Tuesday, April 18, 1989 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will now turn to the Order Paper.
Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for Tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling a number of answers to questions raised by Members opposite.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have three legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion?
Statements by Ministers?
The Yukon Intervention to the National Energy Board Hearings Respecting Application for Export of Natural Gas
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to inform the House today of the Yukon position of the export of natural gas from the Mackenzie Delta region. Similar statements are also being made today by the Deputy Minister of Justice in Inuvik at the National Energy Board hearing and by the Deputy Minister of Economic Development to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and the Canadian Oil and Gas Lands Administration in Ottawa.
The applications to export natural gas from the Mackenzie Delta region are important to both northern territories. Through the Northern Accord, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon will be participating in the joint management and revenues from oil and gas developments in the Beaufort region. The Yukon government, therefore, has asked the National Energy Board, when considering the export applications by Esso Resources Canada Ltd., Shell Canada Ltd., and Gulf Canada Resources Ltd., to keep in mind the implications of the Northern Accord and the resulting environmental, economic and social priorities of northerners.
We believe that the principal reason for todays hearings is to determine whether or not it is appropriate to export natural gas from the Mackenzie Delta. The Yukon government believes that Canadas long-term energy security should be a major factor in the boards considerations of these applications.
The Yukon governments position regarding natural gas development in the high north is that it must comply with our three main developmental principles. First, economic development must occur in harmony with conservation. During the Yukon 2000 consultation Yukon people emphasized the importance of maintaining a clean and productive environment. Second, there must be balanced development. Strengthening of the Yukon economy through natural gas development must be balanced and linked with the benefits to people, such as jobs, training and revenue increases as well as with the varying lifestyles of Yukoners. Third, such development must occur with the government having jurisdictional control and management responsibility over the natural gas resources in the territory, thus allowing the government to secure a fair return for Yukoners in the development of this resource.
The Yukon government is prepared to offer its conditional support for natural gas export licences to the Mackenzie Delta region. These conditions are:
1. Oil and gas exploration and development being proposed are economically sound and environmentally sensitive.
2. When applications are made for the construction of a pipeline to transport natural gas, various routing options should be explored.
It is the governments view that the Alaska Highway gas pipeline, together with the Dempster lateral gas pipeline is, at this time, the most appropriate option for the transportation of natural gas reserves from the North Slope of Alaska and Canadas Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea region. Support for the Dempster lateral would be contingent on a favourable environmental impact assessment, which could ensure construction without detrimental effect on, for example, the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd.
3. The Yukon government has been, and will remain, fundamentally opposed to pipeline routes from Prudhoe Bay to the Beaufort Sea/Mackenzie Delta across the North Slope of the Yukon. We are supported in this position by many groups and authorities, including the recommendations of the Berger Commission and the National Energy Board.
Canada and the two territorial governments have taken the position that proposed oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would have a significant detrimental effect on the sensitive calving grounds of the international Porcupine caribou herd. Given the fundamental importance of this herd to the traditional way of life of the Gwichin we have opposed ANWR development that would threaten the caribou.
4. Full assessment of the socioeconomic and environmental consequences of the proposed gas pipeline routes is undertaken, and the route would only be considered viable if the assessment results are favourable.
The Yukon government is opposed to the use of tankers to transport petroleum products from or through the Beaufort Sea.
5. There is minimal oil and gas development in the Beaufort region until a final Northern Accord has been signed and the Yukon government has the ability to participate in managing future petroleum activity.
6. Further oil and gas developments occur only after a Yukon final land claims agreement is signed and in place. New exploration should take place only if it would not jeopardize the outcome of the Yukon land claim final agreement.
7. Finally, natural gas exploration and development ensures sound regional development while maintaining a secure energy supply for Yukoners and Canadians.
The points to which I have spoken are conditions that, if addressed, will not stand in the way of development of Canadas north. On the contrary, they will encourage responsible and balanced development. They will help ensure sound community development and economic benefits for Yukoners, a minimal impact on the environment, and the success of a land claim agreement and the Northern Accord.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased we finally do have a public position from this government regarding the important issues contained therein. I have some concerns about the position as read into the record today by the Minister.
The main issue at stake will be not what happens to the Mackenzie Delta gas in Canada, but the route for the Alaskan gas from Prudhoe Bay to market.
It is our position that Yukon should be in favour of the Alaska Highway pipeline route for that gas over the other alternatives because, firstly, a thorough socioeconomic review was done in 1977. At the same time, but by a separate group, a thorough environmental assessment review was completed. An agreement was negotiated between Canada and the U.S., licences and permits were put in place for the route, the corridor has been identified and refined, and the environmental consequences of the pipeline have been studied at some cost, not only to Foothills, but to governments as well. Incorporated into the agreement, as a result of the socio and economic review, were a number of important economic benefits to Yukon.
It is my concern that if we do not show that we do favour that route over the alternatives we are in danger of getting the all-Alaskan LNG tanker route being so successfully lobbied for in Alaska and the in southern 48 - and in Washington - or, and even more dangerous from an environmental point of view, we stand to be faced with the real chance of the pipeline from the Mackenzie down to the lower 48 being linked up across Yukons North Slope, as was the original proposal by the large oil company cartels that proposed the Arctic gas route in the early 1970s in the first place, and which route was derailed - crippled but not killed - by the Berger Report.
When I read this statement, I find it to be extremely tentative in its stand regarding the Alaska Highway gas pipeline. The conditions that the Minister has read out leave us with a lot of questions. We will be pursuing some of those questions in the next day or two.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I look forward to the questions that are coming up in Question Period, I hope, because I am more than mildly puzzled at the presentation made by the Leader of the Official Opposition. The Leader of the Official Opposition confined his remarks almost exclusively to the export of Prudhoe Bay gas which, of course, is not the subject of the NEB hearings in Inuvik today.
The Leader of the Official Opposition further indicated that he felt that the governments position, which is quite clearly stated with respect to the Alaska Highway gas pipeline, was unclear. I cannot imagine making a clearer statement of the governments priorities with respect to removal of gas out of Prudhoe Bay area. I cannot imagine a clearer statement with respect to removal of gas out of Alaska that would not encourage pipeline construction in northern Yukon. I cannot imagine a much clearer statement with respect to our concerns relating to environment and benefits to Yukoners.
I believe that the position we have taken with respect to the issues at hand for the NEB hearing and with respect to the transportation of gas are tough decisions; they are responsible decisions. The position taken, I believe, protects our most precious resource that we have identified as being our number one priority, which is the environment of the Yukons North Slope. We have indicated support for the Dempster lateral only if there is no danger to the Porcupine caribou herd migration and only because we do not want a North Slope pipeline.
We did indicate support for the Alaska Highway gas pipeline. That is abundantly clear in the statement. For that reason, I am looking forward to trying to determine, from what I can glean from the Members questions, what the Conservative position really is.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Budget timing
Mr. Phelps: The Minister of Finance has gone on at great length to describe his lack of imagination. He cannot imagine this, he cannot imagine that, and he cannot imagine almost anything, so perhaps we will give him a break and get to his imagination; we will give it a chance to work and get him ready for tomorrow. We will ask the follow-up questions on the Ministerial Statement. I hope his intellect and imagination are working now because we do have some other questions for him or for the Government Leader, whoever feels he is the appropriate Minister to answer the questions.
It is regarding the governments policy on the budgetary process from now on in Yukon. First, we hear that the government intends to continue its break with tradition and, in future, table the Capital and O&M Budget Mains together in early spring. Then we hear that they intend to break with tradition and table the two mains, O&M and Capital, together in the fall. I wonder if the appropriate Minister could tell us what the intention of the government is in the future with regard to tabling the budget and passing the Mains?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I hope my imagination and intellect in answering this question passes the mustard for the Member for Hootalinqua.
The intention of the government is to pass a combined Operation and Maintenance Budget and Capital Budget in the fall sitting of the Legislature this year.
Mr. Phelps: I may have to send a copy of John Lennons record, Imagine, to the Minister.
In the past, the government has tabled and debated its Operation and Maintenance Budget just as the fiscal year begins, as is occurring right now. Even then, the estimates have been extremely soft in person years. The estimated deficit and surplus have been way out. We have seen that in the supplements that follow half way through the year. For example this year we have ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ... gone from a $5 million surplus to an $18 million or $19 million deficit half way through the year. Would the Minister not agree that a fall Operation and Maintenance Budget would result in even less accurate estimates in the Main Budget, because it is going to take place four or five months ahead of the year even beginning?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The short answer to that very long, convoluted question is no. As the statistics and figures demonstrate, the supplementaries, as a percentage of the budget, are shrinking and have continually shrunk in the past five years. Furthermore, I believe the appropriate planning necessary to implement operation and maintenance programs can take place in the period between the time the budget is tabled and passed in the fall sitting and the time when the programs will be implemented on April 1. I believe it will allow the departments to allow for more accurate budgeting and better planning in the development of programs. I would categorically reject the Members assumptions and his claim.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister said that a fall budget cannot be as accurate as the spring budget, because the year-end financial picture is not as complete and will be based more on projections. He said that in response to reporters questions more than a week ago. Why has he suddenly changed his mind?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not changed my mind at all. What I indicated is that there would be better planning for the anticipated programs in any given fiscal year by the relevant departments. That planning will take place and better implementation will be the ultimate effect with better service to the public as a result.
Question re: Budget timing
Mr. Phelps: The concern that we have, and the reason we are raising the issue right now, is that it would seem the government wants to avoid appropriate scrutiny by Members of the Official Opposition in this Legislature. It appears the government does not want to be fully accountable to the people of the Yukon for its reckless spending habits.
How can the government justify its reduction in the scrutiny by the Legislature when we know that the Operation and Maintenance Budget would be based on false projections if it is debated in the fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe the question before us is based on a number of false premises. The conclusion of the question is false as well.
I believe the concerns expressed by the Members opposite are more accurately captured in the statements made by the Member for Porter Creek East. They feel that it is too much work to undertake the necessary scrutiny of the budget. I do not believe that is the case for all Members on the opposition bench. I believe that some of them do a thorough job of scrutinizing expenditures and put a lot of work into it, and can do so in a combined budget.
The budget itself is far from reckless spending. In fact, it has received a vote of confidence from Mr. Budget Control himself in Ottawa. The federal government has expressed a vote of confidence in our budgeting.
The budget style has been adopted as a model by the United Nations to introduce to countries such as Nepal.
We are hardly avoiding scrutiny. We are improving the publics ability to juxtapose operation and maintenance and capital expenditures. It has been a continuing concern of Members in this Legislature to be able to do that. We are affording them the opportunity to do that through a combined budget. I believe that is responsible and reasonable.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister has it completely backwards. The reason for wanting to combine the budgets, whether it be fall or spring, is so the government will not have to do as much work and subject itself twice a year to the scrutiny of the opposition for every department in government. Is that not the real reason?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, that is not the real reason. That is not even one reason. The government of today feels that it should be coming forward to the Legislature to explain fully, and give a complete picture of, its expenditure plans. We feel the MLAs in this Legislature were elected to provide that scrutiny and to do the work. The necessary budgets, whether they be revisions or main estimates, will be brought before the House and Ministers will be held accountable. They will answer every and any questions that the Members opposite put to them.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister reconsider? We are eager to do all the work and to go through departments twice at six-month intervals. Would the Minister change his mind and go back to the established practice of this House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is nothing in the Members preamble that suggests that there should be any cause for changing ones mind. The Member has not presented any arguments that I would regard as being thorough or reasonable. The Member seems to be saying that we should maintain tradition for traditions sake. I am supported by my caucus in the belief that there are better ways to make the picture more accurate and more complete for the Yukon public. I do not know why the Members opposite do not believe that to be the case. The expenditure patterns and the total budgets of the government will be on the record in full for everyone to see and question.
Question re: Budget timing
Mr. Lang: I am very disappointed with the change in tradition that the government has arbitrarily imposed on the Legislature. I think it says a great deal about the actions of the government and the obvious arrogance that some members of the public are starting to see.
It is a shame that the government does not want to undergo scrutiny on the financial aspects of government twice during the course of the year.
In an article on the same question in the Yukon News, the caption reads, Government budgets now planned for fall sitting. Mr. McDonald stated ... he believes the fall sitting, because it is not as heavily burdened with the passage of legislative, gives plenty of time to debate the complete budget. Is that one of the reasons for the moves put forward by the government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly during a fall sitting, the government and the opposition can review the true total picture of expenditure plans put forward to the Legislature for as long as they feel they need in order to get an understanding of the budgets. The proposal we are putting forward is far from avoiding scrutiny, it is encouraging a more complete picture of the governments budget. It allows for as much questioning of the budget as the Members wish and the fall session affords us that opportunity and affords us the planning time as well to develop programs prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.
Mr. Lang: It seems that the Minister does not want to answer any questions directly. In the article, captioned Government budgets now planned for fall sitting, Mr. McDonald, who spoke just now, is stated as saying that he ...believes the fall sitting, because it is not as heavily burdened with the passage of legislation, gives plenty of time to debate the complete budget. I want to ask the Minister if that is one of the main reasons for this major significant change that this government is proposing?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would not call it a main reason at all. Firstly, the fall session of this Legislature is scheduled to have an education act. I would not call that a minor piece of legislation by any means. That is already on the record. There may be other pieces of legislation, depending on the interests of the government and what it is prepared to introduce at the time.
The purpose of the combined budgets is primarily to provide for a total and complete picture of expenditure estimates by this government so that all Members can see what the total picture is at one time. That is the reason. If Members are prepared to put in the work to provide time to scrutinize the budgets, the budgets will be scrutinized thoroughly.
Mr. Lang: It stated in the article that I refer to again, captioned Government budgets now planned for fall sitting, and one of the most significant reasons given to at least one of the members of the media was printed as follows: Mr. McDonald believes the fall sitting, because it is not as heavily burdened with the passage of legislation, gives plenty of time to debate the complete budget. I want to know whether or not the Minister gave that as a reason for the major changes and obvious departure from past tradition where the government was required to come to this House twice a year to discuss the taxpayers expenditures? Did he or did he not say it to the Yukon News reporter? I would like a yes or no.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member thinks that because they establish a tradition that it is the only tradition and the best tradition. That is bunk and that is arrogance. This government is doing what is typical of every single other government in the country in terms of establishing a program of estimates for the Legislature. They do that largely because they want to give the public a complete picture of the expenditures for that particular jurisdiction. Just because the Member was involved in establishing another tradition, it does not mean that is the only tradition and the only best tradition and that any variation from that tradition is arrogance...
Point of Order
Speaker: Point of order.
Mr. Lang: I would appreciate if you would start to rule Mr. Speaker on No. 9, which reads A reply to a question should be as brief as possible, relevant to the question asked and should not provoke debate. Those spiteful remarks are not called for. I asked a direct question. I wanted a yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the Point of Order, I am sure you will have noted that of course the Member who is accusing others of being spiteful across the road began with a personal attack on the Minister, and used an adjective against someone else to which he now takes offence. You will also note that the rules do not attempt to provide for Ministers to provide comments about questions in the press, which he is now demanding a direct response to. The purpose of Question Period, as noted in our rules, is to in fact ask questions about government policy, which of course the Minister is speaking to.
Speaker: Order, please. On the Point of Order, there is a Point of Order and I would just like to remind the Members of guidelines 7 and 9, A brief preamble will be allowed in the case of the main question and a one-sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary question. The same goes for the answers, A reply to a question should be as brief as possible, and should not provoke debate.
The hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East, new question.
Question re: Budget timing
Mr. Lang: I would be the last one to try to provoke a debate with the Member opposite. All that I am asking the Minister is: Did he state, to at least one individual outside this House, either through the media or otherwise, that he believed the fall sitting, because it is not as heavily burdened by the passage of legislation gives plenty of time to debate the complete budget?
Was that one of the reasons given for the very significant changes that we are going to see, since the final outcome will probably be one sitting a year in this House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: All right. Now I am beginning to understand what the Member is trying to get at with his line of questioning.
First of all, the government certainly has every intention of having two sessions of the Legislature: one fall and one spring sitting of the Legislature. That is a tradition we do believe in. In the context of discussions about the combined budgets, questions have been asked, and I am sure that they will be asked again, about what the plans are with respect to the fall and spring sittings of the Legislature. In that context, certainly it is reasonable to expect that there is time to discuss a combined budget in a fall sitting, and there is certainly time to have a spring session. Both sessions will be called because the government does have not only expenditure plans to deal with, but it also has legislative plans to deal with.
I am sure Members in the Opposition have their own motions that they would like to put forward as well, which are completely and entirely and totally legitimate.
Mr. Lang: I sure appreciate the Member allowing us to put a motion on the floor once in awhile. I just asked the Minister, and I want an answer, yes or no, and I am sure that the media who have interviewed you on this subject prior to today would like to know what the truth is. I want to know if one of the reasons for making the significant changes that we are going to experience in this Legislature was because you stated that the fall sitting is not as heavily burdened with the passage of legislation, which gives plenty of time to debate the complete budget. All I ask for is a yes or no.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will continue to answer the question for the balance of Question Period. In the context of talking about the budgeting process I indicated to the media and to the Members now that the government feels that there is plenty of time to discuss the combined O&M and capital budgets in the fall session of the Legislature, and we feel there is time to thoroughly scrutinize the budget estimates so that any and all elements of the budget can be exposed for public discussion.
That is the context in which I commented in the past, and in which I am doing so now.
Mr. Lang: The significant reasons that the Minister gave in the article I am referring to have changed dramatically. Either that, or he misspoke himself or he was misquoted. It is one of those reasons.
Why is the government proposing to bring forward a child care act, an education act, an environmental protection act, a highways act, a historical resources act, a liquor act and a wildlife act in this fall session, along with, perhaps, some other pieces of legislation when the Minister said that the fall session was to be strictly a financial session? I see the Minister getting directions from the Government Leader, so the Government Leader can take full responsibility for this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The position of the government has not changed dramatically at all. In fact, some time ago, the government indicated that it wanted a combined budget to put before the Legislature, and we tabled a combined budget prior to the election. The public was aware of a combined budget prior to the election. We had tabled the Throne Speech and had made commitments with respect to our legislative program. Those are all on record.
I would remind the Members that for every ounce of energy they put into a session, the government Ministers put in at least the same. We are certainly going to do our best to serve the public, both in presenting and scrutinizing budgets and in presenting and scrutinizing legislative packages and debating motions before this Legislature. We are paid to do it and we have to get the job done.
Question re: Mammography unit
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources with respect to a mammography unit.
Last week the Minister and I discussed at some length in both Question Period and in the Capital Estimates access for Yukon women to a mammography unit. I mentioned the sharing of a mobile unit with British Columbia. In response, the Minister did not even mention the sharing of a unit with BC as a possibility and said that the federal and territorial government were negotiating the purchase of a unit for some unknown, impossible-to-predict date in the future.
Will the government change its position and share the BC unit so Yukon women can have mammograms done here possibly as early as October 1989?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize. This Question Period would not permit me with enough time to respond to all the points in the Members question.
First of all, let me say that he is correct that we have been examining and preparing ourselves for a proposal that would see a mammography unit in the Whitehorse hospital. We have been talking about the capital and operating costs with the responsible authorities there.
The proposal by the BC/Yukon Cancer Society is a new proposal. It is a pilot project that I understand is initially to be offered in southern BC; it would not have the same scope as the proposal that we are examining for the hospital. So as not to abuse the rules, I would say to the Member that I am going to be meeting with officials of the BC/Yukon Cancer Society tomorrow to discuss their proposal with them.
Mr. Nordling: I understood the former Minister had been discussing this with British Columbia for the past two years. I would like to repeat my question of April 10. When will Yukon women be able to have mammograms done in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would hesitate to give a firm date, but I would hope it will not be too many months. In the view of the British Columbia government, even the scheduled date for the pilot project by the BC/Yukon Cancer Society of this fall, which is a pilot project destined for the lower mainland, may be optimistic.
The proposals that were being discussed by the previous Minister consisted of correspondence between this government and the British Columbia government which, it is proposed, would be the principal funding agent of the pilot project that is now being initiated by the BC/Yukon Cancer Society.
Mr. Nordling: Since this Minister took over, we have heard nothing but evasion on every issue we have asked about. If he cannot get a handle on anything else, would he try to get a handle on this particular issue of the mammography unit and report back to this House by the end of the week?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Responsible decisions about large capital items and major programs are not made on the whim or on the run. Rather than responding to the particularly petulant and offensive remarks of the Member opposite, in the next few months I will satisfy him that we are going to be making some very substantial decisions about all these issues, but we will be making those decisions in the full knowledge of all the facts. I do not want to be making commitments about dates and places to the House that may not be able to be fulfilled.
Question re: Judges, appointment of
Mrs. Firth: With respect to judicial appointments and a new process for appointing judges, the federal government and some provincial jurisdictions have established independent commissions to provide ministers of justice with broadly based and objective advice about the qualifications of applicants for appointment. Is it the Minister of Justices intention to examine this option for the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Joe: We are looking at options from other jurisdictions in Canada with regard to those specific things. At this time, it is not my intention to proceed with anything like that in the near future, but we are looking at the different options that could be available to us.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister cannot have it both ways. She said she is going to look at options, but she is saying she is not going to move in the direction of an independent commission. Could she be specific as to what policy direction she has given her department regarding any new process for appointing judges?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I did not say I was not going to do something. I said we were looking at a number of things in the Department of Justice with regard to a number of areas, including the appointment of judges. I have not come to a definite decision in regard to a number of things, because we have to gather a lot of information prior to making those decisions. This is one of them.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the governments policy is regarding an independent commission for the appointment of judges?
Hon. Ms. Joe: At this point, we have a judicial council. We are working with the judicial council with respect to the recruitment and appointment of judges. That is what we are now doing. That is our current policy. There is a possibility we may change this policy. I have not made the decision yet.
Question re: Government agents
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services. There is concern in the Watson Lake area about the Government Agent being stationed in the liquor store. One concern is that the door states no minors allowed. The government then expects a 15 and 16 year old to come in and get his or her drivers licence and other government-related paraphernalia. Does the Minister have any plans to move the agent to a more suitable location?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to take the Members question as notice. I do appreciate the attention drawn to the issue and will investigate immediately.
Mr. Devries: There is also the concern regarding the hours kept at the liquor store and the agents office. You cannot pick up permits or licences on Mondays and it does not open until 11 a.m. in the morning. Does the government have any plans to stay open longer this summer, similar to last year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The question appears to be a reasonable attempt to encourage the upgrading of services. I will provide a full answer, when I have an opportunity to look into the matter.
Question re: Dempster Highway Tourism Agreement
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism regarding the Dempster Highway Tourism Agreement. I understand that the Government of Yukon and Northwest Territories officials and residents of the Dempster Highway met about two weeks ago but could not reach an agreement on the marketing strategy for the Dempster Highway. Why did we wait eight weeks before the tourism season before we started to talk about a strategy for marketing the highway?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The fact of the matter is that we have been marketing the Dempster Highway for a number of years now through our various brochures, the Yukon Planning Guide and our tour travel brochures, and through our visitor reception centres. The purpose of the meeting was to get people together from the Northwest Territories and the Yukon to discuss ways of promoting the Dempster Highway in preparation for the tenth anniversary of its official opening. They were looking at some special attractions, or special ways of promoting the highway, for that practical event, in addition to promoting the Dempster Highway and the Beaufort Sea area in a long-range tourism plan.
Mr. Phillips: It appears from the comments made by both parties, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, that they were not necessarily talking about the anniversary but about a long-term strategy. They felt the strategy simply was not working and they could not agree on one. Has the Government of Yukon developed a strategy or has it changed its position on the marketing of that road? Will the government work closely with the Northwest Territories so that we can get an effective marketing strategy in place to draw tourists to that area?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to reiterate that we already have an effective marketing plan in place. It has been in place for a number of years.
I will naturally be working much more closely with the people of the Arctic in promoting their region as well and to that end have rented space in Dawson City right across the street from the Visitor Reception Centre for the purpose of persuading people who have made Dawson their destination to consider traveling up to Inuvik.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the Minister can answer this question; If the effective marketing strategy is in place and has been in place for so many years, why were both parties on both sides unhappy with it and walked away from the table and could not agree? It does not make sense. Either there is marketing strategy that works, and they both agree, or in this case, through the media it was reported that they both disagreed. I am asking the Minister: when are they going to get back to the table and agree on a good marketing strategy for the Dempster Highway?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, there is a difference of opinion. The difference of opinion is who should be taking the lead responsibility. It is the position of the people of the Northwest Territories that the Government of Yukon should be providing $50,000 to the people over there for the purpose of marketing the highway. Our position is the exact opposite, that they should be supplying us with a similar amount of money so that we could improve our marketing program, which has proved successful over the years. Now, as I have already mentioned, there are some signs that the two groups will be getting together again. As I say, we are cooperating already with the establishment of a tour outlet in Dawson City that they are going to promote and I am sure that this is not disagreement that is going to keep the two parties from talking. This recent move is going to bring them together much more frequently this summer.
Question re: Mining roads
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Tourism and Renewable Resources. On April 13, 1988, this House passed the following motion: That this House urges the Government of Yukon to consider upgrading the existing mining roads that run along Burwash Creek, Tatamagouche Creek and Quill Creek to form a loop interconnecting with the Alaska Highway that could be utilized to promote tourism in the Kluane area, and that the Minister of Renewable Resources report progress on this resolution to the House. Could the Minister report to this House?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will report to the House as soon as I have the information on the feasibility of that proposition.
Mr. Brewster: I appreciate the fact that the Minister has a personal bias against promoting any tourism development in the Kluane area, but since he voted in favour of this motion, as he did with the previous motion favouring access to Kluane National Park, will the Minister reassure the House that he still supports this motion and that he has not changed his mind?
Hon. Mr. Webster: First of all, I want to reassure the House that it is not my position at all to not promote the Kluane region in favour of another region. I want to make that very clear. In respect to support of the motion, as I say, I do not have the information that supports the feasibility of upgrading those roads to a degree that would permit tourists in their large recreation vehicles to travel that route. As I have indicated before, I will get back to the Member with information as soon as it becomes available.
Mr. Brewster: Again the Minister is doing his best to ruin things by talking about a large restoration of vehicles. That is not what was even suggested by any of the speeches. Can the Minister advise the House when a portion of the mining roads will be upgraded and the government will live up to the spirit and intent of this motion?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As I have already indicated to the Member, I will make that information available as soon as I have it.
Question re: Elk
Mr. Lang: I directed a question to the Minister of Renewable Resources yesterday, which had to do with the Hutshi Lake elk herd. I noticed in the government contracts that there had been a number of studies confirming my question regarding the health of the herd. It has been verified that there are surplus bulls in that herd. I am wondering if the Minister is prepared now to report to this House whether or not he will consider the concept of a permit hunt similar to what was held a number of years ago by the Fish and Game Association for bison? All proceeds would go back into assisting with wildlife management.
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I am not prepared to make that commitment at this time as I have not, in the last 24 hours, received an answer to the Members question.
Mr. Lang: When does the Minister feel, in his busy time schedule, along with the Minister of Finance, he can find time to answer some of these questions?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I can find the time during Question Period. It is more a matter of the officials of my department. The deputy minister, for example, is not in the territory today as he is at the public hearings on the export of gas, and other members of the wildlife branch are out on other important matters. As soon as they bring that information forward, I will pass it on to the Member opposite.
Mr. Lang: I just hope the Minister did not inadvertently say that there are other important things, like the Legislature, well below the priority list for his department. I would assume that the Minister would take our questions seriously and get back to us. I ask the Minister to follow this up so we can expect a reply by the end of the week, because we are coming to the close of the session within the next week to two weeks, and I feel it is important that the question be answered and not just be dismissed out of hand.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am not dismissing the question out of hand. I have already said that I will get back to the Member. I think I have proven myself in the past. When questions were asked of me, I think I got back as soon as possible. I did make it quite clear that there are just as important other matters that are probably being attended to. Yes, if the answer is available by the end of this week, the Member will have it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 37: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 37, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Byblow.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that Bill No. 37 entitled, Act to Amend the Home Owners Grant Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 37 entitled, Act to Amend the Home Owners Grant Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am quite pleased to be beginning debate on the bill that was introduced yesterday. This bill is going to ease the burden of home ownership for many Yukon residents. The purpose of the bill is essentially to increase the Home Owners Grant to a maximum of $450 for most Yukon people and to $500 for seniors.
By way of background information, the Home Owners Grants were first paid in 1976. At that time the maximum amount was $250. This maximum amount was increased to $300 in 1978 and to $350 in 1981. It has remained at that amount since that time. The grant is a fixed amount and as a result it essentially diminishes in real value over the years, largely through the effects of inflation.
The average tax that is paid on a single family dwelling in Yukon municipalities has increased by an average of 25 percent since 1981. This proposed increase in the grant will, to a large extent, make up for the effect of inflation for most Yukon people and will provide some additional assistance to seniors. This will effectively enable people to stay in the Yukon and in their own homes.
Property taxes are a very important source of revenue for municipalities. It is a form of taxation that municipalities are entitled to levy. This grant does help the municipalities indirectly simply because it allows them to raise the revenues that they need to provide services without causing undue hardship to low-income residents of the community.
Taxes on property differ from the income tax system because they are not directly related to a persons ability to pay. In that respect they may be regressive taxes. For example, a low-income family may have a need for housing that is higher than that of an individual or couple. In the case of the family, they are likely to pay much higher property taxes, proportionately, compared to income, even though they are less able to afford that cost. Applying the Home Owners Grant helps to make the property tax less regressive by subsequently reducing the taxes for most people.
With the maximum of $450, most Yukon people would have 50 percent of their property taxes, up to a $900 tax bill, refunded. Therefore, owners occupying modest or middle-income housing would generally only pay half of the property taxes they would otherwise have to pay without the grant. Owners of larger and more elaborate homes would pay a proportionately higher tax bill because the grant would not be applied beyond the value of the housing.
It is not beyond the maximum $900 assessment, to which the Home Owners Grant would apply.
In the case of seniors, they will now have three-quarters of their taxes refunded, up to a maximum of a $500 grant. For example, the net cost to a senior of a $700 tax bill is now $350. With the Home Owners Grant, that cost would be reduced to a net of $200 with the proposed increase to the grant.
As many Members will recall, on May 11, 1988, previous Members of this House unanimously supported a motion to increase the Home Owners Grant. This bill will enact the changes requested by the previous Assembly. I am sure I can count on the support of the previous Members, as well as the new ones.
Mr. Lang: We support the initiative brought forward by the Member. As the Member indicated, it was our side of the House that presented the motion last May to increase the Home Owner Grant. We were pleased to see the government support it at that time.
I will give some background of the Home Owner Grant. I was a Member of the government that brought forward the first Home Owner Grant legislation in this House. One of the major reasons for that legislation was to recognize the importance of people owning their own home. This was an effort to try to help keep the year-round cost of running a home down to an absolute minimum. That was one of the reasons the legislation was drawn up; you had to be a resident in that home for at least 185 days, to ensure you are a permanent resident and residing there for the majority of the year.
A number of areas have undergone major reassessments in this past year, namely, in the Porter Creek area. The Minister announced the school tax percentage levy was going to stay the same and there would be no increase in taxes. The result of the reassessment being done is that many of us with homes in the Porter Creek area will be looking at an increased school tax bill of $50. The government should be aware of that.
There is an other area I would like to raise, one which the City of Whitehorse will have to address. I have spoken to a member of the council, and I will be speaking to others as well. If the city council keeps the percentage levied at the percentage rate that is levied now and does not decrease it, many of the residents in the Porter Creek area will be experiencing in the neighbourhood of an $80 to $120 increase. Added together, that could be as much as a $150 increase in taxes this year to people in that area due to the reassessment.
Over and above that, residents in the area are experiencing the cost of paying their share of the paving program that was put into place, which, in some cases, is as high as $400 a year.
I want to caution the Minister from getting too far ahead of himself and saying what a deal this is for the taxpayer. In some cases, it is not going to offset the increased costs that have been levied by the territorial government. If the city does not take proper steps, we could see a significant increase over and above what the Home Owner Grant is going to take care of.
I know that it was not the intention of the government nor this side of the House to just take care of tax increases. In other words, the government takes with one hand and gives it back with the other. The purpose is to try to offset the cost of living and also recognize the importance of people owning their own home and staying here 12 months of the year.
Speaker: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services? The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Member for his observations and certainly wish to reassure him that indeed the principle of the original bill was to assist home owners with the costs associated with owning their own home. Certainly that principle is still applied here. It does effectively reduce the amount of taxation that property owners have to pay.
I recognize the observation he makes with respect to reassessments and that is a matter that, as a government, we are grappling with, in fact, at this very instant. The Member is aware from previous queries that we are in the process of doing a taxation review, if you will, and we are going to have to come to terms with some of inequities of the taxation system. If he cites specific examples related to his constituency, then I would only make the observation that those increased assessments are not necessarily reflective any particular tax rate. We may have an application of an increased value for a property that is taking place as well.
This bill does allow for some of those increases to be absorbed, and I suppose in some measure we are making up for the inflationary increases that have taken place since the last increase of the Home Owners Grant. Certainly, it provides a greater advantage to lower-income people and middle-income people than it does to owners of homes that are more expensive.
The issue of assessments and taxation, as I said, is one that we are going to be grappling with and certainly if the Member is talking to the City of Whitehorse, it is something on which we will also be continuing discussions. Previously, we raised the issue of variable tax rates to more properly reflect the level of services that are provided to various sections of the territory and certainly as debate on this bill and the whole issue proceeds, I invite any comments to help resolve the inequities.
Motion for Second Reading agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into the Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. 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: I will call the Committee to order. At this time we will have a recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 51, First Appropriation Act, 1989-90 - continued
Chair: We are on Government Services. Is there any general debate?
Department of Government Services
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The operations and maintenance section of the budget for Government Services is the administrative component for the delivery for an abundance of various government projects. Members are quite familiar with the department. It is quite often under close scrutiny and considerable discussion. One of the largest jobs of the department is to essentially improve the maintenance to buildings that are under government lease or ownership. Government services branch has a large responsibility in rural communities for that same service. It is this department that handles the principal contracting procedures for the construction of various projects from other departments, and handles the supply of goods that is required by government.
There is a significant increase in the property management branch specifically in the building maintenance section. The purpose is to improve the maintenance service for all YTG buildings and to provide and develop a planned maintenance service for those buildings. As in any efficient exercise, you try to establish a preventative maintenance program that repeatedly has shown to be cost effective because it reduces the cost of maintenance that is required when facilities deteriorate beyond a regular maintenance level.
At the same time, the increase reflects the new Yukon College and a number of improvements to services in the rural communities. There is an increase in building maintenance person years, and I can detail those when we get into that section.
The Capital Budget Systems and Computing Services is continuing to develop computer applications and establish linkages with communities. There was a component of the Capital Budget that spoke specifically to the installation of fax machines with the communities.
The supply services branch continues to identify the opportunities for Yukon businesses for any manufacturing that is possible or available to government as its general purpose is the supply of goods. I can detail program activities as we get into branch-by-branch discussions, but if there are any general questions, I would entertain them.
Some of the items that have risen in previous Government Services debates I can perhaps speak to and address potential questions. As I have indicated previously, Government Services is in the process of reassessing its accommodation needs and we are in the process of developing a long-term accommodation plan. That, in short, is to try and calculate and predict the accommodation needs for government in the various departments and ensure the steps we take have a minimum of impact on upsetting the private sector marketplace and, at the same time, ensure that government has adequate space in a safe working environment.
On the construction side of things, as Members have previously flagged, we are in the final stages of the development of the project management manual. I am looking forward to seeing this shortly and certainly will treat with priority the implementation of revised procedures and a closer scrutiny of the entire project planning and construction phases. As we have indicated in previous budget discussions, the planning component relating to construction has taken on an increased emphasis. Two-year planning and construction cycles are going to be more and more the order of the day where possible.
I have indicated previously that it is the Department of Government Services responsiblitily to provide for various services to government; it often gets caught in a position of having to provide certain services on short notice. At those times, it cannot sometimes provide the kind of planning it would like to, but, quite often, at the same time, the services are of a minimal sort.
Those were certainly two areas that Members have raised before and if there are any specifics relating to general debate, I would be pleased to discuss them.
Mr. Lang: I have some general questions for the Minister. I would like to first begin by asking what is going to happen to the offices that were supposed to go into the building on Second Avenue and were subsequently canceled. Obviously, there is a need for space and I do not know the immediate situation. I would like to know what the Minister is doing in respect to that as opposed to his long-term plan.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I indicated to the Member previously that the arrangement that was being established by Government Services on that specific question had essentially collapsed. I have since been advised that it indeed has collapsed and we are going to retender. What that specific space need called for was the relocation of a branch of Health and Human Resources. I believe there was a call for approximately 6,000 square feet. What, in fact, that simply means is that there will be some delay in the relocation of the family services unit of Health and Human Resources. That reflects, I believe, nine persons in that branch who would have spilled over into providing space for Education for three or four more persons.
The Member asked me how many people this budget reflects that additional space is required for. If he recalls, I said 12. Well that is the Health and Human Resources component and Education component. Once Health and Human Resources would have moved out into this new space, the Education people would have moved in on the back side.
Mr. Lang: What about the increase in person years throughout the rest of the government? Where is the space going to be provided for them when they come on staff because it is not all Health and Human Resources and Education?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As a matter of fact, the answer in short is that the additional person years in the budget will be provided space through the existing space availability. If the Member would just give me one second, I can detail it in a more refined fashion.
Mr. Lang: On February 21, the day after the election, the contract administrators office moved, I gather, from the Law Building over to the building on Third and Jarvis. Perhaps the Minister could tell us who moved into that space? It is kind of musical chairs. If we do not know where the buildings are, I wonder how the public knows.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will speak about the budget person years. The analysis that I had asked the department to produce about requirements for this specific budget year truly reflected space needs for 12 people.
That is comprised of a number of things that took place in various branches and departments. I should point out that the largest activity in person years took place in Education, which effectively amounted to a number of teachers in the system, for which you do not require office facilities.
I will see if I can detail it. One position was reflected in the Tourism budget, which is simply a conversion of a term position to a permanent one. Government Services reflects 14 new person years in building maintenance, which I am sure we will talk about in that portion of the budget. All of these are field staff and are accommodated in existing facilities. Eight of those 14 are in the college and five are in various out-of-town positions. One is in the existing facilities. There are no new space requirements there.
In Renewable Resources, there were five new person years. One is being accommodated in an existing rural office and five are being accommodated at 10 Burns Road - this is available space.
Education reflects 34 new person years. All but three of these are teaching or related staff. Three are in the Return to Learning Program. As I indicated, those three will be provided space when Health and Human Resources, family services branch, moves to a space that is now to be retendered. That is a new space requirement.
New person years in Community and Transportation Services are all provided space within the existing facilities. One is a term extension and one is an internal transfer. There are four new people serving as National Safety Code inspectors. They are four new person years that come about as a result of the National Safety Code application inspectors positions. They will be accommodated in existing facilities.
I cannot tell the Member if it is going to be four inspectors. I do not think so. I think that is the entire unit.
I see the puzzlement of who pays? in the Members eyes. I should point out that it is federally funded under the agreement that was established.
Health and Human Resources are where the remaining nine new person year requirements are. To break that out, six positions are conversions of auxiliary positions at Macaulay Lodge. They do not require any accommodation. There is a new term position that does not require accommodation and there is one new term position in a counselling position that will acquire accommodation and seven in the Community and Family Services unit to be accommodated. That is part of what the tendering process is about.
That summarizes all the requirements. They are in Health and Human Resources, and three are in Education. Those are the new space requirements.
Mr. Lang: Does that take into account the various corporations and other agencies of the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think it does, but I say that with reservation.
Mr. Lang: The Minister did not answer my question about the contract administration moving from the Law Centre over to the building kitty-corner to it on the day after the election. I am sure that was just coincidence. Who took their space?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The space vacated by the contract administration, that moved to 302 Jarvis Street, was in the Justice building. Part of it was taken up by finance and administration of Justice. The majority was taken up by the native courtworkers.
Mr. Lang: I was under the impression the Native Courtworkers Program was run by an agency outside the government, the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, and was then transferred over to CYI. Is that where they work when they are in court, or is it the administration area?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to check on the relationship with the native courtworkers. There is the relationship within the justice system that covers it. It was space that was filled when contract administration moved out.
Mr. Lang: The Minister has a lot of my sympathy in his role of trying to provide space for all the lean and mean organizations within the government. If we have a call for only 12 new positions requiring space, why are we doing this study? Who is doing it and at what cost?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Prior to my assuming office, the Member is familiar with the proposal call that was put out for the relocation of the Health and Human Resources family services section. That was a call for 6,000 square feet so they could move out of this particular building, where there were very crowded conditions. The successful proponent in the tender call could not produce the 6,000 square feet that was called for.
Since then, I am advised we have to tender it again, which is going to delay the movement of that space.
In 1986, there was a Touche Ross report done, which was an analysis of government needs. It was done by a consultant who made a number of recommendations speaking to the various long-term requirements of the government.
That was subsequently updated, I believe a year later, or perhaps 18 months later. Essentially, that report, combined with individual analyses by Government Services of other branch needs, is what is being assembled. I understand this accommodation plan will essentially reflect a long-term requirement for the government. It will look at the whole business of space needs over the next five and 10 years. As the Member is aware - he is in the real estate business - the government has leased space throughout the city and certainly throughout the communities. In fact, an analysis of that shows that we own 50 percent of our space and lease the other 50 percent. If the Member recalls the Touche Ross report, it suggested that the government should own 70 percent and should lease 30 percent.
Those are debatable figures. I am not suggesting to the Member that I disagree or agree. What I am saying is that we have to have as accurate as possible an assessment of our needs and as accurate an assessment as possible of what impact we are going to have in a community with those needs. The Member knows that one of the debates going on out in the community is whether we should have long-term leases versus short-term leases. The current policy of the government is that it will not exceed a three-year lease. There has been quite a lobby by the Chamber of Commerce to extend that but there is considerable concern being expressed in the community over what will happen if the government decides to build a building. There is certainly no plan to do that but if the government chooses to lease more space, what effect will it have on the existing lease space in the community? All of those questions are being addressed. To clarify something that I told the Member during, I believe, Capital debates, I have since found out that in the accommodation plan we are using some outside help. That plan has begun internally but it requires some additional assistance and we will be seeking some consultant advice. That is essentially to support the internal review and development of the plan.
Mr. Lang: The Minister did not answer the question. How much is it going to cost for this outside advice?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The figure is not known because the person has not been hired. When I was reviewing the budget we had identified $15,000 for assistance on the accommodations plan.
Mr. Lang: Just to go a little further on this accommodation plan, could I ask the Minister what projections we are using? Are we still using the projections based on the Touche Ross report, or are they increased projections?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: From what I understand of the extent to which the plan is underway internally in the department, there has been a request put to all departments, as logically should be the case, of their assessment of space requirements. The Member says it is the Touche Ross report but it is a reassessment. I am sure that the Member realizes that nothing ever remains the same, that things do change and different demands put on any planning process over time.
It can be said that the Touche Ross report is being updated and refined. Have I answered the Members question?
Mr. Lang: I find it amazing that we would have spent $60,000 less than two years ago and the Minister shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head. It is easy when it is not your money; it is the taxpayers. At the same time the size of the government is growing every day. Nobody is going to argue that fact, but the question of how much is where you might get into an argument. Residents from outside of Whitehorse must be amazed when they come into town and see a government building wherever they go. This has all happened within six or seven years. It is mind boggling when our population is approximately the same as it was at the height of the boom in the late 1970s with the opening of Faro and the other mining prospects going on. I do not understand why we need as much government as we are getting. The government must think people are really stupid or we have so much time and money we have not got anything else to do.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not want to move to another item until I set the record straight on a couple of observations that the Member has made, erroneously, I believe.
He is making the general allegation that the government is growing in leaps and bounds, and while there is a reflection of an increased level of services provided by government and certainly some increased needs for space by government, the facts do not represent that. I am going to circulate a summary of what property the government owns and leases around the territory. It is going to go back for three years and is going to demonstrate that the increase, while it has taken place, is not of any major proportion. The Member can review it. It will provide some detail as to what space government is occupying.
The Member suggested I shrug my shoulders as if I were uncaring about spending public money. I want to point out to the Member that I do not know what the Touche Ross report cost. I know we are using professional help to reassess our space needs and that it is going to cost us in the neighbourhood of $15,000, along with the internal cost of employees. It is an unfair statement to say we are growing by leaps and bounds in a horrendous burgeoning of government bureaucracy and that people are appalled at the gross expenditure. That is not a fair statement to make. I want to tell the Member that one of the objectives that I have undertaken is to get a clear handle on the space we do have, how we affect the marketplace, and what our future needs are. That is the situation.
Mr. Lang: Does this include the 6,000 square feet that are going out to tender in the 1989-90 estimates?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The answer is yes. The 17,052 square metres includes the 6,000 square feet. It is also reflected in the number of leases: 58. It is estimating the inclusion of that lease.
Mr. Brewster: Just during the recess I had a frantic phone call from a woman who came 300 miles. It took her one-half of a day, and she still cannot find which office to get into. I spend a great deal of my time delivering and trying to get forms and usually get sassed off because it is none of my business because I am only an MLA; I should not be here or there and why do they not come here. The Minister, having been a rural Member knows, or otherwise he does not move around Whitehorse very much, that it is absolutely impossible for the average person on the street to know where anybody is in this building any place. It is totally impossible.
I just would like to make one other observation; the Minister says he is not throwing money around, but he has the same attitude as this Legislature and the people in the street have that it is not our money. It is federal money so who cares? Well, we had better straighten up on this because the federal government gets its money from the taxpayers. We have to end that attitude. I would like to know if the Minister can tell me where the federal government gets all the money that it gives to us?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Because I have this esteemed and reverent respect for the Member who just spoke, I will restrain myself from telling him that he is misrepresenting what I may have said. I do not think in any of my comments, except in reference to the National Building Code people, was there any reference to the federal government.
But speaking seriously to the first issue he raised, I can sympathize with what is required for a person to come in from the rural community and try to find a branch or department of the government. The number of facilities around Whitehorse where we have branches of the government located is enough to scare a well-informed, Whitehorse person. I have a lot of sympathy. But I am wondering if the Member is suggesting that we undertake some centralization of these branches and departments. I hope the Member is not suggesting that we try to locate everything into one, two or three buildings. I hope he is not suggesting we engage in some massive construction of a government building. If he is, I wish he would say so.
We are scattered through many different locations through the city, and it is a very difficult exercise even for someone from Whitehorse, let alone someone from the rural communities, to find a place they may need to visit.
I have eternal sympathy for the Member on that score. I still have respect for the Member.
Mr. Brewster: I should sit down while I still have respect because I am liable to lose it.
If you take our population, percentage-wise, against anywhere in Canada and compare how many people work for government and control very few people, it is out of this world. When you add the federal government and the crown corporations, it is ridiculous. The Member may not realize that he made the statement that many people have taken the attitude that they can spend because it is recoverable. Recoverable money is out of our other pocket. I hope I do not lose the governments respect - I should say the Ministers respect, because I lost the governments respect a long time ago and I do not have any respect for them, but I still do for the Minister. I hope I have not lost his respect.
Mr. Lang: I am going to go to another issue. It is the question of tendering that I raised under Community and Transportation. In this particular department, can the Minister give us assurances that the majority of the major projects that the government intends to undertake this year will be tendered well before summer, so that we can take advantage of the season for building?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The assurance that I gave the Member during the debate on Community and Transportation Services stands in this department. In anticipation of the Members question, I raised this with the department. I have received every assurance that everything is on stream and that there is no foreseeable delay. There are a number of projects in the final specification-writing stage and a number ready to be tendered. I expect that some have already been put into the system with the passage of the Capital Budget. To speak to the Members question, I have not been given any reason to believe that there are going to be any projects with any extraordinary delays.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister take it upon himself to table, for me and other contractors, a proposed schedule of times that these various tenders will be tendered out? I am proposing that it give a time guideline to the department, and other departments that are involved, to try to meet and also give some indication to the contractors when these particular tenders will be put out for public tender call. Now, it appears to be a hit-and-miss situation where you put out three or four tenders at the same time, or within a week of each other. A contractor may be capable of bidding two of those jobs. What happens if they get both of them and they are only capable of doing one? Could the Minister provide us with a schedule outlining when the major tenders will be called? I think that would help everyone and give some indication to the general public about what is going to occur.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: A document of the sort the Member describes was reviewed by me last night. It does exist. It shows a timeline, now that the Capital Budget has moved out of the Committee stage. I can provide that to the Member within a day. The only reservation I would make is that I would ask the department to refine it to make sure it is completely current.
Mr. Lang: It is not just for me, but more importantly it is for the industry itself. I think it would be of benefit to everybody involved, recognizing that it is just projections, and fully recognizing that there may be a week or 10 days delay in some cases because of circumstances. At least it would give some indication to the contractors, so I would ask at the same time that such a document be sent to the Contractors Association and the Chambers of Commerce so that they would at least have them and perhaps people could be made aware that they are available.
This would dove-tail into the past practice that the previous Minister had and I hope this Minister will carry on and that is having a meeting in the fall when Capital Budget is tabled so that the contractors can be called in and be told look, these are the projects and this is what we are doing and why.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot say for a fact, but I suspect that in our ongoing discussions with the Contractors Association that we are providing that. I will double check to ensure that is provided. The Members suggestion about the continuing practice relating to the Capital Budget makes good sense and I am sure, again, in our ongoing discussions with the Contractors Association that that will surface, if it has not already, and I see no problem at all.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister indicated that Wickstrom Road is not in this budget either. It seems to be in no budget. The issue I would like to address is very similar to the Wickstrom Road problem. It has sort of been a needle in the Ministers backside and that is the little shed we have sitting outside the government building here that the Minister owns and one day will become the valuable property of the Minister of Tourism.
I would like to know what he is going to charge the Department of Tourism for this very elaborate locally-made product that is out there. I mentioned to the Minister a while ago that first of all, I thought the building sitting where it is, even though it is a very well-constructed building - and it should be for $15,000 - rather out of place. It is a bit of an eyesore. It does not flow in at all with the landscaping or the building we have here or anything else. The concern I have now is that the Minister has sort of dragged his feet on this issue. Now we have this building sitting out here; it is spring time; it is getting warmer. If they try to move it in the next week or two any trucks that get on that lawn will ruin the lawn. That will probably cost us another $7,000 or $8,000 to fix, and when we do get to moving it some time in May or June, we are going to have a bare spot sitting on the lawn out there. Then they will have to call in a landscaper for another $8,000 or $10,000. I wonder how long the saga is going to go on? Maybe the government is going to bring in a helicopter and hook onto this thing and lift it off so they do not disturb the lawn. Seriously, what is the government going to do with that building? Is it going to move it? When is it going to move it? Is it going to leave it there through the tourist season and let that lawn be destroyed sitting by there? What is it going to cost us now to move it and fix the damage that is going to be done there when they do move it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have new and revealing information regarding the saga of Maurices mansion.
My esteemed colleague, the Minister of Tourism, has had his officials review the building, and the decision was made that it will not serve Tourisms needs. The original purpose of the building was to provide a demonstration of the use of local materials. That was undertaken in a very serious fashion to utilize, to the maximum extent possible, the construction of local lumber. The shingles are manufactured locally. One of the reasons for the high cost is the fact that the materials had to be specially manufactured at the sawmills. There was an increased cost involved. Part of the exercise was to test the materials.
The Member raised a serious question and I am trying to provide a serious answer.
The building is going to be closely monitored as to how the materials stand up in a Yukon environment. The people from Government Services are staying very close to the building in that respect. As Members know, this government has a strong desire to utilize local materials where possible. We are currently in discussions with the Chamber of Commerce, with the Contractors Association, and with labour in the territory, and we are looking at means to address this in a serious fashion. We will probably be going the route of including specs that include a component of local materials. This building is part of that exercise. How the wood is going to stand up to weathering processes, the extent of shrinkage that is going to take place, relating to wood that is not fully kiln-dried, is all part of what the original demonstration project undertook to examine. It is almost incidental that Tourism does not find that it is going to serve a practical purpose for its needs. As a result, the building is probably going to be relocated within the next day, if it is not on its way already. It is on its way into the Marwell Area, where Government Services have a warehouse and storage area. It is going to be utilized by Government Services maintenance section in the supply services yard. It will provide a functional use for storage purposes. At the same time, the monitoring will continue.
The building is probably going to be gone before this time tomorrow into a new setting and new usage. It will continue to be monitored.
Mr. Phillips: I am glad to see that the building is going to be moved. If they had decided to leave it there, I was going to suggest it could be used as a new office for the Capital City Commission. It is right on the waterfront and they could utilize it there.
This side supports the concept of use of local materials. The difficulty we have is that local materials have been used in about three demonstration projects. One of the demonstration projects is coat racks to the tune of $1,700. What we proved with that is that no one in the Yukon can afford a Yukon-made coat rack. You cannot afford $1,700 for a coat rack. No one in their right mind would do that except the Government of the Yukon, obviously. Now we have gone out and built a $15,000, 12 X 20 foot shed. Very nice. Beautiful workmanship. Well done. Again, the only thing we proved is that no one in the Yukon but the Government of the Yukon can afford to build a shed out of local wood because they would not pay $15,000 for it. The average Yukoner could put the same thing up, buying lumber that was not produced here unfortunately, for $2,000 or $3,000 maximum. That is my concern.
The only thing we proved with the two demonstration projects is that no one can afford them. Surely the Minister has to agree with that. He would not go out and pay $1,700 for a coat rack or $15,000 for a shed.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I did not realize that the Member was finished.
The Member tries to make the point that this was a wasted exercise. That is a judgment that could be debated for years to come. This government is serious about implementing a local materials policy into as many construction jobs as possible. We are serious when we talk about actually writing specs that will incorporate local materials. I agree that when you bulk order supplies of 20,000 board feet of lumber from a mill, it will cost a much different figure than a few hundred board feet that have to be specially prepared for a demonstration project. There is no question that the cost of that building was high. The costs are only justifiable by what they charged to produce the material for that building or whether it was the shakes that had to be specially cut and prepared, whether it was the spruce siding that was specially cut and grooved; that was the cost.
Another point of information for the Member is that the actual calculated cost was not $15,000. That was the budgeted amount. The actual cost was more like $11,000. That is still a high cost, and I will be the first to admit it.
The materials portion was nearly $5,000 and the labour component was nearly $6,000. That is when you calculate the actual costs of the on-staff people who worked on the facility. There is an inflated cost there too, because more time was spent building that shed than I would pay to build a shed. Any of us who is familiar with standard construction knows that you can build a shed for many thousands less than $11,000. The fact remains that this project was a deliberate exercise to construct a facility that would stand up to various tests. It is very good quality construction, as the Member admits.
I do not know what other information we can provide on the matter. When I say that we are serious about implementing local material into our specifications, this is going to be part of how we know to accurately put those specifications into the job. We can realistically then say that one can use this kind of lumber and this kind of roofing material because we have tested it and know what happens to it over a winter or two of weathering or a summer or two of heavy rain. We will be able to accurately make those specification-writing calculations accurately. That was what it was all about. The cost was high, I agree, but you have to start somewhere.
Mr. Phillips: I do not accept the Ministers rationale at all. For heavens sake, the building is made out of pine or spruce, locally-produced lumber. We now purchase lumber that comes to the Yukon, which is made of pine or spruce and milled. All we have to ensure when you produce a product like that is that it meets the required measurements and that it is properly kiln dried when it comes out of the factory. We all know exactly what that wood will do in Yukon weather. We do not have to study the darn thing. It will do the same thing as any other wood anywhere else in the country.
I just cannot understand the thinking of the Minister. It is absolutely ridiculous. We paid $15,000, though now he tells us it is only $11,000, for a shed. What we should have done with the work demonstration project is build that shed for approximately the same amount of money, or possibly a little more, than it would have cost someone to buy the lumber somewhere else. Then we could have sold it to the Yukon public. The difficulty we have is that all we have told people in the Yukon is that it is going to cost three or four times more to buy a shed made out of locally-produced lumber. Everyone knows it will stand up. We buy lumber from northern British Columbia. The Minister asks how we would know the wood would stand up. We have bought lumber from Watson Lake for years and years and it has stood up in buildings all around the territory. The fact of the matter is that if it is properly milled, dried and put together, it will stand up.
I think the Ministers argument is ridiculous. What we should have been doing is trying to get some buildings built with locally-made products in an affordable manner so that the average Yukoner could say yes, I should use that product. They will certainly not use it when it costs them four times as much to build a tool shed. A tool shed for $11,000, or $1,700 to build a coat rack. Who but the Government Leader could afford a coat rack like that? I would like to ask the Minister responsible, honestly, not as a Minister who has a very generous salary, but as an individual: would he pay $1,700 for a coat rack or would he pay $11,000 for a tool shed? I do not think so.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not want to delay debate, because we obviously disagree on the purpose of things. I can agree with the Member about the cost, but I cannot agree that we should continue to use material that is imported from British Columbia or Seattle, and continue disregarding our local potential for manufacturing this line of product.
The original secondary purpose to the building, when it was conceived, was to provide a storage facility for garden supplies and so on. That has not turned out to be necessary, as alternate space was found for that kind of storage.
A second functional use has been found. I think the Member is saying we must provide in our demonstration products for resale purposes. Recognizing what takes place in the special preparation of materials, the value is going to make reselling prohibitive. That is a reality. If we do another demonstration project, the resale value is not going to be a major consideration. It costs more to specially prepare these kinds of things.
My closing comment is that we are serious about the encouragement of local materials, and we are going to make the serious effort, in full consultation, to include this kind of thing in our specs.
Mr. Brewster: I congratulate the Minister. He is doing a good job of defending something he does not believe in. I will point out that for the cost of the $1,700 coat rack, if you picked up the materials at Beaver Lumber, you could have built a garage. They start out at $1,200 for everything except the cement. The biggest one is $2,000. That is for the materials. I agree that it probably costs $4,000 to $5,000 to put it up. We had better get realistic. You can do all the demonstrations you want, but the person on the street has to put the money up. If it is $12,000 for that or $1,700 for a coat rack, they are going to buy a garage down at Beaver Lumber.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not know what more the Members would wish me to debate with them. The Member may have something to his credit when he suggests this kind of ongoing expenditure would be objected to. What he is also telling me is that he would be prepared to import materials, to pay an outside person a direct cash contribution for those materials - which means the money goes straight out of the territory. In a case where we are going to be maximizing the use of local materials, we are going to recycle that dollar several times, and that has a certain economic value. That is part of what this effort is all about.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are now on Government Services, Administration, on page 180.
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,136,000 agreed to
On Contract Administration
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister account for the change here? The forecast was $367,000. It went down to $315,000 and we started at $256,000 a year ago.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In this section the decrease is a result of the expiry of a term person year, who was the implementation officer in the Business Incentive Office. There is also a reduction in the use of casuals. That accounts for the 14 percent decrease.
Contract Administration in the amount of $315,000 agreed to
Mr. Lang: I just want to register a concern here. I am just in the process of reviewing these government contracts, which, I assume, came out of contract administration and I just want to make a point. This is a sizable amount of money. At one time when this began three years ago I believe we were talking in the neighbourhood of $20 million. We are now up to a total $54,589,661 that is going out for various services being rendered to the government not by public tender. Perhaps the Minister can qualify that. It is my understanding that in the most part these are based on invitational or strictly service contracts. Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe the Minister can clarify it for me.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The $54 million that he cites as being the total amount of contracts listed here, in fact, do include construction contracts that are clearly tendered. Just by way of comparison, the contracts tabled a year ago reflected $60 million. As to the number of contracts, this package tabled yesterday reflects 3,199 contracts; the year before there were 3,400 contracts, so there is actually a reduction in global figures.
Mr. Lang: I thank the Minister for clarifying that. I was obviously off base on that. That does not happen that often, but when it does I am prepared to stand up and acknowledge it. Does this also take the value-added component into consideration?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yes, it does. We are under a total review of that. As I indicated in previous questioning, there are continuing discussions with the contractors, the chambers and labour. I believe there was a meeting at noon today with the Contractors Association involving discussions on the value-added policy and what form the business incentive policy will take.
Mr. Lang: I believe the Minister is sincere in his attempt to revise this so that it is workable within our small society. I appreciate the time and effort he is putting into it. I assume, depending on the decision, that we could well see a decrease in the costs here because if there are substantive changes in the policy and fewer requirements by the administration, it will obviously cost us less to administer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That may be the case. The real problem is that I cannot definitely say to the Member what form the policy is going to take and whether or not we are going to go to aspects that will require administrative monitoring. For an example, we may institute some form of rebate system or local content labour component. There is going to have to be a monitoring of this as the Business Incentive Office has previously done.
When the existing policy was put in place in 1986, there was a considerable effort expended to monitor the program. There is an anticipated reduction in that because a lot of the groundwork is done and some of it may not be needed. I hope there would be less administration, because we would like to see the contracting process go on more of a self-policing structure with rules that do not require government surveillance. There may be some of that depending on how the policy looks in its final form.
Chair: Are there any questions on allotment or person year establishments?
Administration in the amount of $1,451,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the information pages? If not we will proceed with general debate on Systems and Computing.
On Systems and Computing
Chair: If there is no general debate, we will go line by line.
On Systems Administration
Systems Administration in the amount of $279,000 agreed to
On Processing Services
Processing Services in the amount of $650,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The specific increase in this program is, in part, attributed to the normal increases that take place with salary dollars. More specifically, it is the transfer of a position from the processing services section. If Members look in the line above, there is a decrease of six percent and an increase in this component. There is an actual transfer of a person year that accounts, in part, for the increase. In the Capital Budget debate, the Member asked if we knew were we where headed in the whole area of systems and computing.
This is one component of the development side of the budget where, in the ordinary course of government business, the department is required to assess various programs that are put forward from the branches that they want to integrate into the main system. An excess of requests come to the department. Priorizing is needed on a constant basis. When you are developing systems, you have to have a fairly extensive review process before you can implement them. These demands come from a number of departments. Priorizing is done and this branch is the one that essentially does it.
Systems Development in the amount of $720,000 agreed to
On Technical Services
Technical Services in the amount of $404,000 agreed to
On Information Centre
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This reflects some restructuring in the department. This is also a transference of some activity from the processing services. It refers to the repairs and maintenance for various computing services. That is the explanation of the cost. In short, this branch now has assumed the repair and maintenance relating to computing services.
Mr. Lang: We are experiencing an increase of almost $100,000. That is very substantial. Is this a result of taking over all the leases and buying them out and now doing our own maintenance? If it is, I just really have to take a look at where we have come from to where we are. All of a sudden all the costs are coming home to us.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In part, the Member is accurate in that the repair and maintenance portion from another branch that ordinarily did it was transferred to here. Part of it is due to the requirement to maintain computing systems that we now own. In some measure, there is a relationship. I appreciate the Member flagging this because it adds to the whole question of purchasing equipment versus leasing equipment. I can assure the Member that I will be examining this.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate that. I would like it evaluated. As my colleague from Watson Lake pointed out, we went up over $304,000 since 1987-88 in this particular item. That is in two years.
Information Centre in the amount of $756,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on Allotments and Person Year Establishment?
Systems and Computing in the amount of $2,809,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Administration in the amount of $153,000 agreed to
Purchasing in the amount of $422,000 agreed to
On Queens Printer
Mr. Lang: I do not know if this is the area I should put this in but in view of the announcement that for now the government is only going to permit itself to be scrutinized once a year on its financing, what is going to be the plan for these government contracts? When will they be made available to us? At the beginning of the session? Perhaps instead of making the year end April 1, will it be revised so that they can be made available to us on, say, November 1? Otherwise we are going to be dealing with these documents a year and one-half after the fact. This does not add up. I would just like to ask the Minister if he would undertake to give the necessary instructions - with the light legislative load we are going to have, obviously, coming up this fall, with only dealing with the education act, the wildlife act, the historic act, the highways act, the child care act and the O&M Budget and the Capital Mains and, perhaps, the environmental protection act - to see about revising the date this document will be tabled?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If I understand what the Member is asking, it is if the contracts can be tabled in the fall session on a six-month basis. I certainly can undertake to investigate that.
What immediately comes to mind is that a lot of contracts will be in a partial state of completion, in that many of the construction jobs will still be wrapping up and a lot of people have work to conclude and what will be reflected are properly allocated amounts but not necessarily spent amounts. That is one aspect that would have to be addressed. I can certainly investigate the ability of the department to produce that. It appears that we were able to produce this within 17 days of the year end this year - and that was with effort, as I am sure the Member would appreciate. I certainly see no problem with semi-annual production of these. I will discuss the possibility with the department and my colleagues.
Queens Printer in the amount of $963,000 agreed to
On Asset Control
Asset Control in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Transportation and Communication
Transportation and Communication in the amount of $1,140,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Central Stores in the amount of $220,000 agreed to
On Records Management
Records Management in the amount of $1,178,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $4,206,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This portion of the Budget reflects a couple of things I flagged earlier that I would be prepared to speak to at this point.
Firstly, I should note for the Members that the information I tabled earlier would ordinarily have been supplied here because it relates to building leases and ownership of the government.
For some unexplainable reason, it got dropped during the budget book preparation. It was certainly information that was intended to be there. The only fortunate side of it was that it got updated for Members before I tabled it today.
We have discussed the property management portion of the budget to some extent. I have laid out some of the plans of Government Services in earlier remarks. Speaking specifically to the budget, there is a 14 person year increase in the building maintenance section of this budget, which will account for that percentage increase in part. Eight of those person years are for Yukon College: three building engineers, two maintenance workers and three trades persons, specifically an electrician, a carpenter and a plumber. Those positions will be to look after the Yukon College buildings and operate the various systems.
The other six person years are for enhancing maintenance in facilities throughout Yukon, including Whitehorse. One of the deficiencies that was recognized is that some buildings require a higher level of maintenance than was being provided. There is a need to provide a better level of maintenance on facilities the government owns. Specifically, three people are located in Dawson, and there are two new person years in Watson Lake: a building maintenance person and a carpenter. One of the six positions is a clerk typist position in Whitehorse. As I indicated earlier, building maintenance is moving more toward a preventive-maintenance approach than previously, where maintenance was done on a need basis. In short, we are trying to improve the level of service to various facilities throughout Yukon, including schools, liquor stores, and various other government facilities.
Mr. Lang: There is obviously a difference in philosophy between the two sides of the House. It seems to me we are getting more government. I want to raise the caution that there is going to be less reason for individuals to become small contractors, such as in carpentry. If you are going to hire all the staff for the purpose of this so-called ongoing maintenance, one thing leads to another, and the minor renovations that used to go out for invitational tender in the smaller communities will stop. Those individuals who are in that kind of business will have to do something else or move. In time, it will be proven to be right in communities such as Dawson City and Watson Lake. I have no problem with doing more maintenance, but thought should be given as to how we could get someone on a retainer or tender it out, as opposed to getting someone on staff.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I hear what the Member is saying and he can appreciate that particularly in some of the rural communities there is need for facilities to be better looked after. In any community, constant, ongoing maintenance is required. I remember many times when there was a tradesperson needed to improve the door at the school or repair a broken window. I am sure the Member is not suggesting that we tender that out. There are cost efficiencies that are sometimes needed. The Member has to realize that these maintenance people are specific tradespeople with journeyman status but for the most part they are generalists and are limited in the extent they can repair sophisticated systems. In the communities, there is still an ongoing practice of bringing in people to the community on a contract basis to repair furnaces, to look at electrical systems, because these people are not of that trades qualification. There is an attempt to improve the level of service to various buildings. I am sure the Member gets telephone calls about how badly some school in some riding needs repairs and why are we not doing it. There is a serious and genuine effort to improve the level of service to facilities.
Mr. Lang: I have not received calls on how poor the service is. Very seldom have we raised questions in that vein, so obviously it is not a burning issue or we would be raising it. If there are some areas where we are weak, I accept that, but there may be some criticism of departments in isolated cases. I do not understand why a maintenance contract similar to that of the Yukon Housing Corporation cannot be used, rather than hiring somebody. If you are talking about systems, then we are talking about bringing someone in from outside of Whitehorse if the jobs are that complicated. To fix a window, hang a door, or do things like painting, there is no reason somebody cannot be on a maintenance contract. They can provide further service to the community in one manner or another as opposed to adding to the civil service. It would encourage these people to go into business and provide a service to the community rather than becoming a member of the civil service in a job that does not warrant an eight-hour shift. Then all you have is a disillusioned employee.
Mr. Devries: In the past years it seems like a day before the school at Watson Lake opens at the end of summer, the YTG Government Services truck pulls up to do small repair jobs that extend into the week after school starts.
In this position, I agree with Mr. Lang that possibly more of these things should be tendered out to prevent this big rush because it seems like they go around from school, to school, to school, and with W being at the end of the alphabet, I think we end up being the last ones.
Another thing that came to my attention as well was when the boys from Whitehorse pulled up and we had a few wrinkles in the carpet and they just took an exacto knife, cut the wrinkle out and sort of taped it back together and said, well you need new carpeting. At the time a carpeting person was on the school committee and he did not feel that this was necessary.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I guess the only thing I can say is that I would hope that this kind of thing that the Member cites will not be happening, through some increased effort and organization by the building maintenance section of the department. The Member earlier cited not having had any phone calls relating to the maintenance of buildings. That may well be, but I certainly received many calls relating to the school facilities in the past, and I certainly still get complaints about inadequate maintenance to school facilities, and it is one issue that I hope we will be able to address more adequately through what is happening here in this allocation. Perhaps the past practice, where a crew of building maintenance people travelled around the territory, can be reduced to a more stabilized, on the spot preventive-maintenance approach. I agree with the Member for Watson Lake. It is annoying to have the crew come in from Whitehorse on an unannounced, given day, do some of the jobs and leave, and then you wait for another three months before the crew arrives again. There has to be an improvement to this system, and this is the approach.
Mr. Devries: I have one more question regarding the little statistics sheet we received. It seems that the leased space in Watson Lake increased from 14 to 181. Would this be for Human Resources moving into the Belvedere Hotel and then on to its new location this year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to tell the Member that he probably, in this specific instance, knows more than I do about what may have taken place to change the figures. I do not know. In this instance I will undertake to get back to him.
Mr. Devries: I have one more question, regarding the court room. Does the Minister know if there are any plans to do work on the court room? I understand from a recent survey that was conducted that the court room space is far from adequate in Watson Lake and quite often we end up with people sleeping in front of the library entrance and stuff waiting for their trials to take place and quite often they never do take place because there are no judges.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will undertake to provide the Member with details to his last question at the same time that I provide the explanation about the square metres that change from 14 to 181.
Administration in the amount of $345,000 agreed to
On Building Maintenance
Building Maintenance in the amount of $3,495.000 agreed to
Custodial in the amount of $1,031,000 agreed to
On Building Engineering
Building Engineering in the amount of $453,000 agreed to
On Buildings and Security
Mr. Lang: I would like an explanation. We have gone up $300,000. Actually, we have gone up a total of $700,000.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The increase is reflected by additional leasing costs. There is a $3,000 cost in Burwash relating to the community campus. Additionally, in Pelly Crossing, there is a cost of $24,000 for community campus. Health and Services space in the Financial Plaza in the amount of $95,000; Renewable Resources office space in the amount of $43,000; new Fisheries office in the amount of $12,000. There is $36,000 for Education at Closeleigh Manor. There is $6,500 for the Hampton Building in Faro. There is $13,000 for Government Services in the M&R Building, which I think would be the move referred to earlier by the Member. That should about total the amount. I may be out one figure. It is $4,000 relating to Health and Human Resources in Pelly Crossing.
Mr. Lang: With respect to office space, are there any plans for significant renovations at the Economic Plaza, where the Economic Development department is presently? Are there any renovations planned for the offices of the Department of Education in this building?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would have to check on the reference to Economic Development. I do not know specifically about Education, but there would not be any extensive renovations because the space that is going to be taken up by the expansion is the space that is going to be vacated by Health and Human Resources. They are adjacent to each other. I can undertake to find out about the renovations in the other building.
Buildings and Security in the amount of $3,577,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishment?
Property Management in the amount of $8,901,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There was one outstanding item from the Capital Budget relating to renovations in public buildings on the capital side. Members had asked for a detailed breakdown of the $1.7 million. I will circulate that now for Members information.
Mrs. Firth: We would like to see the breakdown before we proceed, in case there is a question we would like to ask.
Chair: Are there any questions on the document that was tabled?
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the renovations to the Old Yukon College, this is just the first-year expense of $750,000. The whole project is going to be $5.5 million. Do any of these other projects have ongoing multi-year costs associated with them? What does the $1,775,000 really represent? Ten million? Fifteen million? Five and one-half million?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The projects are of the sort that are complete in and of themselves. There is no apparent multi-year cost that is associated to any of these. I am not aware of any multi-year cost to any of the projects other than the Old Yukon College.
Department of Government Services in the amount of $17,367,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Human Resources
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am pleased to present the Operation and Maintenance Budget for the Department of Health and Human Resources for this year. As I said at the beginning of the debate on the Capital Estimates, the initiatives provided for in this budget are designed to improve the quality of life for Yukoners. Good health is defined these days as not simply the absence of disease but a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing. The programs being addressed in this budget will, it is hoped help us make progress toward a healthier Yukon society.
I would like to take a few minutes to remind Members of some of the initiatives that are contemplated in this budget and then run through some of the budget highlights. The government is committed to improvements in child care services in the Yukon and has established a four-year implementation program that has been discussed somewhat in debates on previous items in the course of this session.
There are also initiatives in community health and social services. Members have heard that the community of Mayo will be the location of a pilot project to improve the delivery of health and social services at the community level. I hope shortly to be able to make some announcements on exactly how that project will be carried out. Based on consultation and community priorities the department will be addressing the recommendations of the recent health services study of Dawson City, Mayo, Faro and Watson Lake to improve the delivery of health services in those communities in the coming years.
The department is participating in the development of a comprehensive family violence strategy in conjunction with other government departments. This strategy will include a new Safe Places Program, increase public awareness efforts and expanded community-based support and treatment services.
The safe places program, with companion capital funds already presented, will be detailed in the near future. At present, two centres and a number of individual residences throughout the territory provide safe places for the victims of family violence.
As well, we have previously discussed in Question Period the problem of medical travel and medical boarding. The problem of costs has been discussed but we shall be improving the medical services to Whitehorse and outside by the creation of an information and referral service for in-home and, possibly, hotel lodging. We are enhancing escort subsidies in the medical travel program to permit funding of family members to travel with seriously-ill Yukoners seeking treatment services out of the territory, since that was a cause of particular complaint in the previous year.
Particularly in the supplementary for last year, I talked about the development of local and residential day care programming resources for the repatriation of the severely and disabled adults from the Woodlands Institution in British Columbia.
Members will also know that a new alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation cost-sharing agreement is under discussion with the federal government now. It is our hope that this agreement will provide recovery opportunities for new treatment initiatives focused at high risk groups such as youth, seniors and women. We will be doing that, of course, sensitive to the cultural components of treatment programs that are now underway. Efforts will be made to strengthen those.
We are also contemplating this year how we can improve our efforts to increase public awareness of the fetal alcohol syndrome problem, which is a very serious one in our territory, and indeed, in our country. I hope in this coming year to be in the position to announce some initiatives in that area.
The financial highlights of this budget are as follows. In the policy and administration branch there is an increase of $127,000 with no changes in total person years. The increase of $53,000 in other O&M allotments for 1989-90 is to support the Inter-provincial Ministers of Social Services Conference and for the review of health and social services integration and devolution; we are planning $40,000. In community and family services there is an increase of $1,559,000 for community and family services programs. The increase of approximately $1,000,000 of the 1989-90 O&M Budget along with the Capital funding previously discussed brings the total child care funding for the year to $2,300,000. These funds were needed to implement the 26 initiatives proposed in the child care strategy that was announced at the beginning of the year.
The monies for O&M for child care are being supported by the new Child Care Capital Development Program previously outlined. This funding will support, we hope, 100 new child care spaces and supplement child care centres in communities, particularly outside Whitehorse. There is an increase of $270,000 for an improved child care subsidy program, which will provide more financial assistance to families with extra funding for special needs children and infants and part-time child care.
There is an increase of $230,000 in the Child Development Program, which will enable the Child Development Centre to expand its service to special needs preschoolers throughout the territory. There is an increase of $107,500 allocated for training and development in response to Yukoners wishes for more accessible training for care givers. The mobile Early Childhood Resource Centre will bring practical, culturally-sensitive training of child care workers outside of Whitehorse.
There is $240,000 allocated to the Quality Enhancement Program to include the care givers wages and help control user fees. An expanded child care services unit for the department will administer the new child care programs and services.
One hundred and sixty-six thousand dollars has been allocated for the continuation of the Champagne-Aishihik Child Welfare Project. There is a new $358,000, which will be addressed to family violence initiatives, and $125,000 for safe places, and $79,000 will go to serve child abuse victims about whom there is growing public awareness and much public discussion. We are realizing this is a serious problem in the Yukon Territory.
There is $154,000 for the family support programs and coordination, which we hope will enable us to better help families that may be in crisis and deal with some of the priority interventions and some of the problems at an early stage that will prevent children coming into care or people being institutionalized for one reason or another.
In the area of social services, there is a $611,000 increase over the previous year for social services programs. The new initiative in this area is the establishment of residential and day programming services for severely disable adults from Woodlands, which I mentioned earlier. In health services, there is an increase of $575,000. An increase of $207,000 includes health transfer positions seconded from national Health and Welfare and a new medical travel clerk position. The increase of $303,000 will support requirements for the Chronic Disease and Disability Program and in-territory physicians. An increase of $65,000 will provide medical travel enhancements to allow family members to travel out with severely ill people.
In juvenile justice, there is a $234,000 increase and an increase of $169,000 will provide full-year costs for secure custody positions to provide additional on-call staff of two youth service workers reallocated from community and family services. There will be an increase of $66,000 for programming in custody facilities and for limited operations of a new secured custody facility, as well as enhancement of the wilderness camp treatment alternative program.
As all Members know, there are many Yukoners who, at times in their lives, face difficult situations, for which the department is called upon to respond. There are working families struggling to find accessible, affordable and quality day care for their children, and there are families that suffer through situations of violence. We are also continuing to see the effects of substance abuse in the territory. All of these are problems for which the department exists to address.
On the positive side, we are attempting to not only deal with these problems on an ongoing basis, but increasingly turn our attention to prevention and early intervention. We hope the efforts in the area of prevention and treatment will pay off.
The new resources that are established in this department, which are an incremental leap from the previous levels, we hope will better enable us to respond to the many serious situations that exist in our community today.
There are some errors in the budget book, which we may have previously mentioned. I would like to provide a copy to each Member so they will have that information.
Mr. Nordling: As the Minister pointed out in his opening remarks, we have discussed a lot of our concerns with respect to this department in the Capital debate, as well as in the supplementaries. Our general concern has to do with controls in the department and the expenditures. Along with Education and Community and Transportation Services, it is one of the largest departments and merits the looking at the Minister has promised us.
I am pleased to see the Minister has mentioned it and that the department will be giving special attention to prevention and early intervention. With that, I am prepared to go on to each department and dig in, unless someone else has general overall remarks they would like to make.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Policy and Planning and Administration
Administration in the amount of $1,462,000 agreed to
Policy and Planning and Administration in the amount of $1,462,000 agreed to
On Community and Family Services
Mr. Nordling: The Minister gave us some information on this. The Minister said the Champagne-Aishihik program would be continuing. Has there been an evaluation done, or a report that is available?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, a formal evaluation has been done, and I am not sure whether we are in a position to be able to make that public or not. I would be prepared to a copy available to the Member on an embargo basis, until such time as I establish if it can be made public. Let me just indicate to him a couple of things the evaluation shows. The number of children going into care and the incidence of family breakdown has improved considerably with this model. In terms of the actual costs of this devolved system, as opposed to the previous model, they are higher.
Mr. Nordling: I will be interested in receiving that because, if this program is successful, I would expect it would be expanded. It is something we should be looking at. Obviously, there are a lot of areas that can be improved and, if this is one method of doing it, I would encourage it.
With respect to the statistics on page 205, they talk about adoption, and the number of adoptions completed were 10 in 1988-89 and are expected to be 10 again. As of March 31, 1988, there were 20 adoptive families who have been approved and waiting for children to become available. Since the Minister has taken over, has there been anything done with respect to adoptions, and are there any changes planned in the program?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Other than acquainting myself with the current situation, I have not contemplated any changes. I do not know what it was like when the Member opposite was a child, but I grew up with the conventional notion that most adoptees were the children of parents who were victims of a fatal accident or some such circumstance as that. That is now a rare circumstance. Most of the children who are up for adoption are the victims of family breakdowns or worse situations. Children who are very young are fairly easy to find adoptive homes for. The older they get, the more difficult it becomes. The kind of children which many adoptive parents are looking for is a new-born babe who has lost its parents at birth and who is perfectly healthy and fit, but that is an unusual circumstance. I think it is true that many of the children who are candidates for adoption have either emotional or physical problems. Finding the right home for such children is not always easy. There are a number of concerns around adoption in the aboriginal community. There are also issues about people wishing to seek out their natural parents, which is an increasingly common phenomenon. Parents of children who were given up for adoption some years later take an interest in the fate of those children and make inquiries. The Member should know this without me going into detail. We have, along with other jurisdictions in North America, been developing some well-established procedures to deal with those kind of situations.
Mr. Nordling: I was wondering if the Minister could say that he was satisfied with the way the system is now and whether it is working well. I will follow this up next fall when both the Minister and I have a little more time to become familiar with the department and the different aspects of it.
Mrs. Firth: Is the money for the drafting of the day care act in this section or is it under administration? This seems to be the area where all the other child care expenses are.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Most of the policy people we have are in the administration line. The work on this particular bill is largely being done in the operating line for the child care unit so, in this case, it would be under that line rather than the administration line.
Mrs. Firth: I am just trying to find out if it is in Community and Family Services. Is that where the money would be found for that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, it is in the same line for the budget for the day care programs, which is in that line.
On Program Management
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps the Minister can give us some detail on that. I know that it was mentioned in general debate, but there is a 78 percent increase in that one line.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The budget has increased by $107,000 due to two innovations. There are two new term positions for family violence programs and the support programs, which amount to some $95,000. There are also funds for the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare, including their honoraria, travel, resource staff, and rental costs. I could, if the Member wishes, elaborate further on some of the activity highlights of this line, but I will respond to questions.
Mr. Phillips: Would I find the Handibus in this line, community and family services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Can I just establish if the Member is asking about the new bus from Macaulay Lodge, or the ongoing support that we provide for the bus with the mechanical lift - the Handibus service that we have known for some years?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I am referring to the latter, I believe, the bus that is used to get the handicapped children to and from various places.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe that is a social services line item.
Program Management in the amount of $244,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrens Services
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps the Minister could just give us a little more detail. Where are the seven terms that are added? We have two in program management, so as we go through the lines, I would like to hear where they are assigned.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This service is responsible for child protection, which involves the investigation and assessment of reports of child abuse and neglect, as well as counselling support and family services. This is the counselling group, or treatment of services, for unmarried parents and key persons affected by family violence.
The budget also includes the salary and benefits for eight people, as well as telephone, materials, supplies, advertising, travel, contract funds for fee-for-service family support workers and home makers, together with financial contributions for the Yukon Family Services Association.
The activity highlights for this year are for continued financial support for family counselling and effective parenting skills provided by Yukon Family Services Association and the implementation of the family violence strategy. Increased family support services include a new family support program coordinator and the continuing efforts with Justice, Health, Education and community social services agencies to promote effective family violence programming and interdisciplinary child abuse protocols.
We have one person year in family services and six person years involved in child protection in this line. The budget has increased by $270,000, as a result of the following: there is $125,000 to support the new Safe Places Program; $29,000 to allow the expansion of family violence support and treatment services; $5,000 in additional support for family counselling and effective parenting activities of the Yukon Family Services Association; $89,000 to expand the Family Support Program; plus merit pay and economic adjustments for staff, and a full-year funding for four positions that were vacant during the last fiscal year.
Family and Childrens Services in the amount of $1,042,000 agreed to
On Placement and Support Services
Mr. Nordling: Could we have more specific information on that line item?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This service provides for the adoption services and child care services, including the child care licensing and the enforcement of standards and child care subsidies. Other services for children include a full range of services for needs for food, clothing, education, medical services, as well as counseling, special services or treatment required to meet the mental, emotional and physical needs of children in temporary or permanent care, and the custody of the director of family and childrens services; a foster home program for temporary and extended placements; group homes, the provision and coordination of support for quality child care in therapeutic group home environment; specialized assessment, treatment or placement services; the provision of a receiving and assessment centre in Whitehorse, which I believe the Member probably knows about, for short term and emergency placement. There is also covered here the implementation of the new child care strategy, the review of the development of the strategy for improved foster care, to respond to the new realities of the 90s. We are doing a review this year of childrens services facilities, including a look at our receiving and group home services, as well as increased efforts in conjunction with Indian families and band to successfully place Indian children who are available for adoption or required care through the establishment of an additional aboriginal placement worker position on a term basis.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister was not really specific about the $1 million increase. I am under the impression that virtually all of that is to implement the child care strategy; is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is the single and overriding reason for the increase.
Placement and Support Services in the amount of $4,426,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me mention that this service provides outside Whitehorse - in two regions, the north and south region - for the Community Addictions Program, prevention education counselling services for Alcohol and Drug Services at the community level, social assistance and income maintenance for persons in need pursuant to the Social Assistance Act, placement of support services for family and children services, including child protection, children in care, safe houses and family support services, the McDonald home for seniors, and the juvenile justice services. The activities in this coming year are needs assessments as we talked about in terms of facilities in the communities. We are taking a look at the alcohol and drug strategy and we are going to help to establish licensed child care facilities in rural communities as well as new safe places. We will deal with the devolution of social services such as the Champagne-Aishihik project to bands and participating in the development of the Mayo pilot project as well as a number of other initiatives.
Regional Services in the amount of $3,002,000 agreed to
Community and Family Services in the amount of $8,714,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 51.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 51, First Appropriation Act, 1989-90 and directs me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chairman of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 18, 1989:
Chootla Subdivision in Carcross (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 217
Carcross water supply - pre-design and construction (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 273
Game farming policy (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 175
Corporate Objectives of Yukon Liquor Corporation (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 191
Complaints regarding draught beer (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 191