let everyone know that the Yukon government is committed to continuing its work with local, national and international governments to moderate the impacts of global climate change on the Yukonís environment, our people and our way of life.
Thank you. Mahsií cho.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have for tabling the annual reports for Yukon Energy Corporation, Yukon Development Corporation and the Energy Solutions Centre for the year 2004.
Mr. Cathers: I have copies of a letter for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any other returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 12 ó received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and honourable members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 12 of the First Session of the 31st Legislative Assembly as presented by the Member for Kluane on December 5, 2005. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 12, accordingly, is deemed to be read and received.
Are there any further petitions?
Speaker: Prior to proceeding, the Speaker has a statement with regard to petitions. The Chair has noticed there is getting to be a propensity to talk more about the basis of the petition.
In presenting the petition the Member for Kluane indicated the number of signatories to the petition and also read the text of the petition to the Assembly. That was in order. However, the Member for Kluane then delivered a speech on the merits of the petition and other related political issues. That was not in order.
Standing Order 65(3) says, ďEvery member offering a petition to the Assembly shall confine himself or herself to the statement of the parties from whom it comes, the number of signatures attached to it and the material allegations it contains. No member shall speak more than five minutes in so doing, unless by permission of the Assembly upon question put.Ē† Further, Standing Order 65(4) says, ďOn presentation of a petition, no debate on it shall be allowed.Ē
It is because no debate is allowed at the presentation of a petition that the member presenting the petition is restricted in the kinds of remarks he or she may give. The five-minute time limit is designed to protect the time of the Assembly in the event of an overly long petition. The time limit is not designed to allow members to make remarks to which other members may not respond. Should a member wish to debate the merits of a petition, he or she should do so by giving notice of a substantive motion to that effect.
Members will recall that the Chair gave a similar ruling on October 21, 2004, regarding a petition presented by the Member for Mount Lorne on May 18, 2004. At that time the Chair asked members to ďlimit themselves when presenting petitions to the kinds of remarks allowed for in the Standing Orders.Ē The Chair would once again bring these Standing Orders and this ruling to the attention of members.
Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to provide the Department of Environment with the mandate and the resources needed to protect Yukonís environmental integrity for future generations.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT a special committee on MLA indemnities, allowances and salaries be established;
THAT the committee be comprised of four Members of the Legislative Assembly;
THAT the committee be chaired by the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker;
THAT the Premier, the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party each appoint one member to the committee;
THAT the committee report to the Legislative Assembly no later than the fifth sitting day of the next regular sitting of the Legislative Assembly on its findings and recommendations respecting the remuneration, expenses, benefits and pensions of Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly;
THAT, in the event the Legislative Assembly is not sitting at the time that the committee is prepared to report, the chair of the committee shall forward copies of the report to all members of the Legislative Assembly, thereafter make the report public, and subsequently present the report to the Legislative Assembly at the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the committee.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land use planning
†Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. Last summer, we were told that the territorial government and the City of Whitehorse were finally developing a land development process that they both could live with. This came about due to the problems surrounding the Whitehorse Copper subdivision and the frustration around that. The government is supposed to fund the planning process, and the city was supposed to be responsible for the consultation. Thereís supposed to be a protocol in place, and the protocol was supposed to be finalized this fall, according to the statements by department officials in the newspaper. But we heard this morning that the city has signed on to the protocol, and theyíre operating as if it exists, but the government hasnít signed on to the protocol. Can the Minister of Community Services tell us where that agreement is now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are still reviewing that document. The information has been passing back and forth between us and the city, and we are still in that negotiation.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, itís another promise that the government hasnít kept. They said they would do this by the fall, and fall is fast running out. Last week, the minister told the House that it was his department that would be taking over the consultation on the Porter Creek greenbelt. Now he has even jumped a step ahead, and he has proposed a park for the area. That was news to the City of Whitehorse and the mayor. The city spent a lot of time developing the plans for this area, and now I think theyíve decided to scrap those plans because of all the chaos that has been created, largely by this government. When will the minister agree to get on the same page as the city, as he agreed to do last summer?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are following up on a motion brought forward here in the House with regard to this particular section of land, and we are following through with that process.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister didnít really answer the question. The minister is confusing the situation. He is making a murky situation even murkier. The Minister of Education is saying that both this minister and the City of Whitehorse are wrong. He says the area in question is set aside for endowment land for Yukon College. The college agrees with that. We know, in fact, that those endowment lands have been on the books for ages, but the Minister of Community Services doesnít seem to know that.
Doesnít anyone on that side of the House talk to anyone else? It doesnít take much effort to pick up a phone and find out the facts before announcing a spur-of-the-moment policy on land disposition. For the sake of the city, the college, his Cabinet colleague, and the people who are looking for residential lots, will the minister now get up and spell out the actual status of that particular piece of land?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I will reiterate what Iíve said in the House on many occasions with regard to this section of land. We are following up on the motion that was put forward earlier this year with regard to that section of land, and we will be setting up a consultation process involving all the partners involved in that particular land.
Question re: Land use planning
†Mr. McRobb: Earlier this year, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources had his fingers burned meddling with the land disposition process for the Fish Lake lots. In that example, the ministerís interference was well documented in the minutes of LARC ó the Land Application Review Committee. Iíd like to remind the minister of the comments made by the LARC chair. There was political support for allowing the application to proceed. When questioned on that matter in the House, the minister sought refuge by trying to stake the high ground with comments like, ďapplications go through a process, a very open process on how the land will be issued.Ē
Now Yukoners are finding out about the ministerís interference with a land application near Shallow Bay. Will the minister own up to giving the thumbs-up to that application or is he content with letting his assistant deputy minister take the blame?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the member opposite is wrong. There is a process called LARC. The ADM of lands is involved in the LARC process. There has been no meddling on a political level. The process was followed to a ďtĒ, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Following the Fish Lake lot fiasco, the minister interfered again, this time with the exhibition grounds proposal. In that example, the minister attended a meeting of the Yukon Agricultural Association and gave commitments that would override the LARC process. The YAA minutes from May 19 said the minister approved the land, so it is essentially already approved. Obviously this minister just canít resist the temptation to interfere with a process.
Letís return to the latest example. Precisely what direction did the minister provide with respect to the land applications near Shallow Bay and to whom was that direction given?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the member opposite is wrong. I didnít give any direction. The LARC process was in process. It is in place to do exactly what it did. The ADM is part of that process. Thereís no political interference in LARC. LARC does its job.
Mr. McRobb: The evidence indicates otherwise. What do we have to do to get to the bottom of this? Conduct an investigation? The examples of interference are aplenty. The rumours of a big land grab near Whitehorse also occurred under this ministerís watch, I might remind him.
In the latest example, the minister became personally involved in the application with both the applicant and the Taían Kwachían Council. Perhaps he would like to dispense with the existing independent process and hand out parcels willy-nilly.
Will the minister now clear the air and tell this House exactly what he did with respect to the approval of this application?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, again, the member opposite is wrong. I donít know what more I can say about LARC, except that he doesnít understand the process. The process was followed. The ADM is part of that process. That is how land is disposed of in the Yukon. The LARC plays a part in the disposition. The ADM does appeals. The process was followed, and the land was acquired by the individuals.
Question re: †Doctor shortage
Mr. Mitchell: During the recent Copperbelt by-election, residents brought up several issues with me. At the top of the list was a lack of ethical leadership from this government. A close second, Mr. Speaker, was the difficulty of finding a family doctor. These are both issues that have been badly neglected by the Yukon Party government over the first three years of their mandate. In the last agreement signed with the doctors, the Yukon Party offered a one-time fee of $200 every time doctors accepted a new patient into their practice. Family doctors were already stretched to the limit with their patient loads and working hours and didnít have the time or room to take on additional patients. The quote from the former head of the YMA is, ďYou canít buy us off.Ē Doctors are clearly not satisfied with this governmentís efforts. Doctors should not be bounty hunters, collecting a head tax. How does the government plan to address the shortage of doctors?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite is correct on one thing. There certainly is a shortage of family doctors. What he fails to mention is that it is a national shortage. This is an item that appears in news regularly across this country. I recently spent time in Winnipeg, and the person with whom I spent a lot of time had been there for three and a half years and had been unable to locate a family doctor in that jurisdiction. It is an overall problem, and every potential solution that you look at is in competition with every other jurisdiction in Canada that is searching for the same leg up to try to attract doctors to their jurisdictions and away from others. We will continue to work with the YMA on this. We will be back in negotiations with them very shortly, and we will look at other creative ways to try to solve this individual problem. But to make one thing very clear, Mr. Speaker, it is a national problem. It is not a Yukon problem.
Mr. Mitchell: ††Well, many things are national problems. We compete nationally for our economy. We compete for skilled workers in many areas, and we compete to have the best educational system.
On October 31 of this year, our caucus introduced a motion urging the Minister of Health to examine new incentives, including forgivable tuition loans for medical students to help relieve the Yukonís shortage of health care professionals. I hope we get a chance to discuss this in more detail tomorrow afternoon. We get calls all the time from people looking for family doctors. I heard it again and again from residents during the recent by-election: there is a shortage in the Yukon. The former minister had three years to address the issue and has made very little progress. The Liberal caucus has put forward a positive suggestion: letís look into forgivable tuition loans. Is the government willing to move forward on this suggestion?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: If I heard the member opposite correctly, he is admitting that this is a national problem, and it is one that we struggle with all the time. As the member mentioned, yes, we do compete on the national scale in areas like the economy where we have not only improved ó although he would claim that this was due to mineral prices that are also across this country. The fact of the matter is that we have moved up way ahead in terms of other jurisdictions within Canada.
We certainly are looking at tuition loans as a possibility. This is one of the possible pieces of the puzzle. There are other possible pieces of the puzzle, such as different uses of nurse practitioners ó a very rare breed and a very talented profession in this country. We will be going back and re-examining those issues with great diligence. But again, it is difficult to compete on an issue where, no matter what sort of an incentive you come up with, you have other jurisdictions looking at the same incentives. I have faith that we will have the ability to solve that problem, but it is a national problem.
Mr. Mitchell: Yukoners didnít elect this minister to tell us that itís a national problem. They elected him to solve problems in the Yukon.
Clearly, what the government has in place is not working. We have a chronic shortage of family doctors. We are putting forward a positive suggestion: letís look into setting up a program where medical students who are willing to return to the Yukon will be eligible to receive forgivable loans to cover the cost of their tuition fees. This is a program that is in place in several other parts of Canada, including British Columbia and Ontario. Itís my understanding that we actually have fewer doctors this year than last. More needs to be done. On top of that, the doctors we do have are, according to the new president of the Yukon Medical Association, overwhelmed, as it is. Clearly, we need more of them. Is the government willing to move forward on this positive suggestion?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do ask the member opposite to do a bit of math on this. Making forgivable loans, for instance, will give us four to six years to produce the first doctors who could come up here and work. We are dealing right now with some bad decisions that were made back in the 1990s to reduce the size of medical school classes across the country and, in fact, across North America. Unfortunately, what that didnít take into account was the large and growing number of older Canadians or older North Americans. What we have is a fewer number of doctors practising with a larger patient load. Simply looking at ways to increase the number of doctors in the future, be that by enlarging medical school classes and at the same time increasing the training grounds of those doctors in the sense of teaching hospitals and such, will create a number of doctors coming into the stream as that large number of aging Canadians starts to dwindle. It is a piece of the puzzle. It probably is not the total thing.
For the member opposite ó true, we were elected to solve problems, but I would remind him at the same time that he was elected to solve things that can be solved. He wasnít elected, I donít think, to complain about things that are very difficult to solve. We will continue to work with the physicians. We will continue to work with nurse practitioners. We will continue to work with the University of Northern British Columbia and their programs.
Question re: Land use planning
Mr. McRobb: The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has said repeatedly that large-scale development such as pipelines, railways and oil and gas exploration can proceed at the same time as land use planning, but since responsibility for land administration was devolved to the territorial government, weíve seen nothing but chaos and confusion within the land disposition process. People are angry and frustrated, and take no comfort in the ministerís ďdonít worry, be happyĒ approach to land disposition or land use planning.
Does the minister really believe that everything is hunky-dory on all fronts?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member oppositeís question on land use planning, when we came to office, there had been no land use planning ó except for the Kluane area ó that was finalized. The process had been going on for 10 years. Weíve been in office for three years. North Yukon is coming to a conclusion; Peel River review is being done now; weíre working to get Teslin up and running ó so I think weíve done fairly well for three years.
The members opposite were in government at one point, and nothing was done under their watch. Under our watch, I think weíve done incredibly well.
Mr. McRobb: I would urge the minister to go back and review some of the history of land use planning, and heíll discover quite the contrary, that the previous NDP government did conduct a lot of land use planning.
People have seen many land rushes along the Fish Lake Road and elsewhere that have destroyed their faith in fairness and soundness of the land disposition process. People have seen important wetlands and other lands of dubious agricultural quality sold off at bargain-basement prices over the objections of other stakeholders, like First Nations and public interest groups.
People see departments such as his and Community Services acting at cross-purposes rather than working together in a spirit of coordination and cooperation. Is the minister aware of this ďtwo solitudesĒ problem existent within the bureaucracy?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member oppositeís question, the proof is in the pudding. We had no land use planning in the territory finalized under their watch. There was a $15-million federal contribution agreement to our government to do just that over the last 10 years. I think there is about $5 million left in that deposit. Weíre working with it. The NDP, the third party ó no land use plan finalized. We are finalizing north Yukon. Weíre working very actively on the Peel. Weíre working with the Teslin group to get it up and running. We are very confident that we will have some results here in the next 12 months.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Iím wondering why the minister avoided the question I had regarding the ďtwo solitudesĒ problem within the bureaucracy.
Now, a draft report currently making the departmental rounds slams this governmentís land disposition process. It says the two departments are creating animosity and bitterness among the public. This report cites a lack of clear direction with no vision or strategy to guide the process. It goes on to suggest that there is a de facto land policy based on ministerial correspondence with advisory associations. Will the minister immediately sit down with his counterpart in Community Services and their senior officials and hammer out a way of bringing clarity and cohesion to this dogís breakfast of jurisdictional chaos?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, in answering the member opposite ó doom and gloom ó we work between the departments on a daily basis. We have had the responsibility for land for two years. I think this government has done a commendable job in 24 months, managing the land in the Yukon. We certainly have issues. We will work those issues out, and that is our responsibility as government. Weíre not perfect, but at the end of the day weíre better than the members opposite.
Question re: Land use planning
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to come back to the Minister of Community Services and the question of land dispositions and land planning. Yukoners are extremely frustrated over the uncertainty that still surrounds land issues after 30 years of land claims negotiations. The responsibility for managing lands and resources has been in the Yukonís hands for two years. We just heard that. If anything, the situation seems to be even worse under this government than it was under the federal government. What is the Minister of Community Services doing to clear up the conflicts and confusion between his department and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I will state for the record that we are working with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on the relationship as it relates to the disposition of land, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím sure that the minister is aware of a draft report on land disposition that his department received over a month ago. The report paints a very bleak picture of how lands issues are being dealt with under this Yukon Party government. A big part of the problem stems from the fact that there are two separate departments with responsibilities for land. Those departments have different philosophies and different ways of doing things. In one place the report even refers to them as acting as two separate governments.
How does the minister expect any clarity or certainty to exist in that type of climate and what is he doing to correct it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will indicate again that we are working with Energy, Mines and Resources on the disposition of land, and I will say that we have finalized plans the member opposite, when his party was in power, tried to get off the ground, and they were down with zoning. Weíve got those zoning plans now. Weíve got three zoning plans out that weíve completed in that particular aspect. Are we moving along? Yes, we are, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister has a strange version of history and what has been going on. Perhaps the minister should simply release this draft report so that Yukoners can judge for themselves where the problems lie.
In another place, the report refers to massive amounts of political interference in the process. What specific steps is this minister taking to keep the disposition and development processes free of political interference so that Yukoners know what the rules are and they can feel confident in how those rules are applied fairly and impartially?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have a process for the disposition of land that has been identified under Community Services. As well, there is one under Energy, Mines and Resources. We are following that process that has been identified. Our officials are ensuring that the applications are being followed through.
Speaker: The Member for Klondike.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, go ahead, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, we are now on question 6, which belongs to the official opposition. The leader of the official opposition is prepared to ask the question on our behalf. I urge you to recognize him and not an independent member of the Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: It is the Chairís responsibility to ensure that each member gets representation for his constituents in this Assembly. I had urged the House leaders to make accommodation for this. Up to this point in time, I have not received that information. I have received a note from you and from the Member for Klondike about this position.
There is no point of order.
Member for Klondike, you have the floor.
Question re: Dawson City sewage disposal
†Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services.
The minister took over responsibility for Dawson City in April 2004 ó over a year and a half ago. The City of Dawson is under a court order to upgrade and install a secondary sewage treatment plant. The project management team overseeing this project was selected by Community Services, and Community Services is clearly overseeing this initiative. My question for the minister: has Community Services selected a sewage treatment plant for Dawson City and will it be installed in time to comply with the court order?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Court has set a completion date of December 31, 2008, for the construction of the new sewage treatment facility in Dawson. Failure to do so could result in significant fines. We are in the process of completing the pilot project within that municipality, and weíre in the process of putting forth a presentation to go forth on the sewage facility.
Mr. Jenkins: For the ministerís information, the pilot project was completed quite some time ago. The results have been known for quite some time. An aerated lagoon appears to be the direction the department is taking, and itís a good system.
My question for the minister is this: can he provide the assurance to my constituents that this plant ó this aerated lagoon ó will not be installed upstream of the municipal water supply?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at a couple of options with regard to the lagoon. Once those are finalized, weíll present them to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: They were presented to the community last night, and all sites indicated are upstream of the cityís water supply. That is the issue, Mr. Speaker.
Would the minister confirm that if Community Services commenced the permitting process today to install the selected secondary sewage plant in Dawson City, it would be impossible to meet the court-ordered deadlines for secondary sewage?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If we started today and worked through and everything was perfect, yes, we may be in a position to do so. But Iíll remind the member opposite that, until such time as we can secure the land base and carry on with the secondary sewage for Dawson City, weíll be in a position to bring forth our situation to the judge at a later date.
Question re: Doctor shortage
Mr. Mitchell: I have some further questions for the Acting Minister of Health and Social Services. The Yukon Premier has had three years to work on the issue of doctor recruitment. Under the former minister, we were actually going backward. We have fewer doctors now than we had a year ago. One of the main issues in the Copperbelt by-election was access to the health care system. People do not believe the Yukon Party government is doing enough to address this situation. In February of this year, the former minister issued a news release and said the government was looking at establishing a health care clinic staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians on a 24-hour basis. That was nine months ago. There has been no public discussion of this concept since then. Has there been any progress on this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I canít comment specifically on those negotiations, being the acting minister in this capacity. I assume they are ongoing. On a personal note, I do agree with the member opposite that use of nurse practitioners is one way to look at this problem. There are a number of other ways to look at this problem. Weíre working with the University of Northern British Columbia, for instance, in the training of nurse practitioners and in the training of physicians, the idea being, of course, that physicians recruited from and doing much of their training in the north will tend to stay in the north. That gives us a competitive edge. It is a very multi-faceted program and a very multi-faceted solution and, again, one of national importance that we have to approach with a northern flair.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, the last agreement that the Yukon Party signed with the doctors is not having the desired effect, and the government knows it. They just seem incapable of doing anything about it. They can no longer blame the former minister. He and his $300,000 debt to taxpayers are out the door. People are looking for action, and theyíre not getting it from this government. We donít have enough doctors, and the ones we do have are under increasing stress. The key here is to get more of them. Weíve offered the Yukon Party some concrete suggestions on how to improve the situation, and so far we havenít had a response. What other solutions is the government looking at?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, to our new member opposite, the Yukon Party didnít sign any agreements; the Yukon government may have, but the party certainly did not.
There are a number of key elements to this, and getting more doctors would be admirable, but the member oppositeís solution of tuition, while perhaps having great merit, would provide additional doctors in the four- to six-year range, somewhere in that area, depending on when the programs kicked in. Is it part of the puzzle? Yes, it is. Is it the solution? No.
So weíve looked at other ways; for instance, agreements with Calgary, in terms of bringing medical students and medical residents up for part of their training, to show them what the north looks like and to allow them to look at the lifestyle as a potential solution. I remind the member opposite that, at one point, we had the best doctor-patient ratio in Canada, and still had orphan patients and still had people waiting. This is a national problem and one that we will continue to struggle with and hopefully find some unique northern solutions to.
Mr. Mitchell: The last agreement with Yukon doctors was signed in June of 2004. That was almost a year and a half ago. It contained a $200-per-head bounty, which doctors received if they took on new patients. This provision has not been used very much, and doctors were unhappy with it anyway. It left the impression that doctors were simply unwilling to work and that $200 would make them get up off the couch and see more patients.
The reality is doctors already see all the patients they can handle. We simply need more doctors. In February of this year, the government put out a news release, saying that it was tackling this entire issue. Again, that was nine months ago and nothing has been accomplished. I would urge the Premier to appoint a new full-time Health minister and get them working on this issue.
When is the Yukon Party government going to start giving this issue the attention it deserves?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: A sentiment at the end there that I certainly agree with.
There again, a number of points that the member opposite makes ó the $200 bounty, for want of a better term, on taking new patients. Again, itís a piece of the puzzle. It may be disliked by some of the physicians, it may not have been used to the full extent that some people would like, but it is a part of the puzzle.
What the member opposite really is asking here is that we come up with a total solution probably involving a magic wand, and unfortunately this government ó or any other government of any stripe ó does not have one. It is a large, multi-faceted problem that this government and this department will continue to struggle with and come up with creative solutions on. Nurse practitioners, possible patient bonuses, working with University of Northern British Columbia, working with the University of Calgary, working with potentially other medical schools. We have a wide variety of ways to deal with this problem and we will continue to look at all of them.
Speaker: Because it is my prerogative, I would ask that the leader of the official opposition ó if you have a final question, I would be prepared to accept it. If not, then the time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. McRobb: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify Motion No. 511, standing in the name of the official opposition, to be called tomorrow.
Mr. Mitchell: †† Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, December 7, 2005. It is Motion No. 498, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Speaker: Prior to proceeding to Orders of the Day, the Chair is going to request that the official opposition House leader, leader of the third party and acting government House leader meet in my office during the break.
We will now proceed with 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. The Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Before we begin the dayís proceedings, do the members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Motion re appearance of witness
Mr. Cathers: I move
THAT David Morrison, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation and president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Energy Corporation, appear as a witness before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, 2005, to discuss matters relating to the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers
THAT David Morrison, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation and president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Energy Corporation, appear as a witness before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, 2005, to discuss matters relating to the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. McRobb: I think this is highly unusual because usually not only the president comes in to represent the corporation, but the chair also comes in. We know the chair is Mr. Willard Phelps. We would like to see him here too.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the motion?
Mr. Hardy: That was a very good point made by my colleague. One of the reasons he made that point is that we all know of the fiasco that has happened with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. One of the big problems when the Public Accounts Committee looked at it was the lack of communication and the information that was not presented ó from our perspective ó from the president to the chair and to the board. It is essential, in order for us to make those changes that will bring everybody into the loop and so we know what is happening, that we have both the chair and the president in the Legislative Assembly so they can be questioned and we can find out exactly what is happening.
Mr. Cathers: In answer to the comments of the members opposite, it is common practice when members of the corporation are appearing before the House as witnesses to call either one witness or two. In this case, the motion moved by the government is to call one witness, Mr. David Morrison.
Chair: †Is there any further debate?
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for the opportunity to speak again to this motion, Mr. Chair. I think the Member for Lake Laberge hasnít been around very long, because if he checked past practice, he would discover that in virtually every appearance of any corporation before this Assembly, there were two people present. I think back to the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. I think back to the Yukon Development Corporation. Mr. Chair, there are always two people representing the corporation. Whenever possible, those two people should be the president and the chair. There is a good reason for that, Mr. Chair. We want to speak to the witnesses on matters involving policy, and we want to speak to the people whose responsibility relates to policies. The president of the corporation has nothing to do with the board of directors, other than to sit as a de facto member on the board.
You know, thatís an ex officio member on the board. If the Yukon Party continues in this deluded form of democracy, why donít we just do away with these appearances because, the next thing you know, weíll have someone who replaces light bulbs on the utility pole come in here and represent the corporation. Thatís the direction this government is going in.
We need the chair of the corporation here. I want to ask the government side: is it prepared to do that?
Weíve been deliberating on dates for almost a month now. The government side would not tell us the date of these appearances until only yesterday, and that was just a verbal indication. We just received formal notice now of when the date is. Thereís obviously a lot of scheduling going on in the back office upstairs. The government is surely not telling us now that the chair is unavailable on this day.
I request the government side to relent and to beef up these appearances by including the chair of the board of the Energy Corporation. We deserve that right, as opposition. Weíre questioning the policies of the corporation. If we donít have the chair here, we might as well just forget the whole process. Whatís the use?
Mr. Hardy: I would like to remind the Member for Lake Laberge that he was in agreement that the chair was called when we had the Public Accounts Committee. When we put the call out, we were initially told by the president that he himself felt he was the only one who needed to appear before the Public Accounts Committee. The Member for Lake Laberge is a member of the Public Accounts Committee. We as a group insisted that that was not good enough. We felt that it was necessary for the chair to be in the hearings so that questions could be directed to him. We could test his knowledge and understand the policies and direction that the chair and the board were going in ó not through the president, but directly from the chair. That is essential. That is absolutely essential.
He was in agreement then. What I find very disturbing now is that, number one, historically, as my colleague from Kluane has indicated, we have almost always had two people ó the chair and the president ó come before us. The member is wrong in this case, and he is now saying this is acceptable. Itís not acceptable from our side. Number two, this is a contradiction to what we had for the Public Accounts Committee. Why is the Legislative Assembly now being treated as less than the Public Accounts Committee in having witnesses brought before the Legislative Assembly?
The chair has a responsibility. Thatís why heís in that position. Part of that responsibility is to come before the Legislative Assembly and answer the questions that are directed to him, to have an opportunity to explain the direction that the utilities are going in, to explain to the public. The chair should not be held off in a room by himself with his board and never be accountable. Thatís not what open and accountable government is.
Our request is to do what weíve done in the past. Have the chair, with the president, come before the Legislative Assembly. We do not want to see another Mayo-Dawson transmission line cost overrun. We found out why and what happened in that case, and it became very clear that there was definitely a breakdown in communication between the chair, the board and the people running the Yukon Development Corporation. There was also a breakdown at a political level.
Now we are told by this member that this is good enough ó that itís all right to only have the president. From the NDPís perspective, we respectfully request that the member go back and ask that the chair be present. Heís getting paid for it; he has a long history; he has a great amount of knowledge; he has a duty to the public, and he has a duty to the Legislative Assembly. This is not an uncommon request.
If that is not granted, we will have to ask: why is the chair being hidden from the Legislative Assembly by this member and by this government?
Mr. Cathers: I appreciate the concerns expressed by the members of the NDP. Iíd like to note for the record and the members opposite that there have been times in the past when one witness has been present on behalf of a corporation, and there have been times in the past when there have been two present. The motion today is to bring forward one witness ó the president of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. There will no doubt be times in the future when there will be two representatives of the corporations. There are a number of elements such as scheduling issues and various things that can come into play at different times, and they could go all the way back through Yukon history to debate in each case why there has been one member or two members brought forward as witnesses for a corporation.
With reference to the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, I assure the members opposite that that project and a boondoggle of that type is something that is the last thing that members on this side of the House wish to see. It was a project that was conceived under an NDP government and mismanaged by a Liberal government, and that is the last thing we want to see.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I dispute the information put on the record by the acting government House leader. He indicates several times that in the past only one person represented the corporations when they appeared before this Assembly. I take issue with that. I would like to see some evidence to that effect. I believe he doesnít know. I believe somebody just told him to say that, and thatís what he said. I believe itís unfounded, because Iíve been in here nine years now, Mr. Chair, and honestly I donít recall even one situation of only one witness. Thatís in over nine years. That member has been here for sittings for two and a half years, yet he is telling us the way it is? Well, how does he know? Who put him in charge?
Now, I want to talk about the chair of Yukon Development Corporation for a minute. This is a publicly owned corporation, Mr. Chair. One thing the corporation always likes to say is that itís publicly accountable. Well, tell me when the chair is publicly accountable, Mr. Chair. Tell me what process that might be. This is the process here. This is the very reason why this corporation appears before the Legislature ó the reason this whole need was proposed to begin with. It was to make the corporations and the chairs accountable to the public through the Legislature. Now the Yukon Party is cutting that process without any discussion with Yukoners. Weíre caught by surprise today. We didnít expect to be talking to this motion and objecting to it until the member only identified one person, and that is breaking with past practice.
Mr. Chair, there are some good questions we want to ask the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation. We are aware of some of his activities. Not only is he getting paid a very handsome figure as chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, he is also under contract to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, to champion various mining projects. We are aware of some of the lucrative amounts of those contracts, and we want to get to the bottom of some of these, because from day one weíve alleged there is a conflict of interest. We want to question the chair and this Yukon Party government about this conflict.
The chair is also out there trying to sell transmission lines to some Yukoners. We know about that. We want to ask him here and get it put on the public record. What is he selling and who is going to pay the bill? We know who is going to pay the bill, Mr. Chair. It will be Yukoners through their future power rates. This government, again, is not being accountable. The whole process of accountability is being short-circuited. The government must bring in the chair of the corporation for some questioning to at least give the opposition parties the opportunity to question the chair. Without that opportunity, there is no accountability, and the government side knows it.
Iím looking for the government to relent and work with us on this issue. We are prepared to defer the date from Thursday, if the chair isnít available, to some other date next week to accommodate it if required. But the chair must appear along with the president; thatís the bottom line.
Mr. Cathers: I was somewhat disturbed by the remarks from the NDP House leader. It appeared to me that he was casting aspersions on the chair of the corporation, and I donít think thatís appropriate. If the Member for Kluane or any member of the NDP or Liberal caucuses have concerns with policy matters involving the Yukon Development Corporation or the Yukon Energy Corporation, and if they are not satisfied with the venue dealing with them when the witnesses appear before the Committee as witnesses, they also have the option, as they are fully aware, of questioning the minister responsible daily during Question Period and can ask him their questions and address their concerns in that manner.
I would also point out that the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation are public corporations. Itís my understanding that, on an annual basis, they do community tours, as well as submitting the annual report, and they are fully open to the public. The methods under our watch have tried to ensure we never see a project with the implications such as the Mayo-Dawson transmission lineís vast wastage of taxpayersí dollars.
Again, the motion before the Committee today is to call the president of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, and the members have the option of voting against the motion if they do not agree with it.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the member opposite for telling us we have the option of voting against it because I can assure you right now that we will be voting against it. Weíll be voting against it because we believe, as my colleague beside me has indicated, that the past practices have both the chair and the president in the Legislative Assembly, contrary to what the member opposite has said.
Also contrary to what the member opposite has said ó because there are a lot of things that member has said and put on record that are not correct ó concern the Mayo-Dawson line. That member tried to insinuate that the NDP was responsible for that. That member really should look at the history of that line, because he doesnít know.
And itís not the first time that member has stood up and made insinuations that are completely, completely wrong. I get awfully tired of sitting in here and listening to that member and other members get away with rewriting history. I have a problem with that. Stand up, please.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, aside from the other comments made by the leader, the term ďrewriting history,Ē I believe, has very clearly been ruled out of order in this House, and I would ask you to have the member refrain from its use.
Chair: While it is certainly against our Standing Orders to impute false or unavowed motives to others or to charge another member with deliberately uttering a falsehood, the Chair did not hear a charge of attempting to mislead the House. There was no statement that it was a deliberate act to misrepresent or misconstrue the facts. The Chair must accept that there will be different facts and different versions of reality presented here, but I would caution the members to treat all members as honourable members of the Assembly and to argue the facts of the matter before us and not argue based on personalities.
Mr. Hardy: I thank you for your ruling, Mr. Chair. I will try to keep that in mind as much as possible.
But letís go back to something thatís very, very clear. Past practice ó the chair and the president come before the Legislative Assembly to answer questions. Public Accounts Committee demanded, against the wishes of the president, that the chair be present. That member opposite was in agreement with that.
Fast-forward to today ó that member opposite is doing everything possible to ensure the chair does not come before the Legislative Assembly. Why is that member preventing the chair from doing his job and being accountable? Why do we have him as a chair, Mr. Chair? Why? What role is he playing, if it is not to be accountable for the decisions that are being made at a board level? The member opposite on the other side is laughing, and finds this amusing. I can assure you that this is not a laughing matter. We need to be able to ask what decisions are being made by the board, not as interpreted through the president, but directly through the chair. We need to have that level of accountability ó a level of accountability that this member is denying the Legislative Assembly. Thatís totally inappropriate and that is not past practice, as this member likes to try to cast out.
We need to know what direction YEC and YDC are going in and what policy they are working under or what changes they are even anticipating. We need to know what kind of spending is happening over there. We need to know what the chair is doing, because there are a lot of questions about this chair who was appointed.
This chair has a lot of experience. He is not coming in as a rookie. He is a former Member of the Legislative Assembly. He is a former minister responsible for YEC and YDC. He is the chair. He has a long, long history on energy issues, through his family. He would make a valuable contribution to the questions and debate that would happen in the Legislative Assembly. Itís not good enough that we ask the minister, who will stand up, of course, and say that thatís an armís-length department, that they donít interfere day by day. Weíve heard that in questions weíve asked of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission over the last few days.
Thatís the response we got from that minister. In other words, I donít know whatís going on, I donít want to know whatís going on, but I sure love collecting my paycheque. However, we donít want to have to face that kind of answer when we ask another minister about this.
This is the best way for us to get answers. Itís the best way for both the president and the chair and the board to be accountable to the people and to be accountable to the MLAs who represent the 18 ridings in this territory.
Our critics need a chance to ask questions and discuss issues with these two people, and we all need to be able to go back to our constituents and say that this is what weíve done, these are the questions we asked, these are the people who came before us.
Very simply, why is this member blocking this? Will he recognize the wishes of the official opposition, the NDP, find a way to change the date ó as the Member for Kluane has indicated, weíre willing to be flexible on this ó to accommodate the chair, if the chair is not around, and make it happen as it has in the past? Thatís all weíre asking. Will he do it?
Mr. Cathers: We appreciate the frustration of the members opposite and realize this seems to be a very heartfelt issue for them. Certainly the intent of the government in proceeding with this was to bring forward the president before the House and give members opposite the opportunity to question him.
I am disappointed by some of the comments coming forward from the leader of the NDP that seem to be casting aspersions on the chair and on members of the government, in suggesting that people are not acting in good faith in the context of their jobs. I find that very disturbing.
I would urge him to not do that.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Hardy, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: I would just like to clarify something for the member opposite. Once again he has put information on the floor that this ó
Chair: Order please. Is this a point of order or a point of clarification?
Mr. Hardy: I am going to withdraw the point of order and just get up on a point of clarification.
Mr. Hardy: The member opposite ó
Chair: Order please. Had the member concluded?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The member opposite said that I cast aspersions upon the chair in my previous statements. I would like the member opposite to correct that. Will the member opposite listen, instead of turning his back to me? I would like the member opposite to correct that because if he checks the record I did not cast aspersions on the chair; as a matter of fact, I praised him for his knowledge and I wish this member would pay attention and quit putting information on the floor that is incorrect.
Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Clearly the leader of the NDP and I have a different conception of the words that came out of his mouth. I was of the opinion that he was. If he says he was not casting aspersions, then, of course, the concept in this House is that all members are honourable.
Mr. Hardy: The attitude of this member opposite ó once again Iíd like the member opposite to listen to me instead of turning his back. But if he doesnít want to, thatís fine. Maybe he would actually hear what comes out of other peopleís mouths instead of making it up. The member opposite ó
Chair: Order please. The Chair is very uncomfortable with the memberís comment about making up information.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy: I withdraw that remark, Mr. Chair. Itís just very difficult to stand in this Legislative Assembly, talk about the chair with respect, and then have a member stand up and say that Iím casting aspersions on him. †
Itís very difficult to have that person taking your words and twisting them like that or changing them ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Thatís not bad. Iím trying to find a way to do this for you ó changing the words to create a different impression.
However, Iím going back to my request, because the member still hasnít answered the request that I put on the floor, and that was: will he accommodate the official opposition ó the request by the Member for Kluane as well as by me ó and I believe the leader of the third party is also planning to stand up. Will he honour and respect the request from the opposition side to bring in the chair? Weíre willing to accommodate it on days when it happens. Weíre willing to go that extra step. Will he do what we believe is the right thing for accountability and do that?
Mr. Cathers: Now, I recognize this seems to be an issue of great concern for the members opposite, and the leader of the NDP and I have gone back and forth about our differing perceptions of whether what the other member said was appropriate, and really, that is not germane to the issue at this time. I do respect the concerns of the members opposite. It was the full intention of the government, when we brought forward this motion, to give the members opposite the opportunity to question the corporation and witnesses, as is the usual course of business.
†The members seem to have a concern with the manner in which weíve done it. Mr. Speaker, weíd be prepared to withdraw this motion and discuss this matter at House leadersí meeting with the members opposite and see if we can look at resolving their concerns in a more productive fashion and looking at rescheduling this for later in the session.
Unanimous consent re withdrawal of motion
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I would request the unanimous consent of the Committee to withdraw this motion.
Mr. Mitchell: First, I would like to just go on the record to speak to the importance that I attach to having the chair, not simply the president, of any Crown corporation appear. Itís an issue of basic governance. The corporations are managed by boards of directors. The president and CEO works for the board of directors. Although I may be new to this House, I have some past history as having served in those capacities and it was certainly the practice when I did so that the chair or the alternate chair from Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board would appear here in the House, not the president, because the president is ultimately accountable and is hired by the board.
So, I think itís a very important point. Itís not simply indulging the opposition members, but rather itís the way that business should be conducted. I think that itís just a basic point of governance and itís the obligation that should be here for us to talk to the decision makers, not simply to the people who are going to explain the decisions.
I would also just like to say that we feel strongly that we should have a chance to question and receive answers from the chair. In this case, the chair is anything but a figurehead chair. He is certainly a very knowledgeable person with expertise who I fully believe would be directing the affairs of this corporation.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Cathers has asked for unanimous consent of this Committee to withdraw Motion No. 8. Do we have unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I believe we have unanimous consent.
The motion is withdrawn.
Unanimous consent re debate of Bill No. 65
Mr. Cathers: I would now request, also in the spirit of cooperation, the unanimous consent of the Committee to debate Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005).
Chair: Mr. Cathers has requested unanimous consent to debate Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005).
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Bill No. 65 ó Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005)
Chair: We will now begin with general debate on Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005).
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As was stated during second reading, our government is very pleased to introduce this bill and very pleased that we are taking the opportunity to debate the bill. As we discussed earlier, we all know the recent rise in energy costs and how it affects all of us in all areas of the economy, not just those who directly use the energy. I refer to whether itís going to the post office and mailing a parcel, the costs have risen; whether itís going to the grocery store, the cost of groceries has risen. These are all indirect impacts as a result of the rising costs of energy.
The challenge before us is to find a way to mitigate the effect of these rising costs by providing relief where it is needed most. In this regard, we have been working to meet this challenge.
Our government is prepared to provide direct financial support to fellow Yukoners who cannot afford to absorb these increases without grave sacrifice. Those individuals with little disposal income, as we all know, simply do not have the capacity to absorb these increased costs. It is for this reason that this bill provides relief for these very individuals, by providing a one-time energy rebate cheque to them.
All residents entitled to a quarterly GST credit payment in the last quarter of this calendar year will be entitled to an energy rebate cheque of $150, regardless of the source of heating. In turn, approximately 7,000 families are expected to qualify for this rebate. Rebate cheques will be available, as the Premier stated earlier, as early as possible in the new year. As stated when introducing this bill on second reading, our government will not only ensure that social assistance recipients do not have their assistance reduced by this rebate amount, but that those individuals on social assistance who are eligible for the federal rebate will not have their assistance reduced by that rebate either.
Mr. Chair, we have heard the concerns of Yukoners as they see the effects of rising energy prices, and we are pleased to be able to assist in this regard. I hope all members of the House will see fit to support this bill, and I certainly look forward to the debate by members opposite.
Mr. Hardy: I just have a couple comments about this, and then I can indicate to the acting minister that we will be supporting this, of course. We had a very good briefing this morning that answered many of the questions that I would have been directing toward the acting minister, but I found most of those questions were answered, and I felt that justified some of the positions I was thinking about ó not necessarily ďjustifiedĒ, but answered or dealt with some of the concerns I had in regard to this.
Just a couple of things in regard to it, of course, is the number 7,000 ó indicating that there were 7,000 people who would be eligible. That indicates that there are a substantial number of people in the territory who are making a fairly low income, if thatís the case. Seven thousand is quite a high number. There was a concern, of course, of how to reach all these people. The department has made assurances that the process theyíre going to use is quite extensive, and I think thatís very important. I thank the members opposite. I thank the acting minister and the department for doing that.
†† As people know, on record, I said $150 is not enough. It is a very, very small amount of money when you are barely making it as it is. I have heard figures ó it is half a cord of firewood in Old Crow. Half of a cord will not go very far. Itís between one-fifth and one-seventh of a tank of fuel for the whole winter. Thatís, of course, not going to go very far. Itís only $150 for I would say the larger group out there. Now, I do know that there was mention that for those who are on social assistance, this will not be clawed back. Thatís good. Plus, there is also the federal program of $250, which would mean that they would be eligible for about $400. Thatís good as well.
The other concern is that itís one time only. What happens if fuel prices continue to rise next year? What contingency plans are in place to deal with rising costs of fuel to heat the homes? What direction is this government going in? I guess the question I have for the acting minister would be ó this is a good, quick response ó itís not enough from my perspective, but itís a good, quick response ó but what are they planning for the future? Because SA rates havenít gone up, if we look specifically at SA rates. Those people will still be in the worst situation if the costs continue to go up. The working poor are struggling to make ends meet and the cost of fuel continues to go up, along with many other costs.
I do know that we have questioned this government about the minimum wage and theyíve indicated that thatís being looked at now. I saw the advertisement in the paper. I think thatís an excellent, excellent move, and I applaud the government for doing that.
I guess this is the question I have: what other models has the government looked at in order to deal with rising costs of fuel, of living, for people ó in this specific instance, weíll say fuel ó around the country, and what direction is this government going in to deal with that? Do they have a long-range plan in place, or is this as far as theyíve gone so far?
If the member opposite can answer those questions, I will be quite happy to support this bill, as my colleagues will, and look forward to seeing that $150 get into the hands of many of my constituents, as well as many Yukoners throughout the territory.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I thank the leader of the official opposition for his support. The member opposite raises a number of questions and Iím pleased he was able to receive most of those answers from our Department of Finance officials. Again, I would like to commend the Department of Finance and all the officials who helped put this bill and this program together.
Who would have known we were in the midst of an energy crisis, you could say. Who would have known that Yukoners and individuals worldwide would be seeing a spike in energy costs. It wasnít the case a few years ago; but it certainly is the case now.
What we have done is looked to the rest of the country, to other jurisdictions. As the member opposite is fully aware, there are a number of other programs ó Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, to name a few. I understand most of those were rebate programs for families who use home heating oil as the primary method of heat.
What this program, in fact, does is provides a very wide application for families so they can use this additional income toward costs associated with the rise in energy costs. So this is, I believe, a more wide-reaching program than perhaps these other programs that are currently being delivered within the country.
As I mentioned, this rebate is not based on how much fuel one consumes or what type of fuel. So, with respect to the member oppositeís questions, the $150 rebate that many Yukoners will be receiving ó that, coupled with the federal rebate of $250 equals $400. That is a fairly good sum of money that will go toward the very needs of Yukon citizens.
Mr. Hardy: I just have one other point that I noticed here. There was a letter tabled today from the Member for Lake Laberge requesting specifically to be excluded from coverage under this program because he feels that he would qualify for it. You know, I donít think that the Member for Lake Laberge needs to make any more work for the Finance department. All he has to do is not apply for it.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Mitchell: †† Well, first of all Iíll just say up front I am not going to speak to this for very long and the third party will also be voting in support of this program. I also want to thank the Deputy Premier and the Acting Minister of Finance for the good briefing that we received from her officials this morning. It was very thorough and clear. Itís always nice when finance is explained in a clear and thorough manner.
Having said that, I do have a couple of concerns. I expressed some at second reading. This is a step in the right direction and it is certainly needed by Yukoners who are struggling with higher bills, and for that reason we will be supporting it. But it is certainly far from perfect, and perhaps, as the minister indicated, the desire to act quickly may have led to that.
A few numbers have been thrown around. One number is a fifth of a tank of fuel oil, perhaps a seventh. I took the time to phone one of the main local suppliers today, and unless one is getting some bulk discount or special programs, todayís price for a litre of arctic fuel is 94.9 cents per litre, which means an 1,140-litre tank with GST is $1,157.59 to purchase today. So we are actually down to not much more than an eighth of a tank ó between a seventh and an eighth of a tank of fuel oil. Itís a help, but it is certainly not going to keep anybodyís house warm for too long.
The other concern I have is that there has been some discussion ó and if the officials that are here today can clarify this with the minister, that would be great ó about 7,000 recipients, others talked about 7,000 households. My understanding, since this is based on the GST rebate, is that it would be triggered by tax filers. Just in response to a couple of questions today and some examples given, the concern I would have is for working poor, for middle-income people who are also feeling the pinch of this and will fall outside of the parameters ó and that will include many of my own constituents, no doubt.
One of the examples given for a threshold was that two adults and four children with a combined family income of a little over $46,000 would continue to receive this rebate. I would therefore presume that two adults and four children, with a combined income of $47,000 or $48,000, would fall outside the parameters of the program.
By the same examples that were given, because itís triggered by an individual, if there was a family ó and we do have some that are this fortunate in Yukon ó with two professional people, each earning $100,000 or more per year, they could have a combined family income of $200,000 or $230,000, and if they had a young adult child away attending university whose family residence is in Yukon and who comes home and works during the summer in order to help augment their income for going to school, that student would receive the grant. The grant would come to that household. As much as I am in favour of doing anything we can to help university students defray the high costs of their education, I do have some concerns with the fact that, in effect, households with a very good income would be getting the $150 or, if there are two students, $300 ó three students would be $450 ó yet that family we had as the example of two adults and four children who were making $47,000 or $48,000 a year might not receive any at all.
I would encourage the minister, since it is unlikely we will see long-term drops in fuel prices ó they go up and down, but the trend is pretty steadily up over the long term ó if the minister is thinking about bringing back a similar program for next winter, to look into this to see if thereís a way to spread it around a little more and help out more people. I say that not as a criticism but rather as an encouragement. There are a lot of needy people when we see a basic cost like heating our homes go up that rapidly.
Thatís all I wanted to say in this regard. I thank the minister for bringing the program forward and we will be supporting it.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The member is absolutely correct. We are striving to find a program that certainly meets the needs of those who are most in need of a program such as this. You can be very certain that we will look to further improve the delivery of the program. As with any program, there are always a number of areas that we can strengthen. Should there be a further need to introduce another similar program, we will look to see how we can strengthen the program that is already being delivered.
With respect to the comments about the students, we do consider that students, even though they may come from a family that has great income ó I guess there is always that assumption that students, when they are going to school Outside, are operating on an individual basis. As a former student at university, there are always additional expenses incurred. Just because they are students does not mean that they are exempt from the rising costs of energy. Whether that is reflected in the cost of books or the cost of going out for a meal or groceries, these costs are certainly off-loaded to students as well.
I appreciate the memberís questions and his comments. I would like to thank the members opposite for their comments, and we look forward to the final debate on the bill.
Mr. Mitchell: Again, thank you to the acting minister for her comments. I just want to be clear. I certainly donít begrudge the students the grant. I was using it, rather, as an example of the fact that there are many people who are not captured by this particular program as it has been presented. I would just encourage the minister again to see if we can find some additional relief for the large number of Yukoners who are generally referred to as middle-class wage earners who nevertheless are feeling significant pressure from this yearís rising energy costs, because theyíve gone up very rapidly in the past 12 months.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Hearing none, weíll proceed with line-by-line examination.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Chair: That concludes Bill No. 65, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005).
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 65, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005), be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Taylor that Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005), be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: It is the Chairís understanding that we will be continuing with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. Is it the Committeeís wish to recess for five minutes while we wait for officials?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for five minutes.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We will continue on with Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Yukon Housing Corporation
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It certainly is a pleasure to present the supplementary budget of 2005-06 for the Yukon Housing Corporation to this large and assembled gathering of the Legislative Assembly.
Iím pleased to present the supplementary estimates for the Yukon Housing Corporation. It has been a busy year ó a busy year for everyone, but certainly a busy year for the Housing Corporation as they continue to deal proactively with the housing needs of all Yukoners.
I am pleased at how the client-focused programs and services of the Yukon Housing Corporation are increasingly accessed by Yukoners throughout the territory. In recent times, the corporation has received and responded to approximately 500 inquiries per month regarding energy efficiency. Increased energy costs affect us all, of course, and Yukon Housing Corporation is an important resource that Yukoners can access.
Iím pleased that we offer such programs as green home mortgages, EnerGuide for house audits and, of course, the home repair program. I encourage homeowners and potential homeowners concerned with energy costs to contact the corporation and learn more about what they can do to reduce energy consumption and the cost of operating a home.
The recent upsurge in housing activity has resulted in the construction of many new, quality homes built to the corporationís green home and accommodating home standard. These new homes are energy efficient and, therefore, cost less to heat in the winter. Reduced fuel consumption also reduces the territoryís greenhouse gas emissions.
A barrier-free design means that people will be able to live independently in their own home for a much longer period of time, and thatís a very good thing and certainly itís good news.
The affordable housing initiative is well underway. The funded project with Falcon Ridge Development Corporation is producing many beneficial outcomes. These new homes are energy efficient, barrier-free, and the multi-million dollar project is great for our economy and for our environment. The project is providing new, affordable housing in a very hot market.
The uptake in the corporationís lending programs continues to have a direct and a positive impact on the housing industry as well as the Yukonís economy. Whether it is through upgrades, the construction of new homes or multi-residential developments, the housing industry continues to grow and develop.
Iíd like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the work that the Yukon Housing Corporation is doing to improve the quality of social and staff housing in the Yukon. These are very important investments in all our communities. As part of our ongoing commitment to improve our social housing portfolio, a number of contracts have been awarded this year in Carmacks, Dawson City, Mayo, Ross River and Whitehorse. Projects range from interior retrofits to electrical upgrades to roof replacements.
In Pelly Crossing, work is almost complete on a new staff housing duplex. Quality staff housing helps our government with the recruitment and retention of valued employees in rural Yukon. I am very pleased that this project is near completion and that Yukon Housing Corporation is able to assist in the overall attainment of a government priority.
The corporation has also recently awarded contracts for the interior retrofit of staff units in Carmacks and Ross River.
Mr. Chair, these are just a few examples of the fine work thatís occurring at the Yukon Housing Corporation, and I would be more than pleased to respond to any questions in general debate prior to line-by-line review by any of the members present in the House.
Mr. Cardiff: I have been anticipating getting to this portion of the supplementary budget for some time actually. I have had lots of questions and it seems to me that in the past we havenít quite made it to Yukon Housing Corporation or had enough time to debate Yukon Housing Corporation and the budget allocation in enough detail. As well, Mr. Chair, there have been several things that have transpired with Yukon Housing Corporation since the Legislature sat last, and so I have some questions in that regard as well.
I guess all I have to do now, Mr. Chair, is decide where to start. I would like to start with something that has been in the news a little bit lately, not necessarily with respect to Yukon Housing Corporation but with respect to the way that government does business. I would like to ask the minister if Yukon Housing Corporation has a policy with regard to sole-source contracts?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím certainly glad to entertain the question that the member so eagerly awaits and Iím glad to see that he has made a decision to start. It certainly reminds me of a famous quote, which Iím probably not too accurate on, of Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass. ďWhich way ought I to go?Ē asked Alice. The cat replies, ďThat depends a great deal on where you want to go to.Ē
In terms of sole-source contracting, the Yukon Housing Corporation complies with all government standards and government guidelines with that. There is nothing separate or distinct that is involved with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Cardiff: Am I to understand, then, that the Housing Corporation complies with government policy and guidelines and that there isnít a separate policy in the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do understand that a number of years ago there were some guidelines within the Housing Corporation, but at least in the past three years we have followed the government guidelines.
Mr. Cardiff: It is my understanding that the Housing Corporation is an armís-length entity. Maybe the minister could elaborate on that. If it is truly at armís length and the minister doesnít have any influence over the board, then I would think the board would have their own policies, wouldnít they?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite is correct that it is an armís-length relationship. The Yukon Housing Corporation Board is, to a large degree, autonomous. In terms of contracts, the board and the Housing Corporation comply with Government of Yukon guidelines.
Mr. Cardiff: We may come back to the sole-sourcing issue later.
A new initiative was recently announced by the Yukon Housing Corporation in Faro, and I am wondering if the minister could provide some information regarding what types of units are being provided ó I believe this is for seniors housing ó and the number of units being opened up for seniors in Faro.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The board announced a couple of weeks ago that they were repairing and bringing up to standard two units in Faro that would be aimed at seniors housing. So the member is correct on that.
Mr. Cardiff: Is it two housing units? Is it one duplex? Is it two duplexes?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I understand it is probably two single detached houses, but I donít know for sure. Thatís an operational issue that is usually not something that Iím consulted on. Itís two housing units that will be brought up to standard and utilized for seniors.
Mr. Cardiff: I would be interested in receiving the information. For any questions the minister has difficulty in answering, I would be more than happy to receive a legislative return with that information.
Another project the Housing Corporation is involved in and there was quite some controversy about is the Falcon Ridge project. We may end up talking about this for awhile. The minister stated ó to use his words ó thereís a good mix of people taking up the units for sale, at any rate. Itís my understanding that one of the priorities of the affordable housing agreement ó this is a priority the government placed on the affordable housing money of $5.5 million that came from Ottawa ó was that it be targeted at seniors housing.
The information I have is that there arenít a lot of senior citizens buying these properties in the Falcon Ridge project. So, if the minister could get the Housing Corporation to provide some statistics on the number of units that have been built, how many have been sold and the general age range ó I donít need to know the personal details of the people who are buying these units, but it sounds to me from the people I have talked to, and from the people Iíve talked to who are buying the units, that there are actually more young families or empty nesters in their late 40s who are buying these units, as opposed to senior citizens. If the minister has some statistics, I would be happy to try to write them down. If not, could he provide them through a legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We would certainly be happy to provide a letter to answer the member oppositeís questions.
In terms of Faro, the information that I have found here says there are two vacant units used for seniors and they will probably be using vacant staff housing up there. But we can get the details, thatís for sure.
In terms of Falcon Ridge, the whole concept, again, Mr. Chair, depends on how youíre defining seniors. The whole aim of the development was to have it available ó that it would be energy efficient, that it would be affordable, that it would be self-sufficient on one floor but with space upstairs. The aim for that, basically, was in the 50- to 55-year-old or 60-year-old range, where they could move in, have an affordable home and stay in that home for a maximum amount of time.
In other words, they could be self-sufficient on the first floor with space upstairs for friends or children returning. There are all sorts of possibilities with that. So it was really to look at it with those standards and to put that type of housing stock in.
As the member opposite knows, weíve leveraged a little over $800,000 into around $23 million in terms of investment in the Yukon and a large number of jobs. All the work up here ó or at least most that Iím aware of ó all went to Yukon contractors and Yukon workers. Of the 44 home ownership units we created under this, they fully meet the green and accommodating home standards, and the last note I got on this was that, of the first 17 purchasers, 13 are over the age of 50 and meet the criteria.
Again, itís a private business so I may not be right up to date on that but, of the first 17, 13 met the criteria we were looking at.
Mr. Cardiff: I have some questions for the minister with regard to the pricing of these units. Iíll have to find the press release here, but I believe it was in the neighbourhood of $830,000 for this project. When we originally talked about this, itís almost like the Dawson bridge. We talked about affordable housing. It may have originally been talked about in the $150,000 to $160,000 range. Itís my understanding now that most of these units are going in the $170,000 range. Itís also my understanding that some of the units are being bought by people who are having them upgraded. I donít know what the price is.
I guess what I am wondering about is, if they are being upgraded with better flooring, better appliances, better fixtures, ó some modifications to the structure, I have heard ó how does Yukon Housing Corporation intend to enforce the requirement that each housing unit that is built under this program is going to remain affordable for not less than 10 years?
If the people are now paying more than $170,000 for these units, by the ministerís own criteria, they may not be affordable.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There are a couple of aspects to the memberís questions. There are rental units as well as purchase units. Once purchased, of course, people have the option to do their own upgrades. Usually, in terms of doing that, it creates more work and more sales of things.
According to the agreement ó if we go back to that federal agreement again ó on the sales end of it, it cannot be sold for more than $170,000. In terms of the upgrades, if the sales exceed that amount, or if any conditions of the agreement are not met, then $7,500 per unit has to be repaid.
In terms of the rental units, the member opposite is correct. They do have to be average rent for the area ó in this case, Copper Ridge ó for at least 10 years. How do we arrive at that? We use the Bureau of Statistics quarterly reports that show rental costs per unit size in the neighbourhood. The developer has agreed that those costs will not be exceeded. We are looking at the possibility of some of the units being used for social housing ó a totally different program, as the member opposite realizes. We will be looking at that whole breakdown.
In terms of the purchase, we have a set limit to the price. If that exceeds that limit then $7,500 has to be paid, if that is done within the first 10 years.
Mr. Cardiff: So, the way I understand that is that the $170,000 is the threshold for any affordable housing unit constructed for sale under this program. Itís interesting that the minister went back to the fact that Iím confused between affordable housing and social housing, because weíre going to clear that up today, Mr. Chair, in a big way. Weíll get that all cleared up today.
Itís my understanding that $170,000 is the threshold and that if somebody buys one of these units and upgrades it to the point where itís $185,000 that the $7,500 subsidy on the for-sale unit has to go back into the affordable housing program ó is that where it goes back?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That is partially correct. The person or people buying the home can do whatever they would like to it. If they sell it within that 10-year window, then the $7,500 has to be returned. That triggers only if they sell it. If they choose to put a storage shed attached underneath the deck ó which I think was the subject of one discussion ó or upgrade other things, thatís their prerogative, but it does trigger the $7,500 if and when it is sold within the 10-year window.
Mr. Cardiff: So Iím to understand, then, that under the affordable housing agreement ó and following the federal election, I will be pleased to ask the minister responsible for CMHC this question as well ó should one of these units that is for sale be upgraded during the construction to the point where itís $200,000 or $250,000 ó itís not hard to run construction costs up in this day and age with finishes. It doesnít matter whether itís carpets, wall finishes, ceilings, light fixtures, appliances, heating. You could run the cost of them up over $170,000. Under the affordable housing agreement, should a person decide to upgrade the home to the point where itís worth, just for the sake of argument, $200,000 ó because itís pretty easy to spend $30,000 when youíre building a home ó these homes will remain subsidized to the tune of $7,500?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member is correct that as long as someone buys it, the subsidy goes to the developer at the time for producing the unit. Once any work is done, that is what someone does within their own home, and that is certainly not my concern and I doubt that itís really the member oppositeís concern. But once it is sold within that 10-year window, then that amount would trigger.
Mr. Cardiff: It hardly seems like weíre reaching the target market for people who require affordable housing. Iím going to ask the page to take a copy of the affordable housing agreement over to the minister so he can read along as we go here. This was the affordable housing agreement that was provided to me by the Housing Corporation. There was an affordable housing agreement that predates this government, actually. There was an agreement dated October 3, 2002, which was agreed to the day before the then Liberal government called the election. When the Yukon Party got into government, they promptly renegotiated the terms of this agreement.
If the minister looks at page A-2, for instance ó this is where weíre going to set the record straight, Mr. Deputy Chair. For too long, the minister has told me Iím confused about affordable housing and social housing. So Iíll direct the minister to page A-2 of the agreement.
It says at the top, revised page A-2 to the affordable housing program agreement of October 3, 2002, per the Letter of Agreement No. 1, dated November 5, 2004, which is the cover letter on the agreement. Program A-1 is the social housing program ó imagine that. Iím confused that affordable housing and social housing have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
It says that the program objective is to create new rental, social, affordable housing. The definition of ďaffordabilityĒ is that the shelter should not cost more than 30 percent of the household income. So there is a provision in the affordable housing agreement for social housing. It is not I who is confused; it is the minister who is confused, and he has been confused for a long time on this one.
The geographic area is ďall YukonĒ, as per the agreement, and the eligibility for CHMC funding is new rental, social housing units owned by the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Yukon government or non-profit groups. It may be simple, low rental, supported, seniors, student, or mental, physical, developmental or other special-needs housing.
Social housing is part of the social housing agreement, and I have been waiting to walk the minister through the agreement he is responsible for. Interestingly enough, if you flip to the next page, the second part ó which is revised again ó is program A-2, which is the home repair program. This program is to preserve modest, affordable, home ownership housing that would otherwise be lost from stock.
There is a prime example of that in Whitehorse where some of this money could have been used for units requiring major repairs or rebuilding in order to preserve or re-establish them being beyond what would be addressed by RRAP, residential rehabilitation assistance program, which is a renovation program under CMHC, without which housing would be lost from the stock of affordable housing.
I brought this up with the minister earlier. I believe last spring we talked about this. To date, Iím not sure what the status is, but I havenít heard any good news from people at the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative. What Iíve heard is that Yukon Housing Corporation has told them that the units need lots of repairs and that Yukon Housing Corporation would just as soon see the housing co-op go down the tubes and Yukon Housing would take over the units and run them as affordable housing or social housing units. But this seems to me like it would have been a good opportunity for Yukon Housing to partner with the federation ó I canít remember the exact term. I can find it.
I will have some further questions for the minister on this, as well.
The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada has offered to help the housing co-op get back on its feet. They went through some tough times, largely through no fault of their own, and this would have been another opportunity to put this money, the $5.5 million ó and the way I understand it is that this money is to subsidize the cost of major repairs or rebuilding enough to make the households affordable. Itís a one-time CMHC contribution, which, together with any contributions by others, will be equal to the present value of the repair loan subsidy.
To me, this federal organization is willing to step up to the plate and see the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative survive. Thereís money in the affordable housing program to preserve affordable housing stock, and itís not being used. The Yukon Housing Corporation could apply for that money itself, because itís the receiver on the housing co-op, and it could ensure the housing co-op survives and that the housing remains affordable.
Now what we get to in the affordable housing agreement is what was renegotiated. This is the new page A-4 to the affordable housing program agreement of October 3, 2002, per the letter of agreement, dated November 5, 2004. Program A-3 is for industry-constructed dwellings for rent programs. If you flip the page, the other new page is about industry-constructed dwellings for the sale program. My point is that the government purposefully changed ó this is where all the money went, into industry-constructed dwellings for rent and for sale programs ó and they have totally ignored the social housing program aspect of the affordable housing agreement, and theyíve totally ignored the home repair program.
If you go back to the press release, it was said that the Housing Corporation actually anticipated a fairly high level of interest in the program from those who would benefit from building or living in new affordable housing.
This is a special, time-limited program, but it looks to me, from what I can tell, that all the money to date that has been spent on the affordable housing agreement ó we wonít talk about the athletes village yet, and most of that money went to Alberta ó has gone to Utah, of all places. Now, I understand that there are local proponents of the Falcon Ridge project. But to me, the parent company hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. Thatís where the money comes from. Look at the application, and the chief financial backer of the project is the Chase Manhattan Bank. We are using affordable housing money to support huge corporations in this housing development, and I question whether or not itís affordable.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is the federal governmentís housing agency, defines affordable housing as ďthat which is of appropriate size and adequate facilities where no more than 30 percent of the individuals or family household income is required to manage its housing cost.Ē Thatís the definition; itís the benchmark thatís used by academics, itís used by government, itís used by industry. I canít see how the people who are most in need of housing can possibly afford, on the for-sale side anyhow, $170,000 a unit.
That leads me into my next question. The hot rumour on the street, Mr. Deputy Chair, is that these units are selling for $170,000 right now. My understanding ó what Iíve been told by people on the street who are looking at buying some of these units ó is theyíve been told to buy them now, get them now, why wait for spring, because in the spring theyíll be $180,000 or $190,000. Can the minister confirm that the price on these units will be going up?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I donít even know where to begin on that list. Maybe a good place to begin is by going back to this agreement, which the member opposite has so kindly sent me over a 14th copy of, and to look at page 1. This is an agreement with our federal government, 1.1, ďaffordable housingĒ means housing which is modest in terms of floor area and amenities, based on household needs and community norms, and is priced at or below average market housing rents or prices for comparable housing in a community or area. Thatís what weíve got to work with ó a federal program.
But when we start looking at some of the other things that have gone around here ó Falcon Ridge, letís start with that. For the memberís information, yet again, the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors selected projects based on a complete review of the various proponents by two independent committees. Both committees have evaluated the projects and made the submissions to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board, who made the selection. To even begin to think that this was a political decision is not even close to reality in terms of the various things the member has mentioned here.
Letís stay with Falcon Ridge for a couple of minutes. The units funded under the affordable housing initiative reflect barrier-free designs so that the homeowners can reside in their homes for the longest period of time. Those are the terms of reference. If prices are above the agreement, as the member opposite has mentioned, then they are not part of this program. We did not fund all buildings within that project. We funded a number of them, and those are the ones that are subjected to this agreement. Outside of those individual units, they can sell them for $500,000 if they can get somebody to buy one. They have nothing whatsoever to do with this agreement.
The Yukon Housing Corporation also partnered with a number of private sector developers through the use of the fully recoverable joint-venture program. The member hasnít even gotten into that one. Once again, this is an example of how barrier-free homes have been encouraged and built. As a result of those partnerships with developers and such, we have another 20 units.
Some of the changes and things we have looked at through here ó again, staying with Falcon Ridge ó I donít know if it is the Chase Manhattan Bank. I honestly donít know, but my understanding is that a large amount of the money came from Salt Lake City. We put in approximately $800,000 ó $830,000, I believe it was ó to trigger almost $23-million worth of investment from outside the territory. I donít think that the member opposite is saying that a $23-million investment in this territory is a bad thing. We have tradesmen working; we have drywallers; we have carpenters; we have plumbers; we have electricians ó virtually all of whom are from the Yukon. That is where the money is going. The materials were all bought through Kilrich in Marwell. We have a Yukon electrical company working up there. There is a Yukon plumbing contractor working up there. That is $23-million worth of investment into this territory, into this economy, heavily put into the tradespeople of this territory. And the member opposite is saying this is a bad thing.
I draw the analogy of building a house with a mortgage from the Bank of Nova Scotia. The local bank is involved, there are local people involved, but that money is not coming from 3rd and Main; itís coming from outside of the territory. Does this mean, if the local branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia canít fund the project, that the member opposite would object to that and say we shouldnít invest, that we shouldnít support our workers, we shouldnít support our trades? Itís very difficult to understand the logic that goes through that.
If someone in Salt Lake City sees an opportunity with a very minimal investment coming from us to invest $23 million into the economy of this territory, then I would say this government is doing its job very well.
When you start looking at some of the other things here, the member opposite refers to schedule A-3, the home repair program. I draw his attention to number 4. Letís go right through it. The program objective is to preserve modest, affordable home ownership housing that would otherwise be lost from the stock. Perhaps he missed the words ďhome ownership.Ē The definition of housing affordability: the Yukon Housing Corporation criteria for matching household income to costs and available assistance. The member opposite referred to 30 percent, and that is mentioned in this agreement. What he didnít notice is that the Yukon Housing Corporation uses 25 percent, not 30 percent. Weíre ahead of the game on that.
The geographic area of the home repair program is all Yukon ó great. Eligibility: homeowner units requiring major repairs or rebuilding in order to preserve or re-establish them being beyond what would be addressed by the RRAP and without which the housing would be lost from the stock of affordable housing.
The level of assistance is according to Yukon Housing Corporation normal criteria.
The member seems to have missed the words ďhome ownershipĒ on that, a very critical part.
In terms of going through here further, the member opposite starts mentioning the housing cooperative. Well, letís go back through that a little bit. For those who arenít totally familiar with that particular unit, I believe there are 12 units, six units of which are already rented by Yukon Housing Corporation. So Iíd say weíre doing a pretty fair job so far of supporting that. Weíve been working quite constantly with the co-op members on options to consider for the future of the Whitehorse housing cooperative. And I stress that this is a cooperative; it is not a condominium ó a very different creature. The Whitehorse housing cooperative has experienced serious setbacks, and long-term viability is in question. We all understand that and we all recognize that. The nine members of the co-op met with the president of Yukon Housing Corporation, along with other senior staff, as late as October 13 ó and I understand there might have been meetings beyond that ó and discussed progress to date on the development of an effective and workable management plan. The onus is on the co-op to demonstrate viability and their capacity to manage. Simply injecting money into it is not an option. We have to have security so that the members of that co-op, the management of that co-op or by whatever structure they continue, have that ability.
So weíve asked to review the rent levels to determine what type of additional revenue can be generated. You always have to look at what comes into a business and what goes out of a business.
Also, Yukon Housing Corporation is reviewing all maintenance and long-term capital costs to ensure the reliability of the estimates. We have to know that theyíre all accurate. And Yukon Housing Corporation has agreed to have these estimates, as well as the proposed long-term operating budgets, reviewed by a third party to determine long-term financial viability of the co-op. The Housing Corporation and the co-op will continue to work, and theyíll work together toward a positive solution for all of the tenants, including the 50 percent that is Yukon Housing Corporation itself.
When the management plan is finalized, it will be presented to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors for their review and consideration. Actually, there was a meeting as late as last week with the executive and others will be happening fairly quickly.
Now, the initial financial forecasts, for the member opposite, indicate that the co-op requires an infusion of $295,000 to cover existing debt and repairs to the co-op units. Itís the responsibility of Yukon Housing Corporation to ensure due diligence on all matters relating to the co-ops so that the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors can make appropriate decisions. The member is quite right that Yukon Housing Corporation is the one thatís left holding the bag at the end of the day. Iím sure that the member opposite supports the process whereby the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors receives the information theyíve requested prior to making any decisions.
Now, there is a mortgage in the amount of $1.341 million to HSBC Trust Company, Canada, who, I believe, are also not in the Yukon Territory, from the co-op as well as an outstanding loan to Yukon Housing Corporation of $10,312. Now, the stabilization fund that the member opposite refers to is prepared to provide the $295,000 but this is a loan, Mr. Deputy Chair, and ultimately the co-op would have to repay that. Yukon Housing Corporation at this time has serious reservations on the associated risk of the co-op through the accessing of this loan.
So, we are looking at that from the co-op, we are working with the co-op board of directors ó weíre doing what we can ó but for the member opposite to suggest that we simply advance the money to pay off the loan, and assume a mortgage that will cost Yukoners potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run, is not reasonable. I suggest that we best leave this in the good hands of the board of directors and let them do their due diligence.
The member also mentioned and referred to schedule A-3 of the affordable housing program, not the social housing program. A-3 is industry-constructed dwellings for rent program; A-4 is actually industry-constructed dwellings for sale program. There was a proponent that came forward during that vetting process. That was vetted by two different committees, which made their recommendations to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board ó not to any political arm of this government of any political stripe ó which turned it down.
At the time, there were concerns with the business plan. At the time, the Yukon Housing Corporation expended approximately $20,000 to BDO Dunwoody to evaluate that plan and make suggestions on how it could be improved. I am not able to table that document in the House. I invite the member opposite, for a fourth time in this House, to contact the proponent and go over those documents. If itís possible to work with that proponent in terms of coming to a business plan thatís acceptable, thatís certainly something we can look at, but in the meantime I regret to say in this particular case that the horse is dead and itís about time to get on another horse.
In terms of looking over some of the other comments ó and some of these are widely scattered, so I do apologize if I donít hit any of the high points here ó the member opposite again referred to the home repair program. Iím pleased to point out that approximately $700,000 had been put into that home repair program, so we are utilizing that quite extensively and doing our due diligence to work with what we can on that.
In terms of the athletes village, we can certainly get into that if the member opposite chooses. The contracts have nothing to do with us, but the concept of what we have done to create the athletes village is in order to try to deal with a very bad situation that we inherited at the time of the bid for the Canada Winter Games. This is something that is very near and dear to everyoneís heart up here. We want to showcase the north. It helps tourism and other things on so many different levels. When you start looking at that and realize that, in the original bid for the Canada Winter Games, there was approximately $2.7 million allotted for the athletes village. Mr. Chair, that doesnít even cover the servicing of the lot. The best we could do is service it ó bring water, sewer and electricity to the site and put up a tent. That would be approximately the cost.
We are constrained by a number of things on that. First of all, it was an unfortunate oversight that this was not more fully examined at the time. But it left us with a sense of possibly having to say, no, it will not work. Cancelling the games, to this government, was not an option. We had to find some way to come to the rescue and try to do this. In terms of some of the trailers, one member on the side opposite referred to a previous game where trailers were brought in and it worked just fine. We have had estimates anywhere from $12 million to $24 million to bring trailers up, utilize them, tear them down and send them back south. At the end of the day, we would have absolutely nothing to show for it. None of us on this side thought that was an option.
We looked at other ways to try to create a legacy project and utilize some of the affordable housing. We eventually put $3.5 million into the project, which will primarily consist of two buildings. One will end up as the student housing for Yukon College and it will be utilized primarily to bring people in from the communities for lengths of time to get their proper training. It will be an incredibly good legacy for the college.†
The other buildings will be affordable housing. They will meet the criteria of affordable housing, in that they will remain affordable for at least 10 years. Again, we will use the Bureau of Statistics quarterly reports in terms of rental costs in the neighbourhood. In that 10-year period, we cannot exceed any of those rents. Probably, at least four will eventually become social housing. That is where the member opposite keeps getting confused. We could take that money and use it to build a couple of affordable social housing units, or we could leverage that money, as we did with $800,000, to make $23 million of economic activity.
Could some of those units be used for social housing in the future? Yes, they could. Could some of these be used? Could more than four be used? Yes, they could. They were not built under the social housing banner; they were built as affordable housing. We will determine that breakdown of ďsocialĒ versus ďaffordableĒ in 2007, after the games. We want the greatest degree of flexibility, so by waiting until 2007, we can properly define existing needs and match them up with the new building and how it is at that point in time. We donít necessarily have to make those decisions now, nor would it make any sense to make those decisions now.
I explained that some clients for social housing are over our income thresholds and do not qualify for social housing per se, but they canít find affordable places to live, and that may also be a user group of this project. Seniors are a possible tenant group, but we donít make that decision until 2007. This may be used for seniors housing, and it may not. We will find out when we get to that point. To try to make those decisions now is poor planning.
One of the things I think a lot of people were and are surprised to find out is that the growing number of seniors ó the growing age demographic within this territory ó is not coming from aging seniors. Part of it is; part of it is people retiring and staying here, but the largest part is people bringing up parents and friends who are in the older group. So what will happen with that in the next year and a half, we have no way of knowing.
If theyíre occupied by seniors, they will benefit from barrier-free design; the housing building will have two elevators; the parking lots will be fully paved; they will have external electrical outlets; they will have energy efficiency, reduced operating costs, better insulation; they will be set up so they could be utilized for that purpose.
I hope Iíve hit some of the things through here and better informed the member opposite, who does seem to have a problem with this affordable housing and social housing. Affordable housing is one thing; it could encompass social, and some of it may, but it is not a social housing program; it is a federal affordable housing program.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister hit on some things and he covered things that werenít even asked, but he raised some more questions, too, which is always a good thing. It gives us more material to ask things about.
Iíd like to stick with what we were talking about: the agreement and the Falcon Ridge project. Can the minister tell me ó and if he canít, he could send over the information ó how many rental units are either currently under construction, or have been built, and how many of them have been rented?
I donít know if the minister can tell me this or not, but I would really like to know ó Iíve asked him this before, and I would like to hear him explain it one more time, how a two-storey unit with stairs is barrier-free.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, the member is right. The first floor is probably more barrier-free. But a building has a second floor somewhat barrier-free when you put in two elevators. Thereís one right outside the door here. Weíd be happy to give him sort of a tour of one. They go up and down and do really quite nicely.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister is lost. We were talking about Falcon Ridge. We were not talking about outside the Legislative Assembly. We were talking about the for-sale units and the rental units in the Falcon Ridge project. How are they barrier-free when they have stairs in them?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do have to admit that sometimes it is difficult to understand what the member opposite is talking about.
The concept of Falcon Ridge is to keep the first floor and the outside barrier-free. I have been through a couple of them actually, and itís a good design. The outside is relatively small. The idea is that you donít have the yard to care for and this sort of thing. The idea is that the first floor is completely self-contained. I certainly would invite the member opposite to go up and go through some of these facilities. The second floors ó the member is correct, they donít have an elevator in Falcon Ridge. However, the second floor can potentially be totally unused by someone who is living there. The concept of that under the affordable housing agreement ó again, a federal program ó is to have something that people could live in for a longer period of time within their lifetime.
The idea is that if we have a problem right now that prohibits dealing with stairs, then that probably isnít a good choice, if we require that extra space. The reality is that most people who would buy that sort of a unit can utilize upstairs in a different way. As they age in place, they still have a home to live in and a place to be that is quite a good size. It is quite reasonable and now they have storage. They have a place when the kids come home and when friends visit. They have someplace that is much more reasonable to use. Again, that perfectly fits with page 1 of the affordable housing program agreement, which reads, again: affordable housing means housing that is modest in terms of floor area and amenities, based on household needs and community norms, and is priced at or below average market housing rents or prices for comparable housing in a community or area.
Ironically, I can understand where the member opposite is coming from. I do agree absolutely that there are major housing problems in this territory and this country. I think if we want to see some huge housing challenges, go into the communities. If you want to see some massive housing challenges, visit Nunavut, or parts of the Northwest Territories and the high Arctic.
We do need programs that he keeps getting caught on here. However, this isnít one of them. This is something that is totally different. Is it the best that the federal government could have put on the table? Probably not. I tend to agree that there are other programs that could have been done. This is phase 1: $5.5 million. For phase 2, we got $300,000. The Northwest Territories got roughly the same ó about $275,000. The Northwest Territories housing board immediately dubbed this the affordable house initiative, because calculations in the high Arctic were such that they couldnít build a single house for the what the government was offering for the enter program.
Before the member opposite starts talking about that as being silly, heís right. Itís very silly. We have major problems, but this particular program is very well laid out, itís very specific. Weíve had numerous challenges with it ó for instance in the early parts of the proposal, we had to match the funding dollars, and this might not be a challenge in a larger jurisdiction that does put out larger sums of money every year in their housing programs, but even in an ambitious and a good year, we wouldnít match $5.5 million in one shot. So, again, through the good work of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors, we managed to get equivalency in projects that were there or completing and, in effect, could utilize this in a number of other ways. And we utilized in a number of other ways. For instance, the agreement goes on, on page 4 ó if I draw the member oppositeís attention to that ó under 4.1, ďCMHC funding under the agreement represents CMHCís contribution to the programs in schedule A.Ē ó which is what we are talking about.
The maximum CMHC funding under this agreement is $5.5 million. If you go to 5.2, ďThe overall average amount of CMHC funding shall not exceed $25,000 per unit.Ē Now, this is a very important thing, because it doesnít say that thatís $25,000 per unit; it says $25,000 average per unit. So, how does that work? We managed to work with the federal government on a variety of programs such as home ownership, affordable rental, social housing units by private sector as well as governmentís involvement. The original agreement allowed only government-owned projects.
One of the things that the member opposite, I think, is mistakenly objecting to in making a change to that agreement ó by paying $830,000 to a private business, we have leveraged $23 million of economic activity, much of which is going into building supplies, the trades and carpenters. As a tradesperson himself, Iím sure the member opposite can understand this, and perhaps would stop and give some thought to the number of tradespeople who are affected by that.
The contribution cannot exceed $25,000, average, per unit. It doesnít mean that each unit will be allocated $25,000, and thatís the hook. It is an average amount per unit. It allows the Yukon Housing Corporation to generate 220 eligible units, and then the Yukon Housing Corporation can invoice CMHC the $5.5 million. That is where the average of $25,000 comes, but if you look at it individually, project by project, or house by house, or unit by unit, it doesnít make sense. It is an average of those 220 eligible units. Individual unit contributions can vary, as long as you never exceed the maximum allowable average of $25,000 per unit.
So the $3.5 million that was contributed to the athletes village was based on an allocation that took into account the overall projections ó various types of projects, and different units are billed at different amounts. The Yukon Housing Corporation then submits its invoices to CMHC, and all invoices submitted have to approved by CMHC. This is why it is a federal program. We must follow CMHCís rules.
The leader of the official opposition, at one point earlier in the sitting, referred to the fact that he would just as soon give the money back. Giving back $5.5 million does not strike me as good leadership.
There are a variety of allocations that can be made on that. Again, the board of directors has approved that allocation of $3.5 million on the recommendation of two committees. That was not something that was done politically. If the member wants me to explain why I did it ó I didnít do it. The board of directors did it.
Only the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors has the authority to transfer amounts between capital programs. Letís look at the 2005-06 capital budget ó God forbid we actually get back to the budget here. Thereís $680,000 under industry and community partnering for affordable housing. As well, thereís $3.131 million under social housing, affordable and supportive housing. All together, thereís $3.811 million, and thatís actually where the $3.5 million comes from for the contribution to the athletes village, under that affordable housing agreement.
So, hopefully that gives the member opposite a little more information in terms of how this program works. Again, it is a federal program. Weíre happy to accept it and use it. I tend to agree with the member opposite that there might have been better programs put forward by the federal government, and we can talk at length about that. Thatís something I invite the member opposite and all Yukoners who have a federal candidate come to their door to ask them about it. Ask them about the whole thing that was put forward and why there werenít other programs. Ask them why the federal government had pledged huge sums of money in support of First Nation housing. Ask them why the federal government has said that, by 2008, there will be potable water for First Nation communities ó not a penny of that has been forthcoming.
If there are questions on that, again, ask them of the right people. This is a program weíre very happy to use. Itís unfortunately one that we work within a very tight context on, and weíre not driving the bus here.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister went on at great length and answered questions that werenít even asked. In fact, he was so far off the map that Iím not even sure we were talking about Yukon Housing Corporation any more. Thatís how bad it got. If weíre going to play this silly game in here and waste the time of the Legislature and the officials and the members who are sitting here in the House, listening to this, I donít think thatís a good use of taxpayersí dollars. I canít remember what the figure is, but itís something like $1,000 an hour for us to be in here, and heís chewing up time talking about things that arenít even related to the Yukon Housing Corporation budget.
Now, I asked a question a little while ago, and the minister still hasnít answered it, and Iím going to give him an opportunity to answer it, and hopefully he can do it in a timely manner. Itís a pretty straightforward question with regard to the Falcon Ridge project rental units. How many have been built, how many are currently under construction, and how many have been rented? Iím looking for three numbers, not a speech.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There is some humour to the fact that the member opposite demands that we stick to the budget and then immediately asks a question that doesnít have anything to do with the budget. Iíd be happy to try to get that information for the member opposite. It is a private company. When the final accounting comes in, we will look at the number of units that we gave subsidies for, what the rents are, we will maintain those rents, and we will do our due diligence on all of that. But again, itís a private company that saw fit to invest $23 million into this territory, which the member opposite seems to have a problem with.
Some of the challenges that we deal with on this ó and another one that comes to mind is the fact that the federal government just announced a $5.4-million energy program for houses built before 1980. Another challenge for the Yukon is that about 50 percent of the houses in the Yukon wouldnít qualify for that, let alone what we would get.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Member for Kluane says his share would be fifty cents. Certainly the palatial home there would not qualify anyway, unfortunately, so nice try.
If we stick to the budget, I see four items. I am happy if the member opposite wants to question or put questions out about those four items. He has asked that I do not give a speech. He has asked that I stick to the budget. Letís stick to the budget.
Chair: We have reached the normal time for a recess. Do members wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We will continue general debate on Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Cardiff: I do have some more questions regarding the affordable housing program, for which there is money in the budget. The minister made a statement the other day when we were talking about affordable housing, when I was asking questions about affordable housing ó again, it was about my being confused. He said, ďThe affordable housing program has nothing to do with social housing, and specifically it has nothing to do with seniors housing.Ē
On the very same day, the Minister of Community Services talked about the long-term objectives of affordable housing projects that would provide for seniors. The minister, on March 18, talked about the affordable housing initiative, saying that the Yukon Housing Corporation is offering incentives to encourage the construction of more senior-friendly housing. So, could the minister confirm that the government has placed a priority on the affordable housing money with respect to providing for the housing needs of senior citizens?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the member opposite is trying to read something slightly different here. Is this program specifically for seniors housing? No, it is not. Is it for senior-friendly housing, which is what he just read aloud here? Yes, it is ó Falcon Ridge being a good example of that: very little outside to maintain, very little house maintenance overall, very energy efficient, energy-efficient windows. They meet the accommodating home standards. It is a very good program to make sure they accommodate people as they get older.
As people age, they want to be able to age in place. If the first floor is fully self-contained, the upstairs could be for visiting friends or visiting children, or any one of a number of possibilities. I know some arrangements down south where a caregiver living in the home would potentially have an independent unit upstairs. There are all sorts of possible ways that that could be done. They are very senior-friendly.
They are not, however, built as seniors housing. Itís the same thing with social housing. An example is the building that is being constructed as part of the athletes village. This is not an athletes village that we are going to try to figure out what to do with at the end of the day. It is a legacy project. It is housing for the college, and affordable housing under this program that weíre going to be using for two weeks for the Canada Winter Games. It bails a lot of people out. It provides a place to go.
If I can expand on that a little bit, because it is certainly part of it, what are the challenges in terms of constructing that building? One of the things about the Canada Winter Games that I find people arenít aware of as I travel around and talk to people is that the Canada Winter Games, as a national organization, has a number of requirements that we must maintain. Athletes must be housed at the same location. We canít scatter them around town. They have to be at the same place, even eat out of the same kitchen and eat the same food. Everyone has to be on an equal basis. So again, using that money to scatter the residents around town or the territory was not an option.
By doing it this way, we create affordable housing. Some of it may be for seniors. It will certainly meet the accommodating housing standard. It will have elevators; they will have wheelchair-capable doors and hallways and such. All that is there. Is it a seniors building? No, Mr. Chair, it is not. It is, however, senior-friendly. Could it be utilized for social assistance? At this point we have looked at the possibility of four units, as a number that has been kicked around. But the actual number ó or even if ó will be determined in 2007 after the games. It is an affordable housing program, federally mandated, administered through Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation, CMHC, and we are bound to live with their rules and regulations. There are other ways that it could have been done, but this particular program ó I think that the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors have done a stellar job in terms of ensuring that the funds are properly used and again, leveraged. To not only leverage the maximum amount of housing, but to leverage on one case, $23-million worth of investment in this territory. Itís difficult to believe that anyone would find that a problem.†
Also for the member opposite in relation to a question he mentioned earlier about the two units in Faro, the chair of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors, who I understand listens assiduously to the debates in this House on a daily basis, informs me that they are two detached houses up in Faro that are being put back onstream for seniors housing.
Mr. Cardiff: I just asked a simple question about seniors housing and the minister went on about all kinds of other things, including the Canada Winter Games. I donít think thereís any money in the Yukon Housing Corporation budget for the Canada Winter Games. If there is, itís news to me.
On the affordable housing agreement on page B-1, thereís a schedule A that talks about CMHC funding and millions of dollars, and it lays out where that funding is going over a number of years. Itís my understanding that this table is revised every six months. I would like to ask the minister if, at some point during this sitting, he could provide a copy of the revised table.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member is correct. I believe CMHC does require an update at least every six months. Itís often done more frequently, so in the interest of brevity for the member opposite ó sure.
Mr. Cardiff: Now weíre moving along again.
The minister, during a response to another of my questions, went on at great length about the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative. One of the things that he mentioned was that there is currently a mortgage for $1.3 million or $1.4 million, I believe, on the 12 housing units. Could the minister tell me the current value ó the assessed value ó of those housing units?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I understand that there might have been an assessment done on one of the 12 units, but I donít believe that there are any assessments on all 12.
Mr. Cardiff: If those assessments are available, could the minister make them available, and the current value of any units that have been assessed?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I donít have a problem with that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cardiff: I will appreciate getting that information from the minister and the Housing Corporation.
I only have, I believe, a couple more questions. Just within the last month, the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness released a report called Room to Grow, and itís about services to homeless youth. One of the recommendations identified in this report was for that group to work with Yukon Housing Corporation and a partnering housing society to create youth-focused housing rental units for independent youth tenants.
The reason I bring this up is because I know that there are young folks out there ó teenagers and young people in their late teens, early 20s ó who are struggling to find rental units. I think that this would be something that the Housing Corporation would be able to get involved in, hopefully. I know that there is a huge demand for social housing, but there is also a huge demand for seniors housing and there is a huge demand for young people who want to get out on their own and be productive citizens, but theyíre struggling.
Iím just wondering if the minister can tell me if there are any initiatives on the part of Yukon Housing Corporation in that direction or if theyíre in conversation with this group.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am pleased to let the member opposite know that there is a planning committee. The Yukon Housing Corporation sits on that planning committee. The committee also entails representation from the Department of Health and Social Services, and I will be happy to bring those concerns of the member to the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister doesnít have to necessarily respond to this, but I would just like to bring to his attention that there is money available. Iíve corresponded with our Member of Parliament and the federal minister with regard to the shelter enhancement program, which could potentially be of assistance to the Yukon Housing Corporation in pursuing things like a youth shelter or youth housing. They may want to look into that.
I have a few more questions. We talked previously in the Legislature about waiting lists. The corporation keeps a running tally of how many people are on waiting lists for social housing. Could the minister provide information on how many people are currently on the waiting list for social housing and, as well, if there is a waiting list for seniors who are looking to get into Yukon Housing Corporation units and how many people are on that list?
And if thereís a breakdown available, how many are there in Whitehorse, and how many are there in rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Weíd be happy to provide that information to the member opposite. It does change on a day-to-day basis. Anything that I would give now would probably be at least a day old, and therefore possibly inaccurate, so we can send that over at a convenient time.
Mr. Cardiff: I will look forward to receiving that information. I know that standard procedure here in the Legislature is that the third party ó as well as the independent member ó would probably be interested in receiving that information, so any information Iíve requested, Iím sure they would be happy to receive as well.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the minister may have answered this question, but Iím not sure. And if he did, Iím not sure that I totally grasped where he was going. I read the affordable housing agreement, and I think I understand the part he was referring to, but I need to ask this question because people have asked me. The Yukon Housing Corporation is providing $3.5 million under the Canada-Yukon affordable housing agreement toward the construction of 48 new units.
Now, you can either read the press release from almost a year ago, from January 28, 2005, or you can read the affordable housing agreement ó and I think the minister or the Yukon Housing Corporation has found an out. When I multiply ó according to the agreement and the minister was talking about averages earlier ó up to $25,000 per rental unit ó
Mr. Chair, you can get your calculator out and follow along. The last time I multiplied 48 new units by the $25,000 per rental unit, I came up with $1.2 million, not $3.5 million. Does the minister have an explanation for that? People who have asked me about it are shocked at this number. They are just as shocked at this number as they are about the $433,000 per unit that weíre spending on these. The math just doesnít work out ó 48 times $25,000 is $1.2 million, not $3.5 million. Can the minister explain the reason for this? Why are we not following the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: First of all, Iím so pleased that the member opposite thinks he understands what Iím saying. Thatís always good news.
Again, the agreement states that the overall average federal contribution cannot exceed $25,000 per unit. It does not mean that each unit will be allocated $25,000. It means an average of $25,000 per unit. Again, as I believe I mentioned once before for the member opposite, averages are a difficult concept. Take for example the three hunters who go hunting. The first hunter takes a shot and misses the moose by 10 feet to the left. The second one takes a shot and misses it 10 feet to the right. The third one is a statistician, so he jumps up and yells, ďGot him!Ē Itís an average. Itís not a dollar amount.
For instance, up to that $5.5 million and up to 220 eligible units can be involved in this program. Thatís where the average $25,000 comes from.
But when you look at it on a project-to-project basis, thatís where it becomes obviously much more difficult to understand. For instance, the home ownership program averages closer to $7,500 of the ones that weíve done. The HRP program, approximately $10,000 ó they can be single attached, they can be duplex, they can be multi-residential. Weíve talked about all of those.
We can vary those amounts of contributions in a number of different ways. What we canít do is exceed the average of $25,000 per unit. Thatís where that number comes from and I realize itís confusing, I think, to the general public as well. But itís an average contribution and it allows us the capability to spend a little bit more on one project if we spend a little bit less on another as long as that overall average is met.
I think the way the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors has done that is actually rather brilliant, because it does give us a maximum flexibility.
Mr. Cardiff: If the minister, or the Yukon Housing Corporation, could provide all the justification about how many units have been addressed by this program, then what I would suspect or hope to see is that all of the math works out, that weíve got a number of units that are for-sale units that are subsidized at $7,500 per unit and a number of units that are subsidized and that averages to $25,000. Unless the corporation or the minister has some other projects or theyíre using student residence, part of the legacy project, I donít see how the math works out on all the projects that have been announced under the affordable housing program.
Thatís what I would like to see, if the minister can provide that.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I thought we were doing so well there. Of the breakdown of affordable housing, $3.5 million is going to the athletes village. Approximately $830,000 is going to Falcon Ridge, leveraging $23-million worth of construction and economic activity and approximately $700,000 into the home repair program. I would be happy to put that in a more substantial written form and send it over to the member opposite so that he can perhaps spend some more time studying it.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím sure I could ask a lot more questions, but I know our time is short. I know the Member for Copperbelt has some questions that he would like to ask, so Iíll defer to him.
Mr. Mitchell: I think Iíll start going back to this conversation on affordable housing and some of the discussion that weíve had before regarding Falcon Ridge Chalet Village. It was sort of an interesting discussion, the portion I was able to listen to earlier regarding the units being barrier-free, in that the definition that I think the minister gave was that the first floor was barrier-free and the second floor was, I guess, to paraphrase, redundant in those instances. It wouldnít be in use.
We can argue about what dollar figure we would put on affordable housing. Itís affordable for some but not for others, but itís only meeting a small niche market need because of the size of the units ó even if we were to assume that barrier free wasnít an issue, so we were using both the first and second floors. That is that they are two-bedroom units, and small two-bedroom units at that. There certainly is a need for affordable housing for people who have three children or four children ó more than just couples or people with one child. Iím wondering if the minister has any comments about coming up with other forms of affordable housing or making other use of these programs to help a broader based group of people.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As I say, we were sort of torpedoed on phase 2 but we are hoping for a phase 3 that will allow us to look at some of the wider applications.
For the member opposite, however, I do invite him to go up and take a look at some of these units. In the one I was in, the master bedroom is 18 feet by 18 feet. I wouldnít classify that as overly small. They are actually quite large. They do look very intimidating, to a degree, because of the small size and the small yard, but thatís part of what the concept of that village is: minimal outside work, maximum ability to work within there.
The word ďredundantĒ is incorrect; maybe the word itself is redundant, I donít know. I know a number of people who are still in their own homes, have the financial means to stay in their own homes, and havenít seen their basement for the last 10 years because they canít get down the stairs to it. Does that mean the basement is redundant, given the storage and everything else that would be part of that?
Part of the memberís question, which Iím pleased to speak to ó and I donít have the detailed notes in front of me, nor have I been able to find them, unfortunately, since I found on the Web site it was done by Ontario. But a much better question in terms of that matrix of size ó affordable within that whole agreement, or within what other jurisdictions have done with it ó they have actually done a grid saying a family of two, a family with one child, a family with two children, a family with three children ó what is the average size? Without going back and starting to read from the agreement, it has to be of modest size, I believe is the way itís phrased. The one jurisdiction ó which I believe is Ontario ó defined ďmodestĒ by this matrix that said that a one-bedroom apartment would have so many square feet, a two-bedroom would have so many square feet, and a family with two children should have so many square feet and so many bedrooms.
It actually laid out what would be acceptable. To my knowledge, I believe that CMHC accepted that as being acceptable for that sort of thing. We havenít really used that matrix, per se. What we have done is put in affordable housing in terms of Falcon Ridge, if that is what this question is based on. It is a place where people can age with dignity in their own home. They can live there and utilize the full space now. As they get older, or have medical or mobility problems, they can utilize only the downstairs, which is perfectly self-sufficient. They can still have people over. They can still store things without having to put things in storage or get rid of personal possessions ó all the things that senior citizens face today.
I think itís a good approach in terms of how the affordable housing was done. It is one of many approaches, but again, weíve put money into what is called the athletes village but will in fact be a Yukon Housing Corporation building. We've put $700,000 into the home repair programs. There are a lot of creative ways to utilize this. We look forward ó and certainly hope ó to receiving additional federal funding. The difficulty there, of course, is that for all the problems we have, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have arguably many more problems. Their problems are so severe that it becomes difficult to argue with them; but we will continue to try.
Mr. Mitchell: †I would want to reassure the minister that I have taken many opportunities to see this project when it was under construction and lately, so I have been in the homes. Although the master bedrooms may be quite spacious, I always refer to the fact that most people donít want to share their master bedrooms with two or three children. So, the size of the master bedroom might be quite comfortable, but that leaves only one bedroom left for the remainder of the family. Many family units do have two or more children.
I have a question for the minister, and Iíll just preface this by saying that I havenít had an opportunity to check out the accuracy of this concern, but it was passed on to me by a member of the public, and it has to do with the same project. In purchasing a unit, a resident, or constituent, said that they were led to believe that the unit would be approximately $170,000 in total price. When it came time to sign documents, they then found that on top of that price they had to sign a note for the additional $7,500. They thought that was part of the $170,000, and then they were told they had to come up with more money.
Iím wondering if the minister could just reassure me that the $7,500 contribution thatís being made by government is to reduce the cost of the housing, not an up charge on top of it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: My understanding of what the member is saying on these units ó and I agree with him. A family of three, four, five ó you know, the size of the bedroom isnít part of it. But again, the impact and the aim of these units is the 50- to 55-year-olds who, in my experience, donít have a lot of little children ó maybe some big children who want to come home, and thatís where they would have a place to go for a visit or whatever. But thatís a family choice, of course.
In terms of the dollar value, what is on title, Iím told, is the $177,500. That goes on title, but $7,500 is provided by this agreement, and what the individual owner pays is still the $170,000. The confusion may come up when a document is presented to someone and shows $177,500, and they wonder what this is all about. Thatís actually what itís all about. If anyone has any questions on that, by all means, pop into Yukon Housing Corporation, and we would be happy to go over the individual documents.
Mr. Mitchell: Thank you for the clarification from the minister. I would suggest that when we discuss these units in this House, we should refer to that value as being the value of the house. Itís not $160,000 to $170,000, but in fact, they are $177,500 houses.
Since this is strata title property, I am wondering if the minister could give us an outline of what other fees and charges on a monthly or annual basis are involved in living in this housing or owning this housing.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: What the owner of the house pays is $170,000, just as when someone buys a car ó itís nice to say that the car is worth $35,000, but there is a $5,000-rebate, so the owner of the car actually pays the $30,000. We donít register that car on title as a $35,000 car, but we are dealing with land titles in this case. Again, itís moving paper; itís not something that the people actually pay. What they pay is the $170,000.
In terms of anything additional on that, I donít have that information off the top of my head. Again, itís a private company. We would be happy to find out, though, and get back to you.
Mr. Mitchell: Just to clarify, it is different from a car, because what goes on title when houses come to be resold, in terms of whether there has been a profit made in selling the house and whether there are additional fees due to the insurance fund, is based on what the registered price of the house was.
I have some questions in another area that affects constituents of mine. Iíve had quite a few people at the door express concerns. As well, Iíve been receiving phone calls in the brief week and a half that Iíve been here. The issue is about the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative and the effects on residents in this housing, as they see it, from the transfer to the Yukon Housing Corporation, basically pulling the note on this co-op and taking control of it.
When this first occurred, there were articles in the newspaper. I know we shouldnít be reading from articles in the newspaper, so Iíll just make reference to it. But the information that came out in public was that the co-op was in some financial difficulty and, as the holder of the note, the Yukon Housing Corporation was going to come in and take over and manage it, but the goal at the time, at least the publicly stated goal, was to return the housing co-op back in better financial shape down the road to the co-op owners. Iím wondering if that plan is still the long-term goal, and how long is that long term?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For the member opposite to revisit that, at the risk of totally boring the Member for Mount Lorne, the leader of the Liberal Party is actually quite correct on that. I draw, for anyone listening, the difference that this is a cooperative, it is not a condominium ó a very different animal. We have been working with the co-op members on options to consider the future of the Whitehorse housing cooperative, and there have been serious setbacks, and long-term viability is in question for that operation.
On October 13 of this year, nine members of the co-op met with the president of Yukon Housing Corporation, along with other senior staff, and discussed progress to date on the development of an effective and workable management plan. In fact, meetings occurred as late as last week. I think there is another one in January. So there have been a number of meetings with the directors of that.
The member opposite should also be aware of the fact that, of the 12 units in that cooperative, six are actually rented by Yukon Housing Corporation and used for assisted housing.
He is also correct that we hold the note for that ó we sort of hold the bag at the end of the day ó and therefore the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors wants to place the onus on the cooperative itself to demonstrate the viability and their capacity to manage. The co-op has been asked to review the rent levels to determine what type of additional revenue can be generated, and the Yukon Housing Corporation is reviewing all maintenance and long-term capital costs to ensure the reliability of the estimates. The Yukon Housing Corporation has agreed to have these estimates as well as the proposed long-term operating budgets reviewed by a third party to determine the long-term financial viability of the co-op ó a very, very important thing here.
We certainly will continue to work together to find a positive solution for all the tenants, but when the management plan is finalized and presented to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors for their review, their consideration ó it is not presented to the political arm of the government but to the board of directors for that.
In terms of the background, for the member opposite ó and I certainly agree that reading it out of the newspaper rarely gives you any comfort that the information is accurate ó initial financial forecasts indicate that the co-op requires an infusion of about $295,000 to cover existing debt and repairs. Thatís simply existing debt and repairs. Itís the responsibility of Yukon Housing Corporation to ensure due diligence on all matters relating to the co-op so that the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors can make the appropriate decisions.
Now, Iím sure that the member opposite supports a process whereby the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors receives the information they have requested prior to making a decision. Itís always nice to make decisions based on fact and information rather than on speculation. In general, the overview is that the co-op does consist of 12 single detached houses on Turner Crescent in Granger.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation transferred the administration of the project to the Yukon Housing Corporation in October 1998 as part of the social housing transfer agreement. CMHC confirmed the Yukon Housing Corporation liability for the mortgage payments in case of default. That is one of the major problems with this. The president and vice-president of the cooperative both resigned ó quit ó effective November 15, 2003.
††††††† There have been issues including, but not limited to, arrears in mortgage payments, overexpenditure, unauthorized expenditure of funds provided by the stabilization fund, tenants staying in local hotels, payments to contractors and local businesses, and so on. Earlier today, someone used the term ďdogís breakfastĒ, which sort of fits here.
Through the collection of rent, the 2004 municipal taxes and insurance have been paid. What Iíve been talking about so far is simply debt in terms of the overall project, but there is a mortgage in the amount of $1.341 million due to HSBC Trust Company of Canada. That is from the co-op, as well as from the outstanding loan to the Yukon Housing Corporation, which adds another $10,312. The stabilization fund is prepared to provide the $295,000. Thatís a good thing; however, this is a loan; it does not subsidize or pay off the debt. Ultimately, the co-op has to repay that loan to the stabilization fund.
The Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors has serious reservations about the associated risk of the co-op through accessing of this loan. That is part of the problem. The co-op is approximately 15 years old. The proposed loan from the stabilization fund is for another 20 years; therefore, the homes would be 35 years old when that loan is repaid.
The member opposite can read this in Hansard. He doesnít have to make the notes as he seems to be frantically doing.
Specific concerns include long-term maintenance, capital repairs, and replacement of things such as shingles, refrigerators, stoves, hot water tanks, furnaces ó my furnace is 10 years old, and it blew the other night ó windows, flooring, cabinets. All these things are part of the ongoing maintenance in homes that are already 15 years old.
We would be assuming a loan that would add an additional 20, for a total of 35. That has a number of people on the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors concerned. They want to see a management plan. They want to see something that is going to show that this is viable. They are reluctant to simply drop another $300,000 into a project, when theyíre going to eat a $1.1-million mortgage at the end of the day.
Now, in December 2003, the courts appointed the Yukon Housing Corporation the receiver-manager of the co-op, due primarily to the internal financial management of the co-op. They wanted that stability, and I think that was a good thing. Therefore, Yukon Housing Corporation has incurred direct and indirect costs in performing its duties as receiver-manager.
The Yukon Housing Corporation was not directly involved in the creation of the co-op. They accessed a program through CMHC, and the Yukon Housing Corporation has contributed through providing rent supplements ó as I mentioned ó to six units for social housing tenants. And this is how it would work normally: a social housing tenant would come in and would pay 25 percent, not 30 percent, which is the national standard ó weíre much better up here ó and Yukon Housing Corporation would subsidize the remainder. We do that with six of the 12 units. The financial responsibility of the co-op, in case of mortgage default, was transferred to the Yukon Housing Corporation in 1998 as part of that social housing transfer agreement. The Yukon Housing Corporation could receive payment for its expertise if the co-op receives the $295,000 loan from the stabilization fund or through the sale of the 12 units ó and thatís a possibility.
Itís projected that, based on current market conditions in Whitehorse, Yukon Housing Corporation could sell the 12 units and eliminate all current indebtedness. So, we are trying to work with this.
I think the preference, certainly of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors and my own preference, would be to keep this alive as a cooperative. Iíve dealt with cooperatives before. I know people who have been involved in cooperatives. They have a lot of value. They also have a lot of potential problems, as you can see.
So we are working with the board of directors on a day-to-day basis. We will be back doing that in January. We will try very hard to come to a fruition on this that satisfies the need of the residents, continues the social housing clients who are still in that building and provides good housing for them ó as I said, to keep the cooperative alive, and do it without costing the Yukon taxpayers potentially as much as $1.5 million.
Mr. Mitchell: While I appreciate the minister reminding me that the detailed record will be available tomorrow in Hansard, we are discussing it today and, as excellent of a job as our recorders do, I know that they are not going to be able to bring the Blues in to me within the next half-hour so I can continue to ask accurate questions, which would be the purpose of taking notes.
I hardly know where to start, that was such a wide-ranging answer. But we throw around terms here ó affordable housing, social housing. It was under a social housing program that Yukon Housing Corporation took it over, although my understanding is that that was not the original intent of the cooperative, looking at it as social housing.
I do know that I knocked on every one of those doors on Turner Crescent, and more than once, this fall, and I spoke with many of the residents. From their perspective, they donít want to get bogged down in bureaucratic discussions of whether itís affordable housing or social housing ó itís their housing, and there is a great deal of stress and concern that they expressed because of the uncertainty of their future.
The minister suggested that one of the options being considered, although I was pleased to hear not the favourite option, was for the Yukon Housing Corporation to sell the houses in order to recover all the money owed and then some. That very option was expressed to me by more than one resident as a concern on their part, because they canít be bought and sold along with the houses. This is where they live, and they have great concern for where they will live if somebody comes along, buys the house on the open market from the Housing Corporation, does a wonderful reno on the house and decides to rent it out at perhaps the going market rate of $1,200 or $1,300 a month or moves into it on their own.
So theyíre looking for certainty, and they donít feel that theyíre getting that in the information that is coming to them so far through the Housing Corporation. That may be simply a communications problem or the fact that, as the minister says, there are a lot of options being looked at right now. But I just want to mention that that is the concern that has been raised.
Now, again, Iím wondering if, with the rise in the housing market that weíve heard so much about in answers from the government side of this House, and if the government is very pleased and proud of the fact that housing prices in Yukon, as in much of Canada and the United States, have gone up over the last 24 months, this increase in the value of houses would probably, if the renovations that are necessary were done, would apply to this area as well. So perhaps the Housing Corporation is not at very much risk in owning these assets.
As far as the minister noting that these homes are 15 years old and the loans that would have to be taken out are for another 20 years, meaning 35 years in total, the vast majority of the housing in Riverdale, for example, is older than that, and yet the houses continue to be bought and sold and bought and sold ó in the last few years at higher prices. Much of the housing in Porter Creek is older than that. Virtually all the housing downtown is older than that. So I donít think we should be looking at it the way we would perhaps an automobile where, if it was 15 years old, you wouldnít want to be making repair loans that would be looking 10 and 20 years into the future.
Can the minister give us any more information about what sort of repairs need to be made and whether the Housing Corporation itself might be willing to look at some creative ways of financing that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I agree with the member opposite ó and I realize taking notes as you go is difficult and I find myself doing the same thing. Hansard actually has most of the stuff up by the end of the day. Theyíre absolutely incredible, and I agree with that.
There are a number of points in there. First of all, the member mentions that, at the doorsteps, he spoke with some of the residents who felt they hadnít gotten the information from Yukon Housing. Again I would draw his attention to the fact that this is a cooperative, a very unique creature, and the cooperative has its own board of directors. I suggest those people get involved with the board, which I understand is one of the challenges on this ó that they have a board of directors and some challenges in keeping it fully staffed, shall we say. So please get involved in that and that would solve that problem.
There is what I refer to as a risk of ownership on that. Again, at any point, the member is right. As a realtor, he knows that all too well, that it really isnít a risk of taking it over but, by taking it over and having to sell it to recover that money for Yukon people, it destroys the fact that itís a cooperative. To me, thatís not a high priority. Iím suspicious that the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors, which ultimately controls the decision on that, agrees, but my preference would be to keep it that way.
Part of that whole decision matrix, as anyone knows who has owned a house or owned a car, is that things break. Having our furnace go walkabout on the weekend was great fun. It happens. We know two things. First of all, we have to do an assessment of what is in need of repair, and those assessments have been done by the Housing Corporation.
Thatís part of what weíre talking about now with the co-op board of directors. At the same time, one can get a rough idea. I am suspicious that the member opposite, as a realtor in his former life, has given this advice many times ó what the average repair, upkeep and maintenance costs are on a house. How long does the average roof last? How long does the average furnace last? How often do we have to repair plumbing and so on? These are things that, within a cooperative, have to be determined in order to make sure that the unit is viable. It must be able to pay the bills at the end of the day and be kept up to speed. Thatís exactly what weíre trying to accomplish with all of this so that it doesnít fail as a cooperative. We would like to keep it that way, but to do due diligence and look at the whole cost of ownership and do a business plan as to what the rents have to be and whether or not it is viable with those rents ó once all of that is done, we can proceed to coming to an agreement, hopefully, as to how we will keep it running.
To simply inject money to pay off a debt and then run into further problems is poorly advised. The long-term costs of maintenance, for want of a better term, over that 20-year period ó they are 15 years old, and yes, there is a lot of housing stock in the territory older than that, but it is privately owned by people who can assess that need. This is what weíre asking the cooperative to do. How will the cooperative manage that entity? That is what weíre really talking about. How can they do that? With only 12 units, that becomes an additional problem. It required major input from all 12 units and all 12 residents. Thatís part of the challenge and probably the biggest part of that challenge.
It does become easier, in my experience, knowing people involved in cooperatives involving hundreds of units. Then it becomes a bit easier to understand how that works when the economy of scale kicks in. With only 12 units, it is a lot of work. Thatís why the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors wants to know it can proceed and loans can be paid, and that, firstly, Yukoners are not going to get stuck with the bill at the end of the day, and secondly, though we probably can make money on it, we retain its integrity as a cooperative.
Mr. Mitchell: †† Well, I think that the minister and I may well be, at least to a certain extent, on the same page here because the common theme among the residents that I spoke to was the strong desire to restore the integrity of it as a co-op. They didnít want to lose that model but, simultaneously, many of these people ó and I received a telephone call from one yesterday relating to this and other issues. They are on very limited income. They donít necessarily have the power to absorb increased costs or expected costs; rather they are just able to make those negotiated payments on a regular basis and with their biweekly cheques, or however they are paid. There isnít a whole lot of latitude for them to suddenly be in a different position from that which they thought they were entering into.
Having availed myself many years ago when I lived in Riverdale of some programs and from, as the minister has referred to, my former occupation as a realtor, Iím aware that the Yukon Housing Corporation has many fine programs that do assist Yukoners in repairs, in needed maintenance, in dealing with antiquated heating systems, in dealing with lacking or upgrading insulation and weather stripping ó many of the types of home repairs that may be necessary there, which is why I asked the question of what sorts of repairs are necessary ó and Iím wondering whether, as opposed to continuing indefinitely in this sort of caretaker mode, the Yukon Housing Corporation might be looking toward working together with the board to do two things: first, to look at which programs exist in the Yukon Housing Corporation that might help out with these repairs ó very low interest types of loans that might exist ó and, secondly, whether the Yukon Housing Corporation might be able to lend some of their expertise ó because they do have a fair bit of expertise there ó to the board which, as the minister has stated, may be struggling in dealing with all these situations.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I agree and am even more enthusiastic than the member opposite that the Yukon Housing Corporation has an amazing amount of expertise. It just continues to amaze me ó working within the group and what is available there.
We have already gone over all the maintenance, we have already done all those studies and we have already actually laid out a maintenance plan. Again, to the residents there, of which 50 percent are Yukon Housing Corporation clients at the present time, we appreciate the income problems and we appreciate all of that. Thatís all part of the matrix that we are trying to deal with. The main thing is to keep the integrity of that organization. To the members there, the best way for them to do it is to get involved in their own board of directors. Donít sit back. If you want to sit back and have a nice little place and not work to maintain it, a co-op is not the place to be.
Mr. Mitchell: Now, again, I would just encourage the minister to make sure that every creative solution that might be applied is being applied. I also received a call from a constituent ó we also have to be careful how we raise these issues here. There was concern being expressed that due to the nature of the constituentís work and working hours ó and those hours are working for the Government of Yukon ó this particular resident is not necessarily in a position to know what her income is in a timely manner, because her notice of payment arrives but she is not necessarily at her work desk on those particular days and finds herself receiving what she considers to be dire warnings of the need to pay in a timely manner from the Housing Corporation. So, again, I havenít had an opportunity to look into this, but perhaps these are some of the types of things that cause stress for people when theyíre not necessarily used to making all these arrangements. Perhaps the minister can look into this and see that people arenít unnecessarily stressed in their living situation.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím a bit aware of what the member opposite is talking about. The letters are standard. Thereís no difference in a letter that goes to any individual person, but Iím certainly not prepared to talk about an individual case on the floor, as Iím sure the member opposite agrees.
Mr. Mitchell: The point I was trying to make with the minister is ó I donít want to take up an individual case, but itís more the nature of the transmittal of information in general. Again, Iím just trying to relate that a common theme Iíve been hearing from a whole number of these residents ó and I did hear it at door after door ó is concern about the uncertainty. I appreciate the minister is suggesting they be more involved with their board, and some of them are trying to be involved with the board but, as the minister has pointed out, there has been a great amount of flux and transition over the board. Thereís some lack of corporate history as to what may have happened and some very differing stories or beliefs as to where the money may have gone missing. Itís the current residents who have inherited this, and not all of them were necessarily there when all this happened.
Iím hoping the minister, together with the Housing Corporation, can try to find ways to help alleviate those concerns.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can understand the uncertainty. For the member opposite, I believe there have been authorities looking into where the money went. Some of us would like to know where it went, but it is a challenging thing to be dealing with.
The idea of a cooperative, if people havenít worked with cooperatives before, is that itís almost a communal sort of thing where everyone shares the workload and everyone shares the responsibilities there. Itís a way of life, it really is, and itís one, if people want to sit back and have a place, this isnít the place to do it.
The ability to try to keep that integrity and work within that is going to be a challenge. We certainly understand the uncertainty that is going to be generated by this whole thing. The residents have uncertainty. We have uncertainty. And I think anyone who is concerned about any budgetary matters would have some degree of uncertainty.
With that, Mr. Chair, I understand there is other business.
I move that we report progress on Bill No. 17.
Chair: Mr. Kenyon has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005), and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Unanimous consent re proceeding with third reading of Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005)
Mr. Cathers: I request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed with third reading of Bill No. 65, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005), at this time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to proceed with third reading of Bill No. 65 at this time?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Bill No. 65: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 65, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Taylor.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I move that Bill No. 65, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005), be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Tourism and Culture that Bill No. 65, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005), be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I would just like to conclude by thanking all members within the Legislature for their support for this bill. It certainly is a very important and timely initiative and will assist many families in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: As our leader indicated previously, we are in support of this bill. We do have some reservations about the extent to which it really assists Yukoners and who actually receives the benefit and so on, but we are prepared to set aside those differences and vote in favour of this bill.
Mr. Mitchell: †On behalf of the third party, as we previously stated, we also support this legislation. We also have some reservations about the number of Yukoners who will not be helped by the legislation, and we would have liked to have seen it spread a little further. But we agree with the purpose of it and the intent, and weíll support it.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 65 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 65 has passed this House.
We are now prepared to receive Senior Justice Veale, acting as Administrator, to grant assent to the bill, which has passed this House.
Senior Justice Veale enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Senior Justice Veale: Please be seated.
Speaker: The Assembly has, at its present session, passed a certain bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2 (2005).
Senior Justice Veale: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Mr. Speaker, if youíll give me a short indulgence to speak to the members present, this is a rather historic occasion. The three branches of government ó the executive, the legislative, and the judicial ó rarely meet together, even on formal occasions, and I thought I would make a comment on that. We normally speak to each other ó the Legislature through legislation and statutes, and the courts through their interpretation of the legislation and statutes in our judgements.
Because of the recent amendments to the Yukon Act, this event may take place again, but it is the first time that it has taken place in the history of the Yukon. I thought it appropriate to be dressed for the occasion and, consequently, I wore the robes of my office that I wear in the Supreme Court.
It has been a pleasure to be here. If I donít see you again, best wishes for a Merry Christmas and holiday season.
Senior Justice Veale leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Mr. Cathers: † I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:49 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 6, 2005:
Yukon Energy Corporation 2004 Annual Report† (Lang)
Yukon Development Corporation, Energy Solutions Centre 2004 Annual Report† (Lang)
The following document was filed December 6, 2005:
Energy Rebate Program, letter (dated December 6, 2005) re request for exclusion from Brad Cathers, MLA, Lake Laberge, to Bruce McLennan, DM Finance, Government of Yukon† (Cathers)