Whitehorse , Yukon
Monday, May 15, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Police Week and National Road Safety Week
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today to pay tribute to Police Week, held this year from May 14 to 20. During Canadian Police Week, we honour police officers for their contribution to public safety and security and promote the work police do in our communities. During this week, local RCMP detachments across this territory will be holding community barbecues, open houses, and family events such as a bike safety rodeo.
The first day of Police Week, May 14, is recognized internationally as Peace Officer Memorial Day. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Through community events Police Week also reinforces the partnership between the police and the public. Without this partnership, police are unable to provide the excellence of service that makes us feel safe in our homes and communities.
In the Yukon , policing services are provided by the RCMP. There are 176 people employed by the RCMP, including 121 regular officers. The work of the RCMP is aided by 74 volunteers. In addition to their enforcement activities on the job, our RCMP officers support crime prevention programs, often on their own time. They take part in youth social development programs such as the whole child project, Crew Whitewater, Young Riders, Beat the Heat, solar panel go-carts and many other sports and wilderness programs. This is a true partnership between the police and the public.
As usual, Police Week coincides with National Road Safety Week, reminding us of the role police play in road safety. This is a time for strengthening the resolve of Yukoners to buckle up, not drink and drive, and to share the road with vulnerable road users such as cyclists and motorcyclists. To this end, the police will be operating traffic checkstops for impaired drivers.
Mr. Speaker, road safety is extremely important. Every driver's full attention and care is required to improve road safety. Canada's highways are safer than they used to be. Since 1984, the number of traffic collisions has decreased by 33 percent and serious injuries have declined by 35 percent.
Yukon is doing its part as well. In December 2005, the Department of Highways and Public Works was awarded the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators' 2005 traffic safety award. This award was received for the greatest reduction in highway fatalities nation-wide, based on Transport Canada numbers in 2003. In 2003, the 25-percent decrease in Yukon's fatality rate per vehicle population was the greatest reduction of all in Canada .
In mentioning the role of the RCMP, I would like to now recognize the long and valuable contribution of Sgt. Ross Milward, who is in the audience with us today, one of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's finest in the Yukon. Ross was the RCMP liaison who gave the RCMP perspective to many key Yukon road safety consultations and traffic law amendments. He helped develop, to name a few: longer-term licence suspensions, 90-day roadside licence suspensions, the vehicle impoundment program, graduated driver licensing, ignition interlock program, and stronger seat belt and demerit point laws and accident reporting.
Ross has been a key participant on the newly formed impaired driving prevention collision team, which involves government, business and private citizens. Over the years he has been involved in many Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators road safety initiatives, such as the national occupant restraint program, the national strategy to reduce impaired driving and the national speed, intersection and safety monitoring strategy, an initiative to reduce traffic intersection crashes.
Ross' knowledge and experience over his 20 years of traffic service to help make Yukon roads safe for our families, friends and business activities is greatly appreciated and will be missed by Yukon government.
Mr. Speaker, in February 2006, Ross was transferred to another position with the local RCMP detachment and is no longer with traffic services. I wish to acknowledge his years in the traffic unit and wish him well in his future endeavours with the RCMP.
The Government of Yukon is committed to supporting Yukoners and the RCMP in their efforts to make our communities, neighbourhoods and homes safe and healthy.
I ask all members of this Legislature to join me in expressing our sincere appreciation to all the police officers and support staff of the RCMP, M Division.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In remembrance of Bill Reid
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to recognize the passing of a much-loved Yukoner, the late Bill Reid.
Bill and his beloved wife Rusty were married in the Old Log Church in Whitehorse in 1951 - the same year they formed the Northernaires Dance Band. The Northernaires Dance Band are not part of one story of community dances throughout the Yukon, they are part of every story about special community events that included the music of our lives. Dozens of musicians played with the band through the years, and last summer many of them gathered in Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, to play again at the annual Yukoners Picnic.
The Yukon tartan has a predominant purple fireweed-like colour, and if we think of Bill Reid's life as that tartan - for he loved the way of life and people of the north - music would be the predominant colour; however, there are many others. Bill Reid also loved to fly. He obtained his pilot's licence at 47, and flew more than 1,000 accident-free hours. For seven years he was president of the Whitehorse Flying Club, and he also served as the national director of CASARA, the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association.
In his spare time, Bill found time to work. Beginning at the steam plant at the airport, he began a career as a fire fighter at the airport and then at the city fire hall. He retired from the city fire service in 1985.
Of course there was also a part of Bill's life for sport. Bill and Rusty have both been inducted into the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame. They were at the start-up of the Yukon Sports Federation, and Bill's volunteer commitments included being president of the Whitehorse Ski Club.
Later in life, it was the motorized sports of snowmobiling and riding an ATV. Friends shared the stories of their senior friend and his back-country expeditions at a wonderful celebration of Bill's life at Mount McIntyre. It truly was a celebration of Bill's colourful and enduring contribution to Yukon life on March 26 this year. It was also a chance for Yukon to share with Shelley and David how we too will miss their dad, and to give Rusty a hug and tell her how much we appreciated her husband.
Rusty, you and Bill were such a team and a partnership. One of your friends referred to you as “bookends” - never one without the other - truly a matched set.
On behalf of all of us, our sincere sympathy in your loss, and our heartfelt thanks for sharing Bill with all of us.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask Members of the Legislative Assembly to join me in welcoming to the gallery, Rusty, Shelley and her husband Mike Biden.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask all Members of the Legislative Assembly to help me welcome our guests from the RCMP: Chief Superintendent Dave Sawchuck; Commanding Officer of M Division, John Grant; Corporal Dustin Rusk; and Sergeant Ross Milward.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon children need and deserve an independent children's advocate who can represent their rights, interests and viewpoints when decisions are made that will affect their lives;
(2) on March 30, 1998, a former Liberal opposition member introduced a motion calling on the Government of Yukon to investigate the possibilities of creating a children's advocate position;
(3) on November 7, 2001, the same member, along with the entire Liberal caucus, voted against a motion by the then Member for Southern Lakes, calling on the Yukon government to bring forward a child, youth and family advocacy act for debate and passage by this House;
(4) on May 8, 2002, the same Liberal member, then Minister of Health and Social Services, spoke against private member's Bill No. 101, entitled Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act;
(5) in more than three years in office, the current Yukon Party government has failed to address the need for a children's advocate, in spite of various recommendations that such a position be established; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to immediately prepare and bring forward child, youth and family advocacy legislation based on best practices in other Canadian jurisdictions for the consideration of this House at the earliest possible opportunity.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Ministerial conflict of interest
Mr. Mitchell: I have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Last week in the Legislature, I asked the Minister of Community Services to table letters he has exchanged with the Conflicts Commissioner regarding his private interests. He said yes, he would do that, and he did.
This is quite a contrast to how the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources responded. In fact, he did not respond at all. He sat silently behind the Minister of Health and Social Services. It is interesting to see different ministers use different levels of disclosure.
My question to the minister is this: will he match the level of openness set by his colleague and release all his correspondence with the Conflicts Commissioner respecting his ownership in an outfitting concession?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the first instance, the leader of the official opposition is suggesting that the said minister is not being open and accountable. I would argue that all the member has to do is pull the member's disclosure statements. Everything is clear, fully accounted for, and the transparency is certainly there.
Secondly, every member on this side of the House follows the direction of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, but at no time are we obligated to send correspondence back and forth to the members opposite. If one minister chooses to table a said correspondence, I would encourage them to do so, but I think it is clear here that the inferences are not part of what has already transpired. Full disclosure is in place, and the leader of the official opposition can access that any time he likes.
Mr. Mitchell: My question was for the minister, not for the Premier. The public wants answers from the minister.
Last week the Minister for Health and Social Services admitted the potential conflict exists. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources said it is clearly obvious that with an interest in an outfitting concession, any matters within his portfolio dealing with issues related to outfitters or outfitter land policy must be deferred to an alternate. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has refused to make any of his correspondence with the Conflicts Commissioner public. I wrote to the minister recently asking him to make this information public. I have yet to receive an answer. I am asking again today. The minister has admitted that he has the potential for conflict.
Will he table the information, as the Premier would say, in the interest of full public disclosure so the public can understand the nature of the potential conflict and the advice provided?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The issue of potential of conflict is an interesting concept, considering that the minister in question has removed himself from these areas, as directed by the Conflicts Commissioner. The member has provided full disclosure.
So I have a question for the leader of the official opposition. Is the leader making a suggestion of conflict here? Because this is not the institution for that statement or that claim. There is a better process for that, and that is outside of this institution. Make the accusation; meet the burden of proof.
Mr. Mitchell: All I'm asking for are letters. We're not making an accusation of conflict, and I'd be happy to ask these very same questions on the steps of the Legislature if that would make the Premier happy. What's the big secret, Mr. Speaker? We seem to be defensive about this issue.
Mr. Speaker, the government recently announced that it was moving ahead with a new big game outfitting land application policy that was developed by the minister's department. For the public record, will the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources confirm that he played no role in developing the newly released big game outfitting policy? For example, did he provide any direction on the development of the policy? Did he send out any letters on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, once again, I think it's clear here that we should deal with the facts of the matter. The issue of conflict is important to every member of this House, and that is why we follow direction from the Conflicts Commissioner; that is why we provide full disclosure through our disclosure documents.
But the member again is incorrect in asserting that this is somehow a new policy. This issue has existed for years, with respect to the federal government dealing with the outfitting industry on a form of sanctity of tenure. In fact, leases had been allocated before the official transfer of these files to the Yukon government, effective April 1, 2003 .
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this issue is in respect to the outfitting industry, a part of Yukon 's history and fabric that has contributed greatly to stewardship of the land and to our economic well-being. I can tell you that this government certainly does not take issue with providing sanctity of tenure for the outfitting industry. In fact, we'll continue to do so. That is our responsibility to the public. Nothing here is new. These are pre-existing sites, and the outfitting industry has others that deserve some qualification of what it is they do and invest in.
Question re: Outfitter concessions
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
There have been many objections from several First Nations and renewable resource councils that the Yukon government is proceeding with the land tenure application from a big game outfitting business. This application has serious long-term implications, and to properly respond to it requires much more time than the 45 days given to intervenors. Many of these groups are requesting that the deadline for comments be extended significantly. Let me be clear: my concern is not with the applicant; it is with the policy and the process. Yukoners are concerned that up to 800 prime, pristine wilderness sites might be snapped up without an open and transparent process being followed.
Will the minister extend the time for this process so that the many questions from the many concerned citizens can be dealt with properly?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, this process has been ongoing for the better part of two decades. To suggest that time hasn't been allowed to go through this process is incorrect - entirely correct, Mr. Speaker. Furthermore, this process is to deal with pre-existing sites on existing concession holdings. The leases are tied to the concession licence. This is not a very complicated matter. Furthermore, it doesn't mean that because someone applies for something, they get it. It must be eligible, and it must fit within the parameters of the policy that has been developed over the last two decades. We are going to continue on, as we should, as is our obligation as a public government. We will be providing technical, detailed briefings to the Council of Yukon First Nations this week. I will have further discussions with First Nations, as I always do, but I would suggest to the members opposite - especially the official opposition - that they should recognize that it's important we deal with the facts of the matter. This has been a long-term process; it is ongoing. We received the file effective April 2003, and we will continue allowing the outfitting industry to apply.
Mr. Fairclough: We're talking about trying to get the facts from the members opposite, but obviously the answer is no to that question. Here are a few organizations that have had concerns about this application: the Ta'an Kwäch'än' Council, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Teslin Renewable Resource Council, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the Carmacks Renewable Resource Council, the Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon, the territorial Department of Tourism, the Lake Laberge Renewable Resource Council and many other individuals.
What is the problem with letting people be part of the process? What is the problem with that? Mr. Speaker, we're talking about possibly thousands of hectares over the lifetime of this policy - thousands of hectares of Yukon's very best sites.
Will the minister respect the wishes of Yukoners and allow this process to see the light of day?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Before we get into a needless debate about how many hectares this may be, let me remind the Member for Mayo-Tatchun this is about pre-existing sites. Furthermore, how does the member explain, as far back as December 2002, that all First Nations were involved in this process, all resource management officers, band resource officers, renewable resource councils, many agencies in INAC and the Yukon government, including Renewable Resources, environmental health, then C&TS - now Highways and Public Works and Community Services - lands branch and so on. This has been a long, ongoing process. There's nothing new here; we're just living up to our obligations as public government.
Mr. Fairclough: I just listed off a number of First Nation and renewable resource councils that do have concerns. What the Premier just said is that it is a needless debate. Shame on the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Let's carry on to the policy now and not the process.
Under this government's policy, the whole process takes place behind closed doors. Does the Premier understand that? The Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Act is not triggered in this process, and the public is left out. There is no LARC; there is no YESAA. There is nothing.
Now, this government either has no land-use policy or one that smacks of the Dark Ages, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister or the Premier, in this case, put this whole process on hold, open this up for public scrutiny, so all interested parties can review the policy and be assured that safeguards are in place? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Speaking of the Dark Ages, the position that the official opposition is taking is archaic, ancient and no longer relevant in the Yukon Territory. This work has been ongoing. All First Nations have been involved, as I said.
Furthermore, these are existing footprints. The members opposite don't even understand YESAA - the law and the regulatory regime behind that law. These are existing footprints on the land base.
Is the member opposite suggesting that this building and existing footprint here in Yukon should be eligible for a YESAA application? I think not. It's time this territory moved ahead. The land claims have brought certainty to this territory - certainty that works both ways. These sites are third party interests protected through the land claims process. We are moving on with the long-standing policy in this territory, and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Social worker positions
Mr. Hardy: Last week the Minister of Health and Social Services said the social worker complement within child protection and family services had increased by 4.5 full-time employees since 2004-05.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the minister's math was a little shaky. He said the number of social worker positions increased from 8.5 to 14. When I went to school, 8.5 plus 4.5 equals 13, not 14; however, that is a small point. Perhaps the minister can clarify the math. Maybe he had something wrong there.
My question to him is this: does this figure of 13 or 14 positions include just people with at least a bachelor's degree in social work, or does it also include social service workers and family support workers who do not require the same level of education?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the leader of third party, of course, in this case his math is correct. What I should have pointed out to the member to fully explain the increases we have made in the field of this unit - the child protection and family services unit - is that there was an increase of one position within the 2005-06 budget year. As stated, the social worker complement in the unit in the 2004-05 budget was 8.5 positions. What I should have stated was that one position was added in 2005-06 and another 4.5 positions were added in 2006-07, making a total of 14 full-time equivalent social worker positions.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for clearing that up. Now, the minister's briefing notes obviously rely on a lot of numbers. We heard it last week, but numbers don't always tell the whole story. We have already pointed out that the full-time social work position in Dawson City has been vacant for more than two months and that Old Crow doesn't have a full-time social worker. Now we understand that there are vacancies for social workers in both Ross River and Carcross.
Can the minister confirm that another vacancy occurred as recently as last Friday when a mobile social worker resigned rather than taking a transfer to another community?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would point out that when we do have positions in communities, and indeed in Whitehorse, the department makes best efforts to fill positions if someone does choose to leave that position and move to another job, move outside the territory, or whatever their choice may be. We do have to go through the hiring process, as laid out through the Public Service Commission, and best efforts are made to hire as quickly as possible, but we can't shackle people to their jobs. People do sometimes choose to leave their positions. It is certainly not something that I as minister deal with directly; nor is it appropriate for any politician to deal with this matter and try to micromanage it. The positions are laid out. The department does its work in making best efforts to ensure that we are fully staffed at all times, but people do sometimes choose to move on to other fields or to other parts of the country.
Mr. Hardy: I think I'm pointing out that there hasn't been a full staff complement for a long time under this government.
As of this morning, the employment opportunities page of the Yukon government's Web site listed three social worker positions - one in Carcross, one in Whitehorse and one described as “various”. There's also a listing for a social services worker in Carcross and a family support worker in Whitehorse .
On Thursday, the minister said that if there are vacancies within the department, which do occur from time to time, they are addressed as quickly as possible - just as he said today. Yet, in spite of the minister's assurance, there is clearly a shortage of social workers in child protection and family services, and that's just like the shortage of doctors, nurses and other professionals.
Will the minister stop making excuses and do whatever it takes to make sure Yukon communities have the number of qualified social workers they need to prevent the kind of tragedy we've been discussing in this House for the past several days?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I appreciate the concern of the leader of the third party with respect to the importance of this matter; however, for him to suggest that within any field in government, within any profession, all areas and all positions will remain fully staffed at all times is simply not the real world. People do leave positions; best efforts are made and have to be made to fill those positions in as timely a manner as possible.
The department does a very good job. As I noted to the member, we have significantly increased the number of positions and the number of social workers who are on the job, and I would point out with respect to the vacancies the member is referring to, if he wishes to compare that to what pre-existing staffing levels were back in 2004-05, we still compare very favourably.
Again, I stress to the member opposite that these listed positions that he refers to are positions that are out right now for applicants. Clearly, best efforts are being made to hire people to fill these positions in as timely a manner as possible, and I would urge him to recognize that and recognize the good work and efforts made by the people within the Department of Health and Social Services.
Question re: Children's Act review
Mr. Hardy: I want to go back to the Minister of Health and Social Services again. Last week, the minister wouldn't make a firm commitment to act decisively on the recommendations in the review of a young girl's death in Dawson City two years ago. That's a shame, Mr. Speaker.
It's time for the minister to stop passing the buck and do something about this. The Children's Act review is no excuse for not dealing with a very, very serious issue. Will the minister now do the right thing and direct his department to take immediate action on the seven items I identified in my motion last Thursday and table a concrete action plan, including timelines, for implementing the remaining 11 recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again, I appreciate the leader of the third party's concern, but it's very frustrating dealing with the member when he consistently fails to recognize that the Yukon government has a duty to consult with First Nations on some of these matters that require legislative change. For us to implement change immediately, as the member is urging, would be to contravene our requirements under the Umbrella Final Agreement and our obligations in the consultation protocol.
I stress again to the member opposite that we are committed to moving forward as quickly as we can, but we must do it with the First Nations. We cannot stand here and break the Umbrella Final Agreement and the consultation protocol.
Mr. Hardy: There are First Nation leaders who are saying that is exactly what has been happening around consultation. There hasn't been real consultation because the government doesn't act on the advice that is given to it by the First Nations.
This is not the first set of recommendations for ways to improve child protection in the Yukon. There was an Anglin report in 2001. There was a Barnes report on the death of a young Whitehorse girl. Before either of these reports, there was a very pointed ruling by a Yukon judge on the case of a teenage mother who inflicted serious injuries on her baby by shaking it severely.
Will the minister tell us exactly what recommendations the Yukon government has implemented from these three earlier cases and why they have not all been acted on?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, again, the leader of the third party - the questions that he's coming with here are very frustrating. He's failing to recognize our obligation to consult with First Nations. I point out to the member opposite that in the Children's Act review, we have gone beyond what our strict obligations are and we are, in fact, working in partnership with First Nations in a process that is unprecedented in changing Yukon legislation.
The joint partnership, the joint development of the policy issues - we are moving forward toward a policy forum, scheduled for sometime in June, and once the policy forum is complete we will jointly be informing the legal drafters. This is a process that was practised with the act that implemented the Yukon forum but had not been dealt with before. So this is only the second time this type of process has been used.
As I've stated to the member opposite, there were some bumps in the road in proceeding along with the Children's Act review in the past. We are firmly committed to moving forward. I stress that we as a government very much want to see this act completed. It is imperative that these changes be made. We will be moving forward, and we hope and trust that First Nations will be there with us. The intent is to have revisions to the act ready for tabling this fall.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, is the minister indicating that if the First Nations are not with this government, working as equal partners around this extremely serious issue, they will plow ahead and ignore every concern that has been expressed by the First Nations? Is that what the minister is now saying? Is that the new policy of this government?
Mr. Speaker, it's very frustrating not getting answers from this minister. One of the key recommendations in the Anglin report was to establish an independent children's advocate position for the Yukon. The previous Liberal government failed to act, even when the NDP tabled a private members' bill that would have created a children's advocate position. The Yukon Party government has also completely ignored that recommendation.
Why has the minister refused to implement the very practical recommendation that would give Yukon children a full-time professional advocate and provide an independent means of monitoring how the Department of Health and Social Services acts on their behalf?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Our government has ignored no recommendations. We are moving forward. I would point out to the member opposite that following the last very unfortunate incident when a child died, which the member was referring to, and the review was last done, the previous government could have moved forward on changes to the Children's Act. They did not do so.
We are moving forward on changes to the Children's Act, and the member needs to take a read of what he has said to me on the floor of this House and recognize that at first he stands up and urges us to implement changes immediately, which would be in violation of the requirements of the Umbrella Final Agreement and the consultation protocol, and then he suggests that we can't do that and suggests that we are not committed to moving forward in partnership with First Nations. There is an obligation on the two partners here, in the interests of all Yukoners, that both First Nations and non-First Nations must be brought together. We are all very concerned about the need to protect children. I am concerned; our government is concerned, and I assure the member opposite that no one is more concerned than officials within Health and Social Services, and the suggestion that they are not doing their jobs - implying that is very offensive and inappropriate.
Question re: Children's Act review
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Christianson-Wood report - the review of child welfare services - recommends a number of policy changes. For example, it recommended that family and children's services branch develop a policy concerning internal management of high-risk cases. The minister's response has been that they are operational matters; the department will deal with it. In fairness, the department's response has been, “Policies and procedures are being reviewed and revised.”
Mr. Speaker, policies of the government are also approved by Cabinet. We also know the issue of children in care requires a great deal of political will to ensure there is follow-up and that government follows through on recommendations.
My question is this: the minister has all last week and today used the expression “we” and the “department”. Yukoners want to know where is “he”. When does “he” anticipate bringing these much-needed policy changes to his Cabinet colleagues?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I do appreciate the concerns from the Member for Porter Creek South and I would point out to her, as she stated in her question, that the department response is that these areas are being reviewed and revised and policy changes are proceeding forward - they are proceeding forward. The recommendations that came forward from the Christianson-Wood report were treated very seriously by the department and me. As I have stated before in the House and will state again, the experts we have employed will be doing the technical review in this matter - it is very highly technical and operational in nature.
I am firmly committed to working with them on implementing all necessary changes in as timely a manner as possible. Whether that be policy changes that require regulatory change through the Cabinet process, or the Children's Act review or seeking budgetary approval to implement necessary changes, I am firmly committed to working with the officials within Health and Social Services. The member may rest assured we will do that in as timely a manner as possible.
Ms. Duncan: It's more than technical; it's more than operational; it's about political will. Yukoners want to know just how much political will the minister is prepared to expend trying to implement the recommendations he has received.
The department is examining the use of child abuse registries in other jurisdictions. The minister met this weekend with other ministers from throughout the country. Although the focus of the conference was something else, the short conference also gave the minister informal time with his colleagues.
Did he make good use of this opportunity to raise an issue that should be uppermost in his mind and to learn from his colleagues and their colleagues on the establishment of a child abuse registry? Did he make good use of his time?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I appreciate the concerns from the Member for Porter Creek South. I point out that the health ministers conference this weekend was very short in time and, as she recognized, we had very limited time for discussions. It was a meeting very specific to one issue and there had been agreement among the health ministers dating back to February that it would be held solely around the issue of pandemic preparedness in the event of an influenza pandemic.
I had discussions with other ministers regarding a number of matters and I stress to the member opposite that we are doing a technical review of the technical issues related to implementing a child abuse registry. I am not sure how much more I can say to the member opposite. The department is doing their due diligence. They are doing the groundwork of the technical issues we have to resolve to implement these matters. I am firmly committed to working with them to make the necessary changes in as timely a manner as possible.
When I say “as timely a manner as possible,” I mean as timely a manner as possible; as quickly as we can.” I really can't figure out what else I need to say to the member to get my point across.
Ms. Duncan: I would stress for the minister that it's more than technical. It's more than operational. It requires political will.
Let me give the minister an example. The Yukon Legislature was able to amend the Elections Act, to deal with the matter of allowing criminals to vote, in a relatively quick time frame. Within two years, we were able to deal with that Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision on January 30, 2004, limiting the range of behaviours that are considered reasonable with regard to punishment of children. It's a very difficult issue. However, the Supreme Court decision has stood for two years, Mr. Speaker. The specific recommendation of the Christianson-Wood report is that the Children's Act should be amended to bring it into compliance with that Supreme Court ruling.
If we could do something within two years on one Supreme Court ruling, why can't we with this? This surely should be one point of agreement, a starting point, with the Children's Act. Will the minister at least bring this change, this starting point, to legislation this fall?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, again, in answer to the Member for Porter Creek South, we're not going to confine ourselves to dealing with one change or to only limit it to that. We are committed to taking the action that is necessary to improve the system.
I would also point out to the member opposite, to the members of the third party and to the editor of the Yukon News that the officials within Health and Social Services are very hard-working, dedicated people. We have a good system. It needs improvement. We all recognize that. We are committed to taking those actions. How much political will is there? All that's necessary. We will move forward.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, 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. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07. We'll continue with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 20 - First Appropriation Act, 2006-07 - continued
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources - continued
Chair: We will continue with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07. We are in general debate on Vote 53, Energy, Mines and Resources.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In closing on Thursday afternoon during the debate on Energy, Mines and Resources and the budget, I found some of the comments by the Member for Porter Creek South on the Mayo-Dawson line very interesting. I want to make it very clear to the House that as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources - also responsible for the overseeing of the Crown corporation - I feel it is very important that we as government, and I as minister, take full responsibility for the department. We are the voice for the department; we do work internally within government to do best by the department - in other words, have it managed at a high level of efficiency and to certain standards. When we do make mistakes, they have to be addressed from the top down.
The Member for Porter Creek South, who was the premier of the day, was responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation in her portfolio, if I'm not mistaken. She stood up in the House on Thursday and commented that, of course, the issues with the Mayo-Dawson line were not the responsibility of the minister. They were a technical management issue, and the government of the day had no responsibility for the management or mismanagement of the Mayo-Dawson line.
I find that interesting, because in the portfolio of Energy, Mines and Resources and, of course, the Yukon Energy Corporation, there are a lot of things going on. We certainly, as politicians, cut the ribbons. As the minister, I feel that I have to take responsibility for some decisions that go awry.
I find it amazing - not “amazing”, Mr. Chair, because I think it's the Liberal trend across the country that we don't take responsibilities for things -
Chair: Order please. I would just remind the member of our Standing Orders and the rules of decorum, which do call for us not to insult one another or cast aspersions on another's character.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I apologize if I did that, Mr. Chair.
The issue is responsibility. This government takes responsibility very seriously. I as the minister take my responsibility very seriously. I will, as part of my job description, take the responsibility for actions my department takes - good or bad - and I will address those actions to the general public.
That's why I was elected. That's why the Premier put me in the position that I'm in today. Part of that is the Energy Corporation. So when issues like the Mayo-Dawson line are brought forward, those issues are serious issues that impact all Yukoners. Whether it's the City of Dawson - those are issues that were decisions made inside government that didn't go as well as they could have and, of course, people have to take responsibility.
So getting back to Energy, Mines and Resources, I just wanted to bring that to the floor, Mr. Chair, because I felt that it wasn't completely handled last Thursday. The issue was brought forward. The Member for Porter Creek South was very clear about the Liberal government of the day, how they saw their responsibility on the Mayo-Dawson line.
So I want to clarify this government's position and the different direction we took. We take direction from the taxpayers of the Yukon, and we are responsible for our departments, and we will answer for those departments.
So I will open the floor to the members opposite for questions on the budget of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McRobb: I do have some questions remaining in the area of energy for this minister. Where we left on Thursday was trying to get some information on this proposed Carmacks to Stewart transmission line. It was disappointing to discover that the minister was unable to even provide an estimated cost for that line. I know that in years past there have been estimates provided, yet this project is being advanced by the Yukon Party government and this minister without the provision of an estimated cost.
I'm quite concerned, because we do recall what happened with the Mayo to Dawson transmission line and the cost overruns of that project.
What we need is full public disclosure right from the get-go on this project and we also need to monitor it very closely to ensure this project is done the right way in accordance with the suggestions from the Auditor General of Canada . That includes from the minister's desk on down to the Yukon Energy Corporation officials and the public consultation and the contracting and so on.
We already have a failure at the ministerial level with his refusal to provide an estimate for the cost of this project. This is rather alarming because already we're picking up indications that this project could be far more costly than what has been suggested to the public. The minister needs to bring this number out of the closet and put it on the table where everybody can see it.
How much is the project going to cost? We're just asking for an estimate - that's all. It doesn't have to be a final cost. That will come in following the completion of the project when all the receipts are tallied; we'll then know the actual total. We're looking for an estimated cost. Even though I asked the minister several times last week, he refused to provide us with an estimated figure. I don't get it.
Mr. Chair, I visited the Web site for the Yukon Energy Corporation, and in a few minutes I gleaned more information than after about an hour of discussion with the minister. Some of what I gleaned from the Web site pertains to the process that will be used in advancing this major project. It says right here - and I'll put it on the record so the public can be aware of this - that any decision to proceed with construction of the transmission line is contingent on the following - and there are four points. The first one is satisfactory arrangements with First Nation communities in order to identify and finalize a transmission line route through areas that must cross First Nation final settlement lands. That work is being undertaken at the present time by the officials working for the Yukon Energy Corporation and that presumably would include contractors.
The second requirement is sufficient financial support from the Yukon government to ensure ratepayers are protected from associated rate increases. We dealt with this last December when officials from the Yukon Energy Corporation appeared in here - I believe it was December 8 - and I questioned them for about an hour and a half. This was the information they put on the record as well.
When I ask the minister what the Yukon government's contribution is, he still doesn't know, and this is six months later. He still doesn't know how much the Yukon government will contribute to this project, yet he is the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. I would submit there is a very significant example here for lack of disclosure. The public needs to know the estimated costs of the line and what the government intends to contribute as well as how and when.
The third requirement is agreements with major customers such as mines that provide commitments to purchase Yukon Energy Corporation power. This goes without saying that a demand has to be there and a requirement from customers has to be there in order to justify the project. We know that discussions have taken place with two mining proponents - and demand for communities such as Pelly Crossing, which would use the grid power if this project proceeds. Those load requirements are known quantities, yet the minister has failed to provide us with any figures about the demand of power along this route that a transmission line would service.
That's a very important part of the equation. I would imagine the amount of power required currently exceeds the excess power available on both the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid to the south and the Mayo-to-Dawson grid to the north. This raises a bigger question. If the power demand exceeds the existing power supply, then what new sources of power is the minister contemplating for development? Well, do we hear anything from him about this? The answer is no, Mr. Chair. We've asked him, and he refuses to give any information relevant to this issue.
Now, about a year ago, we asked him for his position on coal-fired thermal generation, and he will recall that I explored this matter with him at length. Near the end of that discussion, we did get a commitment from the minister that he would not make a decision approving a coal-fired thermal generation plant during his term in office. Well, we're almost near the end of the term in office, but I would like to know if the minister is proceeding behind the scenes with such a proposal? There was a news story last week or late the week before - Thursday, May 11, on CKRW news, where the proponent of the Braeburn coal project, owned by Cash Minerals Ltd., raised the possibility of the Yukon government working on developing that project.
Now the proponent has not tried in the least to hide the fact that his business plan calls for the extraction and export of a significant amount of coal reserves from the Division Mountain site. Part and parcel of that development plan is the possibility of developing a mine-mouth coal plant, or a thermal electrical generation plant.
The dots are all but connected on this, and we need the minister to come out of the closet and tell us if he will be proceeding with the coal-fired thermal plant related to the Division coal property, which could supply power to these proposed mining customers along the route of the proposed Carmacks-to-Stewart transmission line.
We believe that development is good. The mining properties at Sherwood Copper and Carmacks Copper are developments that would employ a significant number of Yukoners. These projects are not new. We've heard the Yukon Party try to take credit somehow for these projects, but it's wrong to do that. We know that world metal prices are driving the current mining boom. Actually, it's bigger than just mining: it's a world demand boom for natural resources, but these projects go back years.
I remember participating in the Yukon Utilities Board capital planning process in 1992, which identified the Carmacks Copper mine load and identified options to service that electrical demand load.
As far as this whole transmission line proposal from Carmacks to Stewart Crossing, it is nothing new either. It has been around for decades. There is nothing new about it. If there are loads that materialize between Carmacks and Stewart in addition to the existing loads that make this project financially feasible, then by all means it should proceed. But what the minister has done is to interfere in that process by coming out and announcing that the Yukon government will make a significant contribution. The reason for that is to protect ratepayers. Usually that statement is made because the project doesn't make sense on its own, so the Yukon Party government wants to subsidize this project. Has it done that? The answer is no, Mr. Chair. We have reviewed the budget in sufficient detail to see that there is nothing in the budget to allow the construction of this project to commence. There is some planning and facilitation money that amounts to a very small fraction of what we expect the final estimated costs to be.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Thank you. The minister is inviting me to sit down so I am hoping he has a lot of answers to these questions that I have raised.
Just to summate for his convenience, I would like to know the estimated cost of the transmission line, I would like to know what the government's share is going to be, and when and how the government's share would be conveyed, and I would like to see the figures for demand and load scenarios for these two mining customers along the route in combination with existing customers, such as those in Pelly Crossing. To round that question off, we also need to know what the available excess electricity is on both of the grids.
This is basic information in order for anyone to give a brief analysis of this situation and determine what, if any, future supply options are needed in the way of development to service the loads. I'd like to give that to the minister. I will await his full responses.
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the member opposite, it's good to see him take advantage of the Web site the Yukon Energy Corporation has put together to answer questions for the general public. Again, it's a tool that we as government use. Of course, the Yukon Energy Corporation uses it to get as much information as possible out into the hands of the general public.
As far as making a commitment on prices, we are not prepared to make those estimates here today. There is a lot of work to be done. We as a government have put forward $450,000 for the Yukon Energy Corporation to do just that. That's called “homework.”
If the plan was put together to move forward with the power line moving from Carmacks to Pelly, the demand of the two mine sites would, in essence, max out the hydro potential we have in south Yukon. If we were to tie the grids together from Carmacks to Stewart Crossing, the excess power certainly would be an advantage that is generated in Mayo.
Of course, we have a lot of expansion potential in the Mayo area. With United Keno Hill and Alexco buying it and moving forward with potentially opening that mine and, of course, the other properties in the area, we are going to have some issues with power. I look forward to seeing the draft copy that is coming out of the Yukon Energy Corporation within the next month. Of course, that draft policy will be brought forward, and there will be public consultations throughout the Yukon to put a business plan toward how we are going to address the power issue for Yukon over the next 20-year period.
I look forward to that. As far as a Division Mountain or Braeburn coal deposit is concerned, in the House two years ago, we made a commitment that we weren't looking at coal-fired generation; we aren't today. I'm not sure what Division Mountain is doing. We're looking forward to having their feasibility study brought forward on the export of coal. They are working on that feasibility study and they're working with the port of Skagway. We look forward to working with them on their business plan to see if the coal mine is viable and if there's a business argument for moving the product into Skagway and then off to the market.
As far as the questions from the member opposite, I appreciate his honesty on the Mayo-Dawson line and the last government's way of handling it. We are certainly not going to follow the last government's way of putting the Carmacks-to-Pelly-to-Stewart project together. We're going to get some firm prices. We aren't going to debate them on the floor of the House until such time as we have some prices so we can look at the prices and see if there's a business plan.
The business plan has to be made. As the member opposite commented, you have to have customers at the other end. Minto is a customer; Carmacks Copper is going forward with their feasibility study; there's no commitment on their part that they would participate in this hydro line and, until they come out with a production plan, we are concerned about the volume of customers we have for the line.
The member opposite is anxious for prices. We on this side of the House are very anxious for prices to see if we can sit down and make the business case to move forward with the expansion of the hydro line.
As far as how the territorial government will participate, that's another question. Until the business plan is put together, we as a government are committed to work with Yukoners to expand our grid. That's only good management.
I compliment the Energy Corporation and the board of directors for being as farsighted as they are on the project. They're looking very positively at this.
But at the end of the day, it's all dollars and cents. Does it make economic sense for us in the Yukon at this time? So whatever study we put together will not be a wasted study because at the end of the day somebody somewhere down the line is going to tie the two grids together. It only makes good sense, but in turn it has to make financial sense. The argument has to be put in front of us and, of course, it will have to be put in front of Yukoners to make sure that we have a buy-in to move forward with any project of this size.
If we learned anything from the Mayo-Dawson line, if we learned anything from the ongoing saga of the Mayo-Dawson line - I remind you, Mr. Chair, the Mayo-Dawson line is not resolved. It is not resolved. We are still working on trying to complete the financial package or to clarify the difference in our figures between the corporation and the contractor. So the Mayo-Dawson line is not done. The Mayo-Dawson line is getting there. We have agreements, I think, in place to work with an arbitrator to try to get some clarification on these numbers that are thrown around. But I think that by throwing out numbers on costs like the Member for Kluane would like me to do only creates questions, and the questions should be firmer than that. The member should get firm figures that are in a ballpark - in other words, if it's going to be whatever figure, it has to be a figure that we can work with. I give a full commitment to the member opposite that as soon as I have figures in front of me that I can stand up in this House and quote, with, by the way, some background on the figures to tell the member opposite how I got those figures, then I will not stand up in the House and quote figures that have no foundation.
The member opposite can stand up until next Wednesday and ask me every 15 minutes to throw a figure out there, and I will stand up and I will say to the Member for Kluane that I am not prepared at this time to put any figures in front of the members of this House until such a time as the business plan is put together, the argument is put together and we have some figures to work with. The figures will dictate, and that's what the Energy Corporation is doing at the moment - putting together the figures to prove to Yukoners that this is a good deal for Yukoners.
We're not building this line just for the mine; we are building this line for Yukoners. As we know, mines open and mines close. So if we are going to put an expansion on the hydro line, we have to make a business scenario that works for all Yukoners.
What happens if the mine closes in five years, Mr. Chair? What contribution is the corporation going to make to the hydro line? Those are questions that the Energy Corporation is working with and the energy company is very aware of the obligation it has to Yukoners. You must take into consideration that three and a half years ago the last hydro line between Mayo and Dawson went so bad that we have to do our homework this time. As the Member for Kluane said, we have to make sure we do not repeat the Mayo-Dawson line. How is this government going to do that? We are going to do our homework, get actual figures, sit down and work with those figures and see if they are viable - and also from where those figures came from. We will do that on this side of the House. At that point I will stand up in this House and give the Member for Kluane the figures. At that point we will know the figures. We will know where the figures came from and if in fact they make any business sense.
Mr. McRobb: Talk about making sense - those were the minister's own words. I'm trying to make sense of his offer. He says he'll stand up in the House and give us the figures when they're available, but it won't be before next Wednesday. Will there be another sitting under the term of this government and this minister? It's unlikely. I suppose it's possible but, if there is, it probably wouldn't happen until September and it might be a very short sitting. By September the corporation will have done a lot of its public consultation with the numbers I'm requesting, so I don't think that's a very sensible offer.
I would like to ask him if he would provide me with what's known as a legislative return that puts in writing the answers to my questions, which he can answer as soon as he has the information available. That way if it's June or July or even August when the information becomes available, he can send over the return and I can get the information; we won't have to wait for another sitting in which he can stand up and tell us the answers that we will, by that time, already know.
So, would he oblige the request for a legislative return and provide it when the information becomes known?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again I'd like to repeat to the member opposite that we are going to be working with the Energy Corporation to get some rationalized figures for the proposed project. I would remind the member opposite that this is a proposed project; it's not a project for which any decisions have been made at the moment. We have resources for the corporation to do just that: put some figures on paper on costs and work with the First Nation, as the member was saying. The right-of-way is a question and also getting the customer base. Minto mine is very interested; as he said, Carmacks Copper has some interest.
I remind the member opposite that Carmacks Copper has not made any decisions to go into production as of yet. I'm not saying they're not moving forward to that decision, but they certainly aren't in a position like Minto is at the moment. To take the hydro line from Carmacks to Pelly to service Pelly without other customers does not make financial sense. Pelly does not have the load that it would require to justify building that extensive of a line to the community of Pelly.
With Minto, of course, that puts a different business slant to it. Of course, if Carmacks Copper came on-line, that would even be more of a business plan.
Again, the corporation has a job to do. The job is being done by very capable people. We are looking toward the final report when I can stand up in the House here, or whatever minister is in place here in the future, and give some figures to the House on actual costs of building a line between Carmacks and Pelly .
Then, of course, you have to look at the bigger picture and what would happen if we were to take the line to Stewart Crossing. There is another cost from Pelly to Stewart.
Then we would have to look at the Mayo-Dawson line to see if it could handle all of this. I am told - again, I am not an electrical engineer - that if we were to start managing our entire grid - tying the north grid into the south grid - we would have to rewire the Mayo-Dawson line, because it was undersized when it was built the first time.
There are lots of questions to be answered. The Yukon Energy Corporation is working on that. They are keeping me informed as they move forward. Of course, again, I recommend to the member opposite the corporation's Web site. It's accessible to anybody in the Yukon who has access to a computer. All that is public information. The corporation is a publicly owned company, and they work very hard to ensure that as much information as they have gets out into the hands of the general public as soon as possible.
So this debate about the Pelly-Carmacks-Minto - Carmacks Copper line is going to be a debate. It will be discussed, and the corporation will be bringing those figures forward hopefully in the near future.
I am looking forward to the proposed 20-year plan to see how the corporation is looking at the future of the corporation. Again, I remind the House that this plan will be taken throughout the Yukon. There will be consultation, and there will be discussions throughout the communities to make sure that everybody is aware of the plan, and interested parties can debate with the corporation on that plan. So as far as the corporation working in a situation where the information isn't getting out, I think the corporation is doing an excellent job of putting information out into the hands of Yukoners. Of course, the information has to be as correct as possible. In other words, there is information like the member opposite debates about costs and overruns and all of these things that are the nature of this expansion. He is also very concerned about what happened with the Liberal Party on the Mayo-Dawson line. He certainly doesn't want to have his party make those mistakes again, and I hope that the next power line is handled in a better fashion. It has to be handled in a more business-like fashion. I hope any government that comes in here over the next couple of years will use the Mayo-Dawson line as an example of how not to put a hydro line in between Mayo and Dawson, but it is in. The corporation has done a fine job of getting that line up and running and maintaining it and doing all the things that were neglected during construction. I take my hat off to those individuals who have been working over the last couple of years to do just that.
So, in answer to the questions of the Member for Kluane on cost, those costs will come out and the business plan will be put forward. How much money the territorial government will have to put in a project and how that money would flow is something that will have to be addressed at such time as a business plan is put together. We do not want to put any more on the backs of the ratepayers than we already have put on the backs of the ratepayers, so it's very important for this government - and I hope for the next government - that we minimize any cost of hydro expansion falling on the consumer.
If it doesn't make good business sense at this time - you might find that the business plan put forward is not a viable plan for the near future. But the plan will be a plan that can be looked at down the road and brought back up if, in fact, individuals or the corporation down the road decide to take another look at it.
So all the work the Energy Corporation is doing will be used. I'm not saying to the member opposite that the power line from Carmacks to Pelly is a done deal. We're a long way from making that decision. When we say a long way, I mean the Energy Corporation. We certainly aren't looking at coal-fired generation. The corporation isn't looking at it, at the moment. As far as anybody working with Division Mountain on that concept, that is not factual. There are no discussions about coal-fired generation, whether at the mine site or in Chicago. There have been no conversations with me on that topic. I made a commitment a year or two ago that this government was not prepared to look at coal-fired generation at this time - “this time” means the life of this government. I'm not going to tie the hands of the next government because they make decisions on issues they have to address when that government is in office.
This government will not entertain coal-fired generation, and this government doesn't see a need for coal-fired generation. The demand is not here for that level of power production.
At the moment over 90 percent of our customers are on hydro. They are on hydro today. As far as the extension of the line, I am told - through the Energy Corporation - that if the line were to go from Carmacks to Pelly and both mines came on-line, we would use up most of our excess hydro power at the moment on the southern grid. If we were to tie the grid together with the northern grid - in other words, if we could manage all our hydro - we would have an excess of power at that point, but if at that point Alexco started Keno Hill, that would diminish that resource.
We do have an issue with how the Yukon is looking forward to managing the power or supplying power. I look forward to the Energy Corporation's draft plan that is coming out, according to the corporation, within the month. Then, of course, it will be a public document, and I imagine they will move ahead with consultation with the communities and make sure that the plan is a workable plan and that Yukoners accept it, and we move forward into managing our power over the next 20-year period.
Mr. McRobb: I was hoping we could have a progressive discussion this afternoon. But, after listening to the minister, obviously it's somewhat of a regressive discussion, because virtually every one of the issues he raised we had already touched on. We were looking for some numbers he could provide by way of a legislative return later this summer when the information becomes available, and he refused to oblige my request.
In addition to his regressive remarks, he was all over the map from Dawson City to Chicago, as I recall. He seemed to dwell on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line project, and he likes to blame the previous government, but there are a couple of things I want to put on the record about that project.
Sure, the cost overruns are inexcusable. They are too high, and I'm sure they could have been avoided, as the Auditor General has pointed out. But do you know what? A lot of those overruns occurred under this minister's watch, and they are still occurring today as he just admitted himself. That is point one.
Point two is that this minister sat on the board of directors for the Yukon Energy Corporation back in the days when this line was being envisioned and discussed. I would submit that, as a member of the board of directors, this minister discussed the Mayo-Dawson transmission line.
Point three is that the board of directors gave a unanimous decision to the government of the day to proceed with this project. How many times have we heard the minister stand up and say he doesn't interfere with the corporation and he respects the decisions made by the board? Well, it leaves me wondering just what, if anything different, this minister would have done.
I would submit the answer to that is, “Nothing.”
We would be seeing his name in the documents instead of somebody else's because he follows virtually the same policy.
Finally, he still has friends on this board of directors today who have spanned NDP governments, Liberal governments and Yukon Party governments and have been reappointed by each of those governments.
There have been people of all political stripes on the board. The board reviewed these decisions in detail and made a unanimous decision, I understand, and the government of the day respected it. But there's political hay to be made and I guess we have to give the minister some time, in the interests of agriculture - another one of his responsibilities - to air the hay and try to flog the hay. He certainly has made a lot of use of that.
I'm more interested in making progress with the issues of today, not the issues three, four, five or six years ago. I want the information I asked for in my previous question. I want the minister to be mindful of answering the question of the legislative return. He regressively pointed out that the corporation has a Web site.
Mr. Chair, when I first rose this afternoon, I indicated I was reading from the corporation's Web site. There's not a whole lot of information about this transmission line project on the corporation's Web site, but what is available discloses some information of interest. I outlined that there were four bullets and I got to read three of them. I'll put on record now that the fourth one says this: securing necessary environmental approvals and permits, including licences under the new Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act, or YESAA.
Now, Mr. Chair, the timelines for the consultation apparently are over the course of the summer, beginning sometime after the legislative sitting ends. Now, as a Yukoner, I can predict something right now, and that is that consultations in the summertime in the Yukon are not a popular thing. This government ought to know that. I remember the original rendition of the Yukon Party government met a lot of opposition to various undertakings it tried to sideline to the summer. Look, Yukoners spend a lot of time inside in winter, and when summer comes, they want to be out on the land and enjoying the outdoors, not forced to read discussion papers and attend meetings inside. If at all possible, the government must realize that.
So here's the minister now. He's saying that the consultation for this project will take place this summer. Well, there you go. That's what the Yukon Party thinks about the public - it's going to hold these important meetings in the summer. Furthermore, the minister referenced his resource plan and said that the consultations will be starting shortly. Well, this is a second undertaking the government is going to be consulting on in the area of energy alone. What's wrong with the minister? Doesn't he get it, or does he want to hold these consultations when nobody is available - is that it? Because that's about what it comes down to.
There are other matters as well. Where is the annual meeting the president of the corporation is supposed to hold? In 2005, there was no public meeting. Then, when the officials appeared here last December, I believe they indicated there would be a public meeting in the spring. Well, there is still no notice in the papers of a public meeting coming up and it's the middle of May. The soonest this public meeting can be held is June. Guess what - another public consultation into the summer, just in the area of energy. These are just a couple of matters.
What about the governance policy that has been sitting on the minister's desk since last August? I was at a meeting of the Utilities Consumers Group about a month ago and the president was asked about the governance relationship document. The president said, “Don't point the finger at me. It has been on the minister's desk since August.” He seemed rather exasperated, and I could tell why. The officials at the corporation have done everything they can. They developed the Cabinet submission for the minister, and the minister has done nothing with it. It is lost on his desk, along with the resource plan everybody says he has but hasn't found yet.
I would suggest the minister should spend a weekend in his office going through the stack of papers on his desk and he will find this Cabinet submission from August about the governance relationship. We need to know how the policies will be changed between the government level and the officials at the corporation, especially before a major project such as this transmission line proceeds. We need to know where the lines are drawn. We need to know if the minister ever steps over that line. We need to know, because the minister himself has said that government will play a large role in making a contribution to the project to make it financially feasible.
So the government is subsidizing the project. Well, we need to know if the involvement of the minister is on the good side of the line of governance or on the other side of the line of governance, but we haven't seen the governance policy. Here we are with five days left in this sitting, and guess what? I predict we won't see that policy before the end of this sitting. We won't see it.
You know what? This minister hasn't consulted the public about that policy yet. Is that something else that will be consulted on in the summer when people are out fishing in the lakes or sightseeing or hiking or maybe touring with relatives who have come to the Yukon - when they can't find the time to make it to these indoor meetings even though they are fascinating subjects, talking about megawatt and gigawatt hours and transmission lines and various stages of the process. I am sure nobody would want to miss one of those meetings.
Let me ask the minister this: what does he plan to do with respect to consultation on the governance policy and when can we expect that policy out?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find it amusing that the Member for Kluane, now that he is sitting with his new party, was the member who wanted a public inquiry on the Mayo-Dawson line - demanded a public inquiry.
We got the Auditor General to come forward and do a review of the Energy Solutions Centre and of the Mayo-Dawson line. This government did that, Mr. Chair.
The member opposite moves over 12 feet, and we forget about the public inquiry and now he is a defender of his new-found party on the Mayo-Dawson line and the management ability of the government of the day on the Mayo-Dawson line.
My, my, what 12 feet does - no public inquiry demanded now, Mr. Chair, no public inquiry. The Auditor General did do a review, and governance is a question - how the governance will work. That is coming forward. We are working with the Energy Corporation to do just that. And again, once it's done, it will be public information.
The Member for Kluane stood up in this House and insinuated that I was part and parcel of the Mayo-Dawson line project because at one point I sat on the board of the Energy Corporation. When I sat on the board of the Energy Corporation, the Mayo-Dawson line was never mentioned. I want to make that very clear. I was never part and parcel of any decisions on the Mayo-Dawson line while I sat on the board of directors of the Energy Corporation.
So, when the member insinuates that, I would like to make it very clear that if you look back on the Yukon Energy Corporation when I was a member, for a very short period of time, there were no plans in the works for the Mayo-Dawson tie-in. Again the member opposite has to be corrected on that fact.
Now, as far as the Mayo-Dawson line - as the member opposite goes back to the Mayo-Dawson line in his rush to defend it - the facts speak for themselves. The Auditor General's overview speaks for itself. We as a government had the Auditor General come forward to do an independent overview of the Mayo-Dawson line.
Mr. Speaker, the government of the day cannot hide behind the fact that the Mayo-Dawson line was done on their watch. You have to take the good with the bad in government. Mr. Chair, the Mayo-Dawson hydro line was a bad deal for Yukoners.
We're still paying for it. They can stand up and argue the price of diesel and what would have been saved or whatever, but my argument to the members opposite, or to the Yukon , is wouldn't it be nice to have the contract come in at the price that was projected? Instead of $40 million or $50 million, maybe we could have looked at $20 million.
The members opposite talked about it being a good deal at any price. That's a great attitude. That's a good way to run a hydro line - good at any price. That's a very strong argument for Yukoners who go to work every day to pay their light bill.
So when the member opposite, in his defence of the Mayo-Dawson line - and by the way, we have been at this for an hour and a half - let's get to work on the Energy, Mines and Resources budget. As the Member for Kluane stated, we only have four or five days, and we have a long line of departments that we have to discuss in the House, so let's get realistic about the time we have left. We have very little time and, as the Member for Kluane and I go on and on about the Energy Corporation, I couldn't be any clearer than I am. The Energy Corporation is doing its job. The Energy Corporation is finalizing the Mayo-Dawson line; the Energy Corporation is doing a business overview of a tie-in for the Carmacks-Pelly line. It's a long way from making any decisions. Government does not stop; the Energy Corporation doesn't stop because it's summer, and the argument is that nothing happens in the summer because somebody is walking in the parks. The Energy Corporation has a responsibility to Yukoners 12 months a year.
As their business plan comes forward - in other words, the 20-year plan - there will be public consultation. That public consultation will go through all the Yukon communities so that interested parties can view it, talk about it, add some input to it, if they feel it has some shortcomings. Then the Energy Corporation has to come back here and put a final draft together. Their work is cut out for them.
We as a government are very interested in seeing what the final figures are going to be in the business plan for the Carmacks-Pelly line. Also, the business plan has to involve how it will be paid for. If the Yukon government can be of some assistance, then we are prepared - this government is prepared - to look at it.
That's all I can say about the Carmacks-Pelly extension. That's where it's at at the moment. I'm sure the Yukon Energy Corporation Web site will have all the information pertaining to the Carmacks-Pelly line as it unfolds. I look forward to that.
As far as putting figures on the floor about prices and what the line is going to cost - what size line? We could have a debate on that. We could talk in the House here about if we should have one size or the other. What would be the merits of the telephone posts, Mr. Chair, or the towers? Would it be better to have metal or wood? I'm not prepared to get into that debate with the Member for Kluane, with all his expertise.
I think the budget for Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is an important tool for the economic future of the Yukon, and I'd like to debate it.
I'd like get back to Energy, Mines and Resources. In the fall, the president and a group from the Energy Corporation will be in here. I look forward to that. The member opposite can debate and ask questions, and we can move on. As far as a decision being made for the power line between Carmacks and Pelly, it hasn't happened. There will be an extensive consultation and business plan before any decision will be made to resolve the issue of the potential of the power line.
I would appreciate it if we could move on and get Energy, Mines and Resources behind us. We have Health and Social Services coming up next, which is an extensive department and one of our largest in terms of dollars spent. I think the members opposite should have the chance to discuss Energy, Mines and Resources and the Health and Social Services budget. The way I feel we're going this afternoon diminishes the time we have to debate these other budgets.
I would recommend to the Member for Kluane that he stay on track, move forward with Energy, Mines and Resources and let's get on with the debates on all the budgets in the government, so we can get out of here in the next five days and so the members opposite have an opportunity to critique all these other budgets.
Chair: Before debate continues, the Chair will note that it has been a very wide-ranging debate. We are currently not on Vote 22 for the Yukon Development Corporation. We will get there. We are currently on Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and unless the Chair gets some other direction that we are to move on to this other department, that is where we will stay. I am going to ask members to please make your comments relevant to Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McRobb: I believe the connection is there through the energy branch and the energy policy, Mr. Chair. We only drift away when the minister starts talking about minutiae, including what type of power pole or what size of line. I would remind you, Mr. Chair, those are factors raised by the minister, not me.
The minister throws out a challenge to be more productive. Well, he has to respond to our questions in order to make progress himself.
Already there are a couple that are outstanding. Number one, will he provide the legislative return that was described in detail? Number two, will he provide the information on the governance-relationship policy I asked in the last question? And for a new question this time, what can he tell us about the resource plan? When will a draft be made available and when will the consultations occur?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again we're back into the Energy Corporation, but in answering the last question, I have been told by the Energy Corporation that the 20-year plan should be in the hands of the general public within a month.
Mr. McRobb: All right, that still leaves two outstanding questions. There has been discussion about the comprehensive energy policy by this minister. It has been under wraps within his department for about four years now. We were told this would be brought to this House, but we haven't seen it. We know the House will be rising shortly after 5:00 p.m. next Wednesday. It hasn't been confirmed whether or not there will be a fall sitting, contrary to what the minister said a couple of minutes ago about the officials being present to answer questions in the fall.
So, Mr. Chair, where is this energy policy and when will the consultation occur, or will there be consultation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the Member for Kluane, there will certainly be consultation involved. We are just starting on the plan and it will unfold probably sometime next year. So, under the next government, the policy will be out. Consultation will be part of that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, isn't that interesting? The government won't be developing it at all - another hard-work exercise the government failed to roll up its sleeves and do in its four years at the helm.
Mr. Chair, I want to move now to the area of Northern Cross and ask the minister what he can tell us about the Northern Cross application and the possibilities of a Yukon refinery. What information can he share with us?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Northern Cross has always had a vision of a portable refinery. I can tell the member opposite that they have again voiced, with the price of diesel and the price of petroleum the way it is today, that they're looking at a business plan to see if it's viable. The business plan to sell the product is one thing, but they have to do an overview, a pumping volume test on-site for a 12-month period to rationalize the volumes, and that hasn't been proceeded with. I would say to the member opposite that Northern Cross is looking at it, but they have a lot of work to do before there would be a mobile refinery in the Eagle Plains area.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to know if there is anything in the budget to help that along. We know the federal Conservative government has cut the EnerGuide program and other like programs. I would like the minister to indicate for us the impact of these federal cuts on his department's programs and services.
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have had staff in Ottawa do just what the Member for Kluane has requested: find out exactly what impact that would have on our jurisdiction, understanding that the budget just came out in Ottawa.
Mr. McRobb: All right. What about the Northern Cross question?
Hon. Mr. Lang: They've made no request about funding in any way. Northern Cross is looking at it from a business perspective, and they are moving forward on that level. As far as providing resources to Northern Cross, it isn't something this government is doing at the moment.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Have his officials been apprised of the timing of the next general rate application? What can he tell us about the scheduling of that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The corporation is working on that. I haven't got a time schedule for the member opposite, but it is in the radar screen of the corporation to move forward with one.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with a legislative return at the same time he responds to the two outstanding questions - one on the governance relationship and the other about the information related to the transmission line project?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, for the member opposite, as soon as the plan is put forward by the corporation, the general public will be aware of it and the plan the corporation has to go forward on it.
It's another thing the corporation is working on. I have to say that the corporation has had a very busy couple of years. They've done an incredible job of pulling together the team in Yukon Energy Corporation to address the issue that this government was left with - the Mayo-Dawson line that the member opposite was just talking about.
I appreciate his concerns that any line built in the future would not be built, as he said, under the same guidance that of the Mayo-Dawson line.
Of course, with the Auditor General's report, there are a lot of issues about governance that have to be answered, and we are answering those with the corporation to make sure we have a transparent corporation that works for the benefit of all consumers and all Yukoners.
I remind the member opposite that the corporation is owned by all Yukoners. It is owned by the Yukon population. Anything we do for that corporation to diminish the value of that corporation or minimize the capability of that corporation is something we have to take very seriously.
Mr. McRobb: I wish the minister were as accountable and forthcoming as the corporation in providing information. I've asked him a number of questions this afternoon that he has failed to provide, and he has escaped making a commitment to provide the information in the coming month or so.
Obviously this minister had his chance to be accountable and provide the information, and he has opted not to do that.
My final question goes back to the transmission line project the energy officials are working on within his department. I know there's an interdepartmental working group. Why did the minister choose to hire an Outside consulting firm to lead the project - I'm talking about InterGroup Consultants Ltd. - rather than Yukon Electrical or one of the subsidiaries of ATCO, which the minister described in here just last week or so as a Yukon company. I'll remind you, Mr. Chair, the ATCO group of companies, as recently as last year, won a major award for the completion and construction of a power line in Alberta . So, much to its credit, it has been there and done that and excelled along the way at a similar project.
Why did the minister choose to go to a Manitoba consulting company to head up this project?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find the Member for Kluane very interesting - how 12 feet made a big change of outlook on the Mayo-Dawson line - 12 short feet. We went from a public inquiry to defending it.
The other one we are now defending is ATCO, the company that the members opposite questioned about their building qualifications for the college. They stood up in the House - and actually the leader of the official opposition made comments that were very, very interesting about the capabilities of ATCO to participate in our community.
As far as the Energy Corporation's hiring of individuals, I leave that to the internal workings of the corporation. I am not hiring people for the Energy Corporation. They are working with the best people they can hire. I am certain they will be working with ATCO and all the other energy corporations that they can to garner as much knowledge as they can.
By the way, Mr. Chair, hopefully this time we will listen to corporations like ATCO and other energy corporations that do just that - put in hydro lines - because that was what was lacking on the Mayo-Dawson line. That was the one on which the Member for Kluane was demanding a public inquiry, which, I would say, would be quite interesting because at the end of the day we didn't have the expertise to build the Mayo-Dawson line. The proof was in the eating of the pudding. We are still dealing with the Mayo-Dawson line. It is not a done deal and we are still paying for the Mayo-Dawson line.
When the member opposite is talking about the Carmacks-Pelly extension and costs and all things pertaining to that, and the expertise the Yukon Energy Corporation is going to use to build that line, I hope that when they go out and do exactly what this member is questioning that they're doing, that they hire the best expertise they can so that we minimize any situation that might arise, as did in the Mayo-Dawson line.
I remind the member opposite that the Auditor General wrote a scathing overview of the management of the Mayo-Dawson line. The Auditor General was brought into the Energy Solutions Centre. Again, in answering the Member for Kluane, it was a scathing overview of the management of an independent arm of the government.
This government is not prepared to repeat that. I hope that the team at the Yukon Development Corporation - I think they have had their eyes opened on the Mayo-Dawson line. In answering the member opposite's question on why they would hire this person and why they wouldn't have hired that person - that's what happened in the Mayo-Dawson line. Instead of hiring expertise, we hired individuals, I guess, with very little expertise. I am not going to question why we hired those people, because it's not my position to do that. The Auditor General of Canada did an independent overview of it. This is not something that hasn't been studied to death.
This is a situation, in answering the member opposite, where the Yukon Energy Corporation has to hire the best people they can to put together this business plan, if, in fact, this business plan makes any sense for Yukoners.
Now, regarding what he says about ATCO's qualifications, ATCO is highly qualified not only to build hydro lines but they're also highly qualified to put in structures like they've done at the college. I recommend that the member opposite go up and do a tour of that complex and then come back and tell us that ATCO doesn't have the expertise to build buildings. ATCO is a Yukon company. Yukon Electrical is one of the oldest companies in the Yukon. ATCO has been a part of our community for a long, long time, and I compliment them on the job that they did at the college, building the structures that they did in the timeline that they did. And when you go on a tour of that, Mr. Chair - and I hope you do, too, Mr. Chair - you'll see that that is a fabulous piece of workmanship, and when you think that 12 months ago the property wasn't even cleared of trees. So they've done a massive job.
In answering the member opposite, the Energy Corporation will be using ATCO, I hope. The Yukon Energy Corporation and ATCO work on a daily basis. I remind the member opposite, Mr. Chair, that ATCO owns Yukon Electrical. Yukon Electrical retails the power and Yukon Energy makes the power. They are partners in the Yukon in the energy portfolio, and we depend on them to do the good job that they do in the communities and also in the city. Certainly I hope the Yukon Energy Corporation will use ATCO as a resource to make sure that this line, if it goes forward, has the expertise it needs so we do not repeat - and again, I appreciate the member opposite's concerns about the Mayo-Dawson line. Mr. Speaker, I have the same concerns he does. We certainly do not want to repeat the Mayo-Dawson line, for the sake of all Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Then why did the minister not ensure that Yukon Electrical was given the contract to be the project manager? That was my question. We didn't get an answer. We didn't get an answer from the minister to most of the questions here this afternoon, nor did we get an undertaking that he would provide a written response to the questions we asked, so we're not getting much information from this minister. He refuses to be accountable. This is the forum of accountability in here, and he's evading providing answers to the questions, either orally or in writing.
Let the record reflect that.
Mr. Chair, he talks about taking a tour of the athletes village. If he had been paying attention in here, he would know I was part of a tour at the athletes village, and I do support ATCO. By the way, ATCO doesn't own Yukon Electrical; ATCO owns Alberta Power, which owns Yukon Electrical. That's the way it works, for the minister's information. It's subtle but it's accurate.
He made a lot of other statements that I take issue with, but time does not provide for those discussions. We do need to make progress. I know the minister sat on the board of directors at Yukon Energy Corporation when the Mayo-Dawson transmission line was discussed. Maybe he didn't make a decision, but he was part of that. Let the record show that.
I don't have a question, and what's the point, anyway? The minister doesn't answer the questions. I would invite the minister, if he has any graciousness, to review the Blues on the weekend and undertake to provide us with a written response to the outstanding questions so we can find out more about these issues that are important to Yukoners.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have given the member opposite answers to all the questions he has asked.
As far as ATCO and Alberta Power Limited and now the question about who owns what or whatever, that is strictly conversation. We understand that Alberta Power Limited is owned by ATCO.
I appreciate that he went through Yukon College and looked at the new improved accommodation up there, which is going to be used, as we all know, for two weeks during the Canada Winter Games, which will happen next February, which is closer than we think, because we blink and it will be here.
As we talk about Yukon Electrical Company Limited, Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation - and the Member for Kluane talked about my time as a board member and how I was part and parcel somewhere through the board of directors on the Mayo-Dawson line. I want to make it very clear that at no point in our discussions in the corporation was Mayo-Dawson ever looked at. That's how long ago I sat on the board, Mr. Chair.
As far as the Mayo-Dawson line, I don't want to stay on it forever. I appreciate the member's conversation and his concerns about it and I appreciate the fact that he doesn't want to repeat them. Of course, he certainly doesn't want a public inquiry now. He made that very clear. Certainly, we don't want a public inquiry. What we want to do is move on with managing the power in the Yukon , move on with the business plan as we see it going forward, and work with the Energy Corporation to do just that.
The Member for Kluane - the conversation about getting on with debating the budget here. I look forward to talking about the budget of Energy, Mines and Resources. I can't be any clearer than that.
We have been discussing the Energy Corporation here for going on two hours. We have two hours left this afternoon to debate. We have huge responsibilities here for these other departments. We have the Department of Health and Social Services coming up next with the largest budget in the territorial government.
I find it interesting that we would get bogged down on technicalities and discuss the Energy Corporation for two hours on things that, first of all, are independent of us. I am responsible for it. I made it very clear I am responsible, and I take responsibility very seriously for the good that happens and for the bad. That, of course, was the debate last Thursday when the Member for Porter Creek South backed off her responsibility for the Mayo-Dawson line, and I appreciate that because, at the end of the day, everybody has to take a stand. But I want to make it very clear for this government - all the ministers - that we are responsible for our departments. Our job is to be responsible, and it is not a guessing game of where the buck stops.
The members opposite are constantly saying, and justly so, to answer the question, that you are in charge of the department; you are the minister; you are not doing the work; you don't know what's going on. I find it very interesting, Mr. Chair, that when there is an issue that doesn't fit - like the Mayo-Dawson line - nobody takes responsibility. I'll take responsibility for the Mayo-Dawson line from 2002 when I took over the portfolio. That's when my responsibility started. I can't be responsible for the previous government because I wasn't in the previous government. I make it very clear that my responsibility started in 2002, and I say to the House here today, it is not done. As hard as I've worked with the board to get some resolution to the Mayo-Dawson line - I only have to talk to the Member for Klondike and find out the issues about the line that we are working on - we still don't have the contractor finalized. We are in arbitration. We are working toward a conclusion with that individual corporation. We're doing that through the Energy Corporation, so the responsibility is still there.
My responsibility as a minister is to end the Mayo-Dawson line and bring a resolution to it. I might not live long enough to do that, but I take responsibility for everything that happened from 2002 to date. Maybe the next government will have to resolve the Mayo-Dawson line, because nobody took responsibility for it before December 2002. Nobody took responsibility for it then, so it was just running on its own. I'm going to take responsibility for it from when we took office. That's the clarification I'm making on the floor.
The Mayo-Dawson line has some shortcomings. The line isn't big enough; the poles fall over; the construction was not up to our high standard. According to the Member for Klondike , who talks at great length about the line from Mayo to Dawson - he drives by it every second night. He drives the line; he doesn't walk the line. I get a weekly and monthly report on the Mayo-Dawson line.
I have to appreciate the fact that the work the Yukon Energy Corporation does in maintaining and improving it - they've done a great job. They took over a contract that, when we took over in December 2002, the contractor had left the job; the job had been abandoned; the contractors had not been paid, which is a big concern for Yukoners. Unbeknownst to us when we took over in December 2002, this dilemma was in the dilemma it was in and we went to work to try to resolve it. The corporation has done a fabulous job of moving forward on this but, again, as the Member for Klondike says, there's a lot more work to do on the Mayo-Dawson line.
If he had the likes of ATCO or Alberta Power or whomever you want to talk about with some expertise in there, if the government of the day - which takes no responsibility for it - had done the homework to get the expertise to put the line in, we wouldn't be debating this today. The fact is we ended up with an Auditor General report; we ended up with an issue that we are working through and will resolve.
Ms. Duncan: I'm sure the minister will be pleased to know that I'm going to use the adage that I use quite regularly when I'm speaking with others, and focus on the question at hand, which is the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. With regard to his department and legislation, there were a number of regulations under development under the legislative mandate of the Oil and Gas Act. They've been under development for many years now. I'd like to know the status of the development of regulations. In particular, I'm interested in the royalty regulations. Can the minister provide an update on their status?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the Member for Porter Creek South on the regulations, we have the transfer, which has been completed. Disposition has been completed; licensing administration has been completed; regulations for geoscience exploration have been completed. The regulations on drilling and production have been completed; royalty regulations are being finalized as we speak. Pipeline regulations are in progress, and gas processing has a conceptual design.
So out of the eight regulations, we have royalty being finalized. I'm not quite sure when that will be finalized, but they have been working for a period of time, so I would say it's going to be finalized later this year, probably late this fall.
Ms. Duncan: Methane is a gas within the definition of the Oil and Gas Act. Does the production, therefore, of coal-bed methane fall within the drilling and production regulations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question about the natural gas from coal, there are no regulations around it. It is probably one of the only things in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources that sort of fell through the cracks at devolution. There hasn't been the pressure to put the regulations together but eventually the regulations will have to be put together so we can manage that resource.
Ms. Duncan: There is a key point of difference in the minister's response. Methane is a gas - regardless of how it is produced, methane is a gas. Gas is covered under the Oil and Gas Act. The minister said the one regulation to come is the royalty regulation. Therefore, it is logical that the production of methane from coal beds is covered under the drilling and production regulations.
I fail to see why the minister is saying there are no regulations around coal-bed methane - around methane and the production of methane. There are drilling and production regulations for oil and gas. Methane is a gas. What regulations, other than the royalty regulations, are yet to come?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The question about natural gas and coal - of course, is found in coal.
Through devolution and, of course, the transfer of the resources, we also receive coal leases. Of course, the methane gas is involved in coal. All jurisdictions define natural gas from coal under different regulations than they do under natural gas or oil.
In a perfect picture, as we work away at this, it will be under YOGA and it will be under our gas regulations, because there are questions about when you drill natural gas from coal, depths of product - and all those questions that have to be addressed. Certainly the question about ownership, because of coal leases existing prior to devolution - as a government, we have taken the natural gas from coal out of the coal leases we put in place after devolution, but there was some conversation between DIAND and the federal government on ownership of the product with coal leases that were issued before devolution.
All those things have to be addressed and we will do that. With everything else we have on our plate at the moment, and without the pressure for recognizing the natural gas from coal, we've worked on it - I'm not saying the department isn't working on it - to define natural gas from coal and how it's going to be managed, but when you say there's royalty and it's a gas, you're right, but it is a different depth gas. At the end of the day, natural gas from coal would be handled under YOGA, I imagine. I look forward to, in the next year, having something to put in front of the House that would define it under regulation how Yukon , as a government, will manage that resource.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is not making himself clear. He says, “I imagine it will be covered. Methane fits within the definition of gas.” How is it not now part of the act? How is methane not covered now? It is a gas. Is the minister saying it is not covered now, because the coal lease was to someone else, or the coal leases were handled as a mine lease? If you are going looking for a particular mineral and you find something else, you still have a mineral claim.
In this case, what I hear the minister saying, and I invite him to correct me if I am wrong, is that the mineral leases were handled by DIAND at the time when oil and gas were transferred to the Yukon, so the territorial government would own the gas produced, and the federal government would own the coal. What I do not understand from the minister's explanation is why he doesn't believe methane is covered as a gas under the Oil and Gas Act. He says it is going to be. Why isn't it now? Why is it excluded? How?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, natural gas from coal is not like conventional gas. Natural gas from coal is in coal, so there is a difference. Also, I remind the member opposite there are environmental issues with natural gas from coal and a mixture of water. Other jurisdictions have had issues with environmental overviews on how they managed natural gas from coal. Certainly, when DIAND managed the lease concept of coal, there was no definition of who owned the natural gas inside the coal.
The more gas you have in coal, the better the coal is. In other words, natural gas from coal is part and parcel of a coal deposit. You don't find natural gas from coal in a zinc deposit; it's all part and parcel of a coal deposit. Through devolution, it was one of the things that fell through the cracks. How are we as a jurisdiction, first of all, going to address the environmental questions of how we manage the product and recognize the product is in coal leases? In some cases, these coal leases are held by companies that have held them for many years.
There is a question of ownership. We as a government have moved forward. We're working on some way of recognizing the product and recognizing the environmental question surrounding the product, but at the end of the day, we also took it from the hands of the lease when we got jurisdiction. In other words, if you went out to get a coal lease tomorrow, Mr. Chair, you wouldn't own the natural gas from coal; that would be defined on the lease. That wasn't defined on the leases before devolution, when DIAND managed the coal leases.
We have to come to a recognition with those individuals who have the leases; we also have to understand the nature of the product. It is not like conventional gas; it's not the same product. It's a gas - I don't argue that. They harvest it in all parts of Canada , and it goes into the pipeline, but we have to recognize that natural gas from coal will come to the table with different liabilities. The regulations will be under YOGA. We'll handle it under the gas part of the portfolio, certainly, but we have to put the regulations together and recognize the product.
Let's throw this out on the floor: how deep does a coal lease go? Let's say that an individual has a coal lease; at what depth does his potential asset end up?
Does he go to the centre of Earth? In other words, how do you define that range of resource? Does he own the natural gas underneath the coal - if, in fact, there is natural gas underneath the coal.
So there is a debate out there on managing the product. It's not that we don't want to manage it. We will manage it. But we recognize the difference between natural gas from coal and conventional gas. And there has to be a definition of the product. This is a very shallow gas, in most cases. There are issues about water, because a lot of the gas is mixed with water. That has been part of the issues down south. Now, they're not insurmountable issues. As the industry matures across North America , we certainly would take advantage of what those jurisdictions have learned about natural gas from coal. But this government is moving ahead to define natural gas from coal and how the regulations will handle that product, because it is a separate product and it has to have regulations around it to address the concerns of Yukoners about that product.
Now, it would have been easier if all this had been done before devolution, but it wasn't, and we don't live in a perfect world. But this government, the Government of Yukon, is committed to getting those regulations into place as soon as we can and moving ahead with managing the natural gas from coal in the future. But they have to be put in place. Everybody has to know the rules, obviously. Certainly we can't deny the people who go and expend the money to develop these leases the right to have part and parcel ownership of the gas, because the gas on the old leases before devolution was part of the asset, because the coal lease guy stood up and said, well, if we had the coal leases, part and parcel of that, the federal government intimated to us that we also had the natural gas that was involved in the lease. Well, we're saying hang on here, we took the management over, we will make it very clear on all future coal leases what they get and what they don't get. Part of that is the coal, and the natural gas from coal.
Then we have to define what natural gas from coal is and how deep the permit goes - in other words, the licence - and what kind of relationship you have to have with the individual who owns the coal lease to get access to the well. It's a debate and we are working on it and, by the way, Mr. Chair, we're looking at other jurisdictions. This is not something that hasn't been done elsewhere, so the department is working very positively with other jurisdictions to make sure we get it right. There is a huge environmental question out there. There is a huge education about this product. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and so this government and the department are going to go out and work positively, educate, consult and move forward with managing the product.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that lengthy piece of information. However, he didn't answer the question. The Oil and Gas Act was passed in this House between 1996 and 2000 - passed twice as a matter of fact.
The minister has not answered for me, or for anyone else, how gas obtained through coal - he says there is a difference, and I was quite well aware of that. However, it is fundamentally a gas, so how does he explain to someone that we don't have authority over that gas when we passed the Oil and Gas Act ahead of devolution?
How is gas obtained from coal beds - which he has said is different, but it is still a gas - why is it exempt from these regulations? Why is that? If we have defined gas at the beginning of the act, which I believe we have, and according to the dictionaries, all refer to methane as a gas, then logically our drilling and production regulations should cover methane - a gas - obtained from coal.
The minister is not answering me as to why he feels we don't cover methane under the existing drilling and production regulations or the Oil and Gas Act. I don't really want a lengthy lecture about leases obtained under the federal government and the environmental discussions. I've followed that. I want to know how and why the minister believes gas obtained from coal - methane - is not covered under the existing act and regulations. How is that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess, in answering the member opposite, the Member for Porter Creek South, it isn't explicitly excluded from YOGA. It is a gas. We could stand up here and debate that all day. Once it's in the pipeline, it's a gas. It's where they find it and what they do with it to find it and, in essence, manufacture it - in other words, bring it out of the earth, and what they do to put it into the consumer.
I'm saying to the member opposite that it wasn't in YOGA. YOGA doesn't make any mention of natural gas from coal. We can debate here all day about gas, and natural gas from coal is gas, and conventional gas is gas. But I'm saying to the member opposite that this is an environmental issue. This is an issue that we as a government are not prepared to put into YOGA without consultation and some regulations in place to manage it. We are not prepared to do that as a government and this department is not prepared to do that. We are going to recognize it in a proper fashion, and we are going to define it and manage it. But we're not going to take YOGA - I see natural gas from coal being managed through YOGA. I agree with the member opposite 100 percent. But we are going to define it, manage it and work with it, and we are going to work to make sure people in the Yukon are comfortable with natural gas from coal.
There are huge environmental questions out there, Mr. Chair, and, of course, I feel there has been a lot of misinformation - if I can use that, Mr. Chair - spread about natural gas from coal. To be honest with you, I am not an expert, nor do I have any education or background on natural gas from coal. But at the end of the day, this government of the day is not going to ram through natural gas from coal and put it into YOGA and say it's done. This government is not prepared to do that.
We're going to ask the tough questions of the general public of the Yukon, we're going to work with consultation, we're going to work with the regulations to make sure we maximize the input we get from the general public on just that - natural gas from coal. It's not something that will happen overnight. This is a big issue out there. It's an issue in Montana and Colorado. All these jurisdictions have had a problem of communicating the product. We're going to work with Yukoners to make sure the regulations are in place and we can manage the resource.
Again, I don't want to debate what happened before devolution. All I'm telling the member opposite is that this is one thing that didn't get done before devolution.
On the debate about YOGA, YOGA came through in 1997 or whenever that was consummated - I'm not sure. Was it 1997, Mr. Chair? 1998? There's nothing in YOGA to define natural gas from coal and it's work this department has to do. And we're doing just that.
Ms. Duncan: The minister doesn't understand the question. My concern is that we don't have anything in our act, in YOGA or in our regulations that says this excludes gas obtained from coal. There's nothing to prevent someone; there's nothing to permit them, either, unless they have a lawyer who reads the legislation and reads the drilling and production regulations, which the minister says have been dealt with, for the production of gas, but not gas from coal.
So if it's not excluded and it's not included, you've left a project proponent and Yukoners with a huge question mark. There is work to be done - absolutely.
What I want to know is what does the minister have now? Is there a legal opinion about coal-bed methane?
And I'm well within my rights. Other ministers have shared legal opinions on the floor of the House. If there is one available that supports the minister's claim that, oh, well, governments will do this work and do their thorough investigation and so on - but we are presenting the oil and gas industry with just a legal headache and Yukoners with a huge question mark about when and how we participate in the debate in the production of this gas. It's not excluded. It's in legal limbo land, according to the minister, because he won't offer an explanation. Is it definitely excluded? I don't think so, because the minister can't tell me how it is excluded. We have drilling and production regulations. We have a definition of gas. It's not included, according to the minister. We have to develop regulations. Well, where are we in this, and where is the public element of the debate?
I'm neither advocating for or against. I don't have all the information. What I do have as a member of this Legislature is experience as a legislator in us passing legislation that wasn't good enough, or, in some cases, was. There is work to be done. So what is the minister doing about it, and what information does he have that he has not yet shared with the House and will he provide it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite, but we're not the only jurisdiction that has regulations to manage natural gas from coal. Alberta has separate regulations. Certainly, we work with our legal department on a daily basis and we are concerned about anything that lacks definition. The regulations are being put together to manage just that.
I visualize it being part of YOGA. We have worked with Alberta as a jurisdiction on how they manage the resource. They've been very beneficial to us, as a small department, in understanding the dilemma. I hope I didn't say I excluded it from YOGA. It wasn't excluded from YOGA. Understand that we got oil and gas in 1998, but we didn't get minerals until 2003. We've just had the responsibility to the coal leases over the last couple of years.
As I said to the member opposite, we are going to do the hard work it takes to get the regulations in place so we minimize the impact on the general public from natural gas and coal and we address industry. Certainly, industry wants clarification. They certainly want clarification, and I agree with them but, again, you don't get clarification by ramrodding them into YOGA. That's not the way to do it. We are not prepared to do that. We are prepared to do the hard work, the consultation, working with our partners and industry to recognize natural gas from coal as part and parcel of the resources of this great territory. It's there. We have to recognize it.
You have people out there who don't recognize it. Well, guess what? It's a resource. It's part and parcel of the inventory of the resources of the Yukon and, before you can manage it, you have to regulate it so you know what you're managing. We are prepared to do the work. It is proceeding. I hope to see something this fall.
It's a big job. It is not something to take lightly, and we are working with industry, we are working with the Province of Alberta , and we are moving forward. We are getting some form of regulations around that resource and giving a comfort level to Yukoners that it will be handled in a way that will be appropriate and will not be an environmental question, which, by the way, they had in Colorado and Montana. We used them as an example.
There were individuals and environmental groups that used the management skills of certain states to diminish the resource. I am not saying that that is a bad thing. We should be reminded of things like the natural gas from coal and what the water did to the surrounding area. Certainly we are going to have to manage that, but as far as ramming it into YOGA and saying, well, it's a gas or it's no gas or it's whatever - there is a lot more to it than defining it as gas. We all know it is gas, Mr. Chair. What we want to know is how we are going to manage it to make sure that everybody - industry and the general public - understands what natural gas from coal is - where does it come from, what are the depths, what are our obligations as a government, where does environment come into this? All these other things that are out there are big questions for us to answer, and I want to answer them as soon as possible for industry.
Industry is out there, Mr. Chair, wondering about this product. As these pipelines - the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Alaska Highway pipeline - become more and more of a reality, that question is going to be asked more and more. I'm saying in the House here today on the floor that hopefully we can get something by this late fall that would address the concerns of the members opposite and we can move forward with regulations that will manage or oversee natural gas from coal.
Ms. Duncan: I have two questions for the minister. Has there been a background paper prepared for the minister on this particular issue and the legal consequences and discussions that will result? If so, is he prepared to share it? I understand that it would have “confidential advice to the minister” stamped on it. Perhaps he would be willing to lift that and share it with the rest of us. This is not a debate just for industry. It is a huge debate for Yukoners, and they should have as much information as possible. As a representative of some of those Yukoners, I would like that information - if the minister is prepared to share it.
Secondly, the minister made a distinction between coal leases that were obtained under the federal government and coal leases available under the Yukon government. Under the new coal leases, the minister has indicated that methane is separated out. What is the status of methane under the old leases?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the member opposite about the legal overview, I have had no communication with my legal department on the legalities of natural gas and coal. Since devolution we have put a codicil on the leases to ensure that natural gas and coal are defined as not being part of the lease.
As far as before devolution, we are still working on that. There have been commitments made by the federal government on some of these leases that have to be defined. Again, I say to the member opposite that if that is the case and ownership is there, then how deep is it? Do they own the natural gas underneath? It's all gas. If we are going to argue the point from a legal point of view, would they own the petroleum rights? Would they own the natural gas rights? Would they own the natural gas? Those are things we have to define, and that is what these regulations are going to do.
When the member opposite insinuates that we're not going to involve Yukoners, that's not correct. We will involve Yukoners on any decisions we make on natural gas from coal. We all represent Yukoners in this House, and we all have individuals in our constituencies that have big questions about natural gas from coal. There is a huge education thing to be done. There are all sorts of questions out there that have been bandied around over the last 10 years about the nightmare that natural gas from coal creates in different jurisdictions. What I'm saying to the member opposite is that we're going to work with that, but we certainly are pushing ahead with regulations so we can regulate the natural gas from coal.
A moratorium on natural gas from coal - well, we don't regulate it. How can we manage something we have no regulations around so we could even think about putting a moratorium on it. The member opposite is talking about who owns it - you know, the gas and conventional gas and natural gas and natural gas from coal, who owns what and whatever. I want to define that, and industry wants that too. I don't think we're sitting here just representing industry. Industry has an investment on the ground. They're asking questions. I want to be prepared to answer those questions. Also, my constituents have questions on how we're managing their resources. Part of that inventory is natural gas from coal.
So let's get the regulations in place. Let's work with the general public. Let's put an education thing together so people are comfortable with it and let's move on with the regulations. I agree with the member opposite. Let's put it in YOGA, and let's move on with managing our gas and define what is natural gas from coal and other products.
Ms. Duncan: Let's get a straight answer from the minister. What is the status of the discussions with the people who hold the coal leases under the old regime? We've put a codicil - I believe that's the word the minister was looking for - on the new coal leases. What is the status of the old ones? Is it a negotiation? Is the minister's department sitting down and saying, well, we really don't know who owns this and we really don't know how deep it goes and we really don't know the environmental issues and we are just going to have to wait until we develop regulations.
It seems to me the companies have a legitimate argument. Look, it's a gas. You just passed drilling and production regulations - how come it's not included? I go back to my first question. What are we doing with those companies? Are we having a negotiation with them? What is the status of that discussion? I would just like the minister to answer that question. However, I would also like to move on and cover a couple other questions within a reasonable time frame. If the minister could just answer a very straightforward question - are we having discussions with, as I'll call them, the old coal leases? Are they applying for a production permit? Is there argument that methane is a gas and you've produced drilling and production regulations and, therefore, we are covered? Or is it friendlier than that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the Member for Porter Creek South, there are no applications for drilling for natural gas from coal. We certainly are working with the proponents who came to the table before devolution with their coal leases. Those are all questions that have to be answered.
The question was whether or not we are on a friendly basis with those individuals. Certainly, we are.
We are treating it in a very businesslike way and moving forward. I would remind the member opposite that there are questions. Industry does have questions, but we will work with that and, hopefully this fall, we'll have some regulations in place and move forward with managing the product. We are certainly willing to talk to the proponents and live up to any obligation that was put on the table when DIAND was here - that's part of devolution. We are committed to follow through with any arrangements made with DIAND; they are arrangements we're working with and we'll have to address those. Ownership will certainly be one of those issues.
Ms. Duncan: Hansard will reflect the minister's answers on the coal-bed methane.
During his tenure as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources - four years this fall - would the minister outline the number of land sales that have been held under his watch, so to speak? Which ones might be forthcoming in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can get that information to the member opposite. We're looking forward to a land sale this coming fall. I think the department is looking at it. As far as the land sales previous to that, we didn't have any take on the last land sale, so we looked at our process to see how, when we went to all the hard work, we could make sure we had interest. We've worked on that.
I'd like to remind the member opposite the oil and gas industry spent in excess of $35 million last year in the territory. They drilled a well in north Yukon, Eagle Plains - of course, Devon - and, of course, expanded the Kotaneelee field for approximately $30 million to make sure they can maintain the volumes the Kotaneelee had supplied over the last 20 years.
So oil and gas has been fairly busy with the two jobs that are going on in north Yukon and in south Yukon. There was $35 million expended in Yukon corporations in the oil and gas business. It has kept our department going. The plan is going forward on the dispositions. They are definitely being contemplated and anticipated for the fall, understanding that the Mackenzie Valley pipeline issue is being addressed as we speak. They are working on all of the overviews in order to make it a reality. That will make our oil and gas reserves in north Yukon a lot more interesting. At this point, it is just a frontier investment.
With the Alaska Highway pipeline on the horizon in the next 10 years, we will take a look at the extended gas potential in the rest of the Yukon. The Kotaneelee in the southeast Yukon is probably the breadbasket of the potential gas in Yukon. We are working with the Kaska First Nation on a project to see if there is any movement there. We all understand that it is an unsettled land claim. Through YOGA, we have agreed that with any unsettled land claim, the First Nation has to agree with any disposition. We are working with the Kaska and Acho Dene Koe with the overlapping claim to see if there is some interest in moving in there. I would like to report to the House that we have had some positive meetings on dispositions in southeast Yukon in Kaska traditional territory in partnership with the Kaska and ADK from the Northwest Territories. There is some movement there. Again the department has done a great job. Kaska has been very positive and the ADK in the Northwest Territories has been very positive as well.
So it looks very good for the future in gas, especially in southeast Yukon and, of course, we're looking forward to the disposition in Yukon to see what interest is out there. Now that we've got the commitment on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline moving ahead the way it is, I think you'll find that these dispositions will be a lot more interesting for industry than they were four or five years ago.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister might wish to have a look at Saturday's Globe and Mail. In the business section, there is a news story about the tremendous interest in land sales and dispositions in the Northwest Territories because of the promotion of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which is, of course, not without its controversy. Oh, if only the Yukon and the Alaska Highway pipeline had had a champion for the last four years, we might have seen a different story over here.
I would also remind the minister that, when he took office in December 2002, Energy, Mines and Resources Canada had completed and revised the estimated gas reserves in the Yukon, and he provided the information of their Geological Survey of Canada revised figures. According to them, it is Eagle Plains that has 6.1 tcf of gas and Liard Plateau at 4.8.
I'm interested that the land sale held under the minister's watch did not generate the interest, in part because of their lack of promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline, and the land sale that was promised in the Whitehorse Trough didn't materialize. Would the minister please provide by legislative return the payouts of the Kotaneelee fund in the last year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to discuss the member opposite's statement about this government's lack of interest in the Alaska Highway pipeline and the lack of investment.
I'd like to remind the member opposite - I think the Member for Porter Creek South doesn't quite understand the process. The process is that the developer, the producers, will make the decisions. I think what the member opposite thought the last government was doing was building a pipeline. We as the Yukon government are not going to build a pipeline. The pipeline will be built by the producers, and of course the gas is going to go from Alaska to market. I think this is one of the only pipelines in North America that takes foreign gas through our jurisdiction into the Lower 48.
As far as investing in the Alaska Highway pipeline, we have invested prudently to make sure we maximize our returns. The member opposite, during the last government's tenure, spent a great amount of money championing the Alaska Highway pipeline, and the pipeline has not come through yet. We as a government are ready for the pipeline when it arrives - to make sure the jurisdiction is as ready as it can be for a project of this size. For me to stand up and say to the House that this government will make a decision, or if we were to spend our entire budget - all $700 million - on championing the Alaska Highway pipeline, would we get a pipeline? I'm not quite sure we would, Mr. Chair.
The work that has to be done now in Alaska is being done. The producers have an agreement. The producers did not have an agreement when the member opposite was in government - they didn't have an agreement.
The federal government, the Liberal government of the day, made it very clear to the government of the day that the Mackenzie Valley pipeline would go first. That was the decision of the Liberal federal government of Canada , which made that commitment to Canadians because it is Canadian gas going to Canadian markets. They did not want to strand Canadian gas, so that was a decision made out of our jurisdiction. It was something that we, as Yukoners, had no input into. The member opposite, who was in power - the Liberal government of the day - couldn't sway the Liberal government in Ottawa to not make that decision. That decision was made by the Liberal government of the day - they made the decision.
We live with the decisions. We are a champion of the Alaska Highway pipeline; we are working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition; we funded them; they're moving forward. Our Premier is working with the federal government, recognizing that they have just put half a billion dollars into a social-economic overview of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. We feel we should be treated no more and no less than Northwest Territories. We are part of Canada . This government has been a champion of our northern resources, as the member opposite gave me those figures, and I thank her for that. We are working with the NEB to make sure we have access to the pipeline at a reasonable rate and that, at the end of the day, our resources are not stranded.
The member opposite talks about a champion. This department works very hard, and I, as the minister, am very proud of this department and the individuals who work in it. They are champions of the Alaska Highway pipeline, but they're not blinded by the Alaska Highway pipeline, like the last government was.
We're working with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline because it's a reality.
It's a reality and the good thing about our government - the Yukon Party government - is that we work with any government in Ottawa. We had a very positive relationship with the last government in Ottawa and we look forward to working with the new government in Ottawa just as positively.
To say that we are somehow ignoring the Alaska Highway pipeline - the reality is that there is a lot of work to be done on the Alaska side of the border to resolve their issues. We're looking forward to them being resolved in the near future. I have lived long enough - I was standing in front of the Watson Lake Hotel in 1978 when it was announced that the pipeline was coming.
Mr. Chair, 30 years ago I was hearing that the Alaska Highway pipeline was a done deal. Well, was it? Should we have wasted 30 years of work on the Alaska Highway pipeline? No. You have to work with the cards you're dealt, and the cards dealt were that the pipeline is potentially eventually going to come down the Alaska Highway. That's why they call it the Alaska Highway pipeline. The Yukon will be part of that because it'll come through our jurisdiction. We are not going to build the pipeline, and our decision-making level here in Whitehorse is that we have to accommodate the pipeline.
The federal government has a lot of work to do. The regulatory certainty and all those issues have to be addressed at the federal government level. With our working relationship with the federal government - with NRCan, DIAND and all these other departments - it's very positive. We're working with them to make sure we are part of that decision-making tool. The new ministers have committed to us, as a government, “We'll discuss with you; we'll consult with you.”
The last government, the Liberal government, said exactly the same thing, and I stand up here today saying they came through with that commitment.
The ministers did consult with us; the ministers did talk about our concerns; and the ministers went to work and tried to resolve those concerns but, with the change of government, it was very important for us to get the same working relationship going. We've done that and we're moving forward with the Alaska Highway pipeline conceptual plan, and we're working with our neighbours in the Northwest Territories in a partnership so we can benefit from the Alaska Highway pipeline, not only from a pipeline point of view and a resource point of view, but we also want access to the work, Mr. Chair, contracts, all of the things that we can benefit from as a jurisdiction here in the Yukon.
We've got a very positive working relationship with the Northwest Territories . It's not a “he and them” mentality any more. It's a partnership north of 60. That's what we entered into.
So what can benefit north of 60? Well, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is one; the Alaska Highway pipeline is another. So at the end of the day, to say that we have diminished or not been championing - as the member opposite said - the Alaska Highway pipeline, the member is not correct. We have been championing the Alaska Highway pipeline. We just do it in a different, more productive way.
Now, as far as the land dispositions for oil and gas, the next one will be number five. With that, we have done three under our watch.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister apparently didn't hear the question I asked, which was: would he provide a legislative return on the Kotaneelee fund? A straightforward yes or no would be a terrific answer.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Anything that this government does is public information. As a minister, I would like to answer questions that are asked. I am not diminishing the member opposite in the questions she asks, but I have to address some of the issues that members put on the floor and which I feel are incorrect. That is the nature of our business here. We have to be upfront and honest with each other here. If we say something on the floor or there is some kind of question, my job as minister or as a member is to address the member and say so if something is not correct and give the reasons. When I hear that the answers are too long, I feel that sometimes the members opposite just don't like them and that is why they would like me to shorten the answers.
The Kotaneelee fund is public information. I believe it may be on the Internet or it may be something my learned friend will present to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has stood up and said that it is incumbent upon all of us to be upfront and honest, that I might not appreciate his answer but he had to correct the facts as I put them on the record. Well, I would just remind the minister that there are at least two sides to every story. His view of our government and of me, in particular, and the way in which I have exercised my ministerial responsibilities, has been put on the record ad nauseum in this debate.
I would like an answer to the question.
On May 10, 2004, the minister committed to update the Informetrica Limited study of the economic benefits of the Alaska Highway pipeline. On May 10, 2004, the minister committed to updating that study, which was done by the previous government. Has the minister updated that information or requested an update of the information?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite's comments about there being two sides to each story. I understand that, and that's why everybody has the right in the House to stand up and, if they feel something has been said that is not quite factual or there is a question about it, they can address it. The member opposite is totally right.
Not to become disappointed when they hear the other side, that's what important. As ministers, our job is to answer questions, but we also correct the record when we feel things are not correct. As far as the member debating the Mayo-Dawson line, which was done under the member's watch when she was the Premier and her government was in power, and that was brought up by a member of her caucus who asked questions about it. It wasn't something I brought up. The question was asked and I addressed the question.
The Member for Kluane was very concerned, and he should be, about the Mayo-Dawson line and the question about whether we as a government would contemplate repeating that kind of a project.
I made a firm commitment on the floor that, if I'm in government and we make that decision, we will not be following the last government's blueprint on how to build a line between Mayo and Dawson. That was brought up by her own member. It wasn't something that I stood up in the House and had a conversation on. That was brought up by questions from the Member for Kluane. He has a right to ask those questions.
I appreciate the fact that he has those concerns. I think the whole House would be amiss if they didn't look at the Mayo-Dawson line and try to improve on it if, in fact, we were to go forward with another hydro line.
So that is the importance of that. I appreciate the member opposite bringing it up. We can debate the Mayo-Dawson line again; we've been at it pretty steadily for the last three hours. But it is a huge question. In answer to the last question, before the member opposite started talking about the Mayo-Dawson line again, I will provide a return - not on the Dawson-Mayo line because we have that in the Auditor General's report. But I will send across the legislative return on the updated version, I hope, of that report. We did discuss this. I just want the member opposite to know that we will have an updated report hopefully in her hands with the legislative return.
Chair: Before debate continues, the Chair has just become quite anxious about members questioning the veracity of others. I would like to remind members that a member is free to present to the House the facts as they know them, but it is not in order to suggest that another member, by presenting different facts, is deliberately misleading the House, which is contrary to our Standing Orders.
It seems quite close to the normal time that we take a recess. Do members wish to take a recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Ms. Duncan: I just have one other question of the minister and then I am quite prepared to clear this department. Perhaps a break could take place as we change departments.
The information I asked the minister for in my last question had nothing to do with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. It was the Informetrica McCracken report on the economic benefits of the Alaska Highway pipeline. The minister committed on May 10, 2004, to update that report. What I asked for was whether or not he had done it.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite, and I did answer the question. I will, through a legislative return, give the member exactly what she asked for. The only question about it is that I don't know, standing here today, whether we have an updated version of that. But if we do, the member will get a copy of the updated version.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a few questions for the minister in general debate on Energy, Mines and Resources. If we could start with devolution, which occurred just a short time ago, could the minister spell out his understanding of amendments to the Quartz Mining Act and Placer Mining Act and regulations? Wasn't there supposed to be a certain time that the existing legislation was to remain in place before the government could look at altering these pieces of legislation and their regulations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I don't think there was a timeline on addressing the Quartz Mining Act. I think it's a commitment we have to do down the road, but I don't think there is a specific time frame when it has to be done.
Mr. Jenkins: It is my understanding that the status quo remains. The Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act would remain as they were and it would be, I believe, five years before they could be reviewed. What about the regulations? Was there anything stipulated about the regulations about amendments?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be clear for the Member for Klondike, I don't think there is a commitment on the timelines for the regulations.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it was my understanding that the status quo was to remain for a certain number of years in both of these pieces of legislation and the regulations before anything was altered. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To make it very clear, when YESAA was implemented through the federal government, there were some regulations that had to be changed so that YESAA could be enacted. There was some small regulation change to get us in line with YESAA, which came on-line two or three months ago.
Mr. Jenkins: I would draw the minister's attention to Order-In-Council 2005/189, which has prescribed changes to the regulations contained in Part 2 of the Yukon Placer Mining Act with respect to definitions, thresholds and operating conditions. This has placed an onerous burden on a number of operators in the mining and placer mining industry. Given the time they were changed - which was over the course of this past winter - by and large nobody will become aware of them until they go back to work this spring. The one that is a particularly onerous burden is that a number of miners have 1,000-gallon fuel tanks. They have had these for quite awhile.
Now the regulations say that the maximum tank size is 4,000 litres. Of course, we all know that a 1,000-gallon tank could contain 4,500 litres. The department has been quite satisfied with the industry using these 1,000-gallon tanks - which are quite numerous - and only putting in 4,000 litres of product. A lot of these tanks are quite mobile. They do get moved on a regular basis, and they are kind of an industry standard, Mr. Chair.
But what it requires now, if you're going to use these 1,000-gallon tanks, is that it be bermed and lined, and a great deal of additional costs must be incurred. Why was this change implemented, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The regulations were changed, as I said, because of the implementation of YESAA, and we had no choice in that. We had to move forward with the regulation changes to make YESAA compatible so it can be enacted in the Yukon .
In answering the member opposite on the fuel tanks, of course, that was to be consistent with Environment, which is another issue. But certainly the department is working with industry to try to address many of these questions. As the Member for Klondike understands, at the end of the day, now that YESAA is implemented, there are issues out there that we are working with on a daily basis. So we're committed to make sure that as many of our miners as possible can live within YESAA and manage their property. It is an issue that has been brought to my attention, and we're working with that issue and moving ahead with YESAA to clear up a lot of these points that are grey areas in the regulations.
Chair: Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We'll continue with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, in general debate on Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that issue is Order-In-Council 2005/189, which has prescribed changes to the regulations contained in part 2 of the Yukon Placer Mining Act with respect to definitions, thresholds and operating conditions. Now, up until this point, there are a number of placer miners who have 1,000-gallon capacity fuel oil tanks. The maximum amount they are allowed to have in one tank without it being bermed and lined is 4,000 litres. A 4,000-litre tank is not available. That's an 889-gallon tank, Mr. Chair. They don't make such an animal.
Now, this change came about in the middle of the winter, and really, no one who uses these tanks was even made aware, or recognized, this change. The minister suggested that it came about as a consequence of YESAA, but that may or may not be the case. What we have is a lot of these tanks available. It's a standard-size tank. An 889-gallon tank is not a standard-size tank. They have been in use for a considerable period of time and, to the best of my knowledge, they haven't produced any negative impacts on the environment.
What's the difference between taking 1,000-gallon tank and only putting 4,000 litres in it? That doesn't seem to present a problem. That was what was going on.
Let me put it into a context that the minister may be more familiar with. Mr. Chair, we go to the liquor store and, let's say, we buy a 750ml bottle of Dalwhinnie. There's still room for more in that bottle, but the law says it has to be 750ml. We can still put approximately six percent more into that bottle to fill it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The Member for Kluane asks how I know. I recently tried it to make the point here today.
Now, we have the same type of situation with a fuel tank. There is one where you are only allowed to put 4,000 litres into it, yet there is more capacity. What is the difference? Why this change? How is it going to make the environment safer?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This tank requirement has always been part of the Environment Act. In addressing the member opposite's question, we have been in contact with industry. We have worked with industry on this issue. We understand that there is an issue out there. We are committed to working with industry and we are also committed to being flexible this summer. We are not going out to try to make anyone's life impossible. We will work positively with industry to get them in compliance with these regulations.
We have an obligation with YESAA to move forward. We went to work with industry. They weren't happy, as the member opposite stated, but we made a commitment that we would work with them on this issue and try to address it over the summer period. So we have done our work, understanding that the Environment Act is something we have to work with, as the Member for Klondike understands - we certainly have to work with industry - and understanding that YESAA came in at a time that wasn't under our watch. In other words, it wasn't our chosen time to come on-line, but we are aware of industry and we are working with them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it appears to already be implemented and in place. Let me read from a letter one mining company received in December - Merry Christmas to this mining company. It says, “For example, a change in wording regarding fuel storage now speaks to the capacity of the tank rather than volume of fuel in storage. You must prepare a permanent bermed area and install a liner that is impermeable to petroleum products prior to any fuel being delivered to the 1,000-gallon tank referred to. Other changes may affect the method of mining. A copy of the above-referenced order-in-council has been attached.”
So this is something new that has been implemented. Mr. Chair, I would like the minister to explain the down-side of using a standard tank, a 1,000-gallon tank, and not filling it up beyond 4,000 litres - same as a bottle of Dalwhinnie. You can fill it right up to the top, but it's not done that way. They only put 750 millilitres in it. Why has the government changed this, because nothing has changed in YESAA, and nothing has changed in the Environment Act?
This has been a change in regulations under the Yukon Placer Mining Act .
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be fair, the Environment Act always had this issue in it. YESAA and the mine regulations - to mesh all three together, the department did this.
In answering the member opposite on the Dalwhinnie question or on volumes or whatever, I can commit to working with the department to try to address some of these issues.
We have to be very careful - you know in a perfect world, if we were all honest and upright citizens, you could put the line on the tank and we could have people running around dipping tanks - but that is not what we want to do. The Member for Klondike understands that on the issues we are working with industry - we are committed to working with industry. We'll work with industry, and I take the point made by the Member for Klondike very seriously. I can see what we can do to try to be flexible and make sure we don't put too much of a burden on industry.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, Mr. Chair, I can understand if it is a 5,000-gallon tank or a 2,000-gallon tank, but I can't understand it when it is a 1,000-gallon tank, because there is no one I am aware of who makes a tank that has a capacity of 889 gallons - which is 4,000 litres. So there is an issue here, and I would ask the minister to revert to the prior, acceptable operating standards for the interpretation of the Yukon Placer Mining Act with respect to fuel containment. Would the minister revert to what were previously acceptable operating standards up until the end of December last year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am going to commit to work with industry to see if we can resolve this issue. This government is not prepared to go backward. We are going to move ahead and we are going to work with industry and the Environment Act and YESAA to make this thing work. That's the commitment I am going to make here in the House. As far as going back, we are going forward and we will go forward in partnership with industry and the regulations we have in place will minimize the impact of any of our decisions on industry.
Mr. Jenkins: I am open. What does the minister propose to do?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am prepared to work with the department and see how we can resolve this issue with industry. We are working with industry as we speak, understanding that we did work with industry when this was implemented. It wasn't done without input from industry. I told the member opposite that industry wasn't happy with that.
We have been flexible and we are open for discussion, but we are not going back.
Mr. Jenkins: If an individual were to lop off 500 litres out of the side of a tank and reduce its capacity, the minister would be happy?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have to be serious about this. Certainly, we are looking at options for industry to make sure they can be compatible with the regulations that are in place today.
As far as cutting holes in things or doing things like that - we understand the nature of the industry. We understand the fact that fuel tanks have life and they are a big investment. We also have an investment in the environment. We have to have a balancing act here where the environment is protected and industry has the benefit of a minimum of impact on them.
Our job as a government is to come to some sort of an agreement or come up with some sort of management tool that we can use to resolve the issues we have with Environment and, of course, industry, and then YESAA and all these other regulations that are in place. We're working with industry. As I said to the member opposite, I'm committed to work to see what we can do to resolve the issue so that we minimize that impact. We have talked to industry, we are talking to industry, and we are certainly concerned about exactly what the member is talking about.
I'm committed to seeing what we can do, but we're not going to go backward, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So, for the record, could the minister just confirm what precipitated this change - this Order-in-Council 189 - to prescribe changes to the regulations contained in part 2 of the Yukon Placer Mining Act? What precipitated the change with respect to the requirement that a 1,000-gallon fuel tank now has to be bermed and lined?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Addressing that and answering the Member for Klondike , it's certainly an obligation on our part from YESAA. And, of course, with YESAA we had to come in line with the Environment Act, so there were obligations on our part to move ahead with this.
This was one of the issues that we had to bring into place to bring YESAA - so we could go forward with managing our environment, our social and economic responsibilities in the Yukon. Without these small amendments we would have ended up without having YESAA and, depending on what side of the House you're sitting on, that was a very important piece of legislation that we had to move ahead with as an obligation here in the Yukon.
So in terms of answering the member opposite's question, we are working with industry; they were involved in the change. I can clarify that there were questions about it and we are trying to answer those questions. As far as complying with the Environment Act and YESAA goes, that was one of our obligations. These are things that we are growing into. YESAA is now part and parcel of the fabric of our community. We are working with that group to ensure that YESAA works at the end of the day for all Yukoners.
Anything like the changes the YESAA brings certainly has individuals concerned. I would say that they have done an excellent job until now. I see the workload they have on the Internet and what they have done. It's an incredible amount of work. I look forward to working with them in the future. It is Yukoners making decision for Yukoners. I don't think anyone in this House would say that this is a bad thing. I think it's a very positive thing. These kinds of issues will come up, as the Member for Klondike has said. Energy, Mines and Resources is concerned about anything that hamstrings our industry, but we understand that there is a balance. We will address these issues as we move forward and as they unfold.
The member opposite can rest assured that we, as a government, are concerned about these kinds of issues. We will have discussions, but we are not going to turn the clock back and not work with YESAA or the Environment Act. We will work with industry to make sure that everyone complies with the acts that exist today.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it would appear that the minister has accepted YESAA at face value - at 110-percent face value. I would caution the minister, because YESAA, in its present form, will probably prove to be a significant impediment to projects moving forward in the Yukon. To hang his hat on YESAA as the reason for this coming into place truly cannot be justified, Mr. Chair.
I know this simple little change that the minister has subscribed to, which probably went totally outside a review process - it was just a slam-dunk order-in-council. It has a significant impact on the placer mining industry today. I'm not sure those who were consulted had very much of an understanding of what was coming down the pipe, because the status quo that had been maintained over the years was that 1,000-gallon tanks were acceptable. You just couldn't put anything more than 4,000 litres in those tanks, Mr. Chair.
Could I ask the minister once more to revert to that standard - and it's not a case of going backwards, Mr. Chair. It's a case of being practical, because there is not an 889-gallon tank made. You have to have a tank that has room for expansion, and there is a formula there that goes beyond the actual volume. So that would be the size of the tank that would be warranted to contain 4,000 litres. Could I ask the minister to consider for this mining season and for the next to extend a moratorium on going ahead with implementing this change?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think the Member for Klondike's overview of YESAA is not correct. I think the YESAA process is workable and is going to do exactly what it is mandated to do. We are committed as a government to make the YESAA process successful.
Again, I remind the member opposite that it's Yukoners making decisions on Yukon issues. Certainly, it's not the perfect system, I imagine. If you want to be critical, I guess you could be critical of the YESAA process. Do they have issues that they could learn from? I imagine they are learning something every day. It's a massive contract to take on. You only have to look at their Web site and see the work ahead of them and the work behind them. They've done an incredible pile of work and it's something that, as we critique it, going through in time - governments are going to have to work with YESAA.
To second-guess it and say it's not going to be successful is not fair to YESAA and it's not fair to Yukoners who are working within YESAA to look at a future in the Yukon . I think it will work and I'm very positive about it.
As far as the tanks are concerned, I understand the Member for Klondike 's issue. We are flexible with that issue. We are working with industry, as I committed to do. We certainly look forward to working with industry in the future.
As far as going back or putting a moratorium on things, we are not going to do that. We are going to go forward and work with industry to resolve these kinds of issues. We are flexible on the ground now. We understand the dilemma that the industry is in and we are going to work with that industry to minimize that.
I commit here on the floor of the House to do just that. We will do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Did I hear the minister say, either directly or indirectly, that 1,000-gallon tanks can be used as long as they contain only 4,000 litres of fuel and they don't have to be bermed and lined?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The Member for Klondike did not hear that. I did not say that. I am not standing up in the House and committing to do that. All I am committing to do - and the Member for Klondike understands exactly what I said, he has very good hearing - is to work with industry to minimize the impact of this decision. We are being flexible in the department. We are doing that now. We are aware of the burden that this will put on industry. We are concerned, because we work with industry to make them successful. We are going to try to minimize the impact of this. We are working with industry as we speak to make sure that they can comply with the regulations that are in place today.
As far as committing on the floor here today on gallons and litres and how that will be, I will leave that up to the department. I have given them instructions to be flexible and move ahead with managing it. I look forward to working with industry to resolve this.
Mr. Jenkins: On the one hand, we have an order-in-council regulation contained in part 2 of the Yukon Placer Mining Act that requires 1,000-gallon fuel oil tanks to be lined and bermed. At the same time, the minister says he wants to work with industry and be open and flexible.
How does he propose to do that? How is that to be implemented? And what does that actually mean? Does that mean that placer miners with a 1,000-gallon fuel tank will be able to operate with that fuel tank this coming mining season without it being lined and bermed? Is that in the equation, or is it on a case-by-case basis? How is it going to be interpreted by the department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working with industry to resolve this issue. We have responsibilities, as government, to make sure that individuals follow regulations. That protects all taxpayers in the Yukon. We are certainly being flexible this season, as I committed to the member opposite, and we are certainly working with industry.
That's all I can say, Mr. Chair. That's the long and the short of it. We are working with industry, and we are trying to minimize the impacts of these kinds of decisions on industry. But we do have an obligation - we did sign on to YESAA, and we did sign on to the Environmental Assessment Act - and we have to get the regulations lined up so that these regulations can be administered in the Yukon . We will work with industry, and we will work with YESAB. We'll move forward, and we'll minimize this impact on industry.
Mr. Jenkins: The whole area of fuel and fuel containment is subject to very little interpretation. What I am hearing from the minister is that they are going to work with the industry and they are going to be flexible, but I can't understand how that can be translated into accepting a 1,000-gallon fuel tank on a placer claim that has had no history of any contamination whatsoever over the years.
It is just another area where YESAA is going to come back and bite somebody where they don't want to be bitten, Mr. Chair. YESAA, contrary to what the minister now believes - and I know he has to be a firm supporter of it - is proving to be an impediment to projects moving through the system. In fact, it is proving to be a very useful tool to delay and impede projects, as it becomes more and more familiar. Rather than removing red tape, it would appear that under YESAA - coupled with the Water Board and everything else - we've added to the regulatory burden of industry.
There is the issue of investment, and it just is not going to happen here in the Yukon at any speed when it comes to permitting mines. There are opportunities elsewhere and the minister knows full well. I would encourage him to address that area, and it can be done with simple little tasks like perhaps increasing to 4,500 litres the size of fuel storage containers that can be used without having to line and berm them. If you go back and look at it, it makes an abundant amount of sense, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I'll take from the minister and the information he has provided that he is going to work with industry and perhaps do something, perhaps do nothing, perhaps put some icing on the cake, but I'm disappointed to see these OICs going through and making changes.
There are other changes, too, that I would ask the minister to go back and have a look at. Mr. Chair, if I could draw the minister's attention to and ask the minister to look at a land application that I raised during Question Period. Above the Mayo River in the Mayo area, it was the parcel of land that went through what I was told was all the appropriate processes, but when I asked for the application for federal Crown land, it does not identify the parcel of land that was being selected. In fact, the parcel of land that was being selected on the application was missing - it was omitted completely.
Now, I know that this took place under the watch of the federal government and was transferred over to the Yukon government at devolution. Surprisingly, the parcel of land was enlarged by a third. It covers a quarrying pit that had been issued to another party who was at the original review, had input through the renewable resource council, specifically questioned on both occasions where this parcel of land was, asked that it be identified, asked if it was covering this quarrying pit, and it was clearly conveyed to this individual who had the quarrying pit that it did not cover that area.
Lo and behold, Mr. Chair, when survey instructions were issued, the letter from Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources, from the director of the lands branch, said clearly that although it has been confirmed, an error was made on size and location of the final parcel. How is an error made on size and location of a parcel of land? How does a parcel of land get increased by one-third? This doesn't even pass the smell test. Could the minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are again talking about this issue regarding the Mayo-Dawson line. This was a parcel of land that was agreed on by the federal government. It came over to our side of the table through devolution. We had to follow through with the title. That was our obligation. We did that.
Certainly the Member for Klondike can quote whatever he wants on the floor here, but the issue was related to a commitment made by the federal government - an agreement of sale. Through devolution we had to issue the title. There weren't choices there. You can't not issue the title when an agreement of sale has been made. I understand there was a dilemma and there were questions about size and where the land was, and all these things that were decided before my tenure here at Energy, Mines and Resources. There was nothing we could do as a government to deny the individual the right to bring the land to title. That agreement of sale was done before I came to this office.
If there is an issue, the member opposite's issue is with the former government. I am not hiding behind the fact that the federal government made a mistake. I am just saying that they made a legal contract with this individual. All we did was honour the contract.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has a copy of the letter from CNI Construction. It clearly states that the land applied for was outside the YTG Quarry Pit No. 50. The land use pit had been held by CNI Construction since 1986. The original application for land contained significant deficiencies and that does not refer to the gravel resources of the proposed project area. I would refer to paragraph (d) and paragraph (h) of the application, which indicate the approximate areas of land under application in hectares. This section on the application was deliberately left blank.
Paragraphs (h)(1) and (h)(2) - what other general resource activities are taking place on or near your proposed project area? Not one comment is made on this application about existing gravel quarry tenure or that a gravel quarry existed. The application number 15459 does not appear to have been reviewed by the Mayo land inspector. The original application that was reviewed by the Mayo RRC was different from that of the lands branch's final submission report and authorization. Mr. Chair, how is that possible? Does that not raise questions with the minister?
The principals took an official from the government out to the gravel quarry and were assured by that official that the gravel YTG Quarry Pit No. 50 would be intact with no overlap. He was assured that the pit would not have any overlapping third party interests. There is not a report of that inspection, Mr. Chair.
How this series of events could unfold is beyond belief. The inspection report filed by the Mayo land inspector is very vague. The one comment is that there are no concerns applied - area will not create any land management concerns.
It would appear - and it's even suggested in this letter - that the documents may have been tampered with to change the location and size of the parcel of land offered to the applicant. There is even a suggestion of who authorized this change in the size and location. That's not identified. How did the independent surveyors get their survey instructions, Mr. Chair? Those are important issues.
The director of lands branch wrote to the quarry pit operators and stated that the .7-hectare area was depleted of gravel and used as a storage area for heavy equipment. That's incorrect. And two months prior to the land application, the land inspector signed and inspected the 19th season land use and quarry renewal pits for that same gravel pit.
How could this happen? In one instance, you have a gravel quarry pit. The land inspector surveys and says it is okay. He is involved in the land inspection for this other piece of property going to title and there is no mention or reference made to part of that area being the old dumpsite for the Village of Mayo.
It appears to be a travesty of justice, Mr. Chair, but seeing the time I move we report progress and get into this on the next business day.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
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 5:27 p.m.