Monday, December 12, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Withdrawal of motions
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House that all motions other than government motions standing on the Order Paper in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge have been removed. This is due to the fact that the Member for Lake Laberge, having been appointed to the Executive Council on this day, is no longer a private member. Motion No. 566, which appears on todayís notice paper, will be placed on the Order Paper under Government Motions, as notice was given by the Member for Lake Laberge in the capacity of government House leader.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart: † I have for tabling the 2004-05 annual report for Property Management Agency.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the annual report for the year ending March 31, 2005, for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 110: First Reading
Mr. Jenkins: I move that a bill entitled Yukon Smoke-Free Places Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Klondike that a bill entitled Yukon Smoke-Free Places Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 110 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) undue reliance on federal government perpetuates a state of economic dependence that discourages the development of a strong, self-sufficient and sustainable Yukon economy;
(2) an economy based on the extraction of non-renewable resources is not only unreliable due to its boom-and-bust nature, but also poses serious risks to the environment;
(3) the current Yukon government is pursuing megaprojects such as a natural gas pipeline, a railroad and coal mines without first engaging Yukon people in a dialogue about what kind of economy they want in the 21st century; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to conduct a comprehensive consultation with Yukon people similar to the consultation that lead to the Yukon 2000 Strategy in the 1980s, so that the people of the territory can have a meaningful say in the future economic development of the territory.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the affordable housing program of the Yukon Housing Corporation has suffered from a lack of clear definition;
(2) the Yukon public deserves to be informed of the meaning of this program and how it can be accessed; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to direct the Yukon Housing Corporation to adopt a clear definition of affordable housing based on what consumers can actually afford, rather than current market value.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) many young people in Yukon communities need safe and secure housing;
(2) homeless youth present serious problems in criminal activity, addictions, family violence, health, education and child neglect;
(3) the report from the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness has received no response from this government despite the fact that winter is here; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to immediately enhance funding for the agencies involved in supporting homeless youth, and to adopt a housing strategy that establishes policies and programs that respond effectively to the needs of homeless youth throughout the Yukon.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) various boards and committees are awaiting appointments;
(2) unfilled vacancies can reduce the effectiveness of boards and committees and put undue burden on existing members; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to fill vacancies on boards and committees in a timely manner so that the members can proceed with the work they are mandated to do.
Mr. Mitchell: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) the chairperson of the Yukon Development Corporation is also under contract to the Government of Yukon to act as a project champion for a mining company;
(2) one of the main issues for the mining company is access to affordable power;
(3) this situation puts the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation in the position where he is lobbying himself; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to refer the question of his dual role to the Conflicts Commissioner.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Dawson City council elections
Mr. Cardiff: It has been eight months since an order-in-council was issued calling for a municipal election to be held in Dawson City no later than the end of this month.
Not only is there no election in sight, the minister hasnít even gotten around to issuing a new order-in-council. A few days ago we learned that he has quietly extended the trusteeís contract for another three months, but that is as far as it goes. It is no wonder that the people in Dawson are talking about taking matters into their own hands and setting up their own local government.
What is the ministerís excuse for falling so far behind on his promise to restore municipal democracy in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have extended the requirement for an election to next year. That is underway. We are doing everything we can to shore up the financial situation in Dawson City. Once we have that, there will be an election.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, last spring, the government introduced the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act. They were hot to trot. This was an important piece of legislation. In spite of many things that were wrong with that draconian piece of legislation, it did pass this Legislature, and it did receive royal assent on May 17. Among other things, the act outlines five steps that this minister is supposed to take to deal with Dawsonís outstanding debt and debenture situation. Seven months later, Mr. Speaker, that act has not been proclaimed into law. Whatís the ministerís excuse for not doing that part of his job?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are going through the process involved with proclaiming the information into the act, and that is currently underway.
Mr. Cardiff: The fact is that the ministerís negligence is making Dawsonís financial situation even worse. The town is paying $121,000 a year to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce for debt-servicing; itís paying at least another $275,000 a year to the territorial government for debt-servicing.
The act, if proclaimed, would give the minister both the authority and the responsibility to issue a new debenture at a lower interest rate, but he hasnít done it. He hasnít proclaimed the act and thereís no municipal election anywhere in sight.
Is the ministerís refusal to act based on financial considerations or political considerations, such as the possibility a municipal election might trigger a territorial by-election in Klondike, or even a general election, before the Premier is ready to call it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are merely doing our due diligence with the City of Dawson in working on their financial aspects to identify what is required, and to assist the new mayor and council to take over their municipal responsibilities in Dawson City, something Iím sure the member opposite wants for the citizens of Dawson and something we on this side of the House want for the citizens of Dawson.
Weíre only doing our due diligence to ensure that the new mayor and council can operate as a municipality.
Question re: Granger-Copper Ridge school
Mr. Mitchell: ††My question is for the Minister of Education. The Yukon Party government tried to convince voters in the Granger-Copper Ridge area of Whitehorse that it was planning all along to build a new school in this part of the city, that they were just letting their candidate in the recent by-election announce it and that is why they didnít say anything about it.
I donít think anyone bought that story for a minute, certainly no one I have spoken with in the riding.
Can the minister tell the House today when the Yukon Party government began planning the new school? When was it? Was it before the candidate announced it or afterward?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: † I fail to see, really, what difference it makes. Any candidate who runs in an election has the right to put things forward, and thatís called democracy. Thereís no way that anyone should deter anybody from saying what they see as a vision for them being elected into politics. I congratulate everybody who did run in the election.
Mr. Mitchell: †Documents I obtained under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act tell the real story. There was absolutely no discussion within the government about this project until we started asking questions, and the Yukon Party candidate put out a flyer saying she supported a new school. That was on October 31. The wheels only started moving in the department on November 1. On November 8, the department put forward a plan for the new school. One document asks, ďIs this a new project, not previously listed in the capital plan?Ē What was the answer, Mr. Speaker? Yes. In other words, this was not a project the department was working on. In the document from the department, it says that there is $700,000 for planning set aside in the spring budget and money to come for two years after that. It says the school will be open in August 2008.
Can the minister confirm that the Yukon Party government will keep its commitment to build this school and that $700,000 will be in the spring budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, the Yukon Party has always done its best to maintain and keep any promises that were made, and I donít see any difference with this one.
Mr. Mitchell: †The Yukon Party government jumped on this school bandwagon because their candidate was out freelancing and promising a new school. The government had no intention of building a new school until that happened. The documents that I obtained under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act prove that without a doubt. We support building a new school. We want the government to move ahead ó better late than never.
What plan does the minister have to consult with stakeholders in the design of the new school, and when will that process start?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The government has a strong commitment to providing quality education in the Yukon, and providing quality education involves many things. The honourable member representing Porter Creek South has made a motion that this government move forward on plans to build a new school in the Granger-Copper Ridge area. Standing here today, I can assure the member of the House that the Department of Education is always moving forward on plans for school facilities in the Yukon. Thatís because providing quality education involves providing suitable facilities where our children can learn and grow as members of their community, and the government will continue to do so.
Question re: YEC/YDC chair conflict
Mr. McRobb: For two hours last Thursday afternoon members of this Assembly had a rare occasion to question both the chair and president/CEO of the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation. Iíd like to follow up with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources who likes to rave about how open and transparent he is and that he holds no secrets. When he appointed the former Yukon Party cabinet minister as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation he stressed how it would be only for one year while he searched for someone else who would last the normal three-year term. Why did the minister extend the appointment and keep it secret for two months?
Hon. Mr. Lang: On the recommendation of the board of directors, we extended the individual who was in there on a 12-month contract another 12 months. There is work to be done, and the individual is doing just that ó working.
Mr. McRobb: Well, he didnít explain why he kept it secret.
Now, we know that the minister has been keeping a number of matters secret from the Yukon public. Stay tuned, Mr. Speaker. Letís not forget how last week the Yukon Party tried to block our access to the chair of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation until it was goaded into presenting the chair after an hourís debate. We heard the president say that Yukon Development Corporationís annual report was available on June 30 to the minister, but it wasnít tabled in this House until last Tuesday.
Why did the minister keep it secret until just two days before Yukon Development Corporation officials came into this House?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Of course, through our conversation last week on the position that this side of the House had on who was going to present Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation, we listened to the argument and, being a fair and open government, we accepted the fact that if we could make available both of them, we would. We did just that.
As far as the financial statements, we did it in a timely fashion. We did it within regulation time and gave the member opposite lead time so he could ask the questions he asked last Thursday.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Speaker, two daysí lead time, after holding on to those reports and keeping them secret for more than five months.
Not only did the minister keep the chairís reappointment secret, he kept the annual report a secret too. This is just like his secret energy policy, his secret climate change policy, his secret promotion of coal-bed methane, his secret changes to oil and gas dispositions and mining land use regulations ó everything seems to be a secret to this minister.
On Thursday, we also learned that officials at the corporation were prepared to give us a briefing but were told we didnít request one. Well, Mr. Speaker, we asked several times. For some reason, the Yukon Party decided to cancel the briefing. Why does the minister refuse to allow the opposition parties to attend briefings for Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Lang:††††††††††† In listening to the member opposite, the only thing secret or secretive is obviously the Member for Kluane. We are a very open government. All the facts are on the Internet, if he cares to look them up. Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation ó we are moving forward, so keep tuned. The member opposite has to keep his feet on the ground and look forward. All that information is available, and itís all on the Internet or certainly in our departments. We will answer any question the member has in a timely fashion.
Question re: †Energy transmission line
†Mr. McRobb:†††††††††††††† This minister and this government have been keeping lots of secrets from the people of this territory. Another one is the YDC annual report, which is not found anywhere on-line. We found out Thursday about another one of this ministerís big secrets ó the Yukon Party has been secretly working on building a multi-million dollar transmission line to a private mining corporation, and it wants Yukon taxpayers to pay the bill. First of all, why has this minister kept this transmission line proposal secret from the public?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, addressing the member opposite, this is called ďmanagementĒ. This is called ďgood managementĒ. We certainly are looking toward tying in the Mayo-Dawson line. In a perfect world, it would be nice to manage all our hydro, and we could manage it if we tied in southern Yukon and northern Yukon. We have to certainly look at the extension from Carmacks to Pelly, and then, of course, Pelly to Stewart. Itís good business. Is it going to happen tomorrow? I donít think so.
Mr. McRobb: I think itís called ďcrisis managementĒ, Mr. Speaker. This approach is just so Yukon Party. After the Mayo-Dawson transmission line fiasco, itís interesting to learn that the minister now believes we should jump head-first into more of these transmission projects. The chair of YDC alluded to feasibility studies on this project. We would like to see those studies, as well as the cost projections. Will the minister now let us in on his secret by tabling this information by the end of the week?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím glad the member opposite brought up the Mayo-Dawson line. This was the government that cleaned that up. We didnít start the Mayo-Dawson line; the members opposite started the Mayo-Dawson line. The government on this side of the House cleaned up the Mayo-Dawson line.
Mr. McRobb: The minister insists on keeping that information secret. He avoided that part of the question and gave no commitment whatsoever to tabling that information.
The officials indicated this project would be reviewed by the Yukon Utilities Board. Perhaps the minister would commit to making it a full review. Iím sure that many ratepayers wonít be too comforted to know that, under this secret Yukon Party plan, it would be the taxpayers who would pay for this costly project. After all, arenít they virtually the same people, Mr. Speaker?
Perhaps this minister could explain the difference between the taxpayers and the ratepayers in this case.
Hon. Mr. Lang: This is just good business. The Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation are looking. We are certainly not going to commit to any review until we have a review. When you expand in the hydro industry ó since we took office, the number of users has gone from 81 percent to 94 percent on hydro. Weíve done a pretty good job. Weíre looking at expanding the hydro lines eventually into north Yukon, tying it in with the Mayo-Dawson line. We have to find a customer. We certainly donít have that customer today and, without a customer, it wonít happen.
Question re: YEC/YDC chair conflict
Mr. McRobb: I listened with interest to the chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation try to reconcile his other role as project champion for Carmacks Copper, which would dearly love to buy our electricity from the Yukon Energy Corporation. Those were the words of the chair of YEC/YDC ó ďdearly loveĒ.
Now that the minister has had the weekend to reflect on the chairís comments, does he not recognize thereís a conflict of interest between this personís position as chair of the publicly owned Yukon Energy Corporation and as project champion for this mine?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † Thereís definitely no conflict. For the member to insinuate that the chair is an active member of the Carmacks Copper proposal ó he has billed exactly four hours on that project. There is no conflict. We have the Utilities Board. We have checks and balances in place. We donít send people out to make deals for power. We have checks and balances. We have to answer to Yukoners. This project is going forward. The one that is going forward and moving faster is Minto. Minto Copper is looking at energy ó every mining company is looking at energy, Mr. Speaker. All mining communities need power ó to either generate it themselves or buy it from us. So Yukoners can rest assured that weíre not making side deals on power. We have the Utilities Board. Thatís who make the decision on price.
Mr. McRobb: Well, a scheme like this may not be subjected to the Utilities Boardís normal regulatory review. Thatís why I asked the previous questions, which the minister avoided.
The minister has referred to these project champions as advocates for industry. I would agree that after listening to the perspectives of the chair of YDC and YEC, he is a very outspoken and well-spoken advocate of industry. But Yukoners need to know where the balance is between economic development and protection of the public interest.
Can the minister tell us where the balance is to his pro-industry approach that would place the risk on the backs of the taxpayers and the ratepayers?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I hark back a few years to the member oppositeís position on Aishihik Lake, when it cost the ratepayers $4 million.
Speaker: Order please. Weíve ruled this conversation out of order before, honourable minister, so be very careful in your answer. You have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we are doing the best job we can with the power issues in the Yukon. There are checks and balances; weíre moving forward with economic development in a balanced fashion. We certainly will not be looking at any hydro lines anywhere until we find a customer base. At that point there will be a business decision made. That decision will be made in conjunction with many stakeholders, so weíre a long way from making that decision.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, you can always tell when the Yukon Party is losing the debate when they throw out the Aishihik decision.
Now, it was also very interesting to discover that the minister has been working on a secret plan to sell off part of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line to Yukon First Nations. This minister has had nothing but bad to say about that project. We know there are outstanding legal claims that could skyrocket costs higher than the existing cost overruns referred to by the Auditor General as the worst display of project management he has ever seen. Why is this minister secretly trying to off-load this lemon to Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Heís right in one respect; the Mayo-Dawson line is a boondoggle ó has been from day one. We are not trying to unload it on anybody or any individual or any government. Weíre trying to get to the bottom of it. Thatís our job. Thatís what weíve been doing for three years, and weíre working toward that end.
Question re: †YEC/YDC annual protocols
Mr. McRobb: Letís return to how this minister has so many secrets he wants to keep from us and the Yukon public. Both the chair and president/CEO of Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation revealed there were annual protocols signed with the minister. These protocols supposedly come in the form of a letter of expectation that identifies achievable goals and objectives for the coming year. Would the minister commit to providing us with these protocols and letters of expectation by the end of this week?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would certainly commit to working with the member opposite to get them that correspondence. But to do it by the end of this week, I could probably say honestly that wouldnít be possible. But I would direct my department to get them to him as speedily as they could.
Mr. McRobb: The exact words of the chair were: ďThe letter of expectation similarly flows from the protocol and is something that I wanted to see done because of the transparency and accountability factor. Itís also a useful tool for members of this Legislative Assembly to assess where we are going and whether or not we are doing the kinds of things we are expected to do.Ē Why has this minister chosen to keep this information secret from members of this Assembly?†
Hon. Mr. Lang: There are no secrets. There are no secrets ó we are having the debate in the House today. Is that a secret? When I became the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, that protocol hadnít been done in years. We started that protocol when I took over the responsibility. All that information is public information. There are no secrets on this side of the House.
Mr. McRobb: There are lots of secrets on that side of the House. They didnít start the governance protocols; we did. The minister refuses to provide the information and has no explanation of why they have delayed it until now. The chair also indicated that some parts of the new governance structure are being approved while others are expected to be out in the near future. I would like the minister to understand that one of the basic tenets of accountability is to have proper checks and balances. We as members of the opposition are prepared to provide checks and balances to this ministerís plans, but we canít do that if he continues to keep everything secret.
The chair alluded to some recent decisions on governance structure and how more are expected soon. Will the minister agree to table that information before the end of the week?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again I remind the members opposite there is no secret. The protocol that we reinstituted on the communication hadnít been done for years. It didnít mean that it wasnít supposed to be done, Mr. Speaker; the other governments just didnít do it. We did do it. It is public information, and itís public to everybody in the Yukon. So again, there are no secrets to that operation. Thatís a publicly owned corporation, and what happens in that publicly owned corporation is public information.
Question re: YEC/YDC chair conflict
Mr. Mitchell: †† My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. The chair of the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation is wearing two hats these days. He chairs the board of the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation and at the same time is providing advice to a mining company about their future power needs and the permitting process. There has been some public discussion about this issue over the last year; however, there has been no resolution because the government refuses to recognize the potential for conflict. We have no problem with the government appointing a project champion. We are well aware of how difficult the permitting process can be. Itís the dual role that weíre concerned about. Iíll give the minister two choices: will the minister refer this matter to the Conflicts Commissioner for a ruling, or will he relieve the person in question of one of his duties?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, there is no conflict of interest. The gentleman we are speaking about has a part-time job working with the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation. In turn, he has worked with Carmacks Copper on reviewing the regulatory process. I remind the members opposite that he billed four hours last year ó that is not a big task, Mr. Speaker, and one of the discussions at this point is not power. That is not being done now and doesnít look like itís going to be done in the near future. We are a long way from making a decision on power at Carmacks Copper.
Mr. Mitchell:†††††† Letís just see how this works: on Thursday, the individual is the project champion for the mining company. He has a meeting with the company and says, ďHow can I help?Ē The company says, ďWe need the power line extended from Carmacks so we can save money on our power bill.Ē
The next day, the same individual puts on his chairpersonís hat. He meets with the minister and recommends that the power line be extended. Next he returns to the mining company and says, ďGood news. As your champion, I convinced the government and the Yukon Development Corporation that we should extend the power line.Ē Heís serving two masters and, at the end of the day, no one is looking out for the best interests of Yukoners.
Will the minister refer this matter to the Conflicts Commissioner for a ruling or will he relieve the person in question from one of his duties?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, what the member opposite says doesnít happen; government doesnít work in that kind of process. The member opposite is insinuating that the champion who works for Carmacks Copper is in a situation to sell power or make a deal on power lines that doesnít exist. There are a lot more stakeholders than that individual. There will be a huge stakeholder involvement if the line goes from Carmacks to Pelly. That will be a big decision for whatever government is in this House at the time.
As far as a conflict, thereís no conflict; itís just business as usual. He has billed four hours in 12 months ó a big job. If the member opposite is saying what heís saying, four hours isnít a big billing process.
Mr. Mitchell: † †This is a situation that requires ethical leadership. Itís no surprise that this government is unwilling or unable to provide it. The chairperson is serving two masters.
Iím worried that, in lobbying for the best interests of a mining company, heís not looking out for the best interests of the Yukon Development Corporation and, in effect, all Yukoners. This dual role is a problem that everyone but the minister seems to be aware of. Iím offering two easy solutions to clear up the problem: will the minister refer this matter to the Conflicts Commissioner for a ruling or will he relieve the person in question from one of his duties and appoint one of the other 31,000 Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † Thatís a decision anybody in this House can make. If the member opposite thinks that the Yukon Development Corporation chair is doing something that is not acceptable, he can ask and move forward and get the Conflicts Commissioner involved, and certainly it doesnít have to be the minister. Anybody in this House can do that.
Question re: Appointment of Health and Social Services minister
Mr. Hardy: I know the members opposite are getting quite agitated with the questions today and thatís understandable. I also recognize that theyíre struggling to maintain the government and theyíre feeling a lot of pressure over there. It is Christmas and I want them to relax and know that we do think about them with some compassion on this side of the House.
However, in speaking of compassion, Iím very concerned about the new appointment to the Health and Social Services portfolio. This is a member who is well known as a big supporter of Preston Manning and the previous Reform Party, as well as the new Conservatives. Itís very clear that their position around health care is to move in the direction of privatization. With the appointment of this new Health and Social Services minister from Lake Laberge and his position being on record, is this the new direction in which this government is going?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, after this afternoon, itís clear that this side of the House wants to alleviate the concerns from the members opposite with respect to what the government is going to do, with respect to the government being under pressure. Frankly, weíre not.
As far as the appointment of the Member for Lake Laberge to the ministerial portfolio of Health and Social Services, that was a culmination of a great deal of dialogue among the team members. We had many choices. The upside for this side of the House is that we have multiple choices. Sometimes decisions can be difficult when you have so many good choices available.
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, itís complete nonsense to consider any appointment, in this day and age in the Yukon Territory, to Cabinet with respect to health care, that would be leading us to privatization of health care ó complete and total nonsense. Itís quite the opposite. The government has worked very hard to make sure the Yukonís health care system can deliver the goods to its citizens under the Canada Health Act.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, the public out there has a problem with trust with this government and anything thatís said on that side. My colleague from Kluane has talked a lot about the secrecy that exists over there. Well, we all know that the Premier was trying to find somebody to take the health portfolio, and there were some refusals over there. No one wanted to take it. But I believe there is a real clear direction that this Premier is going in and this government is going in, and that is privatization. That is similar to what the Yukon Liberals attempted to do in their two-and-a-half-year reign, in which they tried to shift into some delivery of a two-tier system in the Yukon. Thatís on record, and we know it. There are also concerns about the fact that the Premier has taken on the environmental portfolio. We all know exactly what he thinks of the environment and what has happened in that portfolio under this government. So again, Iím going to ask a very clear question, because I want some commitment, and I think the people of this territory want some commitment. Will the Premier assure the people of this territory that there will not be an attempt for any type of a two-tier system in the Yukon like his hero in Alberta and like they tried to attempt with Macaulay Lodge when they first got elected? Will he assure the people that there will be no two-tier system under this government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me first deal with the issue of the Department of Environment. Placing this department in the Premierís office is a clear demonstration of what we think of the environment, its department, its people and the territoryís environment itself.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, is the leader of the official opposition trying to convince the public that $10 million more in the Hospital Corporationís hands is privatization. Is the leader of the official opposition suggesting that $6 million more for pharmacare and chronic disease programs is privatization? Is the member opposite suggesting that $1.1 million for specialized medical services is in some way, shape or form privatization of the health care system? How about $400,000 to those who are dealing with FASD? Is that privatization, Mr. Speaker? What about $900,000 for additional family support workers? Is that privatization, Mr. Speaker? What about the 35-percent increase to the pioneer utility grant and indexing it, talking of our seniors? Is that privatization, Mr. Speaker? The only privatization in this House and in this territory is in the memberís mind.
†Mr. Hardy: I would like to remind the Premier that a lot of that money came from the federal government, and there were conditions attached to it ó that the money had to be spent there. Once again, we are witnessing the Premier trying to take credit for work and agreements that were signed that he has no right to take credit for. But that is going to be very common. There is a very huge lack of trust by the people of this territory in this Premier and this government. He promised to roll up his sleeves and address social issues ó after three years. That means they havenít done anything unless they were forced into doing it after three years. We are supposed to believe and trust that now.
He has promised to make the environmental portfolio a top agenda item. Do you think there is anybody in the Yukon who believes this Premier cares about the environment after three years? I think itís too late, Mr. Speaker. I think itís too late. Will the Premier do something of substance to indicate that the environment will have as much attention as his chasing of the economic megaprojects that he has been after for the last three years? Will he do that at least?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me try to help the leader of the official opposition. That is, calm down. Thereís no need to get this agitated about trying to present a case to the public that the member opposite knows is completely wrong. When it comes to what is our just due in the sharing of the national wealth, I didnít see the member opposite walk out on a Prime Minister; I saw the three northern premiers do that; thatís what generated our Northern Health Accord and our health deal.
Furthermore, when it comes to the environment, the members opposite both had a chance to finalize Fishing Branch and Tombstone parks. They couldnít do it; we did. Weíve created Kusawa and Asi Keyi parks; weíve removed land base ó like Lewes Marsh and the majority of the Turner wetlands ó from land dispositions.
Weíre working on habitat protection areas. Mr. Speaker, I would submit we have as much or more investment in the Department of Environment as we do in the Department of Economic Development. There is a balanced approach here. The difference is this government has taken a balanced approach, protected our environment, increased our economic well-being; in the balanced approach of the members opposite, they killed the economy, chased people out of the territory and focused on one thing: a protected areas strategy ó what a loss.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Unanimous consent re calling Yukon Smoke-Free Places Act for second reading
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: I would request the unanimous consent of the House to call the Yukon Smoke-Free Places Act for second reading at this time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to call the Yukon Smoke-Free Places Act for second reading?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been denied.
Hon. 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 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. Iíll just remind members that we need unanimous consent in order to take a break.
Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act.
There has been some discussion about having a break before we go into this bill or after. Do members wish to have a recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: We do not have unanimous consent to have a recess.
Bill No. 61 ó Co-operation in Governance Act ó continued
Chair: We will continue with the bill at hand, which is Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: The Hon. Premier, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Point of order, Mr. Chair. I do have to use the menís room at this point in time. I can no longer hold it, thank you very much.
Chair: I would say there is no point of order.†
Is there any further debate on Bill No. 61?
Mr. Hardy: I have already spoken at length in regard to this bill and we have put on record some of our concerns in regard to the Co-operation in Governance Act, and Iím just going to very briefly touch on them. I think it is very important to once again revisit them, and hopefully they will sink into the members oppositeís collective thoughts and they will consider, after this bill has been passed, how they are going to make it a living document and one that has some kind of substance.
As I said in my past statements, Mr. Chair, one of the things that concerns me about signing these types of governance acts, memorandums of understanding, bilateral agreements and accords is: what happens after you sign them, and what are the expectations that are raised in signing them? Itís fundamentally important that when we sign an agreement, we have a commitment to follow through on them. What we have seen in the past, not just in the Yukon but in Canada, in dealing with First Nations and aboriginals across Canada is a failure to follow through with the commitments made to them. The sad part around that, Mr. Chair, is that we raise expectations of the people with whom weíre signing the agreement. We indicate to them that those agreements are living documents and they will be honoured. There is a huge investment in signing those agreements from the side of the First Nations, but as well as from the government side representing the people of the country.
Our history shows that we have not followed through on those agreements. We have failed time and time and time again. Is it any wonder that First Nations across this country of ours are constantly having to lobby governments to honour agreements and are sceptical of any new agreements that are put before them? Even though they try to work with governments, even though they will sign the new agreements, there is now, within this country and within the Yukon, a degree of scepticism and a lack of trust that anything good will come out of those agreements. There is a hope that it will happen but, unfortunately, underlying the hope is the history that has shown in the past that those agreements are often not lived up to.
What we, on this side, are asking is that if we are going to sign any agreement, it is not for the photo opportunity, it is not for political gain, but itís for the just action that is needed to repay the First Nations, itís the just actions that are needed to restore some dignity into agreements and with the First Nations ó the recognition of their rights. Thatís why weíre doing it: to honour other levels of government ó thatís what they should be in place for ó and to work as equals and know that, once you sign these agreements, you are bound by them. You are going to make sure that they stand, because if you donít, why should any more of these agreements be signed? Why? Why should the First Nations sit down and try to negotiate with any government when time and time and time again throughout our history, they have been betrayed? I donít say that lightly, but history has proven it.
Now, I believe the words spoken by the Yukon Party government when they were first elected were good words. The indication they sent to the First Nations was that it was going to be different. Any agreements they came up with were going to be honoured, and they were going to be stuck to. The Premier was not going to deviate from those agreements if he signed them. In three years in this territory, we have witnessed agreements signed, MOUs signed, and demonstrations out in the streets. We have witnessed doors locked by First Nations in their communities. We have witnessed and heard of very heated meetings, and meetings where the First Nations have had to walk out on negotiations with this government on memoranda of understanding or on protocols or on accords. That indicates to me that all these MOUs have been for this government is a photo opportunity. All the words that have been spoken have been hollow.
So what we have before us now is the Co-operation in Governance Act. It commits the government to meet four times a year with Cabinet ó maybe ó with caucus ó hopefully ó but commits at least the Premier and someone else ó could be from departments or could be a Cabinet minister ó to meet with the First Nations four times a year. That is not, from my perspective, a big commitment. Itís something that should be done anyway. This is something, even without an agreement in the Legislative Assembly, that should be done. This is something that the NDP had done. Iím not sure, actually, what the former Liberal government did, but Iím sure they also met with the First Nations. Itís government-to-government relations. You have to, and you should. You should show that respect. But here we are after over three years with the Yukon Party government, and he brought forward a governance act that doesnít include all First Nation governments; it doesnít have all the signatures, and only really commits to four meetings a year.
It doesnít necessarily commit to anything of substance coming out of them. Thereís a slight description, but thereís no commitment necessarily for working together. Of course, there is also the ability to cancel those meetings and change them, depending on the requests of the First Nation governments or even the territorial government to make adjustments.
When I read this governance act, I wasnít overly impressed. I didnít think it was much of a commitment. I didnít think the Yukon Party government was making much of a commitment to the First Nations. Thatís a shame.
Three years and this is the best that could be drawn up. What does that say? After three years, they realize they canít live up to the MOUs theyíve already signed, so they had better come up with another piece of paper that says theyíll meet four times a year? That doesnít say much. They canít live up to the agreements and accords theyíve signed; the Yukon Party cannot finish a consultation process that involves First Nations. The Childrenís Act review is an example; it seems it has gone sideways. Of course, that was one this government said was a model for all others. Now it seems to be in trouble. The judicial review seems to have had a very long period, during which the public hasnít been kept informed. We donít know where thatís going to go, or even if itís going to be completed by the time an election is called. Three years have gone by.
All these MOUs have been signed with First Nation governments with very little follow up. I would say it has caused a sense of disbelief with the First Nations with regard to this government living up to anything they sign. There is a problem in Carmacks around education, the building of the school up there, which has divided a community. We donít know what the final result of that is going to be. There have been demonstrations in the streets by First Nations ó walking out of meetings, refusing to sit any longer in a meeting they feel has no substance. We have the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition not even receiving the money that was promised to them to do the work that is necessary in order to prepare for a pipeline to come through the territory and make sure they are full partners. There was a broken agreement there. We have First Nation chiefs speaking openly about the tremendous degree of frustration they are having in dealing with the Yukon Party government.
So, what are the four meetings going to do? What is this good governance act really going to accomplish if that is the state we are at today? Out on the streets talking with Yukoners, but also talking with First Nations, councillors and leaders ó they are all waiting for the next election and they are ready to mobilize. I can assure the members opposite ó I give this to them ó that they are not going to mobilize around this government. They are not going to be supporting this government like they may have in the last election, based on the words that were spoken. The spoken word has a lot of power ó a lot of power. It can create feelings of compassion, feelings of belief, feelings of hope. It can create anger and distress.
If the spoken word is treated lightly, it can create very much stress, distress, disbelief, anger and disillusionment. The words that were spoken when this government was running in the last election, the words that were spoken after they were elected, the words that have been spoken on a regular basis for the last couple of years by the Premier have not been backed up by action. Because the true measurement is what do the people to whom those words were spoken feel about that? Never mind the press. Never mind the media. Never mind putting out press releases and all that stuff. What do the people you directed those words to really feel? How are they reacting now? Thatís the true measurement. The evidence is there, Mr. Chair. The people do not trust the government any more. You raise their hopes; you tell them that itís going to be different; they are going to be equal partners; they are going to walk side by side with you, government to government; youíre going to work together; you will sign these MOUs and these agreements and these accords, and you will honour them. Then you have your photo opportunity; you have the media there, and you have your signatures, and you hold them up and you wave them around, and you put them in your briefcase. You turn and walk out the door, and thatís the last that you think of them. Then you have broken that trust. I have not seen many announcements from those MOUs. I have not heard any discussion from the Premier about what the signing of those MOUs has done or changed in the territory to make it better for First Nations.
I have not seen where that bilateral agreement with the Kaska, which no longer exists ó the results from that that have benefited the First Nation. I have not seen the other agreements honoured and followed through with. They have not built relationships and trust so that I can see these meetings happening where they are standing side by side and there is money flowing into some of these communities that so desperately need work. Thereís an economic problem out there, and itís not the Canada Winter Games thatís going to carry this territory for the next 10 years. Itís not the pipeline thatís going to carry it, itís the fact that the governments, working together ó First Nation governments, territorial governments, municipal governments, the federal government ó working together to realize some dreams of the people out here, whether itís a small business dream, where there are people who want to start a business. Where is the economic development? Where is tourism? Where is culture? They are working with governments that have a trust factor that will work and share their resources, to advance the interests of their people, to make this a better place to live, and they see the vision.
Four meetings a year, thatís all thatís in this. Thatís all it is. I honestly cannot see how this is going to move the agenda forward, in the last dying days of this government. Yes, it will commit future governments to have these four meetings, but I would hope that the future governments wonít just think that this is the document to end all documents. I hope they wonít think that this is something thatís going to rebuild trust.
If we form government next, if we are entrusted by the people of this territory ó the NDP ó we will have a different approach.
It wonít be signing MOUs that weíre not going to honour.
Mr. Speaker, the evocation of a very religious ó what would you call it. Enacting the cross on the body by the Minister of Health and Social Services when I talked about the NDP being entrusted is very disturbing. Itís a shame to see that, because it points to the type of treatment or the attitude some members over there have in regard to people with different views and opinions or even from different cultures. It worries me, seeing symbolism like that by that member when Iím talking about good governance and talking about working with other people. Iím very concerned about that.
Iím sorry, Mr. Chair. You didnít see the actions so Iíll move on.
If the people of this territory entrust us to form the next government, we will honour our agreements. We wonít sign an agreement for a press conference unless we can honestly live up to it. I think thatís what the people out there want. I think thatís what the First Nations want, because they have been betrayed in the past across Canada. There are broken agreements left, right and centre. Thereís no question about that.
Everybody in this territory knows that for us to move forward and for every person to benefit, we must work together.
Maybe the good governance is a step. For that reason, we will be supporting it. But ultimately, in the end, we feel there is not enough substance to it and we need to see the proof. We need to know that there is going to be more to this document than just four meetings to talk. I think, when I say this, I speak on behalf of many people in this territory ó both First Nations and others ó in wanting to see whichever government in the future honours its agreements to all people.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I listened with great interest and find some comments made by the leader of the official opposition of great concern. Given the fact that this government has moved forward with its commitment to formalize our relationship at a government-to-government level with First Nations, I will not bother to rebut. I think, however, itís important that we express to the members opposite that there is already significant progress being made through this structure called the Yukon forum. The Co-operation in Governance Act is to ensure that the Yukon forum, its structure and the commitments therein will continue. Governments come and go, but this legislation obligates incoming governments, whichever they may be, to follow through with this process, this initiative, this cooperation in governance at a government-to-government level with Yukon First Nation governments.
Letís look at some of the examples. First and foremost, we go back a long way with respect to dealing with the issue of two jurisdictions in this territory ó the jurisdiction as created by public government and the jurisdiction as created by the self-government agreements and the final agreements with Yukon First Nations here in the territory.
That said, there had to be a way to bring those two jurisdictions together, and we needed structure. So within the Yukon forum ó which is the structure ó much work to date has been done. Mr. Chair, by virtue of the fact that we have moved beyond talk, as in the past, with secretariats and discussions around when we would meet to talk about the issues, weíve actually moved toward product. First and foremost, we are in the nine-year review period with respect to the implementation of land claims in this territory and the self-government agreements. Thatís a very important issue for us here in the Yukon, and itís extremely important when you consider the fact that through the Yukon forum we have a way for both the Yukon government and Yukon First Nation governments to formalize and create common positions. In this case, with the nine-year review and the obligation of Canada to implement final agreements and self-government agreements, we have struck a common working group, whereby we are, in working with First Nation governments, developing the Yukon position on a new federal mandate; for the implementation of the claims in the self-government agreements. Weíre not the only ones who recognize that there must be changes to the federal mandate, so, too, does the Auditor General, and we have made the case at every national event with respect to this issue, including the most recent First Ministersí meeting in Kelowna. But we have done more. We have developed the common position on the northern strategy, thereby through the Yukon forum, developed the Yukon chapter of the northern strategy, presenting it to Canada, and Canada has now responded to us ó favourably I might add.
Itís an example of what we can do in a structure where the formalized relationship of governance comes into effect.
Another area that weíve cooperated on is the development of the joint position on the northern economic development fund. That is something of great significance because, when you consider how these issues were dealt with in the past, itís the first time that we have, in this area of economic development, sat down with First Nation governments at a government-to-government level and developed this kind of common position for the mutual benefit of all but in the best interest of the territory and its future. In presenting that to Canada, again it was looked on favourably, and Iím quite confident that, as officials continue to work on this particular area, we will finalize it and move forward with investment.
There is much more to the issue of governance in the Yukon than we can try to relay or articulate here today, because it is ever-evolving. There is a new way of doing business in this territory and the Co-operation in Governance Act is meant as a fundamental stone of the foundation in that evolution of governance. We have come a long way in the Yukon, considering that 11 of 14 First Nations in the Yukon Territory are now self-governing and have their final agreements in place. We have every expectation that we can conclude the remaining outstanding business, provided Canada will come forward with an acceptable mandate to do exactly that.
But overall, the evolution of governance in the Yukon is one that is intended to build a better and brighter future for this territory and all its citizens. The claims speak to that. The spirit and intent of the final agreements and self-government agreements are all about that.
At this juncture, I will express our appreciation to the opposite side of the House for their support, although one can only ponder at times what that support means, considering some of the criticism coming forth, but the criticism is not borne out by the facts. This is a significant step forward with respect to formalizing our relationship ó the Yukon governmentís relationship, the public governmentís relationship ó with First Nation governments in the territory.
Much more can be done, but we have established a structure within which to work. Weíve established a number of initiatives where we have been successful in developing collectively with First Nation governments, and we have brought forward legislation to ensure this will be ongoing far into the future.
The members opposite should also reflect on previous attempts on how to deal with this very significant issue in the Yukon and not be so quick to criticize the fact that many past governments have tried with limited success. The act before us was jointly developed with First Nations. I would suggest, outside of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, itís one of the few pieces of legislation developed in that manner.
As we move forward with things like educational reform, correctional reform, the Childrenís Act review ó all these areas of great significance to the future of the territory ó the governance issue can only be enhanced and improved upon through structures such as the Yukon forum, and its force and effect is brought to bear by this particular piece of legislation.
Members opposite made the comment that thereís not a lot to this act. Well, I would remind the members opposite ó itís here to create that structure. Itís here to obligate the public government and First Nation governments to do certain things. Thatís what the act was intended to do; thatís exactly what the act does. Itís the issues that we work on within that structure that are of the greatest relevance to the Yukon, its future and its citizens, to the public government and the First Nation governments. So all and all, I think itís fair to say that the Co-operation in Governance Act is a significant step in the evolution of self-determination here in the Yukon, not only for First Nation governments, but the evolution of responsible government here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. McRobb: Iíll be brief in my comments. I know the leader of the third party also wanted to get some comments on record.
First of all, I want to respond to the Premierís allegations that much of what heís heard from the opposition benches is criticism. I would dispute that, Mr. Chair, because what I heard was not criticism. What I heard was all part of providing the proper checks and balances so that we have a balanced system of representation in this Assembly. Part of the checks and balances requires us on the opposition side to review the material at hand, and put on record our concerns. Thatís exactly what we have done. Our concerns are now a matter of record, and so is our general support for the bill.
We expect the proceedings this afternoon to continue expeditiously, and this bill will pass and be given assent on the last day of this fall sitting.
So the Premier should not be so quick to cast this system of checks and balances as merely more criticism from the opposition. I have heard a number of good comments made ó probably none more important than the issue of trust.
Mr. Chair, as previous speakers have already put on the record, First Nations have reason to be sceptical when any government comes calling, looking for their trust. Many agreements and treaties over the years have been broken. Our First Nation people, the vast majority of them at least, live below the poverty line. They live in environments with unsafe drinking water or houses with black mould, perhaps in communities that donít have fair provision of health care services, and a number of other conditions related to poverty in this country. If we look at these memoranda of understanding the Yukon Party government has signed and add them all up, we have to ask ourselves: really, what good are they? We know that a number of First Nation chiefs across the territory have refused to be part of this act, this protocol. We know that several other First Nation chiefs have torn up memoranda of understanding or have simply refused to become part of a process they believe is meant for publicity and not true assistance to the First Nations.
We have heard about some First Nation chiefs and how they are prepared to travel Outside to give their messages to southerners and other governments that, in fact, dispute what the Premier is saying. I can think of one chief in particular who has vowed to travel Outside to oil and gas events, to counter what the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is saying. So, when you look at the whole picture of First Nation relations with this Yukon Party government, there is a real contrast between the rhetoric we hear from the government members and what is actually happening out there with the First Nations in the Yukon. I think of the example with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition ó which Iím very familiar with ó and some of the many issues in regard to that as further evidence to support what Iím saying now.†
Today we heard about a new survey of across the territory from DataPath Systems in Marsh Lake that found there is a real problem of trust with this government and how widespread that is across the territory. Well, that didnít come as a big surprise to us, Mr. Chair, because we are quite familiar with this governmentís approach, with its commitments put on record, with the broken promises to those commitments and failed undertakings and so on, on how it commonly says something but doesnít really follow up what it says with action.
In other words, it doesnít walk the talk. So todayís findings about trust being a big issue is something weíve come to expect. We knew it was only a matter of time before that expectation filtered across the territory.
Mr. Chair, I said I would be brief; those are my comments.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I just wanted to put a few comments on record with regard to this historic document. Itís important to recognize that First Nations do have self-government. Some of the decisions they make are well within their purview, and they have the right to make decisions. I donít think itís beneficial for any government to try to lay blame on anybody for decisions made by self-governing First Nations and municipal governments, or even the federal government.
However, I was at the meetings that took place with regard to this issue, and I can tell you that the First Nations who were present were very involved in the meetings. There was a great desire to have this document come forward. Again, I believe the First Nations do feel secure with this document.
The leader of the third party talked about past problems and historical abuses of agreements, you might say. I believe part of the problem with the past non-respect for documents was no consistency. New governments were created; new governments got in; everyone has the right to their own opinion. There were different opinions about things, so itís understandable if another government doesnít agree with something that was signed by a previous government, but this goes back hundreds of years. Itís not something thatís only relevant to the Yukon.
It not only goes back hundreds of years, but it stretches right across the whole North American continent.
I know that you canít change history, but I think whatís important is how you go forward from today. I believe also, Mr. Chair, that every government in the Yukon ó NDP, Liberal, Yukon Party ó they all had an opportunity to ensure that the land claims negotiated many years ago were implemented. One would have to question whether the best effort was put forth. Because those claims are still not implemented today.
Regardless of which government is in, I think everyone proved that they have to get more serious with implementing land claims. I think that bringing this governance act forward will put something on paper that every government has to respect. So if there is a change of government, yes, you are going to have to ensure that you do have meetings with First Nation governments to conduct business ó with regard to economic development, for example ó and I donít think itís a bad thing having such an act in place. It gives a little bit of stability to First Nations in the territory. I believe that that is something that is needed. Who knows what could become of this. I think that once the other governments, when they do or if they ever do, get into government, they will find this act to be beneficial to the government of the day.
Itís the one that the majority of First Nations support. Again, as I stated earlier, there are a number of First Nations who are self-governing. They donít have to agree with anything the government does ó thatís their choice ó but the opportunity is there.
Thatís all I want to say. Thank you.
Mr. Mitchell: I wonít take very long. My colleague from Porter Creek South has previously spoken to this bill, but there are a few things Iíd like to say now.
The honourable members opposite like to remind me that Iím new here, and I donít have a great deal of experience, which is certainly true ó not unlike many of them a few short years ago. I take this very seriously. I look at it and say, ďCo-operation in Governance ActĒ ó four words, five pages. Itís not a very big act, but obviously it can mean a great deal.
I guess the question that I ask myself as someone who is new to this Legislative Assembly is this: what is the role of government? We all know that the territorial government looks after getting the highways cleared with the Department of Highways and Public Works, makes sure we have adequate power supply by working with the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. So, we know the regular day-to-day things that governments do. It seems, however, absolutely implicit that one thing the government would do would be to meet with other governments, government to government. We have First Nation governments here. We have many First Nations that are self-governing and a few that are yet to have their full land claim agreements agreed to or implementation agreements done.
I ask myself why a government would need legislation to tell themselves to do their jobs? They donít pass legislation to tell them to do all their other jobs. We donít have the cooperation in highways maintenance bill, but this is perhaps a more important area. We know it is.
The spirit of it is certainly good. We can support that. But I still take a look at the number of memoranda of understanding and agreements that have been signed over the past three years. There have been many of them. It comes down to, again, how and when theyíre implemented.
In looking at some of the areas, just recently, what have we seen? Well, we have seen that the Kwanlin Dun First Nation officially withdrew from discussions on revamping the Childrenís Act, that review. They were unhappy with how things were being done. We saw the acting chair of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition speak up and say basically that, for the most part, the Government of Yukon is trying to get them to join a different pipeline commission, but they said no, because they donít see that government is really representing them in pipeline issues.
Then we see the Northern Tutchone Council Assembly actually advising the Government of Yukon that it will no longer take part in the Yukon forum, the very forum that this act is intended to work with. So we have a very important member of the people who should be at the table saying, no, they donít think they even want to be at that table.
We see the TríondŽk HwŽchíin coming forward and saying that theyíre going to intervene, and they did intervene, in terms of the Water Board hearings on the proposed bridge across the Yukon River. Then we hear the Kaska chiefs speaking to the fact that theyíre outraged that there is a proposed new disposition for oil and gas, a new way of doing it, but no consultation ó no public consultation, no consultation with First Nations, government to government. The minister tells us, ďWell, I donít consult with First Nations; the officials do that.Ē
Then we have the Co-operation in Governance Act, which is saying ďleader to leaderĒ, ďleader and ministersĒ, meeting with First Nation leaders. Iím not sure which way it is because, in the answers to my questions on the oil and gas disposition, I was told, ďI donít do that; the officials will meet and do that.Ē
So there are a lot of questions about this, but I begin to see why this government might feel the need to legislate themselves to hold meaningful negotiations with First Nations and First Nation leaders, on a government-to-government basis.
Then I look at what this act says, and it basically obliges the government to participate in four meetings annually, unless there are fewer than four meetings. It could be three, it could be two, it could be one; there might be none. So it raises additional questions as to just how serious the intent of this legislation is. Is the intent to take us a step forward, where we properly recognize First Nation governments with the due respect they are expecting and are deserving of? Or is it simply good politics and a good statement to make? I have to question that.
Why does it not require all the ministers to take part in these discussions? The way the act is written, the ministers may or may not take part. So here weíre looking at oil and gas disposition regulations. Perhaps that minister will take part in the Yukon forum; perhaps he wonít.
The Hon. Premier has said this bill is a very important ground-breaking piece of legislation. Itís important to First Nations, itís important to all Yukoners. Was there any public consultation before this act came forward? Not that Iím aware of. Why not? Is there no interest in this from the public? Again, itís ground-breaking legislation; I would think there would be great interest from the public, not only from First Nations but from all Yukoners.
To the best of my understanding, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation has not signed on to participate in the Yukon forum. Why not? Why are we not getting along with one of the largest First Nations in Yukon? What will this legislation cost? There are a lot of unanswered questions. Again, I come back to, why not say we will mandate two meetings or four meetings a year, unless the First Nations say they donít want to participate? We obviously canít mandate self-governing First Nations to participate in a process if they choose not to, as has been pointed out by the honourable member opposite. But we can certainly mandate the participation of the Government of Yukon. So, these are just some of the things that concern me.
The member opposite has indicated that they may not always be the government and that this process will give some certainty to First Nations when there may be a different Government of Yukon. I recognize that that is a good point. They may well not always be the government and Yukoners will make that decision in the coming months.
Again, from my perspective, I can support this. I think that the principle is not a bad principle, but I think that itís unfortunate that the legislation as it is presented is fairly weak and not clear on just how many meetings will take place or when they take place. Will the information be made public? Will the meetings be open to the public ó or some of the meetings be open to the public? A lot of questions remain unanswered even after the discussions that weíve had up until now.
Again, I said I would not speak for too long. I just wanted to get on the record the concerns I have that, if the government were truly doing their job, if they were living up to all the memoranda of understanding that theyíve signed over the past three years, First Nations would not feel the need themselves for this type of legislation because they would know that theyíre truly being treated with the respect that they deserve and consulted with in the manner in which they must be.
Having said that, Iíll now leave that to the end of my remarks.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I just want to make a couple of comments to some of the statements made by the leader of the third party. I mean to show no disrespect to anyone in government but you know ó for the record ó I do want to state that, in my many years in the Kwanlin Dun First Nation government, not once did the chief and council ever meet with the Premier and Cabinet of the day of YTG. However, we did meet several times with the Mayor and Council of the City of Whitehorse. So, we were welcomed by the municipal government but we never, ever did get to meet with the Premier and the YTG Cabinet on many issues that were of concern to Kwanlin Dun.
I certainly wonít dwell on that. Things can change and so it is important to have this governance act in place. Again, who knows, maybe another government may say ďWell, we donít have to meet with anybody, period.Ē This will ensure that every government that comes in will be expected to meet with the First Nations at least four times a year, which is a good thing.
Thereís not a thing wrong with a larger government like YTG sitting down and meeting with the First Nation governments in the territory. I even believe it should go further. I believe that the federal Liberal representative should also have the federal government show an interest in meeting with the local chiefs, especially in the territories, where there are very different concerns and different needs than those to the south.
Itís quite often the more populated jurisdictions in Canada that get all the gravy, and thatís not only with First Nations but with all Canadian citizens in general. It makes one wonder why a lot of Canadians want to split Canada in two, so people in the northern and western part of Canada can have a voice. Right now, itís very obvious that the voice is in Ontario. A lot of the people in this jurisdiction really donít get the representation they could have.
I also want to state again for the record that, if First Nations choose not to be a part of this good forum, then thatís their choice, and we need to respect that. Thereís nothing that says they have to sit at this table. I can guarantee, though, that they would benefit greatly from doing so.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the honourable member for his comments. I think his comments actually proved the point I was making because, to the best of my knowledge, there was no cooperation in governance act signed with the municipal government, yet the municipal government, as he mentioned, met on a number of occasions with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation during his time there.
What it comes down to is not what it says on the paper, but rather what is basically the intent and what is in the heart of the people who are in the roles. If the people who are in the position in the Government of Yukon are interested in meeting with First Nations, if theyíre interested in consulting with them, if they donít want to end up in situations like they did over the school in Carmacks, where the community was divided, then things will go well, regardless of whether or not we have a cooperation in governance act.
If the people who are in the government do not go forward with that spirit of consultation and cooperation, then regardless of what it says, there may be meetings held, but we wonít progress in the best way together.
I thank the member for his comments, and I hope that indeed this legislation will have its intended effect, that it will commit future governments to proper consultation with First Nations and, if that does occur, then we will all be better served for it.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, I thought I could just get into this discussion for a little bit here. We have laws in the land right now that are in legislation. We have all sorts of legislation out there in our jurisdiction, but we still have laws that are broken. People get cars stolen and everything else. So this is a process whereby we commit the future governments to the process, and we think it is a good step in order to get things going so that we have a commitment to meet with the First Nations, regardless of who is in government.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, weíll proceed with line-by-line.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I move that Bill No. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Taylor that Bill No. 61, entitled Co-operation in Governance Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Do members now wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order please.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Chair: We will continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and general debate on Vote No. 18, Yukon Housing Corporation.
Yukon Housing Corporation ó continued
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It gives me great pleasure to continue to give some information and answer questions about the Yukon Housing Corporation to this distinguished and large crowd.
One of the things that we deal with, with the Housing Corporation, is that increasing knowledge and everything concerning the housing industry in general has been very important in the north as technology changes. It is very much a key to the ongoing vitality and to the success here at home and, of course, in export markets. When I mentioned export markets, the Yukon Housing Corporation is currently co-hosting a codes and good practices of the north workshop for tradespeople, inspectors, engineers, design technologists and others who wish to familiarize themselves on the propane and oil-fired equipment installation codes, as an example.
Also, in terms of talking about technology, one of our interests at the Yukon Housing Corporation is in working with the National Research Council on Economic Development in terms of developing a northern research cluster. One of the things thatís most proposed, in terms of the northern research cluster, would be in terms of cold-weather research. Itís not as limited as some might think. I can hear the global warming jokes starting already, but in general, while we are trying to keep the cold out and the warmth in, other climates are working to keep the warmth out and the cool in. Itís the same technology; you just sort of determine your direction. Itís a very important thing worldwide and we have a unique capability here to develop that sort of a research cluster.
I had the good fortune this morning to go through one of the buildings at what we call the athletes village but which, in reality, will be student housing for the college and for affordable housing at that location and the potential site for that northern research cluster. That is starting and I may refer to that later.
One of the things we have to be concerned about is, as people age, disabilities develop. What we have seen is the increase in mobility problems, as a good example. Yukoners are tending to stay here longer, stay here for the duration of their lives, and expect to stay in their homes as long as they can. This is a very big priority.
We also have to deal with an interesting statistic that one of the single most significant aspects of dealing with an aging Yukon population is the fact that really whatís causing the driver behind that is the number of people bringing parents, relatives and friends up. So we are actually importing our problem, as much as dealing with our own population. In many respects, this is a good thing. It does cause some significant challenges, but it is a good thing.
People want to live in their homes because their homes reflect really, in part but to a large degree, who they are. Iím proud that we spend so much of our time assisting seniors, and those who will become seniors, in advancements in barrier-free designs and living. Again, I am pleased to report that going through the initial units that will be in fact student housing, but with the maximum flexibility ó all doors are remaining wheelchair accessible, et cetera. We will have a very significant look ó even toward student housing, which will be adaptable for other purposes in the future. I think itís pretty great that developments under the affordable housing program are really designed for people. I think the staff and architects have done a very good job.
Whether itís through the contribution to Falcon Ridge Development Corporation, which weíve talked about before ó and that is a Yukon company ó or weíre talking about the athletes village, weíre helping to introduce barrier-free rental and home-ownership properties in Whitehorse. The challenge then becomes to bring these homes to other communities ó to bring this concept to other communities ó and I am pleased to report that we are actively taking a look at those things and our good Yukon Housing Corporation Board is certainly giving that a high priority.
The Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon government, through the community development fund and Economic Development, continue to support the Royal Canadian Legion and their vision of creating a supported-living project in downtown Whitehorse. $75,000 was awarded to them to solve some of the challenges that existed in making that project go forward. We have looked after that, weíve met our commitments. Iíve had meetings with the executive of the Royal Canadian Legion and they seem rather pleased that we can now proceed with these things on a timely basis. It was really only a few days ago that I had the opportunity to change hats here and, as Minister of Economic Development, announce and present a cheque for $75,000 from the community development fund, as I mentioned.
It was work on the business plan that was the biggest challenge on that to allow funding agencies to come to the table. We certainly hope that weíve made great strides on that.
It should be noted, too, for all the criticism that has come from across the floor of the involvement of the Yukon Housing Corporation with the Royal Canadian Legion, that when the Legion needed a hands-up on that, it was actually brokered through the Yukon Housing Corporation. So we are continuing to meet all our obligations and work closely with them. As part of that business plan, they need accurate information on operating costs of comparable multi-residential properties. We are working on that. We came to the table and will provide that data. Again, itís a corporation that is really working for people and meeting those obligations.
The Yukon Housing Corporation helps people who canít afford suitable, adequate and affordable housing. They provide subsidized loans so that low and moderate income earners can repair their homes. They provide lending programs for individuals and developers so that houses can be built and houses can be purchased. By promoting green home and accommodating home standards to very good programs, we are not only addressing the need of today but we are focusing on the needs of tomorrow, which is really what this is all about ó looking forward into the future.
Through just one housing development funded through the affordable housing agreement, we have enhanced the economy through the creation of 133 direct jobs. By listening to the people and needs of people, the Yukon Housing Corporation has channelled its human and financial resources into programs and services that truly meet the needs of Yukoners.
One of the things that weíve been able to do this through, of course, has been the affordable housing program agreement. When the member opposite said that one of his biggest concerns that he heard at the doors during the by-election was uncertainty ó I know on the opposite side of the House there is still uncertainty because they still seem confused about the agreement.†
This is federal agreement 1.1: 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. Thatís the federal definition; itís the definition within this act; it is the definition we must live with.
One of the members opposite was concerned with a $7,500 price that appeared on title. In fact, thatís approximately the subsidy thatís going into each of these homes. If the home is sold or rents change, that has to be paid back, and that is actually listed on the mortgage in first position and is forgiven 100 percent at 10 percent per year over the 10 years, so that, under the agreement, this is required by CMHC. Yukon Housing Corporation has nothing to do with this. The political arm of the government had nothing to do with this. This was a federal obligation and it does appear on the mortgage documents and it is forgivable.
Before the member opposite pops up with a question, I did some checking and, no, that is not subject to any of the interest on that. There is no interest charged on that $7,500; it simply decreases to retain the interest of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
People have also gotten confused over what is referred to as modest, in terms of floor area and amenities, based on household needs and community norms. Again, thatís a direct quote from this. What that means is they must be of reasonable size and, in one of the other jurisdictions ó I have to admit I havenít been able to find it since ó there is a little matrix that says that a one-bedroom apartment would be suitable for so many people, or one child and two parents, and it would be so many square feet. Again, building a much larger facility that would not meet those modest criteria would be inappropriate.
So the program is good. There has been good use to that. I invite anyone to go up and take a look at what has affectionately come to be known as the athletes village and remind people that it will be an athletes village for approximately two weeks. After that, it will be forever student housing and affordable housing under the control of the Yukon Housing Corporation. So we are starting to go. We have our fourth module in place as of about an hour ago. I believe that leaves 140 modules left, or something like that. Weíre on schedule.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I thank the minister for his comments. If there are any questions that the minister canít answer today, I would be happy to add them to the list of commitments he made last week, which I believe totals six commitments to provide various pieces of information.
The minister was talking about various items, and he spent some time doing that. I would like to get into what I feel is a more productive question-and-answer session here. If he can provide the answers in a timely manner, we can move on. I will try not to make any speeches today as well. I know I made a couple last week, but weíll try not to do that.
Last week we talked about affordable housing, we talked about a few different projects. He made reference to $20,000 ó I believe it was the Yukon Housing Corporation ó expended to BDO Dunwoody to evaluate a business plan. Can he quickly tell me which proposal that was for?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite is correct. There was approximately $20,000 expended for evaluation of a business plan. I think the member opposite knows quite well what that one was but I am advised that organization should not be put on the floor of the House.
Mr. Cardiff: Letís do it this way: can the minister tell me if it was for the proposal that included a training and manufacturing plant?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That would be a reasonable assumption.
Mr. Cardiff: The proposal that BDO Dunwoody evaluated ó do you know if that was a draft proposal or a final proposal?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: In answer to the member opposite ó Iím not 100 percent sure but I am told that it was done through a different department than Yukon Housing Corporation. As far as I know it would be the final, but I canít positively say that.
Mr. Cardiff: I can help the minister out. The minister asked me to go and talk to the proponents and I did. Iíll tell him right now it was a draft proposal that was evaluated ó but weíll get on with that a little later.
Can the minister tell me whether or not there was any assistance provided by Yukon Housing Corporation employees in developing the proposal?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly, itís the policy of the Yukon Housing Corporation to help anyone who comes to their door. While I donít have specifics at hand, I am certain that anyone who took the time to ask questions would get a very detailed and accurate response.
Mr. Cardiff: Can the minister tell us this: did he at any time meet with the proponents to discuss the proposal for a manufacturing plant and training facility?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: To refresh the member oppositeís memory, proposals were vetted through, I believe, two independent committees, and the results of those sessions were reported to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors, who made final decisions.
This was not a political decision, and at no time did any elected member of the government see or participate in the evaluation of those documents.
Mr. Cardiff: I didnít ask the minister whether he participated in the evaluation. I asked the minister if he met with the proponents of the project. That was the question. Did he at any time meet and discuss the proposal for a training facility and housing manufacturing plant with the proponents of this proposal.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Of course people come in and talk. Yes, I did meet with them. In terms of evaluation of the proposal or even seeing the proposal, no, I did not. It was a very general meeting.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister was aware of the concept. I would like to know if the minister supported in general the concept of the proposal of a training facility that would see the provision of training for local tradespeople and the creation of new economic development in the territory in a housing manufacturing plant that could manufacture units that could be used for affordable housing, housing in the communities, housing that could be used at the athletes village even. I am just wondering ó he had a general discussion. Was he generally in support of that type of a proposal?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Sort of moving for a second or two to my other hat as Minister of Economic Development: of course, any project that would develop the economy and develop training needs and everything else would be desirable. But any such project has to be evaluated, and due diligence must be done. Thatís a concept that I cannot stress strongly enough to the member opposite. It has to be a viable project. That is why it was evaluated by two independent committees in terms of viability, that is why they made the recommendations to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors, and that is why it was turned down.
Do I support the concept? I would love to build all sorts of plants up here and do all sorts of things but, if itís not viable, if itís going to cost the taxpayers of this territory money, if itís going to cause business failures, if it is going to cause problems within the Canada Winter Games, then those are not worthy of support. That is why it was evaluated by two independent companies. That is why it went through the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors, and they made their decision. Did I meet with them and discuss concepts? Of course, but no elected member of this government had anything whatsoever to do with determining if the project was or was not viable.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, can I ask the minister if the proponents were encouraged to redraft the original proposal? It is obvious that the Yukon Housing Corporation thought there were some deficiencies in it ó it sounded like a good project. The minister even admits that the idea is sound, but the Yukon Housing Corporation had some concerns with the business proposal, the business plan, that the minister likes to talk about. So what Iím wondering is if they were encouraged to redraft the proposal?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, Iíve had no involvement in this decision or anything else, but I find it difficult to believe that someone would do an evaluation of a business plan without a reasonable expectation that it would be brought back. To my knowledge, that has never occurred.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím going to have to start answering some of these questions for the minister, because they were encouraged to redraft the proposal and they did that.
The Yukon Housing Corporation spent $20,000 for BDO Dunwoody to evaluate the business plan. This business plan and the proposal were approved by the federal government. The federal government did a second-party review, through a local company here in Whitehorse that weíre all familiar with. Apparently it was the minister wearing his other hat ó as Minister of Economic Development ó who hired BDO Dunwoody.
My question is about the evaluation of this proposal. Itís my understanding that, when the federal government commissioned the original second-party review of the proposal, there was an extensive evaluation done, which included many meetings, many phone calls, many emails and much correspondence going back and forth between the evaluators and the proponents.
However, when I asked the proponents about the $20,000 evaluation that was done by BDO Dunwoody, I asked, ďDid they phone you and ask you about the proposal? Did they e-mail you and ask for clarification of parts of the proposal? Did they phone you up?Ē No, they didnít. They took the proposal and did it in a vacuum. To me, it doesnít sound like it was $20,000 well spent because they didnít ask any questions.
If youíre going to do an evaluation, you would think that you would ask questions about what the proposal entails. Itís not necessarily all laid out on the paper. If that were a problem, then it could have been rewritten to suit the evaluators and the corporation.
I am just wondering why $20,000 was expended to do this evaluation, and yet it sounds to me like we didnít get a very good product for the $20,000. They didnít do a very extensive evaluation of it, and they dismissed it summarily without asking any questions about the evaluation. I just donít see where that is a good expenditure of taxpayersí money.
The minister has indicated that he was in general support of the project. He thought it was a good idea and that it would promote economic activity. We all know that we need to train tradespeople, so it meets that test. Why was this proposal rejected? I guess it was not a very detailed review of the proposal, yet the other proposal recommended to the federal government as a good, solid proposal, was ignored.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I thank the member opposite for his great information there. There is a small percentage of it that is accurate. Again, I have concerns. When he says the review was not very detailed ó did the member opposite get permission for me to table that report in the House? I canít put that on the table in the House ó only that corporation can. If the member opposite is having those discussions, get permission to put it on this table, and we will talk about it.
In the meantime, I do have difficulties with this. I have great faith in the staff, in the employees of Yukon Housing Corporation; I have great faith in the chair of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board. I know they went through and they spent a lot of time with it; they did their due diligence; they did an excellent job. Is the member opposite suggesting otherwise?
Mr. Cardiff: The minister is getting defensive; Iíve got under his skin a little bit here. I donít know why.
What I was suggesting was that the evaluation that was done by BDO Dunwoody wasnít a very extensive evaluation and maybe the expenditure of the $20,000 wasnít a very good idea or we didnít get good value for money. The minister knows full well that getting permission to table the evaluation in the Legislature would make the information public, which would make public proprietary information about the proposal, and they have a right to protect that information. They were willing to share it with me. The minister told me to go talk to them. I said that the minister said I should come and talk to then about the $20,000 report, and then I found out about the other evaluation that was done that took quite some time, involved a lot of correspondence and phone calls. I donít mean to annoy the minister with the questions. I am trying to get the information from his end about what actually transpired here.
Would the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation tell me whether or not he or any Yukon Housing Corporation officials encouraged the proponents to send the proposal to the Department of Economic Development if it was unsuccessful with the Yukon Housing Corporation? Did they do that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly I can confirm that Yukon Housing Corporation does not normally evaluate business plans. Thatís not something that we have within our area of expertise. It would go to Economic Development to do that sort of thing, and thatís a question that can be asked and much better answered at that point in time.
I still have great concerns. Here is the member opposite criticizing BDO Dunwoody for doing a poor report that he wonít put on the table, that he points out canít be put on the table. This is sort of like debating Santa Claus ó that is sacred ground here, Mr. Chair; I know that. Itís taking something and putting it on the floor to create an argument over something that I canít possibly defend. It was an excellent report. It gave excellent information. To my understanding, there was virtually no reply from the company ó none to me, anyway. Was there to officials? Possibly. Thatís a question that I invite the member opposite to ask at the appropriate time, because I donít have that in front of me right now.
The reality is that the report was excellent. It pointed out very significant holes. It made excellent suggestions. Beyond that, I donít know, because elected officials had nothing whatsoever to do with evaluating any of those proposals. It was done by independent committees, it was done by a board of directors and by the good staff at Economic Development ó people in whose ability I have all the faith in the world. If the member opposite is claiming otherwise and claiming that they are at fault for this, I think this is a very poor place to discuss that.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister just said that the report was excellent. I would like to ask the minister: did he read the report?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes.
Mr. Cardiff: Did he, by any chance, read the previous report on this proposal that was done for the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I suppose, in a word, no, because that was something that was done between that corporation and the federal government. It had nothing to do with me or my office.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister obviously didnít do all his homework on this project. I understand that some of the responsibility is split between the minister wearing one hat and wearing the other hat in Economic Development. I think we may leave this topic now, and maybe weíll come back to it when the minister is prepared to debate the Department of Economic Development.
I have some other questions that are follow-up to last week as well as ó the minister was kind enough finally to table the annual report for as at March 31, 2005, and it is December 12, 2005, now. We have the report. I think I asked for this last year as well. I donít recall receiving it, but it is a public document. If it isnít, it should be. It was agreed by the minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation to provide these agreements. I would like the minister to commit today to providing the annual protocol agreement and the letter of undertaking with the corporation. Could he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite keeps referring to me doing my homework. I would remind him to think about this. The minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation did not see the initial plan. It went to two committees, which evaluated each of the proposals. They submitted their findings to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors which made their decision. At that point, the suggestion was made that we could evaluate the business plan through an independent organization like BDO Dunwoody to remove it completely from the bureaucratic influence, as it has already been removed from everything to do with the political arm of government ó the elected arm of government.
Now he wants to talk about a federal proposal that went in. I donít work for the federal government. I have nothing to do with that. I have a bit of a concern when the member opposite seems to think heís back to his magic-wand theory ó that I can wave this magic wand, and I will know everything about federal grants, things with Northwest Territories ó these are totally different things and have nothing to do with my office.
That becomes a bit difficult, because I have to remind the member opposite that what heís asking for requires a magic wand, and the reality is I donít know anyone who has one. I know I donít; I sure as heck know he doesnít.
It would have been nice to put something like that together. Heís waving his pen in the air. Well, I hate to tell you, but it ainít gonna work.
It has only taken three years to still be confused on that issue.
We have to look at the economic viability of any project. If the project is not economically viable, itís very easy to stand up on the other side of the House and say, ďThis is a great project that should be supported,Ē but if itís not going to work, if the business plan is flawed, if other proponents are there with things that will work, if we have the plans evaluated and they come back with suggestions and they arenít taken up, then we have to make those decisions.
Itís very easy to be critical. Itís very difficult to try to make the proper decisions and to allow our well-trained people ó our staff, our board of directors ó to sit down and look and determine what these viable projects are and, with all sadness, if itís not viable, accept that. Itís very easy to sit up and say, ďThe affordable housing agreement is flawed, it should be something else.Ē Thereís some value to what he is saying, but unfortunately, what the affordable housing agreement says ó and I quote again, I think for the 14th time if I were keeping count ó is: ďHousing 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.Ē That is the definition of affordable housing.
There are other things and challenges within the housing industry that we constantly have. It has taken years to get the federal government to agree that we wonít look at First Nations housing in terms of on-reserve or off-reserve. They have always defined First Nations housing as either on-reserve or off-reserve. It doesnít wash in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, because unfortunately we have a totally different system here and it just simply doesnít work. I am pleased to acknowledge that at the meetings in Kelowna a couple of weeks ago, we got the government to agree to take those restrictions off.
The federal government comes up with plans and programs to deal with homelessness. It sounds very good in the media. There are two problems: first of all, when you divvy up the money, we get about $1.29; another problem is that the homelessness problem that they are really looking at is urban shelters in large municipalities and large cities. While there are some similarities in Whitehorse ó not likely in any of the other communities ó we still do not get adequate funding. We do not meet the criteria of their programs.†
This is terrible, I agree, but unfortunately I donít have the magic wand that can change the federal documents that are going to offer up the different solutions. $5.5 million for phase 1 of affordable housing, however flawed the member opposite thinks it is, is useful. The leader of the official opposition made a comment one day that he would have just as soon given it back. I donít think weíre in a position to give $5.5 million back. I would love, however, to be in a position to take up some of the $1.6 billion that the NDP negotiated two budgets ago when they waved their magic wand. The problem is I think they found out now magic it was, because out of that $1.6 billion not one penny has flowed ó not a penny.
If you look at what happened in Kelowna, and the federal Minister of Labour and Housing ó a good guy, I quite like him and certainly consider him as a friend ó said that he was very honoured to announce $1.2 billion to ensure that essential housing will continue to be made available to the most vulnerable in society, and $300 million of these funds is for the north. Sounds great ó we all read that in the newspapers. What has come out of that? Not even $1.29 ó not a penny. We work with what we have to work with. We pick the best proposals. We do a complete teardown on those proposals through proper channels that remove all political influence from that, and we run with the good, capable bureaucrats and people we have in terms of evaluating business and evaluating the housing and the technology, and we listen to those people.
If the member opposite thinks there is a flaw in allowing these people to do their work, yes, that does certainly get me excited, because I think itís being unfair to very good people.
Mr. Cardiff: I thought we had agreed not to make any long speeches. And on top of that, the minister didnít even answer the question. I asked the question about the annual protocol agreement and the letter of undertaking with the president to clearly articulate the expectations and commitments of the minister, the board and the president. Will the minister table that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Sure.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you. So that is seven pieces of information I can expect now.
I would like to ask a couple of questions going back to last week. One of the questions I asked was about the Faro housing project, and the minister provided some good information. Thereís a little bit of information in the newspaper about that as well. What is the source of funding that is being used to upgrade those units so that they can be opened up for seniors in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thatís part of our normal renovation budget within our normal capital budget. It is separate. I certainly understand the member, when he says that he has seven pieces of information. I will try not to get into double digits for him.
Mr. Cardiff: If you look at the seniors housing management fund ó itís on page 26 of the annual report ó you will see the note about the financial statements. It says that the corporation has not yet secured Government of Yukon approval on the parameters for the operation of the seniors housing management fund. Iím just wondering, is that currently being worked on, or where are we on that? Is there going to be any kind of public discussion with seniors? It is a seniors housing management fund. I think it would be good to ask seniors. There have been several evaluations of seniors and several surveys done. I believe there might even be another one underway as we speak. It would be good to get their input on the parameters for the operation of that fund. I would just like an update on where weíre at with that.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Let me go back and review some of the areas the member opposite is questioning. The Yukon Council on Aging attended the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors meeting last Friday, so I can say, within the last two or three days, weíre in pretty constant communication with them.
The main thing we have to worry about right now ó and Iíll say it again ó is barrier-free design so homeowners can reside in their homes as long as possible. We have to do this in a number of different ways. For instance, the 44 units at Falcon Ridge that are designed to be barrier-free on the main floor will ensure there will be barrier-free homes within the Whitehorse housing market.
During our debate last time, when I mentioned elevators, the member opposite laughed. In fact, those units have the stairways extra wide, doorways on the second floor extra wide; they are reinforced for the installation of elevators ó what a novel concept. The Member for Copperbelt is quite right: itís these little portable lifts that can be modified and put in. Again, these allow people to stay in their home for a longer period of time.
Weíve worked with private sector developers through our fully recoverable joint-venture program ó another one of our programs. Once again, itís an example of† where barrier-free homes have been encouraged and built. In fact, we have 20 units built as a result of the partnership with the developers. Most of those are barrier-free; a couple might not be 100 percent.
Basically, the Yukon Housing Corporation has made significant changes to the programs and the criteria for social housing, which I know is near and dear to the memberís heart. First of all, the rent supplement program ó another one of our programs ó was amended so that seniors experiencing affordability problems could remain in their apartments and their homes, because the Yukon Housing Corporation entered into a rental agreement with the landlord.
These seniors are now assessed rent based on their income. I would remind the member opposite that our definition of income is 25 percent, not 30, so we are trying to do a much better job here than in other jurisdictions.
But they are assessed rent based on their income. The Yukon Housing Corporation pays the difference between what the landlord charges for the apartment and what the senior can afford. One of the great hooks within the original affordable housing program was that it allowed us only to build ó the member is right ó a social unit, for instance. The problem is $5.5 million will build a relatively small number. The decision was made to enlarge that and to leverage the funds wherever we could. Again, in the case of Falcon Ridge, we leveraged $830,000 into $23 million. The member opposite, I know, seemed to be upset about that, that we created all those jobs, but I still maintain that that was a good decision by the board of directors. The approach helps seniors who enjoy where they are living, but when they experience difficulties in managing the rental costs, there are programs like the rent supplement program that made a big difference.
The second change enables seniors with mobility problems and whose income exceeds the core income threshold ó that 25 percent ó the opportunity to apply for social housing. They are not going to a building out there that is a social housing building. I submit that that is not the way you want to ghettoize people who are in that difficulty. Basically, they can apply for social housing. Gosh, we have affordable housing units that weíve built that we could use for that. We have units that are affordable and that we can turn into social housing units at any given time. Thatís what weíre trying to do.
This is an approach where the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors monitors and evaluates the emergence of new rental construction.
As the member opposite quite knows, contractors are going to build what is profitable. If they can build something like a house that is worth more money, an apartment building that they can charge higher rents for, that is the way itís going to go. These are programs that allow us to get around all that ó or at least most of it ó and have affordable units available, should they become needed for social housing.
We certainly hope that we can provide an interim solution to a need that will ultimately be serviced by the private sector. It is a good leg up on this. Those changes that allowed us to leverage private contractors were, I think, a very, very good thing.
The Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors recently visited the community of Faro, which is what the member is asking about and can read about tonight in Hansard, and met with local representatives to discuss the housing needs of local residents. The board will be making an announcement and, in fact, did make an announcement regarding a response to the citizens of Faro, and weíre very pleased to have that coming along. I believe it is two free-standing single-family homes.
The board of directors has also directed staff to commence work on the potential construction of a seniors building in rural Yukon. The building will contain independent apartments for seniors as well as common areas and sufficient space for the delivery of services by Health and Social Services staff. While this is in its early conception, I would invite the member opposite to discuss the final conception with the new Minister of Health and Social Services.
††††††† Since the government assumed office in November of 2002, by the end of that fiscal year, the balance in the senior housing management fund was at that point $979,000. The current balance, as of a short time ago, was $1,807,905. The forecast for the interest revenue from senior green mortgages, which is transferred at year-end, is around $280,000.
That will see the funds surpass the $2-million mark. The government has almost doubled the value of the fund in two and a half years. Itís yet another example of how we are planning and budgeting for the emerging housing needs of seniors. Criteria for the fund are just now being finalized and will be reviewed by the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors in the near future.
The use of those funds and the development of those funds will be at the direction and discretion of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors. I look forward to their good work.
Mr. Cardiff: Once again I thought that we had an agreement today to not waste the time of the House. I asked a simple question about the parameters of operation for the seniors housing fund and I got about a 12-minute speech ó okay, Iím informed it was only seven ó it was still much longer than it needed to be, and it went into areas that I hadnít even asked questions about. Last Wednesday we decided that it would be a good idea to give up our motion day so that we could debate the budget in a full and comprehensive way and ask questions and get answers ó not get circuitous speeches about what it is that we are asking questions about.
Iíd like to try to bring the minister back on track. He referred to a project that I was actually going to ask him a question about. Can the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation tell us whether or not the residents of Haines Junction are going to be consulted on the project in Haines Junction, or are they going to get something that comes down from the top?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: A good example of seven minutes turning into 12: the member opposite does have a bit of a problem in terms of blowing things out here. One thing you get used to in this business is the fact that somebody asks a 10-minute question with 15 different questions embedded in it and, no matter what you say, youíll have missed something and the member opposite will stand up and say, ďAh, but you didnít answer the question.Ē Long questions get long answers ó thatís really easy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Try harder.
There are meetings scheduled ó I believe one as early as tomorrow. One of the participants in that will probably be the Yukon Housing Corporation; certainly it will be Health and Social Services and the Haines Junction seniors group, the city and that sort of thing. The memberís question seems to imply that people wonít be consulted, and he knows very well that is not how this government works. That is not how anyone would work on this.
But there are decisions to be made in terms of the level of care. Is it a care facility? Is it a supported-living facility? Is it simply a seniors residence? These are all questions that have to be determined in consultation with the users and potential users over there.
Those meetings are occurring very soon. Again, I look forward to the good work of our staff.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím sure the Member for Kluane will have questions for the new Minister of Health and Social Services when we return there later this afternoon. I will do my best to try to not get too many questions in one here.
The minister mentioned with respect to the affordable housing money that if the units are sold and donít remain affordable, the money goes back. Where does it go back to? Does it go back into the affordable housing program to be used as a subsidy again, or does it go back into Yukon Housing Corporation general revenue?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Itís a reasonable question. The money comes back while the affordable housing program is going. It comes back directly into that or, in some cases, it doesnít come out of it. In the future, should that money come back, it would probably come back into Yukon Housing Corporation general revenue, flagged for affordable housing projects. It will stay within that milieu.
Mr. Cardiff: I can understand it if the minister doesnít have this figure at his fingertips. I believe we will only be up to number 8, so we wonít be into double digits yet. Can he provide approximately how much money has gone out from the $5.5 million. How much has been committed and how much is left?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can save the member a digit on that. He has already asked that question and we have already agreed to provide it. It has been asked and answered.
Mr. Cardiff: He said it was asked and answered. I donít have the figures in front of me. Unless he is talking about when I asked for a breakdown of the total affordable housing money last week ó so it has been asked and the answer is coming is what I understand. Okay.
Can the minister tell me what plans the Yukon Housing Corporation has for the half-a-million dollars that will be coming back ó maybe it hasnít been spent yet ó from the Falcon Ridge project for the social housing units.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I understand that matter is still under discussion, and thereís nothing to report at this time.
Mr. Cardiff: For some of the things Iíve tried to point out where this money and the project seem to be going sideways. The only thing that has taken off so far in the affordable housing area is the for-sale chalets that have reinforced stairs that will now accommodate elevators. Iím glad we managed to get them to at least make the top floors accessible for people with handicaps, if they need to do that.
But it seems to me, in some ways, the affordable housing program is falling apart. Apparently, the proponents of the project will not build the 20 rental units, because itís not profitable. We saw the proponents of the assisted living facility withdraw from the agreement, because apparently that wasnít profitable either.
These are for-profit companies that only do things if theyíre good for their bottom line, and thatís part of what I see as a problem. This money was supposed to provide affordable housing units for people who really needed them. Iíll try not to go on too long, because I know I promised not to. The minister talked a little bit earlier about providing assistance to seniors to stay where they are and to arrive at agreements with landlords so they can stay where they are.
The problem with that is that many of those people donít feel they are in suitable accommodations. They have problems with access. A lot of them are in apartment buildings ó two- and three-storey walk-ups with no elevators ó and they have access problems with them. Some of the complaints about housing and the need for barrier-free, accessible, affordable housing ó whether itís in a for-sale market or rental unit ó are coming from people who do have housing but what theyíre looking for is something that is more affordable; they are looking for something that is in the rental market. Right now, itís my understanding that there is a wait-list. I asked for those figures last week and Iím sure the minister will send me a complete listing of all the communities and how many there are. But itís my understanding from talking to people that there are quite a few seniors who are in need of more suitable housing that is accessible in a rental market. Right now, Yukon Housing Corporation canít provide that. They are stuck in facilities that just arenít suitable for them, that provide them with a lot of problems with access, and they donít feel safe in their homes there. Thatís one of the reasons why something seems to be coming apart here in this affordable housing agreement. All we are seeing now are for-sale units and I donít see where they are all that affordable.
The minister can respond to that, and I will throw in one last, little question. Can the minister confirm that, as of December 1, the for-sale units went up to $180,000 in the Falcon Ridge project?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can confirm that some of the units at Falcon Ridge went up to $180,000. Not any of the ones that are part of this program, because only a limited number of these homes are under the affordable housing program. The ones that arenít are free market. The ones that are, are restricted, as weíve talked of many times before.
In terms of affordable housing, again I remind the member opposite, he alludes to it and then totally misses his own point. We do have a problem in a free-market economy where, when building for profit, people obviously want to make a reasonable return on that and so consequently they tend to build toward the higher end of the market and not for the lower. The affordable housing program allows a bit of subsidy; it allows a bit of leverage on contractors, and it allows us to bring more affordable housing on to the market. A number of seniors ó the member is accurate ó aging in their own homes or their own rental facilities, will develop mobility problems or whatever, and we have had excellent luck within the corporation to relocate those people to accommodate their mobility needs ó or to do modifications to the house to look after their† mobility needs. The affordable housing program ó and I agree there are other ways that the federal government could have approached that, but they did this and there are good things about it ó allows us to create a more affordable housing stock and a barrier-free stock, so that when seniors do need those facilities that are modified or built in such a way that they are more accessible ó they exist. Without this program, they would not, and thatís definitely a problem with all this.
A good example of utilizing the program and continuing to work with good ideas was the awarding of $75,000 through the community development fund to the Royal Canadian Legion to allow them to deal with it. Again, the member opposite is attempting to gain the floor here and say itís too late. It took awhile; there was a flawed business plan; the flawed business plan was evaluated; the proponents came back to the table; weíre assisting them to do that, and they will now be able to explore an overall feasibility study by working toward establishing that seniors housing complex.
The study will also look at a detailed market analysis ó again something that is very much a part of such a study, as well as all the related planning work and preliminary drawings of the basic design of that facility. Thatís where we have to start really looking at that. Weíre very encouraged by the dedication of the Legion in terms of developing this.
They are still looking at the possibility of the River View Hotel. The information weíve been able to assist them with will allow them to secure funding, we hope, and assist them to develop a plan thatís more acceptable to funding agencies. I understand thatís coming along quite nicely.
For the member opposite, I go back to the leader of the official opposition and his involvement with Habitat for Humanity. Itís a very valiant cause; itís a very worthwhile cause; it does a lot. But this year I believe it will produce one house. We have to utilize these plans to generate a large number of facilities. We could do it two ways: we could leverage and try to get people working to produce a maximum number of units, or we could simply build a single housing unit, because that probably would take up a good chunk of that ó maybe two. It just isnít a unit that works.
The Member for Kluane yells ďclearĒ ó would you please clear the gentleman behind you because he obviously is not clear on the ability to leverage funds into larger numbers of units and economic activity.
Mr. Cardiff: I have two more questions. I will roll them all into one. If the minister canít answer them, I will again gladly accept this in written form.
How many of the for-sale units in the Falcon Ridge project are subsidized? How many units are going to be built in the for-sale project? We know that none of the rental units are going to go ahead. How many units are subsidized? The final question: is, does Yukon Housing Corporation have any plans to purchase units in this development?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, he said two and he hit two, so Iím encouraged. My information is that there are 44 home-ownership units within Falcon Ridge. Again, we have provided this information many times. We are talking about 20 rental units on that ó 24? Okay, 44 are subsidized.
At this point in time, to my knowledge there are no plans to actually purchase any units and utilize them but the point remains that, in the future, could they be, because they were created in a barrier-free way that could accommodate people like that ó there is always that possibility. At this point in time, there are no plans.
Mr. Cardiff: What I asked, though, was how many ó there are 44 for-sale units. How many of them qualified for this $7,500 subsidy? Itís also my understanding that, as of September, the proponent was saying they werenít going to build units for rent. Thatís what they were telling the public, that they were not building for-rent units.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, I thank the member opposite for letting me know what the street rumours are, but the reality is we have 44 units subsidized at $7,500, and the agreement on the table right now is for 20 rental. Again, if his information off the street is better, please pass it along.
Mr. Mitchell: I donít have too many more questions to ask of the minister from the other day. One, though ó Iím pleased to see the annual report. It does raise some questions. One that I would just like to ask, in looking at the home-ownership program, the mortgage-financing program ó and as Iím sure the minister will point out, Iím familiar with that program from past experience ó I notice there is a trend of a real decrease from 2002-03 to 2003-04 to 2004-05 on the uptake on that program, from 176 homes to 158 to 139. Now, I could speculate on the reasons why this might have occurred, and it may have to do with the overall increase we have seen in house prices in Yukon, along with everywhere else in western Canada. In the interest of trying not to have too many questions and answers, if that is the case, that fewer and fewer homes are able to qualify for the program, does the Housing Corporation have any thoughts toward modifications in the program that would help increase the uptake?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am told by the board of directors that, at their Friday meeting, which I was not at, of course, they made some changes to the program. I believe your assumptions are correct on that, with lower interest rates, generally, increasing prices of houses, et cetera, et cetera. So the board of directors is looking very hard at moving some of the targets around to do a better job in terms of the general public. Without pre-empting the board, I think theyíll be making their announcements in due course, and hopefully weíll be quite pleased with that.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister and want to assure him I didnít have any prior knowledge, nor am I prescient. It just happened to be something that caught my eye in the report.
So we can look forward to that announcement. Iím wondering if the member could check with the officials and give us some indication as to when that announcement might be forthcoming.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Probably those changes will be made in the next month or so, and the announcement will be made in January, in the new year. I know the chair of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors is listening assiduously, as he always does, and will keep us posted.
Mr. Mitchell: We look forward to those announcements.
Just looking at the annual report, I noticed the vision in the mission statement says to enhance the quality of life in the Yukon by providing safe and affordable housing choices that respond to the needs of Yukon residents. The mission is to improve the quality of housing in the Yukon and to help Yukoners resolve their housing needs.
Again, I just want to return a little bit to the line of questioning I was on the last time we were on this department, and that gets back to the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative and the situation they find themselves in.
I was encouraged by some of the ministerís statements where he indicated that, basically, it was a model that he valued and that he saw merit in trying to maintain the model. Iím wondering if, in the interim between the last time we discussed this and today, the minister has had any further thoughts on that or further discussions with the Yukon Housing Corporation toward seeing if they could be a little more proactive in solving the problems of the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative relationship with the Yukon Housing Corporation so that model of housing cooperative, which is unique here in Yukon, could be maintained?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I understand that the proposal is being evaluated and the work goes on with that. We are looking at probably the middle to the end of January to get some concrete information back. It is a plan that works under the right circumstances, and under the wrong circumstances it can go terribly sideways. They have had their difficulties. We will wait for that evaluation to come back. Hopefully, what will come back will be something that is financially viable.
Mr. Mitchell: I think we can all agree that they do have their difficulties, but I know the last time we discussed this, the minister referred to the amount of repairs and maintenance upgrades that would be required on that housing, and one way or another, that is going to have to happen. If the Yukon Housing Corporation were ever to actually acquire the housing, which is what I hope will not happen, then they would be facing doing that in order to make best use of the asset and maintain the value of the investment. If they donít acquire the assets, then these repairs are still necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the housing. So, either way, it needs to happen.
Again, the home-repair program and upgrade programs, which are mentioned in the annual report, provide low-interest loans up to $35,000 to bring homes up to current standards. Low-income households may also receive further assistance. That is one avenue where the left hand and the right hand of the Yukon Housing Corporation working together could help resolve the problem. I am wondering if the Yukon Housing Corporation would consider making use of their own programs to do those upgrades.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, what the member opposite says makes sense, but sense in this business often isnít what you are dealing with.
In terms of the Whitehorse Housing Cooperative, to remind the member and anyone listening, what we are talking about is existing debt ó and these figures are a little bit old so they are probably up a little bit more ó and it requires an infusion of about $295,000 to cover existing debt and repairs. Thereís a further $10,300 in terms of the Yukon Housing Corporation and what we are really talking about is a $1,341,000 mortgage due to HSBC Trust Company Canada, and thatís the problem.
Now, the home repair program looks very, very good, but we have a problem. Since the Whitehorse Housing Cooperative is already the recipient of funding from CMHC, they, or the Yukon Housing Corporation on their behalf, cannot access anything under the affordable housing agreement; and as a cooperative they are not owners so they donít qualify under the home ownership grant.
So there are some real problems with that. First, to be eligible under the home repair programs scheduled, the home must be owned by a homeowner. Second, the industry rental program schedule ó these funds are only for new construction and not for rehabilitation of existing stock. What we are trying to do here is look at other ways to do it, but to look at that particular program without getting in and reading the details of it, you miss that. Itís a nice theory but it unfortunately doesnít work.
Mr. Mitchell: †† I do understand that the problem of the debt owed and the lack of solvency is at the core of the issue here. Again, there are federal funds through the federal housing cooperative program that could help to alleviate the problem, but I believe in order to access those funds, once again, you have to be in a sound financial or fiscal situation, and again thatís the problem.
I noticed in this annual report ó and I recognized that the Yukon Housing Corporation does exist at armís length. But nevertheless, even though they exist at armís length, in the report on performance it says that the Yukon Housing Corporation is actively pursuing the Yukon governmentís strategic priorities as identified in the Speech from the Throne in 2003. So, even though this is an armís-length Crown corporation, if you will, they are nevertheless indicating that they are not unaware of the programs and the policies of the government of the day and the mandate that they would have.
I guess my question would be of the minister, less than of the Housing Corporation. Is it the ministerís belief that this unique model is worth making every effort to try to preserve in Yukon, and in Whitehorse in particular? So again, my question is for the ministerís view on that, as opposed to what programs the Yukon Housing Corporation does or does not have that they might be able to apply.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, for the member opposite, who is new to the House ó I guess Iíll put that out again, without standing on it, Mr. Chair, so please donít cut me off. It is generally considered inappropriate to ask a ministerís view of something, as opposed to the reality. That being said, I think the concept is good with the right people. Itís the right people that is always the mix there, because it does involve a huge time commitment and everything else.
The stabilization fund, for the member opposite, through the Co-operative Housing Federation, is, in fact, not a grant, itís a loan. Thatís what weíre talking about here. They have offered to come in and do the repairs. The problem is that that goes on top of the $1,341,000. If that goes up into the $300,000 range, letís say, to just pick a figure out of the air, all of a sudden you have essentially a $1.6-million, possibly a $1.7-million mortgage, held together again by the people within that. They have to show that the rents are reasonable, that they can get renters or attract co-op members for that. They have to show that, given the fact that it is, I believe, a 15-year-old building. You look at the other aging components of that ó how long is the roof going to hold out, how long is the plumbing going to go before it breaks, what are all the average statistics on that, what are the average bills going to be, what sort of contingency do you have if something happens ó and you put that with your insurance and taxes and everything else, and come up with something that is, in fact, a business plan. This is what weíre evaluating.
If that can be shown to be reasonable, itís a model that I think is worth keeping. If it comes up that it is not reasonable, then the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors is carrying the weight on this and would become the proud owners of this building. My impression, though, is that they donít really want to be, because if they were to become the owners, the chances are pretty good that it would be sold and turned into private housing. We would like to avoid that. The reality of it is that the fund the member mentions is not a gift; itís a loan. Thatís really the crux of the problem.
Mr. Mitchell: I do recognize that weíre looking at ways to restructure debt and see if we can make it workable. I think at this point I will just conclude by saying that I wonít ask the minister for his views but, rather, I hope that the minister will make every effort to work creatively together with the corporation to see if we can maintain this model.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I appreciate the comments. I do think itís a model thatís worth retaining. We will continue to work with that. I can assure the member opposite that those are the feelings that have been given to me by the board of directors. They will be doing everything possible. I hope they can pull it off. If it can be done, Iím sure they can do it.
Mr. Mitchell: I think at this point the Member for Klondike has some questions he would like to ask, so I will yield to him.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a few questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Affordable housing is an initiative we probably all subscribe to and are pleased to see moving forward. Could the minister confirm that the credits that are being used for this initiative stem from or flow from the construction of Copper Ridge Place?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can certainly confirm, as the member opposite already knows, that it was not a credit; it was a cost matching. That was part of the original agreement and was accepted by the federal government as being our share of the matching cost.
Mr. Jenkins: Seeing that the PMA ó Property Management Agency ó constructed Copper Ridge Place for Health and Social Services, could the minister explain how the credits ó or, as he terms it, the allowance ó moved over to Yukon Housing Corporation? How did it get from Health and Social Services to Yukon Housing Corporation? What was the mechanism employed and how was the flow arranged? Where is this documented?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Without those documents in front of me, my understanding is that, when it was accepted, it was accepted as being matched by the Yukon government. It did not specify what agency within that government. Perhaps with a relatively new Minister of Health and Social Services, we could consult the former Minister of Health and Social Services, who Iím sure would have that information.
Mr. Jenkins: Thatís the mystery ó how this moved over from Health and Social Services to an armís-length Crown corporation. What was the procedure employed? What was the mechanism employed?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: When I look at the letter of agreement here, Schedule B, part 3, and within that, E-1, contributing party: Yukon Housing Corporation, Yukon government, market value of land, capital contributions, ongoing cash. That was to the tune of $8.5 million. It is within the agreement with the federal government.
Mr. Jenkins: That is on a go-forward basis, but it doesnít reflect upon the actual money and the credits ó if the Chair would be so kind as to allow me to use that term ó ďthe creditsĒ that were established by the construction of this facility. I still canít follow the chain of events that allowed it to end up in Yukon Housing Corporation and be administered there. Perhaps the minister could help me.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the member opposite asks: how did the money end up in ó? It didnít end up anywhere. It was spent in the usual fashion, and it was accepted as a contribution under Schedule B. Money did not transfer; the existence of the building was accepted as our contribution to allow this to go through, but no money came into Yukon Housing Corporation out of that $8.5 million that I am aware of.
Mr. Jenkins: It is actually $5.5 million. That is the number that was used for the longest time ó not $8.5 million. If I could direct the ministerís attention back to the point that I am trying to make, Iím trying to connect the dots as to how Yukon Housing Corporation became involved in this initiative. There has to be some Management Board directive. Could the minister kindly point that directive out, because obviously there was a building constructed by PMA, totally funded through the Legislative Assembly approval process on the capital side, in the budget envelope of Health and Social Services.
But at the end of the day, the administration and the mechanism and the body thatís working with this whole program is Yukon Housing Corporation. Iíd like to know how this came about, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I understand that the amounts in the document here were completely audited by CMHC, who went over the whole document. Actually, I note within the audit that it is, in fact, $8.5 million of the $12-million total planned contribution by others. We also contributed to some of our other programs. Coming out of that was Copper Ridge Place construction for $8.5 million, and it was fully audited by CMHC. It was done at that level for us.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím still not getting my point across. Copper Ridge Place was constructed by PMA for Health and Social Services. How did Yukon Housing Corporation get in the equation? What was the mechanism that allowed Yukon Housing Corporation to operate with this pot of credits that were accumulated as a result of the construction?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The way the contribution agreement and the program work is that there is a contribution coming back from each territory or province. That is one of the challenges and a huge topic of discussion at federal, provincial and territorial meetings of ministers responsible for housing. To require a contribution of a large jurisdiction, there is probably some way that Ontario or Quebec could arrange it. But, in fact, for instance, one such program on this that required a matching contribution from Newfoundland and Labrador ó they had to decline participation because they could not come up with the matching funds.
We were fortunate that that particular construction was accepted by CMHC as our contribution. If the member opposite is looking for more information, I can ask staff to put together a more detailed answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Letís try this again: Iím looking for the mechanism that transferred this over to the Yukon Housing Corporation. How did Yukon Housing Corporation end up in the driverís seat with the issue of affordable housing and the credits that were accrued coming out of the Department of Health and Social Services? What was the mechanism there? Was it a Management Board approval? Was it a Management Board submission? Obviously weíre talking about an armís-length Crown corporation overseeing and administering a very worthwhile and beneficial program.
But how was this accomplished? There seem to be a number of issues that move back and forth between the departments and Yukon Housing Corporation, and they seem not to be as well documented as they probably should have been. Iíd like to know how this was accomplished.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the member opposite is also missing the point. This is not a cheque or sum of money that was transferred. Nothing came into the Yukon Housing Corporation. It was a project that was probably done by PMA and Health and Social Services. At the time we submitted the agreement, CMHC agreed to accept that as being a contribution under the requirements of this. As an agreement, it would then have gone through Management Board to allow us to sign it, but no money ever changed hands on that. They just simply recognized that as being our contribution, which allowed us to access the fund. Without that, we likely would not have been able to access that fund.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our normal time for a mid-afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: The House will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, with Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation. Weíll continue general debate. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I still havenít got a response as to how the program was assumed, transferred, or taken over by Yukon Housing Corporation, when all the credits were in the Department of Health and Social Services. There seems to be no documentation that Iím aware of, other than the arrangements between Yukon Housing Corporation and Canada for this program, pointing out that these are the credits.
So, perhaps the minister can enlighten us as to how this program came under the umbrella of Yukon Housing Corporation and how the credits that were accrued by Health and Social Services with the construction of the Copper Ridge Place moved over to Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the affordable housing program was a cost matching program, where each jurisdiction had to match that cost. At the time, staff of Yukon Housing Corporation put this together as a potential expenditure by the Yukon government. The cost matching was by government. It wasnít necessarily determining what individual group or subgroup of that government ó it was a government-matching plan.
When that was put through, a complete audit was done by an accounting firm, by a third party, and presented to CMHC, who accepted it as a Yukon government expenditure that would meet the terms of this. No funds changed hands. We did not take over any programs. Yukon Housing Corporation did not take over anything to do directly with Copper Ridge Place, nor did Health and Social Services take over a housing program. It was simply something that the government had put out, CMHC accepted it, and we qualified for the program.
Mr. Jenkins: Clear as mud. The essence of the situation is that a department of the government paid for the construction of a facility. This qualified that department of the government for certain credits with CMHC. I would like to know from the minister how those credits were moved over from Health and Social Services to Yukon Housing Corporation, an armís-length corporation of the government. What mechanism was employed? There doesnít appear to be any Management Board submission for the transfer of this credit. There arenít any minutes of any Cabinet meeting or Cabinet decision to provide for this transfer. Did Yukon Housing Corporation just go in and assume the responsibility for this program? How did it take place?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iíll take one more run at this. The affordable housing program required a contribution of expenditure. The expenditure had already been made. The member opposite is quite correct on that ó it had already been made at Copper Ridge. A detailed audit was done by a third party accounting firm that was presented to Yukon Housing Corporation and they said, yes, that matches what we would expect. Weíll accept that.
It was then built into Schedule B of the affordable housing agreement, which went through Management Board, went through Cabinet, was accepted by Management Board, and we became qualified for that $5.5-million contribution from CMHC. No money changed hands, nobody has taken over any projects. They simply looked at the books with an audit by a third party and said, yes, it meets our criteria, we will accept that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we are not going to get anywhere on that one, so letís move on. There are a number of initiatives around the Yukon where Community Services has sold land to various individuals or corporate entities and, down the road a few years, Yukon Housing Corporation has assumed the file and the indebtedness reverts to Yukon Housing Corporation. How does this take place and how is this documented?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The memberís question seems to centre around land coming out of Community Services. I suggest he take that up during the debate on Community Services.
Mr. Jenkins: The land did come out of Community Services but the whole file appears to be transferred totally over to Yukon Housing Corporation. How did this happen, Mr. Chair? What is the mechanism for this occurring?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the member seems to be asking questions about how something transpired in Community Services. Thatís a matter to be taken up at the appropriate time for debate in Community Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd just like to know how Yukon Housing Corporation took over these files and the indebtedness then reverts to Yukon Housing Corporation. There are a number of instances of this occurring and there doesnít appear to be any documentation. Iíd like to know how this takes place.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member may be referring to mortgage programs or this sort of thing but, again, if the files are coming out of Community Services, that would be the appropriate place to go for the information. I would have no information on Community Services at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue is that files are transferred from Community Services to Yukon Housing Corporation. There doesnít appear to be any mechanism in place for this transfer, and yet itís occurring. The terms and conditions are sometimes altered. Sometimes thereís interest forgiveness. Thereís a whole series of things that do take place.
Weíll leave that one alone for now, and weíll go into a couple of constituency concerns across the Yukon.
Where are we at with a uniform and consistent pet policy in Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The pet policy thing has been a real hot issue for quite some time. There are a number of things that are involved with this: not only cleanliness, but allergies, as the member knows ó that people with allergies will sometimes have problems with pets.
For people with mobility problems, walkers, canes and this sort of thing, to have a dog come around the corner and hit them ó there are various problems with pets, and yet there is very good evidence to show that pets are important to seniors, particularly seniors who are somewhat shut in. So this has been something that we have grappled with for a long, long time. The response of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board traditionally or historically has been to allow individual local jurisdictions, local housing boards, to make those decisions and to make those decisions that would be best suited to the individual facility or individual homes. There are a number of different ways of approaching that, of course, in terms of damage. You could always say that you would require a security deposit, but the reality is that many of the people are, in fact, living in these buildings because they donít have the money to put into a security deposit, and to look simply at damage ó Iím suspicious that more damage would be caused by children than by pets. You canít really go that route either.
The short end of where we are now is that the Yukon Housing Corporation did receive a Human Rights Board of Adjudication decision. This was activated by, I believe, two people in Dawson City who said that it was not fair because we have, in most of these communities, two types of housing. We have social housing and we have staff housing. While for social housing, the local board may say that we donít want pets in those buildings, the other side of the coin is: how do you recruit staff members who, in fact, want to bring a dog or cat or two or whatever? Consequently, there would be recruitment problems with that.
The nature of the Human Rights Board of Adjudication decision was that you cannot differentiate between these two types of clients. You must have a single policy across the board.
The time for appealing that decision ó which clearly ruled in favour of the pets ó has come and gone. It was the decision of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors that they not file an appeal within that allowable period. The board then directed the Yukon Housing Corporation to review the existing pet policy and to identify options for a more consistent application of the policy. As I say, there are a number of issues to consider on this, such as the type of housing ó single family, duplex, multiple unit, multi-family units, shared ventilation systems, shared yards. You can go on and on and on with the types of things that could be done with that. As I mentioned, there is the damage caused by pets, costs to repair, health issues, noise, nuisance pets ó all of the usual things we have to look at on that.
Historically, for the member opposite, so he understands the background on this ó the decision came down on October 5, 2005, and it basically was on the matter of the no-pet policy. It applies to social housing and the Yukon government staff housing. The Human Rights Board of Adjudication decision was in favour of the complainants on the basis of discrimination based on source of income, as it was argued that, ďTo levy a no-pet policy on social housing tenants whose eligibility is determined by their income and not on the Yukon government employees, both of whom resided in the same housing complex, is discrimination based on source of income.Ē
That was the nature of the decision.†
Again, perhaps it becomes easier if you look at individual houses that are separated from others, exacerbated by the problem that, as one person moves out, the next person moves in with allergies and you have major problems in terms of cleaning the place, the ventilation system and such. So the board of directors has referred the matter and directed staff to examine options with the objective of being fair and consistent in the application of that pet policy between both staff and social housing. Itís my understanding that that matter was probably brought up last Friday at the board meeting and will continue to be in the next couple of months, and it is likely we will come to some agreement where the pets will be permitted in the facilities.
This may well require a further expenditure of funds: for instance, someone in a multi-family apartment building, with allergies that would require special HEPA filtration ó high efficiency particulate air ó or something like that. There are a lot of things to look at, but we will live with those things. Itís a safe bet, at this point in time, that we will come to an agreement that will, in the long run, be very agreeable to people. In the short run, itís something else. If you have someone who is violently pro-pet living next to somebody who is violently anti-pet ó and we have a lot of these ó the initial discussion obviously will make one person very happy and one very annoyed.
Another possible way of looking at it would be, if you have several buildings available, to make one pet-accessible and one not pet-accessible, to accommodate both groups. In the long run, things like that will work but, in the short run, where people are living in those facilities at the present time, they wonít be extremely happy.
It is coming to a resolution and Iím very pleased itís coming this way.
Mr. Jenkins: All I asked is where we are at with the pet policy, and obviously there isnít a pet policy as yet. Can the minister provide timelines for this pet policy that is being worked on and is before the board, given that the human rights tribunal has issued a decision? This has been an outstanding issue that goes back a decade or more. When are we going to see a resolution of this?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, to refer to a pet policy and having no pet policy is inaccurate. The current pet policy is flawed, obviously, but the pet policy is there. It allows each individual municipal housing authority to make its own decisions. Obviously, some of those municipal housing authority boards will not be affected and some of them will be quite annoyed at this. It really does come down to which group you want mad at you. The bottom line is that we have to comply with the Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators decision. This is being actively moved on. As I mentioned earlier to the member opposite, this goes back to only a couple months ago ó October 5 this year, when the decision came down. The board meets monthly. We hope to have something well resolved within this fiscal year. So, by March 31 we should have a policy in place that will be much broader.
The member is right ó this is something that weíve been working on and weíve been having difficulties with for a long, long time. Itís nice to get it finally resolved.
Mr. Jenkins: I will point out to the minister that it isnít resolved as yet. Itís still an issue. Yes, there are policies by the various housing authorities in the various communities, but they are not consistent with each other. Some allow it, some do not allow it.
Iíll take it that the minister has responded that the board has been issued a directive to comply with the human rights decision. Is that where we are at now, and are there timelines around when Yukon Housing Corporation must comply?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, for the member opposite, heís getting confused, as are several of the members over there. The board has not been issued a directive. The corporation has been issued an adjudication ó a decision by the Human Rights Board of Adjudication ó and has chosen not to appeal it. The board of directors now has run the show, in terms of putting something together, which is not, to my knowledge, under a timeline per se, other than, in all due fairness, to get this thing moving. So, the board is working diligently to give staff direction to come to something that works.
The consistency is the consistency within the municipalities. To say that one municipality wants it and another one doesnít is common sense; itís not lack of consistency.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I can summarize what the minister has said ó there will be a consistent policy in place by Yukon Housing Corporation before the end of this fiscal year, March 31, and be consistent across the Yukon Territory. Could the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The board has given direction to staff to review that policy and to identify options for a more consistent application of the policy. That may come out in a number of different ways, as I have said. That may be some buildings, yes; some buildings, no. That may be any one of a number of ranges. But it will be in compliance with the Human Rights Board of Adjudication decision.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I am disappointed that we couldnít get a hard and fast answer to these questions.
Letís look at some of the maintenance that is going on and has been underway in some of the social housing units. The apartment block in my community of Dawson City has been the subject of much communications back and forth ó Kinsey Manor, specifically.
This building was a building that several of the previous ministers responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation failed to address in a timely manner ó some of the repairs and deficiencies. There were problems with the heating system. There were problems with the wrong type of thermostat controls being put in. There were problems with the propane boilers. They were subsequently changed out to oil-fired boilers. The windows have been the subject of much debate. There has been plywood over some of these windows for three years ó three years, Mr. Chair. There are other windows that have had plywood over them because they have been broken out for two years. This is just not acceptable.
Yukon Housing Corporation appears to lay the responsibility on the requirement to meet the historical control guidelines in Dawson City. Mr. Chair, may I suggest to the minister that the problem is not with the historical control guidelines but with the quality of the product that was installed, because the glass is actually very loose in the frames and the wind blows right through. The windows need to be replaced ó yes, theyíre vertical sliders. Also, the exit doors and the storm doors have been promised and committed to for three years but nothing has transpired.
Thereís one door that has been sent up to Dawson to be changed. What does it take to get Yukon Housing Corporation to move forward on their maintenance program? The official who attends at Dawson City attends to these buildings, makes a complete list up, says yes, itís needed, that we are aware of it, takes it back and it just seems to fall into a big I donít know what, but nothing appears to get done.
Iím seeking the ministerís assurances that he will direct Yukon Housing Corporation to step up the maintenance on their social housing units, consistent with general practice, which means several months to replace a window, in my opinion ó not three years.
The doors are readily available; the issue of going to the planning board is a process that is in place. Yukon Housing has just discovered they have to go through the planning board. That has been in place for some 20 years odd in Dawson City. Yukon Housing Corporation was there at the beginning; they took the whole building through the planning board and addressed it. Now they seen to not be cognizant of the need to go to the planning board until the last possible moment, and then blame it on the planning board for not rendering a decision.
Mr. Chair, this isnít acceptable, but Yukon Housing has made some amends to the tenants. They have provided them with electric heaters to plug in so they can stay warm, because the heating system isnít functioning properly ó or wasnít. There has been some recent activity in Kinsey Manor. Thereís still the issue of the windows that were promised to be replaced last summer and the summer before. They knew it was imminent because they didnít wash them on the outside this last summer.
All in all, Iím just looking for a commitment that will see maintenance improve and be consistent, especially in some of the areas of rural Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Kinsey Manor has been a problem for some time and we are very, very much aware of that, although it does trouble me a great deal. We have staff in Dawson and we have in other communities very capable people who report back through staff to get these sorts of things done. It does trouble me to have the member opposite stand up and imply they are less than capable.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: † I never implied anything of the sort that the staff is incapable. The minister should retract that. I said nothing to that effect.
Chair: Mr. Kenyon, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Having reports come back and falling into a dark abyss or whatever the phrase was, I think, certainly would qualify ó among many other comments. These are very capable people who do their job.
Chair: The Chair often finds himself in a difficult situation when members reinterpret what other members say. I would certainly caution all members of the Assembly to be very cautious when they do so, because there is a tendency ó on more than one occasion ó for members to take it further than was originally intended. What we have here is a dispute between members. Debate should continue.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thank you, Mr. Chair, I am certainly pleased to acknowledge the fact that the member opposite didnít mean what seemed to be coming out and thatís very encouraging.
There are a number of ongoing maintenance issues within Kinsey Manor. I donít like getting into operational matters, but I know that the member opposite should be aware of these things.
Within Kinsey Manor itself, there are eight exit and entry doors in the whole building, six of which are on the main floor. Two of the doors on the main floor had the windows broken and were covered with plywood until the doors could be replaced. The replacement of the doors was delayed when it was decided to replace the glass in the broken windows, until the whole door could be done as a unit. The glass has to be tempered glass, which has to be special ordered. I understand that it was to be coming into Whitehorse around the end of November. As soon as it arrived or arrives ó I donít know which ó it will be or has been shipped up to Dawson for immediate installation.
The doors were originally requisitioned from the supplier in August, and there were issues regarding specifications, since the current doors are wooden doors ó in order to fall under the historic standards for Dawson. The member is quite right on that. Normally, doors of this type are commercial steel doors. The order was delayed, and the supplier was in Dawson later, after that, in the fall and looked at the doors and the installation.
There was an assumption on our part that the doors had been ordered. But it turned out that they had not been ordered and, to my knowledge, this has since been done. The issue of historic requirements certainly comes up in Dawson. The doors being considering were steel commercial doors that would not fit the historic requirement. Staff were directed to ensure that the doors were acceptable to the Dawson planning board, so that it would not become an issue after the fact and much more difficult to resolve. It only makes sense.
The planning board meeting was on November 22, and according to the chair of the board, she was very pleased that weíre taking the proper route for approval. Yukon Housing Corporation will be represented at that and other meetings by our Dawson Housing Authority manager. We will present the board with pictures and specifications to the doors we want to use. So hopefully they will meet all of those requirements. I think it is very essential for the town to keep those requirements. Once we have that planning board approval ó and we may have that now, because, again, this is an operational issue ó the supplier says they can have the type of door we want on a two weeks order. The door slabs will then have to have the glass and panic hardware installed, and then the whole door unit will be installed, replacing the old one. So either this has been done or will be done shortly. Again, this is an operational issue.
With the exception of the glass requiring replacement in two of the existing doors, they are functioning at the current time, when the replacement was going to take effect. The main entry door lock sticks at times because the door shifts seasonally. This is a chronic problem in the north. And it is true that the building was built on a good foundation, which is less susceptible to permafrost shifting. It should be recognized, however, that a minor shift of a fraction of an inch will throw out a deadbolt enough to make it stick. Iím not an engineer, Mr. Chair, but we have some excellent engineers who gave me that information. Iíve asked to have the maintenance contractor look at the door and see if it is feasible to make the slot for the bolt throw larger to allow for the shifting. That seems a reasonable approach. Hopefully that has been done. If the contractor is successful with the doors in getting the adjustments, it will alleviate that locking problem on the existing doors and the new ones that are installed will be much better.
There were some issues in heating. There are some apartments at the end of the building that do not heat as well as the other apartments. This issue is more noticeable in the extreme cold, of course. We issued a contract to a local contractor to install additional heating in these apartments last spring. He completed two of them. Before the other two were completed, he made the decision to close down his business, so that became a definite problem.
The completion of the remaining two went unnoticed initially and, when it came to light that only two had been completed, it was next to impossible to get a heating contractor to complete the work, due to lack of contractors. Again, with our economy, it becomes difficult to get people to do the work.
Weíve supplied additional electric heaters to these tenants at our cost. Weíve done that in the past when it was cold, and weíll do that in the future.
Another local person has started a heating business and we have now been able to arrange for that person to complete the work on the heating in the remaining two apartments. Iím told now this is finished and complete. People seem happy; weíve polled the tenants; weíve had no complaints about that and all the comments have been favourable.
In terms of windows, the windows in the building are vinyl sliders. They fall within the available and allowable historic standards for Dawson. They are leaky in cold climates, as I think all of us know, and itís not a good design for that sort of thing. Weíve been replacing the slider windows in Dawson over the years, since there has been some additional flexibility allowed by the planning board to now accept casement windows, which are much better suited to colder climates.
There are other windows in Dawson that are in poorer condition than the windows in Kinsey, and I think thatís important to note. So, weíve given direction to try to replace the Kinsey windows through next yearís capital budget. We will be putting that in and requesting Management Board approval for that.
That will be in the $80,000 to $100,000 range and it will take a good chunk of Yukon Housing Corporationís budget. Weíre giving it a high priority and I hope the member opposite appreciates that, but it is a sizable chunk of our budget.
In the meantime, we are installing some insulation stops in the Kinsey windows for any tenants who ask for them ó weíre happy to provide them. We should note that, while there is certainly an inconvenience factor here, Yukon Housing Corporation pays for all heating in the building, so the additional heating cost because of the windows does not fall on the tenants ó inconvenience factor; yes, that I would certainly agree with.
In the future, we will be monitoring the work more closely and make sure that the lines of authority and responsibility are clear. This should ensure that wrong assumptions are not made and that itís more clear where authority lies on that.
The housing manager in Dawson has been meeting, and will continue to meet, with Kinsey tenants and update them on whatís going on. Weíll give an opportunity for the tenants to express any other concerns with that. Again, part of me wants not to get into the operational issues, but I know this is a matter near and dear to the memberís heart, so Iím happy to give those operational details.
Mr. Jenkins: I have just a couple of points of clarification. Vertical sliders are a good form of windows, but one has to buy quality vertical sliders. And with respect to steel-clad doors, they are permitted under the historical control guidelines. They have to be raised panel. They canít be just a flat slab. But usually when you go to steel-clad doors, you canít attach them to a wooden frame. You have to change out the whole frame. The next time the minister is in Dawson, he might want to look at Robert Service School and see how historically correct the doors are and what they are made out of.
This sounds like more of a justification for the long, long delay, but it just goes back ó and some of these problems have been ongoing since the building was first constructed. What happened was that some poor quality products were put into the building. And if the minister were to go back and see what has been spent on this building to date ó changing out the boilers; changing out the heating system; changing out doors, windows; adding additional flooring, insulation; the pressurization; the air makeup system was sucking fumes from the exhaust into the building, and Yukon Housing Corporation didnít want to acknowledge that there was a problem.
This is not an issue that has just come up in the last three months. This is an issue that goes back quite a number of years and it predates the ministerís involvement in this portfolio. But I would like to thank him for his attention and for the details, and letís just see this file move forward because it is very important to my constituents ó very, very important óand if it were just one, you could temper that but itís a whole series of individuals in this building who have been raising a lot of alarm bells for quite a number of years, so much so that some of them have chosen to move out because of the cold in the building and the air makeup system that has apparently been rectified now. So Iíd like to thank the minister for his responses.
Chair: Any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will go into line-by-line examination.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Expenditures
Gross Expenditures underexpenditure of $600,000 cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation underexpenditure of $600,000 cleared
On Capital Expenditures
On Home Ownership
On Mortgage Financing Loans
Mortgage Financing Loans underexpenditure of $2,950,000 cleared
On Owner Build Loans
Owner Build Loans underexpenditure of $500,000 cleared
On Industry and Community Partnering
On Affordable Housing
Affordable Housing in the amount of $98,000 agreed to
On Social Housing
On Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock
Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock in the amount of $150,000 agreed to †
†On Total of Other Capital Projects
Total of Other Capital Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation underexpenditure of $3,202,00 cleared
On Capital Recoveries
Capital Recoveries cleared
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation.
Department of Tourism and Culture
Chair: The Chair understands that weíre now going to continue on with Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture. Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Chair, I just have a couple more questions for the minister.
When we left this debate last week, we addressed a number of issues that Iíve heard from Yukoners within the Department of Tourism and Culture. The last question I asked the Minister of Tourism and Culture was in regard to the Marine Liability Act and the raft regulations in regard to wilderness tourism operators who are very concerned about that. I did get an update from the minister, and I do appreciate that.
Iím wondering if the minister can tell this House if the northern strategy is involved with Tourism and Culture?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As was literally in just about every department, the Department of Tourism and Culture undertook a wide consultative process with a number of our stakeholders with respect to Tourism and Culture being incorporated into the northern strategy. Those consultations took place and those were all part and parcel of the document that was presented to Ottawa, to the federal government, on behalf of Yukon, in conjunction with Yukon First Nations.
There were a number of different components. I donít have it right in front of me, but it included oral history, traditional knowledge and First Nation languages. Those were very much heard by stakeholders, such as Yukon Heritage Resources Board and others, just to give a couple of examples.
Mrs. Peter: Can the minister give the House an update on the passport requirement for travel between Canada and the United States? As we all know, the deadline starts as soon as December 31, 2006. I know there was a letter sent by the Premier of the Yukon and the Governor of Alaska and the Premier of B.C. not too long ago. I wonder if the minister has an update for us.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Our Department of Tourism and Culture, and I, as minister, have been quite active on this particular file. It is a very large area of pertinent concern to Yukon, and particularly to the Yukon tourism industry. As I have taken the opportunity to relay to members opposite on a number of occasions, I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of various governments ó different levels of governments ó and had the opportunity to speak with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. More recently, I met with the president of the Association of Yukon Communities. I recently met with the Commissioner for the State of Alaska responsible for trade, tourism and economic development on our trip to Anchorage.
I also took the opportunity to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister earlier this summer in Seattle, during the Pacific Northwest Economic Region conference to raise our very concerns. And our concerns ó again, I will reiterate them for the record ó surround a number of issues pertinent to, obviously, our very close relationship with the State of Alaska, and also our very close relationship with the United States, in terms of visitation.
When we look at the last visitor exit survey, youíll see that approximately 77 percent of our traffic comes from the United States. With that said, as of December 31, 2007, all people travelling to or re-entering the United States will be required to hold some kind of security identification document in hand.
So that means that when they happen to come to the Yukon and when they go back home, while we would love to have them stay for a lot longer, we would also like them to be able to go back home and make their trip worthwhile. So these are very big issues for the Yukon. The time requirements still remain very tight in order to accommodate these time frames, as well as the cost of being able to acquire a passport.
Although there was news just recently, actually about a week ago, in which it was posted in the newswire that United States Department of Homeland Security is working with the Government of Canada to develop a new alternative cross-border identification card that would apparently satisfy security requirements but would effectively be cheaper and easier to obtain than a passport.
That is a bit of good news for us, the very fact that they are looking for something, perhaps an alternate form of identification to a passport, so it would be easier to obtain and less costly. It doesnít appear, from what we have heard and from the information our department has gathered since then, that the time frames have changed. So that is not very good news, because as it stands, all visitors entering the United States or re-entering the United States, whether it be by air or by sea ports, by December 31 of 2006 ó which is only another year, and of course then, a year thereafter, which incorporates all border crossings, land included ó that is a very, very tight time restriction.
So, we have always been advocating on behalf of the tourism industry ó and I know our position has been shared with the rest of the country and many other business organizations and the tourism industry on the other side of the border ó to postpone that time frame. We need the proper amount of time to communicate effectively with our visiting, travelling public so as to avoid any more confusion than what has already transpired in the marketplace.
So, it looks as though, although they are working on something that could, in fact, be better news, weíre still not exactly sure what that new border crossing ID might look like. And, of course, weíre still not very clear as to the time frame, although it looks as though it has not changed. And itís also not clear whether separate documents will be issued to Canadian citizens by the Department of Foreign Affairs or if Canada and the U.S. will jointly administer a similar ID system.
And, of course, we have also not received a response yet to my letter to the Deputy Prime Minister back in July, I believe it was ó unfortunately, almost six months later ó with respect to our request to continue the exemption for First Nations, in terms of not being able to carry a passport, as they have traditionally not been required to carry passports across the borders.
So, as you can see, there are still a number of issues that remain outstanding, and we will continue to press the issue with as many individuals as possible. And, last but not least, I should also mention that we continue to work with the Passport Coalition, which is a coalition of tourism entities across the country, including other organizations in the United States, to advocate our concerns. We did follow up with a subsequent letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to meet our deadline of October 31, I believe it was, to put our governmentís record in effect.
In addition, the Premier has also joined forces with the Governor of Alaska and the premiers of British Columbia and Alberta, in making our concerns known. I am confident. I remain, I guess, cautiously optimistic that some changes will come about. But time is ticking, and the more we continue to waffle on this issue, the more confusion there will be in the marketplace.
So, I guess thatís about as much as I have for updates.
Mrs. Peter: This passport issue is a real concern, not only for the tourism industry out there, about how itís going to impact the number two key economic driver in the Yukon, but it also is going to have a real impact on an upcoming gathering that the Gwichíin Nation is planning in the month of June or July. That gathering happens every two years. The last time we had the gathering in Old Crow, the Liberal Party was in government. At that time, I encouraged the Justice minister of the day to assist us in border crossing and also with Customs. At that time, Customs agents assisted our people in Old Crow.
I would like to hear from the minister if such assistance could be possible for the upcoming gathering that weíre planning. If that is possible, I would like to hear from the minister.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Well, certainly, I will endeavour to speak with the Minister of Justice to see what it is that we are able to do to help ensure that travel is as smooth and as problem-free as possible. However, I have to note, though, that since 9/11, and, of course more recently, we have seen a number of stepped-up security requirements that have occurred as a result of the 9/11 commission that transpired as a result of 9/11. Some of those stepped-up security requirements have taken effect here.
But, certainly, I will endeavour to speak to the Minister of Justice to see what we can do to help expedite matters.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that information, and those are my questions in this department.
Mr. Mitchell: †Perhaps, just working through some questions here, Iíll start with ó if we can get an update on the number of visitors over the course of the whole season. Iíve seen updates over portions of the season. Has it gone up? Has it gone down?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †In total, when we look at the border crossing statistics ó and this is May through September 2005. In total, 284,594 travellers visited the Yukon from May through September, which was up just over four percent compared to the same period last year. Thatís according to our Canada Border Services Agency.
So, I guess by country of origin, our U.S. visitors were up, our Canadian visitors were up, and our international visitors were also up. So, I guess you could say itís good news on all fronts.
Mr. Mitchell: †† Iím wondering if the minister could provide an update on flights ó what the status is going forward with Condor Airlines, the possibility of WestJet flights to Vancouver, and so forth?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Air access is absolutely key to the success of the tourism industry in the Yukon. We rely very heavily on affordable and accessible air access. I certainly would like to congratulate and applaud our air carriers here in the territory for making that service readily available to Yukoners as well as to our visiting travellers.
I have been quite active, with the assistance of our Department of Tourism and Culture officials, with respect to some of these files such as Air Canada and Air North ó working very cooperatively with both airlines. We were able to work with Air Canada a couple of years ago. As the member opposite may well recall, there was a time when some service ó in fact, their winter flights were reduced from two flights to one flight a day during the winter months. It was at that time that industry had raised very significant concerns with respect to the reduction in air access.
Not only did it obviously decrease our ability to service same-day air access to the Yukon from major European areas, as well as overseas areas in Japan and so forth, but it also prohibited a number of air connections ó same-day air connections ó in Canada.
So as a result, we were able to relay our concerns to representatives of Air Canada. As a result, the following year, Air Canada did agree to bring back two flights each day during the winter months. Weíre very pleased to have that service in place. So that service, coupled with the additional capacity that Air North has provided, has made business much easier and much better to do in the Yukon. As a result, for example, I know our aurora viewing market has benefited very much from having same-day air access from areas like Nagoya and Osaka. So we are very thankful, and I very much applaud our officialsí efforts in all the work they continue to do on Yukonersí behalf, providing very good air service.
That said, we continue to meet with our airline partners to always provide better service. As the member opposite will recall, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for a few days in September, and at that time we did have the opportunity to meet with both Condor Air Lines in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as Air Canada in Germany.
As a result, there were a number of very good news items that occurred, including additional flights for next season with the extension of the summer travel season from May 9 to October 3 in 2006 via Condor Airlines.
For the first time, we were pleased to be able to garner the success of meeting with Air Canada officials in Germany to discuss cooperative marketing initiatives with our travel trade partners.
Mr. Chair, I canít see the time, although I think itís pretty close. So, Mr. Chair, I would move that we report progress on Bill No. 17.
Chair: Ms. Taylor has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Motion agreed to
Hon. 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: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 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. 61, Co-operation in Governance Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.††††††††††
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: †† I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 12, 2005:
Property Management Agency 2004-05 Annual Report† (Hart)
Yukon Housing Corporation 2004-05 Annual Report† (Kenyon)