Wednesday, May 19, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have the Yukon Liquor Corporations 15th Annual Report, April 1, 1991, to March 31, 1992.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have some legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Acting Government Leader, introduction of
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to introduce Bill Brewster as acting Government Leader for the next couple of days in the House.
Speaker: We should all welcome Mr. Brewster.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the acting Government Leader, the Minister of Renewable Resources, a question. On February 11, 1992, CBC news ran a story on the radio that said that Kluane MLA Bill Brewster said that Webster is playing politics with animals and that Brewster was shocked that the Minister would go against the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. He said that it put the whole credibility of the board in question.
My question for the Minister is simply this: why has the Minister done a full 360-degree turn on his position on the board and then stooped to the all-time low of publicly insulting board members?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have not stooped to insult anybody. On top of that, I went with the recommendations of the people in the rural communities, who recommended that we go with the recommendations the way that they were. I might point out that the hon. Art Webster went against the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board as well as all the people in the rural areas who wanted wolf management. He would not execute the recommendations; he brought another committee into it.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is very inconsistent. It is either the board or it is not the board. I am just quoting from what the Minister is reported to have said. On Tuesday, February 11, on CHON/ FM, the Minister of Renewable Resources, then in Opposition, said that the Renewable Resources Minister had robbed the wildlife board of credibility. In fact, Brewster said that Art Websters decision to postpone a wolf kill program has robbed all Yukon boards and committees of credibility.
Not only has the Minister not accepted the recommendations, he has publicly insulted all members of boards and committees. Why did the Minister make those outrageous remarks about board members wanting to run the government and acting like King Tut?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The gentleman from Faro is saying that; I did not say that.
Speaker: I would ask the Member to limit his preamble to one sentence.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Because the NDP rejected one recommendation of the board during their period in office. The present Minister of Renewable Resources said, in the Whitehorse Star on April 8, I feel sorry for the people on these boards, because they take time out of their own lives and they are not making a lot of money doing it. Why has the Minister become so arrogant that he now engages in not only rejecting recommendations, but also in insulting members of boards and committees, who are volunteers, who make serious recommendations to the government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not insult anyone. I would suggest that $180,000 is quite a bit over budget. It means they must have made some money.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Harding: The Ministers opinion seems to depend on the last person he has talked to.
In the election platform of the Yukon Party, in their four-year plan, the Yukon Party promised to implement the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I have that plan here. It says that they will implement the recommendations of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board - not some, but all. Now that the arrogance of the government has set in, why have they totally backed out of yet another election promise?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We did not totally back out. There were 16 recommendations. We chose to change two of them. We did not even totally change those recommendations, if the Member will read them.
Mr. Harding: They pick and choose. The Minister must hear something. The co-chair of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, who is very apolitical and very well respected, said yesterday that the previous government rejected one recommendation in seven years. This government has rejected four recommendations in seven months. He did not believe that was the way it is intended through the umbrella final agreement, and that the umbrella final agreement may have a little trouble if the government takes this approach, especially if they start talking about King Tut.
Why has the Minister done a complete flip-flop on promises and taken to publicly berating and insulting good citizens of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe I have answered that a couple of times.
Mr. Harding: The acting Government Leader has in no way answered any questions. He made excuses.
Regarding the recommendations and restrictions of the board on bull caribou hunting, specifically, the Minister rejected the boards recommendation on moral and ethical grounds - not biological. Yesterday, he said the moose restriction rejection was based on biological reasons and outfitters requests.
When will the Minister stop flip-flopping on excuses and start listening to the board and native people, who have warned him about low moose numbers, rather than just succumbing to the wishes of outfitters?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not bow to the wishes of anyone. I try to listen to everybody, and I try to be fair. It is quite apparent, if you try to be fair in this Legislature, you do not get much credit for it from the Opposition.
Question re: Energy rate increases due to Curragh shutdown
Mr. Cable: Yesterday, the Yukon Public Utilities Board released its interim decision on the rate applications now before it by the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited. The decision indicates that the board is still trying to come to grips with the potential Faro mine closure. Material filed by the corporations indicates that, under various scenarios relating to the Curragh shutdown, the ratepayers could be faced with rate increases ranging from 2.5 percent to 40 percent.
Could the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation tell this House if the government has decided, as a matter of policy, whether the loss of profits that the Yukon Energy Corporation will experience because of the possible Faro mine closure will be borne out of general revenues or by the ratepayers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is premature for us to make that sort of decision. We are still awaiting the final number crunching with respect to the figures that will be put into the amended rate application, as a result of the Curragh shutdown.
Mr. Cable: Of course the final hearings will be taking place in July and the intervenors will require that information some time before the hearing. It is hoped that that information will be made public - and not at the last minute.
On another policy matter, in December and again in March, I asked the Minister when the pricing policy relating to major industrial consumers would be in place. The Minister indicated in March that the policy would not be ready for at least three months. In view of the upcoming rate hearings in July, and in view of the fact that the intervenors will undoubtedly want to have some time to consider the policy, can the Minister assure the House that the policy will be in place in adequate time for the intervenors to review that policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The current policy is one of acceptance of the recommendations of the Public Utilities Board, which speaks to industrial rates being charged at cost of service.
Mr. Cable: That is the problem in view of what I would call a rate shock from the decision yesterday.
Let me ask the Minister another question of policy. With respect to the profits - if in fact there will be profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation - will the Minister advise the House as to whether the intercorporate transfers that may take place between the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation, by way of dividend or whatever, will be made subject to the review of the Yukon Public Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The transfers that occur between Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation are predominately transfers that occur in order to keep the equity/debt ratio at a fairly constant level of 60/40. This is done to reduce cost to the ratepayer because the return on equity is greater than return on debt.
We have a lot of faith in the process, which requires the Yukon Energy Corporation to appear before the Yukon Public Utilities Board. We will be interested in any comments that that board has when it hands down its recommendations after a full hearing has been completed.
Question re: Yukon Outfitters Association
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Outfitters have long been recognized for their contribution to the rural economy of the Yukon and have formed an organization to represent their interests. Does the Minister of Renewable Resources recognize the Yukon Outfitters Association as a legitimate special interest group?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not whether it is special or not, but it is an interest group, yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon Party government is on record as stating that the territory has been too long in the grip of a government that reacted to special interest groups and did not represent the interests of real Yukoners. Lawrence Joe of the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation expressed the views of the First Nation in 1991, that there was a problem with moose numbers and that band members have known for some time that caribou numbers were down and the herd was in trouble in the Aishihik area. Can the Minister tell me whether he is interested in the views of the First Nations when it comes to game management, or are they simply another interest group that should be ignored?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have never ignored the Champagne/Aishihik Band, the elders or the people. We worked with them very closely on the caribou management plan.
Some Hon. Member: Taga Ku.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Speaker, I believe the Leader of the Official Opposition wants to talk.
Some Hon. Member: A-choo, he said; he sneezed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Since the House met yesterday, Members of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board have again confirmed that, apart from outfitters, no one else made submissions to the board opposing a ban on moose hunting in the Aishihik area, a flat-out contradiction of the Ministers assurances to the Leader of the Official Opposition that this was not the case.
In view of this fact, is the Minister prepared to withdraw his statement that this assertion was not true, and acknowledge that in his books, Yukon outfitters are in fact a special, special interest group whose views are given weight above and beyond those of others who express opinions on wildlife management, including the Fish and Wildlife Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I am not going to withdraw anything.
Number one, they went to all the meetings as everyone else did. My department visited all of the rurual communities and the majority said - although they did not like permits - they wanted a permit hunt and in most areas they said that the outfitters should get part of those permits.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the same Minister.
Effective cooperative wildlife management, called for in the land claims agreement and ratified in this House, depends absolutely on ministerial respect for the integrity of the legally appointed, legitimately established Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which solicits management advice from departmental biologists, First Nation elders, hunters and all interested citizens at large.
I want to ask the Minister this: does he appreciate that, by rejecting the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in favour of the advice from some other friends of his, apparently, he is not only repudiating the judgment of the board but also undermining the confidence in the cooperative wildlife management system itself - mechanisms that were established in the land claims legislation recently passed in this House?
Speaker: Order. Order please. Just before the Minister answers the question, I would like to say that I have been quite generous with the Members, and especially the Member for Faro in his questions that I think were argumentative. They contained inferences, they imputed motives and cast aspersions on the Minister of Renewable Resources. I do not want the Leader of the Official Opposition to take his lead from the Member for Faro. In my opinion, using the term doing something for friends of his imputes motives on the Minister of Renewable Resources and I would not want the Leader of the Official Opposition to be guilty of that.
Mr. Penikett: On a point of order, the Minister himself has conceded that he rejected the advice of the legally appointed board and listened to other people whom he privately consulted. He has not told us who those people are but he inferred yesterday that they were outfitters.
Speaker: Order please. There is no point of order. The Leader of the Opposition may want to challenge my ruling but that is my ruling and I do not think there has been any indication that the Minister of Renewable Resources consulted with his friends on it and made a decision based on that. The Leader of the Official Opposition was accusing him of that; in the Speakers opinion, that is imputing motives and, without that inference, the question is in order and I will allow the Minister of Renewable Resources to answer it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I certainly did not consult just with the Outfitters Association. The decision was made in my department by a committee of scientists and biologists who understand it. The Leader of the Official Opposition has said before that they are valuable people and we pay them a lot of money. I accepted their recommendations.
Mr. Penikett: Yesterday, the Minister told the media that he rejected the wildlife biologists advice and he rejected the boards advice. I want to ask the Minister again: does he not understand the critical importance of the boards recommendations? If I could quote to him something that he said last year when the government delayed implementation of one board recommendation, How can you expect the Yukon Indian people to have faith in the board established pursuant to the land claim settlement? I would like to ask him this: can he advise the House what has caused him to so completely change his mind from the position that he advocated last year and the incredible position that he is now defending in the House today?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Because of advice that I received from my department and also several other things that this House is unaware of.
Mr. Penikett: The Ministers answer is incredible. The advice from the department is supposed to go to the board. The board is then supposed to advise the Minister. If the Minister rejects their advice, he is supposed to make the decision in writing. The Ministers decision to reject the boards advice will inevitably shake public confidence in the board established under the land claims legislation; the entire system of co-management, which aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people have agreed to share is in this negotiated agreement.
I would like to ask the Minister what steps he is going to take to repair the damage that he has done to peoples faith in the system of co-management, and the faith that First Nations people have in the system of co-management, which is designed to limit ministerial power, not expand it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board have received letters explaining why we did this. They will be made public tomorrow. We have done everything that we were told to do under the terms of reference.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Harding: On the noon news, Champagne/Aishihik Chief Paul Birckel said that the moose population is very depressed. He said he thought that they made a promise to the people that they were opposed to this and that there would not be any hunting allowed in those areas, but they just went ahead. Now, it seems like they are protecting the outfitters more than anything else.
Perhaps the Minister could tell us how he intends to repair the broken relationships with both the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The outfitters are on a quota of two moose each and one for the other. In other words, four moose is all they are permited to take out of there.
Also, on that same recommendation, they will be checked again. There are 1,800 moose in that area right now. I am told that, biologically, the 10 moose we take out of there will not hurt the herd. If they do not recover this year, there will be no more hunting for outfitters in that area.
Mr. Harding: First the Minister says that he was listening to native people. Then he said he was listening to biologists, whenever it gets tough. Now native people are saying that there should be a moose ban, as does the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
I ask the Minister how he can, for one second, start to repair the damage he has created with the very important Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which will affect resource councils, and, also, how will he repair the relationship with the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation, who thought that the government had made a promise?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think I have been around long enough in this world and in the Yukon that most people trust me and understand why I try to do things.
Mr. Harding: I think that we have heard an outrageous answer today in the Legislature. The Minister says that there are reasons for his rejecting the recommendations - four in seven months - as compared to the previous government, which rejected one in seven years. He said there are reasons that people in this House do not know.
Will he share those reasons with us and apologize to the people of Champagne/Aishihik and the people on the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, whom he has publicly berated and insulted?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Leader of the Official Opposition wants to meet with me, I will show him the one problem we have, in private.
Question re: Land claims, land selection within Whitehorse
Ms. Joe: My question is for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services.
On Monday, May 17, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services informed the House that, after his meeting with the First Nation that morning, and at the request of the Kwanlin Dun, he would be drafting a letter to the First Nation stating their plans for land development in the greater Whitehorse area.
Could the Minister tell the House whether or not this letter has been sent to Kwanlin Dun? Will he table a copy in this House, if it has?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The letter was sent to the Kwanlin Dun. They are dealing with it at 2:00 this afternoon. I would not like to table it in this House until after the letter has been perused by the membership of the Kwanlin Dun.
Ms. Joe: The Minister also made a commitment to have the working group up and running by today, at the latest. Is this in place? Has the group met or contacted Kwanlin Dun?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the group has been put together, but they have not met with Kwanlin Dun. I could be not exactly right on my timing, but I believe that meeting with Kwanlin Dun is going to happen tomorrow.
Ms. Joe: The Minister was also asked about the mandate of this working group. I would like to ask the Minister whether he could tell us today what the mandate of this working group is. Will it be a matter of public policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has not been a clear mandate given to the working group, mainly because the Kwanlin Dun member has not met with them at this point in time. I had hoped that the working group would create its own procedures and policy on how they are going to be effective.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mrs. Firth: Before I ask my question, I would like to ask all Members of the Legislative Assembly to help me welcome the grade 7 to 9 students from G.A. Jeckell School. They are debating students, and they have come to watch the elected representatives debate in the Legislature this afternoon. Their supervisor, Carol Harwood, is also with them.
Question re: Yukon College board chair, appointment of
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister of Education.
I have a private Members bill on the Order Paper to amend the College Act. The bill calls for the chair of the colleges board to be appointed by the board, instead of by the Minister of Education.
Since I will not have an opportunity to bring this bill forward and debate the bill in this session, I would like to ask the Minister if he would tell us whether or not he supports this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have had discussions with the Member about the bill that she has tabled in the House, and I have advised the Member that I do support the concept of the chair of the board being selected by the members of the Board.
I think that it is important that the college have their autonomy and that is one way to guarantee more of that.
Mrs. Firth: Will the Minister make a commitment that he will bring forward this change to the College Act?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will give the Member assurances that I would like to see us bring in an amendment to the College Act, to allow that to happen before the end of this term of government.
Mrs. Firth: I would like it done a little sooner than that if the Minister agrees with the initiative.
Perhaps the Minister would make a commitment - I appreciate that this may be too short notice to ask for it in this session, but will he bring it forward in the fall sitting?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was hoping, in a round aboutway, that I could gain support from the Member for Riverdale South to keep the government alive by telling her to the end of this term, so if we waited a little longer, she would vote for the budget and a few other things in the House so that she could get her wish.
I can give the Member assurances that I will work as hard as I can to get that on the agenda. I cannot guarantee it this fall, because we have not yet sat down and talked about the fall agenda, but I will raise that when we get to that point.
Question re: Grum stripping
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Economic Development. The government has taken the trouble to update their vision statement, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, presumably filling in any cracks and correcting deficiencies in that document. The latest edition, entitled Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative, was published on April 16, a month after the legislative session began.
Can the Minister say why, in the most recent update, amidst supposed negotiations to reopen the Curragh mines, there is no mention at all of the largest engine of the private sector economy, the Curragh mines in Faro and Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The reasoning for that was that the Grum stripping is an issue outside that initiative; it is an initiative we have given top priority to, and it will take the lead over all those other initiatives.
Mr. McDonald: That is a bit of a puzzle because, in the original document, the first edition, amidst negotiations to reopen Curragh, the Grum stripping was featured prominently - in fact, featured as a number one initiative. What reason could the Minister have for excising any reference at all to the Curragh mine in the latest edition, which is dated April 16 of this year?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Member very well knows, that paper is geared toward getting self-sufficiency money from the federal government, and the federal government has indicated that it has no interest whatsoever in contributing to the Grum stripping. We still have the Grum stripping as a high priority for this government, and that is the reason it is not in there.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that this latest, updated document is not for Yukon consumption but, really, is to be delivered to the Deputy Prime Minister or to some other federal official? To whom is the document directed?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not sure which one he has there, but I assume it is the document that was presented to Mr. Siddon, when he was up for the mining meeting here several weeks ago.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Members will recall that yesterday I asked the Minister if his government had yet decided whether it was going to adopt the wolf conservation and management plan prepared last summer. The Minister advised that First Nations had some problems with the plan, and that he would not bring that plan before Cabinet until those problems had been addressed. Would the Minister tell the House what those problems are?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Speaker, are you going to allow me to get them all in, or should I just tell him that there are 10 questions that they would like answered?
Speaker: Perhaps if the Minister of Renewable Resources has something there to send over to the Member for Riverside, that would be helpful, rather than reading it completely.
Mr. Cable: Not having seen the letter, I can only guess at its contents. I would appreciate the document being tabled, if that is the Ministers intention. What is the government doing to address the concerns that I presume are outlined in that letter that he just produced for the House?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Number one, we started out by doing what they asked us to do and that was to turn it over to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board so they could come back with their recommendations. When they have recommendations, we will go from there.
Mr. Cable: I do not actually have one. The answer somewhat surprised me. Perhaps after I have read the letter, I can ask questions tomorrow.
Question re: Grum stripping
Mr. McDonald: This is an impressive display for the debating students I am sure. The document entitled, Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative, that the government updated on April 16, 1993, calls for some expenditures to support various mining and road projects. One of the projects is the Grew Creek mine, which the Minister has been less than enthusiastic about in recent weeks, in terms of its viability. That particular project requires $600,000 for underground exploration and development work. Can the Minister tell us how materially that work differs from the Grum stripping project for the Curragh operation?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The focus of that project has changed considerably over the past few months. The company that now owns the Grew Creek property is no longer asking for this underground exploration work.
Mr. McDonald: I am not talking about what the company is asking for. I am asking what the Ministers intentions were in putting into a document, which they were going to give the federal government, a request for $600,000 for underground work. Because this is actual development work, and not dissimilar from the Grum stripping project, how does this request differ materially from the Grum stripping project, which the Minister indicated should not be in the document, because it was the wrong kind of infrastructure to show the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for his question. Again, the federal government made it very clear to us that they were not interested in assisting us in the Grum project. At that time, there were still indications that perhaps Grew Creek could be made a make-work project, associated with the unemployment problem in Faro. If the Member disagrees with that concept, I suggest he say so.
Mr. McDonald: If there was any make-work, I think the people of Faro would prefer to strip the Grum ore body and get to work. Can the Minister indicate to us with whom in the Yukon community the government consulted in their most recent update of this document and, particularly, whether or not they consulted with the Council for Yukon Indians?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We had discussed the original presentation with the Council for Yukon Indians. We know the Ross River Band is very interested in training jobs on the Grew Creek property, and that is why it is included in there.
Question re: Power rate increases
Ms. Joe: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. In response to earlier questions in this House, Ministers have expressed concern about possible increases in rates for telephone service and have made commitments to monitor Northwestels rate application to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. Is the Minister similarly concerned by the Yukon Public Utilities Board approval of an interim seven-percent increase in electrical power rates for residential consumers, and a 20-percent increase for industrial and, if so, what is he prepared to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With respect to the application by Northwestel, in my capacity of Minister responsible for Justice, I advised that the Government of the Yukon would be intervening in the CRTC rate application. In my capacity as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, I am cognizant of the interim rate increase allowed by the Yukon Public Utilities Board, which was 6.75 percent, not seven percent - I am sure the Member misspoke her question.
We have faith in the process through which the Yukon Public Utilities Board will hear all arguments and intervenors, and will rule on the allowable increase some time later in the summer. I guess we will be awaiting with great interest the recommendations of that Yukon Public Utilities Board.
Ms. Joe: In answers to previous questions this session, the Minister has acknowledged that there are options available within the government to provide some relief to ratepayers. Since consumers and businesses are hit by seven-percent and 20-percent electrical power increases, on top of a Yukon Party-made recession and tax increases, is the Minister actively considering, or proposing to take to Cabinet a proposal lowering the rate of return to the Yukon Energy Corporation in order to give consumers and businesses a break?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It would be premature for me, as Minister responsible, to take anything to Cabinet until we see what recommendations are made by the Yukon Public Utilities Board. I am sure the Member, in misspeaking twice and calling it a seven-percent increase, rather than a 6.75-percent increase, is aware that the Yukon Public Utilities Board, in so doing, did not go along with the request made by the two utility companies.
Ms. Joe: Since the Minister and the governing party have repeatedly spoken about providing a supportive environment for industry, and the Minister has previously drawn a distinction between a reduced rate of return and providing relief to consumers, is the Minister prepared to establish a rate-subsidy program to assist surviving Yukon industries to weather these harsh economic times?
Speaker: The Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation - as briefly as possible, please.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Sometimes, it is difficult to be brief.
With respect to that question, which opens a can of worms, let me simply say that it is for Cabinet to make a determination as to whether or not the taxpayers of the Yukon should provide any kind of subsidy to industrial users of electricity. As I am sure the Member knows, at this time there are no industrial users online, United Keno Hill having been shut down for some time and Curragh no longer using the energy supply from the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Question re: Energy rate increases due to Curragh shutdown
Mr. Harding: I have another question for the Minister regarding the same subject of power rates. Last week, the Yukon Energy Corporation announced that Curragh will have to pay a power bill of $500,000 a month whether they are operating or not. This will create a further impediment to reopening the mine, which will lead to consumers facing massive power increases.
What is the Minister going to do about this serious situation, given that he has had a week to think about the question that he received last week?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have thought about the question for a week and I think that it is as premature and silly now as I thought it was a week ago; that is after a lot of very careful consideration.
The issue of whether or not the Curragh corporation owes money to the Yukon Energy Corporation for power is one that, in the first instance, is determined by the Public Utilities Board.
If, in the course of events sometime in the future, there are negotiations involving this government and Curragh with respect to opening the mine, the amount of the outstanding bill would be considered in those negotiations.
Mr. Harding: The Ministers answers are as pompous and arrogant as they were last week.
The Cabinet can direct the Public Utilities Board. What specific recommendations will the Minister take to Cabinet to avoid this final blow to our mines and increased power rates to consumers?
Speaker: Order please. Before the Minister answers, I should say that both Members are in breach of the proprieties of the House in their remarks and I would ask them to police themselves, following parliamentary procedures and adhere to the guidelines, and not force the Speaker to intervene.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are doing our best on this side of the House.
As I have already said, there is a possibility that that issue will become the focus of attention by government in the course of negotiations leading to the reopening of the mine at Faro, if that eventuality comes to pass. It would be premature at this time to start talking about overruling the Public Utilities Board until we see exactly what is transpiring.
Mr. Harding: The government handling of the Curragh situation, the handing out of power bills when companies are not even operating and huge corporate tax increases are sending out horrible signals to the mining community and will hurt investment by the mining community in this territory.
How will the Minister try to repair this damage in the short term as it relates to energy consumption?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I can say is that the Members questionable question is based on false premises. There is no evidence to show that, in following in an arms-length way, the ruling of a public utility board, the corporation is, in any way, doing anything to act as a disincentive to mining companies that wish to invest in the Yukon. The approach the government will take will be based on actual negotiations with operators who wish to open mines.
I just cannot agree that, for a change, this government is not only saying it is open for business but, for an extreme change, acting in an arms-length way, with the corporation and the Public Utilities Board not interfering on a daily basis, as was the case under the previous government - anything to turn off potential investors in the Yukon. I would think, and I am quite certain in this, that what we are doing will encourage people to invest here.
Speaker: Order. Order please. Time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 24, An Act to Amend the Municipal Act.
Bill No. 24 - An Act to Amend the Municipal Act - continued
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Perhaps I will just quickly summarize. The first section of this bill allows a municipality to acquire heat from another source and use it for municipal purposes.
With the permission of the Executive Council Member, the municipality may also sell and distribute heat surplus to municipal requirements.
The second section allows Cabinet to delegate authority, under any act, to the Yukon Municipal Board, if the act permits it.
Mr. McDonald: Just to summarize the Opposition comments to date, we had a brief discussion about the first section of the bill, which was ultimately to permit the Town of Watson Lake to sell and distribute waste heat to someone other than government or to their own government facilities. As I recall, we agreed to agree on the principle and intent of that clause. In fact, we took the position that this provision encouraged energy management innovation at the community level. We felt that this was, in fact, a good provision.
We had some reservations about the second provision of the bill - not to the extent that the Minister described the governments intent, but to the extent that it was actually outlined in the legislation itself. The Minister indicated that he felt that the Municipal Board had proven itself to be responsible and dutiful in the duties that had been assigned to it so far. However, he also indicated that, in order to save money in the future, it might be worthwhile to assign further responsibilities not contemplated under the Municipal Act, to this board.
The Minister went on to cite the Lands Act, the Area Development Act and the Assessment and Taxation Act as candidates for consideration when the Cabinet wanted to delegate some of its authority to a board.
We in the Official Opposition feel that that may be a reasonable thing to contemplate, but felt that the wording in the proposed bill provided far too much latitude to the government to consider the Municipal Board for duties far afield from those that are contemplated in the areas of land and municipal affairs.
Consequently, as the Minister is aware, I was going to suggest an amendment to that particular clause during clause-by-clause debate. The amendment would delineate the responsibility and focuses it on the bills that the Minister cited as being useful candidates.
The Minister indicated that they had no intention at this time of assigning responsibilities to the Municipal Board in fields other than lands and municipal affairs, and we agree that that is reasonable.
We do feel, though, given the fact that we spent a lot of time in the Legislature matching board makeup and responsibilities and trying to ensure that the boards are given a mandate that is reasonable under various specific circumstances, and that it would be inappropriate at this time to give a wide open mandate to the Cabinet to delegate any of its responsibilities under any act to this board without some concrete examples.
I would suggest that we do consider an amendment that meets the needs of the Minister, but also ensures that we do not get carried away. I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to entertain such an amendment when we get to it.
Essentially, I am suggesting that we should take the Ministers word that we permit the board to perform such duties as the Commissioner in Executive Council delegates to it, pursuant to the Municipal Act as well as the Area Development Act, Assessment and Taxation Act and Lands Act.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am quite confident that this side of the House would support an amendment from the other side similar to what has been proposed by the Member opposite. I guess the time to introduce that amendment would be during line-by-line debate of the bill.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that undertaking. I wonder if the Minister would permit me to use this occasion on this general debate on this bill to explore with the Minister, for a few minutes, his thinking about the purposes of the Municipal Board and its relationship to the Minister.
I have two reasons for wanting to ask the Minister about this. The first is a very general concern about the operations of the Municipal Board, and this concern arises from the Ministers indication yesterday that he intended a review of the Municipal Act itself, the act that creates the Municipal Board, a body that came into being with the last amendment to the Municipal Act.
At the time that that act was debated, I personally expressed some concerns that we were borrowing an instrument from Ontario - a province with nine million people and hundreds of municipalities ranging from cities the size of Toronto, with several million people, down to very small villages, and also a province that has counties and many overlapping jurisdictions. I was concerned about the utility of a board like that in the Yukon; at least, I was when the act was first debated some 10 years ago.
My second concern is a particular one. I wonder if the Minister will allow me to take a minute to illustrate it. It is best illustrated by the recent experience of people in the McLean Lake area.
I hope the Minister will not take offence at this. One of the frustrations of my constituents is that they are having a hard time figuring out what the Minister has done in respect of a decision that originally came out of the Municipal Board, vis-a-vis a previous Ministers decision in respect to the Municipal Board and vis-a-vis the intentions of a municipal council. There has been some discussion in this House about area development regulations, zoning, official community plans and about a city bylaw that the Minister has approved.
In simplest terms, if you cut through all the legalisms, I understand that City Hall believes that they now have essentially a mandate from this Minister to go ahead and develop a Riverdale-type subdivision on top of an area that many people believe is unsuited to that - the Squatters Row area, which consists of rocky and undulating land forms, and in which it would be difficult to install water, and an area that many local residents believe is highly suited to country-residential development. It is a plain fact that the city council of Whitehorse - which does not operate on a ward system but on an at-large system, and which contains no elected representative from the general area of the McLean Lake residents, is seen by McLean residents to be notoriously insensitive to their wishes. They have essentially turned a deaf ear to them.
McLean Lake residents believe that what has happened is that, in a dispute between the city - which wants to turn their area into a Riverdale-type area - and themselves - who would like to keep it as a country-residential area - the Minister has essentially weighed in on the side of the city.
The Ministers statements in this House do not indicate that he believes that but that is what the residents of the area believe. They believe that, not only have they been done an injustice by the city, but the Minister has aggravated it by endorsing it.
When the Minister first started asking questions about this, he referred to the fact that a former Minister had received advice from the Municipal Board and decided to act in a certain way. I believe there was a legal issue around an appeal of a Municipal Board decision that was heard by a different board than had heard the original decision, and that raised one legal issue. The Minister said he was not sure whether he was empowered to make a different decision than a previous Minister in respect to the same matter. Just to refresh the Ministers memory, he told me, on the floor of this House, that he would consult with the area residents prior to making any change - I think his words were - in their lifestyle.
The fact is that, a few days after he made that comment, he approved of the change at City Hall. City Hall believes that they have essentially received the Ministers approval to do whatever they want to do in the next few years in respect to turning it into a conventional, urban-residential neighbourhood. The area residents are upset. They believe that, because this matter has already gone to the Municipal Board, they probably do not have any appeal to that body. They believe they have an unsympathetic Minister, who has basically taken the side of the powerful agent - in this case, City Hall - and not listened to them.
The prospect in this bill of the Minister, for example, changing the relationship between the Minister and the board is a very interesting one. What the Minister is asking for here is the power to delegate.
If, in fact, the Minister were asking for the power to delegate, for example, his power to approve a municipal bylaw, I think the Minister would see that could potentially very much change the relationship now between the board, the Minister, between municipalities and the relationship between the board, municipalities and citizens, in that, if the Minister delegated this power, as is proposed under this act, to the board - this may be a hypothetical situation, but I do not know the Ministers intentions - the citizen would have the right only to appeal to a body that now had acquired executive power from the Minister, and that would give them essentially no avenue of appeal at all, because they might be appealing again to the body that had made a decision.
I wonder if I could just use the general proposition of the wisdom of a Municipal Board and the recent unhappy experience of McLean Lake residents in respect to the official community plan, and ask the Minister to reflect on what he thinks should be the actual relationship between the Minister, the board, municipality and citizen, and perhaps he could use the McLean Lake area case as an example. I confess that I thought I understood some of these things really well, but the Ministers answers in this House seemed to indicate to me that he believes he has done something quite different from what I think the municipality and what the McLean Lake residents believe has been done. He may have good reasons for that but, I confess, I do not understand them.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite and I could probably go on here for a couple of days. Whether we could finally resolve who was right and who was wrong, or whether the city was right or the residents were right, I do not know, and I hope we do not do that.
To start with, when a board such as the Yukon Municipal Board is given quasi-judicial powers and there are requirements under the act for certain people to nominate certain people to the board, I think it is important that we be very, very careful who we put on that board, especially on this particular one, which serves at pleasure.
Those people, as the Leader of the Official Opposition pointed out yesterday, could be there forever, until they die.
I think that when a board like that is appointed, first of all, we have to be extremely careful about who is appointed to the board and that they are not only fair, but, for legal people in the House - and I believe that this is a requirement by law - they must also appear to be fair. We must be extremely careful about that part of it.
When we have carefully created this board - being as careful as one can - I think there is a responsibility to follow its recommendations. I believe that the role of the Minister in approving certain bylaws in a municipality that are so required under the legislation - in villages and towns there are budgets, borrowing bylaws and zoning and so on - is to ensure that everything has been done in a legal manner. I do not think that because the Minister has the ability to approve or not approve certain legislation in municipal council it automatically gives the Minister license to reject something he or she does not like.
In the case of the McLean Lake official community plan amendment, the process at the time - and I am going back in my recollection a few years - was followed. The process that was outlined in the act was followed. There were various hearings. I agree that the residents of the McLean Lake area did put forward a good argument about why there should not be urban-residential, high-density dwellings in the area. They had quite a good argument. Technically, however, it could be done. The engineering people can do just about anything they put their minds to, if someone is willing to pay the price. The residents argument was good in that some soils investigations should take place before the area was zoned urban residential.
I agree; I think that it should be done and that there should be soil investigations before any residences are constructed.
I think that the previous Minister was wrong in not signing the bylaw approving the amendment; he said at that time, if you get the soils investigation done, then I will sign the bylaw. The soils investigation probably would have cost the City of Whitehorse somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250,000 to $300,000. It did not do anything for the residents of McLean Lake, except that it would cost the City of Whitehorse a substantial amount of money to do what they intended to do in the first place.
My argument to the City of Whitehorse was that if they could satisfy the requirement that the residents of McLean Lake have - that they will continue to have their rural lifestyle and country-residential lots - in McLean Lake and not be put into a situation where they are forced to move or subdivide, then I would have no problem with signing the bylaw.
The City of Whitehorse responded with the requirement for an area development scheme. In that scheme it states that before any development takes place, all of the things that the previous Minister had asked them to do would in fact be done. What the previous Minister has suggested or required from the municipality is still there and covered under the area development scheme. Under that scheme they must do a soils investigation prior to any development.
The second thing - I see my colleague would like me to hurry up, but I have to finish this.
The second thing that I think is very important for the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Members opposite is that there has been no change in zoning. The zoning of those lots at McLean Lake is country residential. The overall official community plan puts the whole area, right from Granger around to the South Access Road, including the McLean Lake area, as urban residential. But the official community plan is a 10, 20 or 40-year plan of what they would like to develop at some point in the future. In the meantime, those lots are all zoned country residential. Everyone who lives there can do anything they so choose with their lots, under the country residential zoning requirements.
One of the comments I made during Question Period one day - maybe somewhat heated - was that those people are protected better than they were under the previous Ministers direction. I do believe that to this day, because the previous Minister said that if the City of Whitehorse does a soils investigation, then we will sign the bylaw.
I have said I will sign the bylaw; however, there is still the requirements of soils investigation, but not only that, there is another complete consultation process put in the area development scheme that was missing from the previous Ministers requirements.
Mr. Penikett: Let me just add a few comments. I know the Government House Leader is getting twitchy about the passing of time, but I was going to suggest that perhaps my colleague, the Opposition House Leader, could take the Government House Leader for coffee, and the Minister and I could carry on with this important discussion.
There are three points I would like to make in response to the Ministers concern. The Minister said there is no change in lifestyle, but he would have to concede that, if you are living on a country-residential lot with a certain kind of rural lifestyle now and, as a consequence of the official community plan being changed and subsequent development, your area is surrounded by townhouses or Riverdale-style houses, you have a major change in lifestyle.
Try to imagine Alex Jones wonderful little home and plant, in which he produces his incredible sculptures and other works of art, suddenly no longer being in a bush or country setting, but with row housing on one side and an arterial road on another, and quality Riverdale or Granger-type homes all around. To state the obvious, it would not be the same, nor would the natural feature of McLean Lake be the same.
That is my point, and I think it is the view of the residents that it is not what happens to their own lots, but it is what happens all around them that produces a major change in their lifestyle. In my view, it is a fundamental proposition of fairness in municipal planning decisions that the people most affected by the decisions - in other words, people in the immediate neighbourhood - should have a voice in those decisions.
This is how this is germane to the Municipal Board. The fact of the matter is that we do not have a ward system. The people in the area have been very articulate and very persuasive, as the Minister has said, but they have not succeeded. They have not been listened to, in the sense that their views have really been taken into account, they believe.
Let me explain why they feel that. Even though the Minister says there is no change in zoning, and that the country-residential lots and the rural lifestyle is protected, the Minister referred to an area development scheme.
As I understand it, at the moment when council and the Minister approved the bylaw, the council had not even seen the area development scheme in draft. In fact, I am told that there is no more than communication between officials at Community and Transportation Services and officials at city hall. Councillors had not even seen the scheme that would do what the Minister says, and that is protect the lifestyle of the residents. The guarantee that the Minister believed was attendant on the passage of that bylaw does not, as far as I know, have any legal existence.
This brings me to my third point, which is about the role of the Minister and the role of the Municipal Board. The Minister argues that even though the Minister has to approve certain kinds of changes - he mentioned borrowing bylaws and zoning - that that should not be seen as a licence by the Minister to go contrary to the wishes of the locally elected council. I would agree with that proposition.
It is also quite clear that the drafters of the law - which was in fact drafted by his party when they were last in government - clearly intended that the Minister have some power. I should stop myself there and concede immediately that the Minister is a different personality type than the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs, or the one who was Minister for so long. He may have a much more democratic attitude toward municipalities than did his predecessor, or some predecessors of 10 years past.
It was clearly intended in the law that the Minister have some leeway. I believe it was put in the law because the Minister had the right to say yes or no to certain propositions. I think that the Minister would agree that the Minister was given that power not simply to be a rubber stamp. Nowhere in the parliamentary system, or the legislative system, is the Minister supposed to be a rubber stamp. The only case that I know of is where the Prime Minister of Britain is expected to rubberstamp the nominee of the Anglican Church for the Archbishop of Canterbury. In that case, what actually happens is the two nominees are put forward. The first one is the real nominee and the second one is the also-ran. It is clearly understood that the Prime Minister is supposed to endorse the number-one choice and send it on to the Queen, not to weigh in on behalf of number two.
In most cases when Ministers are given a choice to do something in our system, it is intended that the Minister make a decision - exercise a choice in some way.
I believe that the argument for the Minister exercising a choice is the argument of responsibility to all citizens to guarantee that there be fairness in decisions, that minority rights of citizens - even a small group of citizens - be protected. It is quite possible that a legislature such as this can decide that the body that is there to guarantee fairness is a quasi-judicial one, and it is quite possible for a legislature like this to decide that the Municipal Board, as the Minister said, should be a quasi-judicial body with some independence, with some admirable people among its membership, and that they would be there to protect the interests of small groups in the community or minority voices or just to make sure that there is due process.
I do not want to promise the Minister this, but I have no interest in debating this, as the Minister says, for two days. He might agree to get back to me on this question about the area development scheme. My impression - well, it is not my impression; I was told for a fact and I believe one of our researchers called his department to confirm it - is that the councillors, at the point when they passed this bylaw, had not even seen this area development scheme in draft.
That is information that was provided to me. There have not been that many cases before the Municipal Board. We have not dealt with, as they have in Ontario, hundreds and hundreds of cases; in the last 10 years, there have been a certain number. This has been a difficult one, and the Minister across the way is perfectly entitled to disagree with the decision of a previous Minister, but I wanted to ask these questions because if a board is to have delegated powers - if I can express my own view here - I think the board should have a delegated power to be able to look at a situation where there is a dispute between two groups such as the Municipal Council of Whitehorse, which is the most powerful municipal body in this territory, and a small group of residents in a very tiny, little neighbourhood like McLean Lake, and, if you like, rebalance the power relationship here - not that the city council is frustrated in its will to do what it appropriately should, but to make sure that the rights of the people who live in a small neighbourhood are also protected and guaranteed, and that we do not have the weight of City Hall always predominating.
I would hope that, in cases like this, the Municipal Board would be able to play a role in making sure the argument was simply on the facts, on the logic of the situation, rather than just on who had the most clout. This is where I differ a little bit with the Ministers statement - not of today, but the Ministers statement of a few days ago - where I think he saw his role simply as being a neutral person. My view is that the Minister has a special responsibility as a Minister.
It will guarantee fairness and a hearing for everyone and that justice is done for everybody in processes like this. One of the ways of doing this is to mandate something like the municipal body to act in a quasi-judicial manner. In that respect, I do not disagree with the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The comments the Leader of the Official Opposition made with respect to the area development scheme are interesting. I am going to follow up on that particular scheme. The bylaw that I have has the area development scheme attached to it. My understanding, and I believe I got this right from the area development scheme, is that it is a policy of council. It appears, on my copy, that it has been approved by council.
I certainly will check that. If someone has been led down the garden path and if that someone is I, I will be quite upset about it. I believe that these things have to be totally above board. I will get back to the Leader of the Official Opposition with what I find out on this particular thing.
On the comments made earlier in the Members speech about the rural residential lifestyle, and having an urban-residential subdivision right up against some of the lots, and, in fact, interfering with that type of lifestyle, unfortunately that would have happened whether the official community plan amendment had been changed or not.
The city had the ability to change the community plan right up tight to those lots. They could change the zoning so that, regardless of whether we keep the zoning for country residential - and I am quite confident that those people are protected and that that will happen - and this amendment would have passed or not, if and when the city decides to develop urban residential in that area, which will probably not be for quite a few years, it will come right up against the lots of those people, with whatever is provided for a buffer zone. I would hope that at the time it happens we will be able to provide some sort of buffer zone. Regardless of how this would have worked out, that exact situation could happen.
Under the Municipal Act, our current legislation is restrictive legislation. It is not permissive, but the legislation has developed over the years and it is becoming more and more permissive.
I believe that is the way it should be and there were several reasons why the original act - I guess, it was the 1979 act that was amended in 1983 and eventually came into effect in 1984 - should be quite restrictive at the time. It was mainly due to the fact that five of the eight municipalities then in the Yukon had just come from being local improvement districts where they had very little legislative power. The act allowed them to make bylaws, but it was very restricted as to what they could legislate for, and it had to have ministerial approval.
As the municipalities have evolved, I think that it is necessary that the Municipal Act evolve along with them - actually, it should be ahead of them a little bit - and along with that evolution comes less and less authority for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I think that government should have less to do with the actual operation of the municipalities. There are some things that I believe we have to control to a certain extent, but I think that we essentially should be allowing the municipalities to run their own affairs. Again, that is my opinion and not always agreed to by people I have worked with professionally, and it may not even be the opinion of all of the Members on this side of the House; but it has been my opinion, based on working with municipalities going through the growing stages.
Again, I do not want to debate this for two days, even though it is very enjoyable; I would welcome having a private debate with the Member opposite sometime.
Mr. Penikett: I would be quite happy to do either. I do not need to spend much time on this, although we now have the opposite problem - if we want to finish it off - of getting back the actual critic on this bill, who has gone for coffee with the Government House Leader.
I would like to make one or two points and then ask a question. The comments made by the Minister about the desirability of municipalities having the proper authority to do things in their jurisdiction without ministerial oversight or without ministerial veto is, I agree, generally a good idea.
In fact, I would be a supporter of that kind of devolution of power and authority to municipalities. I think that a lot of what we did when my party was in government was proof of that. However, I also think it is necessary, if you are going to give power to a body, to also make sure that the rights of minorities, the rights of citizens and the rights of neigbourhoods are protected. That is why I believe very strongly that once a municipality gets to a certain size - and this is my own personal view; the Minister gave his and I will give mine - you have to have a ward system, because if you do not have a ward system, the less affluent and populated neighbourhoods in a city tend, over a long period of time, not to be represented or heard. I do not want to go into the history of cities like Vancouver, where that has been a huge problem, or other municipalities - I am not going to debate that now.
I would point out to the Minister that even in a case where we recently were legislating self-government powers, and I know a little bit about that because we are really the first jurisdiction in Canada that has legislated anything like the self-government arrangements that Yukon First Nations have here, and where we were not delegating power or devolving power, but recognizing the inherent right of First Nations to govern themselves, everybody involved in the negotiations wanted to make sure there were guarantees or protections there for individuals, such as the Minister of Renewable Resources being concerned the Charter of Rights would apply. He was not alone among Canadians on that score. There were others who wanted to make sure that there would be democratic systems in place, others who wanted to ensure that while we were doing away with the incredible, dreaded colonial legislation, the Indian Act, in terms of governance of aboriginal peoples lives that there would be constitutions written by the First Nations that might respect the traditional ways of doing things, but would in and of themselves also be democratic in the best sense of the word - that they would give every member of that First Nation a say in what was going on and make the people who hold office in a First Nation accountable to them.
I think the same idea ought to apply. Since the Minister has indicated he is going to be overhauling the Municipal Act, I think it is extremely important to establish in law who is the guarantor of those neighbourhood or citizens rights. Is it the Minister, the Municipal Board or is it the courts? I would submit that the present Municipal Act is confused on that score.
In section 20.6, it suggests that there is an avenue, where the people can go to the courts to get a bylaw quashed. There is the Ontario-style Municipal Board created, and there is also the ability of the Minister to veto certain kinds of legislation passed by municipal bodies.
I want to make an appeal to the Minister, not just in respect to this legislation, but in respect to a review he is doing on the Municipal Act, that whatever you do, especially when you are dealing with larger municipalities - in this territory, I would include Watson Lake, Dawson, Faro and Whitehorse in this - you have to make sure that councils are obliged to act in a way that is fair and just to citizens. I am not saying they do not do that most of the time, but you have to guarantee it. If you take a look at the number of people who turn out for municipal elections, as compared with territorial elections, councils are often elected by a small percentage of the population.
As someone who once studied voting behaviour, when I was a student of political science, it is a fact in Canada that, the more affluent you are, the more likely you are to vote, and it is especially true at the municipal level. Property owners own much more than renters, and affluent property owners turn out in larger numbers than low-income voters.
I want to correct something. I referred to the clause as 20.6, but I think it is clause 206 in the Municipal Act.
I want to finish by asking the Minister this question: when I first started asking questions some weeks ago about the McLean Lake situation, the Minister made a remark that has fascinated and puzzled me, and I wonder if he could explain it before we move on.
He said, in respect to the Municipal Board recommendations that the previous Minister had reviewed, that when he came into office, he had some advice that indicated it might be illegal, or raised a question of questionable legality, for him to change the previous Ministers decision. I am not asking him to reveal his private legal opinion, whatever it was, but could he explain what he was talking about when he made that remark? It was made in Question Period. I understand the structure of Question Period often will not allow us to explain ourselves fully, but perhaps the Minister could explain that now.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To answer the Leader of the Official Oppositions question, naturally, as soon as I took office, there was some representation to have me sign the bylaw. I did not know what the legality would be. The Yukon government had rejected that particular bylaw, so I sought a legal opinion, and it indicated that I could be challenged, because the previous Minister had Irefused it. If I were to just overturn that particular decision, I could be challenged, and there should be a change to more or less include the requirements that he had put there previously.
I did not know whether that was a good legal opinion or a poor one, but it did not matter. I felt sort of that way myself, that I would not just overturn a decision that had been made previously. That is why I indicated to the city that I would not sign the bylaw in its current form.
Mr. Penikett: Did the Minister get a subsequent legal opinion that recommended that he proceed in the way he did? My reason for asking that question is because, as the Minister now knows, there is considerable confusion about what the result is of his decision. I am getting one message from City Hall about what the effect was, a different message from McLean Lake residents, and I asked the question about the area development scheme. I do not know for a certain fact that I am right. I just know that I was told that by our researcher, after calling Community and Transportation Services. I am curious about what is going on. Did he get a second legal opinion that recommended the precise course he did follow?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I did not bother getting a second opinion at all.
Mr. Penikett: Could I close this debate just by asking the Minister briefly what it is, not what city council did, but what it is he believed he did in respect of the McLean Lake decision, understanding that we previously had a Municipal Board decision, we previously had a ministerial decision, and we had a petition - a lobby - from city council for him to overrule the previous Minister. Could he just very briefly summarize what he believes he did as the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What I believe that I was able to do was to provide the comfort to those residents of McLean Lake. I believe that I have provided a level of comfort for a number of years and, at the same time, I have allowed the City of Whitehorse to carry on with their official community plan and their long-range planning.
So, I think I have been able to achieve both those items, and the lifestyle of the people in McLean Lake will not change. It will at some time in the future, but we know that, some 20 years down the road, Riverdale may very well look differently than it does right now. I do not think we can say never will we be putting in some sort of urban residential, or whatever it may be, but we can protect it for a period of time, and I think that is what I have been able to do.
Mr. Penikett: I take it from what the Minister says that that would only be true if the area development scheme has been adopted by city council, as he believes it has.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct. I am going to double-check that, as I indicated before.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Mr. McDonald: I would like to move the amendment that I indicated I would in general debate.
THAT Bill No. 24, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be amended in Clause 2 at page 1 by deleting the words or any other act and substituting for them the words, act, Lands Act, Area Development Act and the Assessment and Taxation Act.
Chair: Would the Members like me to read the amendment to the clause?
Is there any debate on the amendment?
Amendment to Bill No. 24 agreed to
Clause 2 agreed to as amended
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mr. Chair, I would move that you report Bill No. 24, An Act to Amend the Municipal Act through Committee, with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Before moving on to Bill No. 92, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act - as most of the bills before Committee of the Whole today are amending bills, I would like to make sure that Members know that general debate should be related only to the contents of the bill before Committee of the Whole and not to the act being amended.
We will now move on to Bill No. 92, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act.
Bill No. 92 - An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
If not, we will proceed with clause-by-clause reading of the bill.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that you report Bill No. 92, entitled an Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, through Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will be discussing Bill No. 71, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act
Bill No. 71 - An Act to Amend the Jury Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
If not, we will proceed with clause-by-clause reading of the bill.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Ms. Joe: I wanted to ask the Minister a couple of questions in regard to this. I understand his rationale for introducing it in the House and making the changes. I posed a question yesterday during second reading in regard to how effective it was going to be. I know this is not going to guarantee that there will be aboriginal representation on juries. I know the thought behind the whole thing was to try to meet that need.
I would like to ask the Minister how he feels this is going to work. It will not guarantee it, but we do have representation on juries, where applicable. If it does not, can anything in this act be changed so that representation would be guaranteed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In debate at second reading, I stated, and I will state again, that this is an extremely modest amendment, intended to do away, in the section itself, with lists that are, by their very nature, discriminatory - in particular, the assessment rolls.
If that is in the act, the sheriff has every right to use those rolls as one of the main sources of names. It is our position that, by removing that list in particular, it simply removes one impediment from the direction from the department to the Minister that the makeup of the jury panels be representative of the area in which the alleged incident took place.
That would mean that, in a situation such as that in Dawson City, one would expect to have the percentage of Indian-to-white people on a panel of 48 people to, at least, reflect the population in the Dawson area at that time of the year, and gender also, of course, to be reflective at least of that.
The difficulty that was brought into the public arena by the defence lawyer at that time was that when he showed up with his client, who was of Indian ancestry, there were only four people of the 48 who were of Indian ancestry on the jury panel. That was obviously not fair.
Number one is that if a person is to be tried by his peers, there should be a representative makeup of people on the panel that is used for selection.
Then you get into a different issue, and that is should there be some kind of quota that guarantees that on the jury itself there will be an X number of women or an X number of Indian people, or an X number of professional people, or an X number of labourers, or whatever. My concern about that issue is that it is quite a different issue.
I would respectfully submit that, particularly the accused person in a criminal case, has the right, according to his or her choice, to feel that they have some control over the people who might sit in judgment. I just suggest that that varies with a whole number of things. It would be very unlikely to get two people to agree on who they might get the fairest shake from, from a panel of 48 jurors. I have never seen people really agree on who they should challenge and who they should allow on the jury.
We are trying not to deal with that issue. We want to make sure that if you have a trial in a place like Carmacks you have 55 or 60 percent Indian people and the balance white, and the makeup gender equal. It is then up to the lawyers and their clients to figure out what they think is the best chance they have for people who might see their side of the story, and there are always two sides to a story.
This is a very modest amendment. I am not trying to pretend that it is anything great. It does get rid of the list that is most discriminatory and that is the assessment list, which, of itself, certainly discriminates against Indian people who are living on lands set aside and so are not on those lists.
Ms. Joe: I think this is a positive step, and there will be a wider list of people to choose from for the panel but, in the end, there is no guarantee that there will be that representation that people are saying right now should be on it. I guess my concern is in regard to whether or not they are going to be satisfied. They may be satisfied that there is a wider list to choose from and that you may get, for instance, 50 percent of the aboriginal group on that panel, but the accused and their lawyer may choose a jury who may not be of Indian ancestry at all. That could very well happen. I guess what we have to do is just wait and see whether it works, and we hope it will.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I can say is, from experience, sometimes, in a situation where the accused is an Indian person, he might get a tougher shake from Indian people on the jury because of the nature of the case and the type of defence he tries to raise. He might have a defence that those people see through, for example. It is an interesting and tough issue. What we are attempting here is much less controversial and a very modest step to remove the impediment of the departmental direction that we have panels that are reflective of the population.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask if this clause allows access to lists of band members, as well as to municipality and voters lists?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would submit that the sheriff could have access to band lists. It does not spell that out. My concern is that I would prefer to see the voters list used as the main list. There are a number of reasons for that, but one is that band lists, to my knowledge, are not very reflective of the population in an area, in many situations. For example, I can remember a time when the Carcross-Tagish First Nation had probably three times the numbers of people on its list than who actually resided in the Carcross-Tagish area. The concern is to have a jury of peers who live in the area where the alleged incident occurred.
Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly it is a laudable goal to address concerns that the Jury Act was discriminatory in the selection of jurors. Did the Minister consult with the Council for Yukon Indians and other First Nation groups when he drafted this amendment?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have had discussions with First Nations groups, although not officially with the Council for Yukon Indians as such. I wrote them saying that we would be coming forward with this amendment and I made it clear to the people I discussed the issue with that I was not going to be attempting to get a quota system on the jury list. There are two different things at play.
Certainly, there are bound to be some Yukoners and some CYI members, no question, who would like to see quotas on jury lists. My view is that I am not attempting to meet that request, primarily on a Charter of Rights-based rationale.
Ms. Moorcroft: Which bands did the Minister consult with? Did he consult with anyone other than the bands?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I discussed the issue with some individuals from the Kwanlin Dun Band, who were fairly outspoken on the issue. I discussed it with some of the criminal lawyers in town. I discussed it with individual Indian and non-Indian people.
I have not consulted with any First Nation as a First Nation in the formal sense that the Member is referring to.
Ms. Joe: In the section here in the sixth line, it says or any other public officer or of a municipality. Is that supposed to be there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Even without her glasses, she has better eyes than I have. I would submit that it should be taken as a typo and the or deleted.
Chair: It is agreed to accept that as a typo. That is line six. Delete or.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if that still makes sense. It is something I was also curious about. The said officer appears to modify only the municipal-type officer. The previous subclause refers to the Chief Electoral Officer and a public officer of a municipality.
The Chief Electoral Officer is, of course, not an officer of the municipality, so it does not make sense here.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It looks to me like the word other should not be there. I will ask that we stand this aside and look into this before we finish the day and find out what it ought to say.
Clause 2 stood over
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Ms. Joe: In this section, we are allowing the sheriff to excuse certain people under these sections, and I am wondering whether or not the judge plays in any role in this, since that responsibility has been given to the sheriff. Does the judge become involved in this process?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is an automatic, informal appeal to the judge if the sheriff refuses.
If you go to the sheriff and ask to be excused on one of these grounds and the sheriff says no, then without cost or formality, you can go before the judge. The idea is that a lot of the judges time was taken up with fairly straightforward requests for being excused from jury duty.
Clause 5 agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Committee to take a break at this time? Perhaps Mr. Phelps could review clause 2 so that we can come back and discuss it.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With respect to the clause we were looking at and the wording, which is awkward, I want to say that that particular part of the section is identical to the amendment to the Jury Act, passed in this House in 1991.
However, I am not completely pleased with the wording, so I would ask that we report progress on Bill No. 71.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 76 - An Act to Amend the Judicature Act
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that you report Bill No. 76 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Department of Tourism
Chair: We will be dealing with Bill No. 4, Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, and we are discussing Tourism. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I just have a few comments before I take questions. The Member for Faro, the critic for Tourism, provided me with a list of questions that he would like answered and I would like to put some of the answers on the record now for his information.
One of the questions he asked me was if I could explain the overexpenditures and the underexpenditures, especially in the development area, which is market building and infrastructure.
In 1992-93, the O&M underexpenditures for development grants resulted from a staff vacancy of a secretary and reduced travel. The 1992-93 capital overexpenditures for the development branch resulted from high revotes from the previous fiscal year for strategic planning and the sign program. These were offset by minor reductions in other branch capital areas.
He asked why there was a $198,000 increase in administration and the main reason for this increase is for funding to the Yukon Anniversaries Commission. The increase is partially offset by reductions in staff vacancies.
He asked if we had a commitment to wilderness travel because there was a $2,000 decrease in that. We feel this small decrease will not have an affect at all on the program. In fact, we have done several things in the wilderness market. We have recently produced a brochure, which I passed out to the Members earlier and we focused our testing on those individuals; our response to that particular brochure is up some 50 percent above our expectations - we are pretty happy about that.
As well, we had a meeting earlier this year with the wilderness companies. They formed an association that we are now working with. We are also working on establishing some licensing and certification for these companies, as well as dealing with the cross-boundary licensing between B.C. and the Northwest Territories. Our groups can start in the Yukon and end up in other jurisdictions. That is something that has been a problem in the past, especially with people using rivers that cross our boundaries.
Now that Alaska Highway celebrations are over, he asked whether the government plans to maintain this level of tourist activity. We are hoping that the level will be maintained. Although it must be pointed out that last year was the best year that we ever had in tourist numbers. We did have it focused on anniversary celebrations.
We do not have an anniversary this year, or next year, to draw people here. We are hoping that the spinoff from the anniversary will continue. Indications now are that numbers will be reasonably high this year. They may not be as high as last year. It is hard to tell right now. Some indications are that they are up, and some indications are that in some sectors they are down a bit. Overall, it looks like the highway traffic will be reasonably good. There are some bus tours that have been cancelled because of lack of bookings. Some other tour companies are up and some are down. We think, overall, our forecast is that it will be similar to last year. If it is down, it will be down marginally. We are kind of hoping that that will be the case.
Yet many of the other departments saw a decrease. We also have maintained historic levels of funding in museum operating assistance, TIA convention marketing and funding of the arts programs; in fact, we saw an increase in funding in the arts programs. Heritage and development programs saw slight reductions, but all other branches have slight increases.
As well, he asked me about the Anniversaries Commission and when we would be announcing the Anniversaries Commission office location. I know the Member prepared these questions prior to that weekend, but I have since announced that the office will be located in Dawson City, and I understand the Anniversaries Commission is now looking at office space and is working with individuals in Dawson to work out the technicalities of relocating the office to Dawson City. I know Dawsonites are pretty pleased about that.
As well, it is important to note that, in the new budget coming up, there is a line item for the Anniversaries Commission core funding, which was a recommendation of the study group that worked on the Anniversaries Commission report. They talked about the need for core funding and it is hoped that we have taken care of that concern in the new budget.
The Member for Faro asked what policies we presented at the tourism AGM in Dawson City. In fact, we did not present any new policy initiatives there. What we did do, though, at the request of TIA, was take several of our officials to Dawson City to give the people of TIA a more accurate reflection of what the various branches in tourism are doing presently. It was helpful for some people. A lot of it was numbers, so it takes awhile to absorb this stuff, but I think it was a good step to take. Some people felt it was very positive to have a better understanding of what the Tourism department does, and the people in the department got some good feedback from those presentations.
The Member also asked me if I would table the policy announced. I did not announce any policy there, so I do not have anything to table.
The Member also asked me about the different items in our party platform. I can tell the Member that, although that is in the 1993 main estimates - and I will talk about it more there - there is very little that we are going to go ahead with in that platform this year, simply because there is no money to embark on some large, new initiative.
Like every other department, the Tourism had to shoulder some of the responsibility in trying to get the budget back in line, and that is the reason why there are no major initiatives taking place there this year.
I know that the Member is surprised, and I know that he thought he would see all kinds of major initiatives spending millions of dollars in the budget, but we had to be a little more responsible, considering the financial position in which the government was left.
I have briefly talked about the governments plans for advertising and marketing. We have a new program that I hope to be announcing shortly. This is a European program that I will be talking about in further detail, and I hope to make a ministerial statement or announcement very shortly on that.
As well, there is the brochure that I just passed around for the Members on the adventure travel, and we are continuing with our marketing road show in the United States and the various other marketing programs that we have had in the past.
Other than the European program, there are no new initiatives that are taking place.
The Member also asked about the ambassador program, and I can address that in the 1993-94 budget, because that is a more appropriate area to address the issue, and that is where there is some funding for that.
The Member asked about a $10,000 decrease in marketing equipment, promotionals and videos, and whether this will be replaced by a bunch of pins as part of the revised ambassador-at-large program. No, the money did not come from there. This decrease in the capital budget is a result of an annual needs assessment regarding that replacement of old, outdated, audio-visual equipment and is not part of the ambassador program, which is an operation and maintenance budget item.
We are looking at embarking on a European marketing program, and I will be making a more definitive statement on that in the near future.
Regarding the wildlife viewing areas, rafting opportunities, off-road access, the Member asked if the infrastructure is in place to host these new market areas. It is happening rather quickly. Every year, we are seeing two or three more new individuals providing new products in the marketplace. It is something we have to work more on. At the tourism summit in the fall, I hope we will be talking more about packaging and putting these kinds of things together for the individual in the future. There is a great future in that kind of wilderness travel, and it is something the Yukon should capitalize on.
He asked me about the predictions for the number of tourists this year. I have already answered that. We think we will hold our own this year, if the indications we have now hold up.
He asked me if there had been any indications from tour companies that they had cancelled their flights. We heard Holland-America had some cancellations, but other companies are up marginally. I believe Princess Lines has larger ships coming into Skagway this year and, in some cases, there are more buses coming to Carcross than there were in past years. Overall, I think it will balance out with the other indicators we have out there now.
On the shoulder season, there is not a lot of change. We just had two or three conventions in Whitehorse in the last few weeks. I think there is one taking place now, or it has just ended, for Workers Compensation. There are plans, with the convention office, to market the shoulder seasons more in the future.
He asked me a question about conventions. Are we assisting in creating a convention centre? We are assisting with a convention coordinator. We pay $25,000 toward the salary of that individual. TIA is also doing a study on the needs of future convention facilities and marketing initiatives on which we can embark. I met in Dawson City with the individual who is doing that study. He is a highly respected individual, and he asked for my suggestions and ideas on the direction of convention marketing in the future. I understand that, later this spring or early summer, he will have a report for us.
We have the Canadian Association of Medical Administrators coming to Whitehorse in the near future for another convention.
The Member asked me about the airport tax, saying that it would be detrimental to Yukoners travelling to British Columbia. I advised the Member that I have written a letter to the B.C. government, expressing my concerns about this particular tax. We are supporting the chamber in its initiative to have this decision reversed.
The Member asked me a question about upgrading and improving alternate routes through the Yukon. As other Ministers have spoken about, one of the areas I would like to pursue in the future is the upgrading of loop roads. That would be the Top of the World Highway, the Campbell Highway and the Carcross-Tagish Road. I would be encouraging my colleagues to upgrade those routes, because I think that is the way to go in the future.
That probably concludes most of my comments in those areas. I would be more than pleased to answer any questions the Members may have.
Mr. Harding: I will not spend much time responding to that record, because it is an old record and most people do not listen to old records too much. I would like to say that I am glad to see that the new Government of the Yukon managed to get their finances under control with the $483 million budget, the biggest budget in history. In these tight financial times, they only have the biggest budget in history to work with. I can appreciate the toughness of the situation. They have the only accumulated surplus in the country, unless of course the books are cooked and we put extended care facilities in one fiscal year, when they should not be; nonetheless we will have that argument at some other time.
It is my understanding that in the new year, the O&M vote is actually an increase and the capital is a decrease. In terms of O&M, I really think that the Ministers comments are kind of disappointing. I had hoped to discuss this more in the mains. I will ask a few questions as we go through the line by line. I am also wondering - seeing as how the Yukon government is opposing the tax increase on the Vancouver airport and will be working on that effort - if the Vancouver Board of Trade will be protesting our Yukon tax increases implemented by the Yukon government. That is going to be interesting to see.
I was somewhat confused by the Chamber of Mines; when all these big tax increases were under their noses, they did not have much to say about them. They had to go to B.C. to find one. It is also my understanding that that particular tax increase is not a governmental initiative. It is kind of an interesting situation. I do not know who the Minister wrote in the government. Perhaps he could tell me at some other time who he wrote and what jurisdiction he feels the person who he wrote to has to wipe out that tax. I thought that was kind of interesting.
My main concern is - and the Minister does not have to get back to me on this now, he could do it by way of a legislative return - what policies and programs were implemented by the department during the period of the supplementaries in the last fiscal year that were new initiatives, not started by the previous government but started by the new government. What policies were changed? What directives did he give to change them - in case I missed something in the questions that I gave the Minister. He does not have to get back right to me now with them.
I am just wondering where the Yukon Pride litter campaign went that was announced in the throne speech in December. It was not initiated in the fiscal year that it was announced in.
I guess that would be the extent of my questions in the supplementaries. Most of the questions I have would be better answered in the context of the mains.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for his very constructive comments on my speech and I appreciate his support. The Member mentioned the capital budget decrease, and he was disappointed by that, but I should tell the Member that the reason the capital budget decreased was because we do not have to build - thank goodness - another visitor reception centre that cost us $3 million in the last year. We do not have to build a major VRC this year, so that is why the capital budget decreased dramatically.
Regarding the Yukon Pride anti-litter program, I can tell the Member that three or four departments are working on it now. The Renewable Resources, Community and Transportation Services, Tourism and Education departments are all working together right now on the program. I believe it is almost ready to come to Cabinet. It is a year-round anti-litter program, and I am looking forward to seeing that. I have seen various drafts and I have looked at what Tourism and other departments are doing, so I am looking forward to the four departments coming together with the government-wide, anti-litter program. We hope to announce that in the near future.
Mr. Harding: I hope this Minister moves faster on Yukon Pride than the Minister of Economic Development did on the Faro contingency plan - I guess that will remain to be seen. I am glad to hear that it is ready to go before Cabinet, and I will be anxious to see what the extent of the program is.
I was not disappointed that the capital budget was decreased. That is not what I said. What I said is that I was disappointed in the Ministers comment regarding fee budget - anyway that is a moot point.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One last comment about the anti-litter. It is not as if nothing is being done now while we are developing the program. In fact, Community and Transportation Services is continuing with its program on the highways, where it cleans up the highways and organizational groups get paid money for it. Various other programs are already ongoing and many of the schools are being cleaned up; the schools are having various little projects and competitions going on. There is an awful lot happening right now, just while we speak; it is not as if nothing is happening until the program is developed.
As well, there is a departmental challenge tomorrow. Renewable Resources, I believe, issued a challenge to all departments, and all the departments tomorrow are going out to clean up and I would invite the Member to join us if he wishes. We can provide the bags and clean up a little bit of the river bank.
Mr. Harding: I know I have had this discussion in the Legislature before. We still have to come up with the date but I am well aware of the proceedings tomorrow because my caucus has the bags all ready in my office and my pick-up sticks so I will be out there to do my part for humanity. The Minister does not really have to invite me. I have already been invited.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of $198,000 agreed to
Heritage in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister give a breakdown of that reduction? I am concerned a little bit about that area and where the government is going with it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have a $9,000 reduction in staff vacancies, a $5,000 reduction in travel, a $6,000 reduction in consultant services and a $2,000 reduction in miscellaneous.
Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $18,000 agreed to
Marketing in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister give a breakdown on this number?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have an $18,000 reduction in staff vacancies, a $221,000 increase in forecasted recoveries from the Yukon Lotteries Commission, a $100,000 reduction in budget cuts and that was due to the fiscal restraint. We cut $100,000 but the main reason for that $100,000 was to implement the arts policy; when we came into power, there had been nothing done about the arts policy so there was nothing to implement. The $100,000 was sitting there so it lapsed.
Arts in the amount of $104,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $356,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Accommodation, Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell me when this equipment and office accommodation was purchased?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It was late January, or early February, when the request came in.
Office Accommodation, Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $58,000 agreed to
On Museum Assistance
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The revote for 1991-92 for the museums assistance planning for the Dawson Museum storage facility is $35,000. A $50,000 grant was received from the federal government for artifact inventory and cataloging, and there was a $6,000 reduction in heritage studies.
Museum Assistance in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing
Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Heritage Studies
Heritage Studies in the amount of an underexpenditure of $6,000 agreed to
Heritage in the amount of $79,000 agreed to
On Destination, Regional and Community Planning
On Strategic Planning
Strategic Planning in the amount of $23,000 agreed to
On Wilderness Resource Assessment
Wilderness Resource Assessment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,000 agreed to
On Destination, Site or Product Assessment
Destination, Site or Product Assessment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $6,000 agreed to
On Product Development
On Signs and Interpretation
Signs and Interpretation in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Development in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Visitor Reception Centres
On Low Frequency Radio Transmitters
Low Frequency Radio Transmitters in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Television, Audio-Visual and Other Equipment
Television, Audio-Visual and Other Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,000 agreed to
On Yukon VRC Development
Mr. Harding: Will any of this expenditure be lapsing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is for the Yukon visitor reception centre, and it covers revote funds for completion of the project beyond March. All these costs were incurred by the previous government, and the project is still incomplete.
The poor canopy design will require the replacement of the canopy. Landscaping still has to be finished; accessibility, especially for the disabled, is difficult. I understand about $14,000 of that money will lapse.
Yukon VRC Development in the amount of $828,000 agreed to
On Carcross VRC Development
Mr. Harding: What was this money spent on?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This was a revote of $27,000 and a transfer from Heritage of $6,000. It was used to upgrade the new VRC in Carcross, the train station.
Carcross VRC Development in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
On Travel Marketing Equipment, Displays and Productions
On Purchase and Maintenance of Displays
Purchase and Maintenance of Displays in the amount of an underexpenditure of $10,000 agreed to
Marketing in the amount of $850,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism in the amount of $1,007,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Womens Directorate is requesting supplementary funding of $20,000 in O&M for hosting the meeting of the federal/provincial/territorial Ministers responsible for the Status of Women, held here in Whitehorse in June. That is for a total of $14,000. The remaining $6,000 is for additional personnel costs of increasing the Yukon bonus rates, acting pay, summer student and casual relief in the Directorate.
Ms. Moorcroft: As my colleagues have done, I will save most of my questions on this department for the mains; however, I do have some questions regarding the contracts for the department.
Could the Minister tell me about the virtues project contract - a workshop healing TLS for family in the amount of $1,600. That contract was dated December 8.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have that information with me, but I can get it back to the Member by way of a legislative return.
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that there are some contracts for transcription and summaries of focus group testing. I wonder if the Minister could provide me with a copy of that summary, as well as the transcripts.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure whether I can provide a copy of the summary. I understand they are almost to the stage now where they are ready to release the results of the focus group testing. I have not seen it myself yet. I would like to have a look at that first. After that, I would be more than happy to provide it to the Member.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Public Information
Public Information in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Womens Directorate agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This supplementary No. 1 consists of a reduction in both the O&M and the capital budgets. The O&M was reduced by $2,848,000, while the capital was reduced by $214,000.
The $2,848,000 reduction in O&M is mostly as a result of delays encountered in bringing various programs onstream. The delays in the opening of the extended care facility account for the majority of that reduction. The projects were not cancelled; they still went ahead. As such, the reduction in O&M is more of a deferment of expenses, rather than a cut.
The reduction in capital is the net effect of numerous changes to the funding levels of the various programs. These changes are easier to understand if examined through a line-by-line approach. I am now prepared to answer any questions the Members may have.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Expenditures
Gross Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,848,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Non-Profit Housing
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide me with a breakdown of this reduction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The reduction for the capital budget for the non-profit housing program is explained by the sum of the following: $2,002,000 for the delays in the construction of the Gateway housing project; $209,000 is the transfer of salaries and benefits from capital to 0&M; $1,809,000 is the reallocation of funds by the Yukon Housing Corporation board of directors to other programs, i.e., $600,000 to the home improvement program and $1,209,000 to the home ownership program.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister provide me with the status report on the Gateway housing project and on whether funding will still be available from the federal government for a revised Gateway project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The funding will be available until June 30.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister expect that they will be able to resolve this project prior to June 30?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the society and the neighbourhood residential group have come to an agreement, and they have jointly approached the city for a development permit.
Ms. Moorcroft: When will this development permit be granted or denied?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure. It is in the citys hands. I believe they went to the city in the last two or three days, and I do not know if the city council has actually dealt with it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister agree with non-profit housing, and could he give his definition of non-profit housing.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are people from segments of our society who require some sort of social housing. As such, I agree with it. We have people on social welfare, and we have our elders, people on old age pension or on some sort of a fixed income. We have the working poor, a lot of which we see in the service industry, who are just unable to make enough money to carry a conventional mortgage.
In that respect, I do agree with the program.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the government planning any changes to the method of delivery of this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been one change recommended by the board of directors. Apparently it was recommended quite some time ago. I have agreed with that change. It is a change to go back to - I am trying to remember the terminology - the rent geared to income. It will be an economic encouragement for people to actually get out of social housing. Twenty-five percent of their income will go to rent. What we found was that there were quite a few people who had, at one time or another, moved into some sort of non-profit, low-income housing, and then their times had changed and they were getting the low-income housing at a very much reduced rate from what they were able to afford.
We have actually put this into effect starting September 1. Notification has gone to all of the people who we believe will fit into that category. They are quite aware of it. I think that it affects somewhere around 50 people throughout the territory.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the length of the waiting list for non-profit housing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The latest figures I have is that it is somewhat over 150 people, I believe all in the City of Whitehorse.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister anticipate that this change he was just describing is going to result in anyone moving out of non-profit housing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, preliminary indications are that people will. In fact, I think that three have already moved out.
Ms. Moorcroft: Low-cost housing, or rental suites, are at a premium in the territory. What is the government planning to do to alleviate this problem?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have the loan program for rental suites, and we are going to continue with that program. That is the only actual program we have for rental suites.
Mr. Joe: Can the Minister tell me more about the rental program? In my riding, some people have not been working and are paying about $600 a month. Sometimes, some people get a job for the summer, and they have to pay 25 percent. This has been a problem in my riding. There are a lot of people complaining about it.
It is a problem with housing. Can the Minister tell me what happened with the $600 a month they used to pay? Now they have to pay 25 percent of their wages whenever they have a job.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thank the Member opposite for the question. The calculation of the rentals on a monthly basis has been changed. It is now based on ones previous years income. If someone has an income of $600 a month most of the time, and then they go to work for a couple of months in the summer and make $2,500 in those two months, the rent would be geared to the whole years income, not just those two months. It would not go along at $150 a month, then jump up to $700, and fall back down in the fall. It would be geared to the total yearly income.
Ms. Moorcroft: It was my understanding that rent was geared to income and that has been in effect for the last 10 years. Can the Minister indicate exactly what this change is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure what the reason for it was. There were people on, what they called, market rent. The rent was set at a maximum of $600 a month. They called that market rent. I do not know when or why that came into effect. It was quite some time ago.
There were some people on RGI, or rent geared to income, and some people on the market rent. In fact, what we have done is pulled the market rent entirely out of it. The rent is now all geared only to income.
Ms. Moorcroft: What would the percentage of market rent households be, in comparison to rent geared to income households?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is approximately 50 people out of 600, which would be eight percent.
Construction/Acquisition in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,020,000 agreed to
On Extended Care Facility
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister give me a breakdown of this reduction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The reduction from the capital budget for the extended care facility is the result of two items. There is a reduction of $1,295,000 for the transfer of the capital budget for equipment and furnishings from the Yukon Housing budget to the Health and Social Services budget. An expenditure of $620,000 was incurred in the 1992-93 fiscal year that was originally budgeted for in 1991-1992.
Ms. Moorcroft: What was the nature of the expenditure that was budgeted for in 1991-92 and is now being applied to 1992-93?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that it was for construction costs.
Extended Care Facility in the amount of an underexpenditure of $675,000 agreed to
On Proposed Development Funding
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the supplementary amount of $100,000 for on this line?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was mainly for the Gateway housing project. I believe that we extended $90,000 to that project.
Proposed Development Funding in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Non-Profit Housing in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,595,000 agreed to
On Home Improvement
Home Improvement in the amount of $1,722,000 agreed to
On Home Ownership
On Direct Lending
Direct Lending in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
Owner/Build in the amount of $209,000 agreed to
Home Ownership in the amount of $1,209,000 agreed to
On Staff Housing
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me what communities the staff housing units are located in?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Was the question: is there staff housing and in what communities? There are two in Dawson City, two in Carmacks, six in Watson Lake, one in Beaver Creek, one in Pelly Crossing and three in Faro.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister confident that the staff housing construction will be totally cost recovered? I noticed that the Yukon Housing Corporation has been somewhat confident that this a full cost-recovery program now. Is the Minister sure that that is the case and that expenditures here will be recovered over a certain period of time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that we do recover the full cost right now. Rent is set at $600. There is a mortgage on all of the housing, so the $600 does not pay for the upkeep and the mortgage. The board of directors is looking at staff housing and looking at the possibility of raising the payments.
Again, we do have some problems with union agreements and so on.
Mr. McDonald: I will make this point: in the event that the full cost recovery is not required, the Yukon Housing Corporation will have to come back to collect more money from the general taxpayer in order to provide this program.
The concept of full cost recovery is a reasonable one, over time, but I think we should be honest with ourselves about whether or not that will, in fact, take place. If there is some doubt about it, at this point, we should be aware of it.
Construction/Acquisition in the amount of $1,350,000 agreed to
On Joint Venture
On Joint Ventures
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide a breakdown of this item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Program applications require additional funding. This amount was transferred from the rental suite program.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister describe the programs provided for under Joint Ventures?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Takhini Place condominiums are an example of the joint venture program.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is that the only venture covered under this amount?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe it is the only one covered, but we will provide a legislative return for the Member opposite if there are more.
Joint Ventures in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Rental Suites
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the Minister could describe that program and advise whether it includes rental suites for seniors.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Actually, the rental suite program is a loan program for people who would like to provide a rental suite in their homes in applicable neighbourhoods, I guess within the City of Whitehorse - I believe that is the only place. It is available for the territory but, apparently, the only places where we have had people apply for the loans is the City of Whitehorse.
The rental suites are available for whomever, seniors included.
Rental Suites in the amount of an underexpenditure of $150,000 agreed to
On Central Services
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide us with a breakdown of that expenditure.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess the Members microphone was not on, but I believe the Member requested a breakdown.
The funds are required for additional office equipment and office furnishings.
Central Services in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $214,000 agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
On Loan Capital
On Loans to Third Parties
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The $5 million new expenditure is an appropriation authority for the Curragh loan made last spring. As Members know, the Legislature granted approval to a special bill to enter into an agreement to make the loan and this bill simply confirms that such an agreement was made and seeks the appropriation authority.
Equivalent sums shown as a recovery merely indicate that the loan is an asset on our books of account and does not therefore impact upon our surplus or deficit position.
The $155,000 shown as an additional interest expenditure in period 8 was an estimate of the cost of the interest that we would have to pay to the bank in 1992-93 on our line of credit.
As the Members know, our financial situation is such that the government is now borrowing money to finance operations on an almost constant basis. We delayed borrowing until February 17.
We have kept the borrowed sums as low as possible, with the result that the actual interest expense for the year will only be in the neighborhood of $13,000. Our borrowing for the month and one-half period from February 17 averaged approximately $2.6 million on a daily basis. Borrowing in the new fiscal year has been higher, with the largest overdraft occurring on May 3, when we were $18.1 million in debt. We are presently in a positive position at $10.4 million. This will probably be gone before month-end, and before we receive our June transfer payment from the Government of Canada.
The increase in recoveries of $14,000 reflects the additional interest accruing to us from several small loans totalling approximately $800,000 made during the year to the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. McDonald: Did I hear the Minister correctly in saying that the amount of interest that would be required was $13,000, not $155,000?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: So $142,000 of this requirement will lapse. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: The $5 million loan to Curragh is listed as a recoverable in this year. Will it remain the governments position that for the year 1992-1993 it will be listed as an outstanding recoverable and not charged against the budget of 1992-1993?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, at the year-end, it will be carried on the books as a loan.
Loans to Third Parties in the amount of $5 million agreed to
On Loan Amortization
Interest in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
Principal in the amount of nil agreed to
On Loan Amortization in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 4 out of committee.
Chair: Just a second. We have to do something else first.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 4 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: The time being close to 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will be dealing with Bill No. 5, Fourth Appropriation Act, 1991-92.
Bill No. 5 - Fourth Appropriation Act, 1991-92
Chair: Is there any general debate on the bill?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $362,000 agreed to
Education in the amount of $362,000 agreed to
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $48,000 agreed to
Justice in the amount of $48,000 agreed to
On Public Service Commission
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $402,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission in the amount of $402,000 agreed to
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 5 without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 6 - First Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Chair: Bill No. 6, First Appropriation Act, 1993-94. We are on Community and Transportation Services.
Community and Transportation Services - continued
On Piped Sewer Main Replacement - Dawson - continued
Mr. Harding: I do not think we could let this particular line go by without saying a few words to get answers to some questions. While we have supported the initiative in the past and we were surprised to see it, in light of the governments claims about how desperate times were and the claims that the government was indeed putting forth an extremely tight budget, so tight that they had no choice but to raise taxes, but by checking under the mattress the Minister found $399,000 he could cut. That same Minister, in conjunction with another Cabinet colleague, turned around and found another $1.8 million, which throws the claim out of whack - unless you include lapses - that we have a balanced budget.
We did not expect to see much for lapses because the claim was made that the budget was so tight that they had to raise taxes in order to balance the budget.
We are somewhat shocked, astonished, bewildered - all those words - to see this. We certainly did not expect this this year.
The Minister said in his public comments and the press release that this money, over a period of three years, would amount to $5.5 million. What we are concerned about are the public comments that he made about balancing the budget and that he would have to find the money through cancelling projects or projects that do not cost as much as expected, or that do not go ahead at all.
The concern there is that we really feel that it is tough to get a judgment on the budget for the people of the Yukon and this Legislature, simply because people are depending on projects going ahead that are presented in this budget. We are a little bit gun shy about the Ministers comments that he will pay for this through projects that are cancelled.
Could the Minister tell us which particular projects, at this point, he is thinking of cancelling and what areas he expects lapses in? We would feel a lot more comfortable about considering supporting this initiative.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know why, for some reason, the Dawson City water and sewer seems to bring out the worst in everyone. I remember, years ago, being down in Watson Lake, and the Dawson City water and sewer was the talk of the day. There were some terrible battles going on.
After the very calm debates we have had in this Legislature, one of the previous Ministers of Municipal and Community Affairs came to me one day and asked me to make sure his name was not mentioned when we talked about the Dawson City water and sewer. He said that it was not him, but the person who is now the Commissioner who was responsible.
We got into a little bit of a heated debate here the other day when I mentioned some things about the previous government not doing what they really should have done. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini got up and was really upset with me. In fact, he lit into my colleague and called him a bit of a liar.
I do not really want to get into this tonight. I would like to read my response from May 12, on page 915 of Hansard. It says, The $1.8 million works out to be approximately one-quarter of one percent of the overall budget. Because the funds will not be flowing for awhile, we hope that there will be some lapses in capital or O&M that we can funnel into the Dawson water and sewer. We are hoping that some projects will come in under budget. If that does not happen, or does not happen to the extent that we are hoping, then we will have to look at postponing some projects. We will have to itemize those projects in priority very carefully.
I should point out to the Member opposite that this is not at all something that has not happened before. In fact, in Dawson City in 1991-92, there was zero dollars budgeted in the main estimates and there was actually $810,000 spent for the sewer system.
The purchase - the more recent one - of the waterfront property was zero in the budget, somewhere around $3.6 million was spent.
There are several other examples, not quite of that magnitude, but there are many examples in past budgets. I do not like this any more than the Member opposite. I would much sooner have put the money into the budget back when we were putting the thing together, but we could not do that, because we did not know the scope of the project. We have been dealing very diligently with it - the City of Dawson, the department officials and I - and we finally agreed to the scope of the work for the project and have come up with an estimated cost. We have said that this is what we would attempt to come up with this year. I totally agree with the Member that, once you have indicated to a community that $100,000, or $2 million, or whatever, is going to be put in, and that commitment has been made, it is very difficult to get out of it. We do not intend to get out of it. We want to be able to fund this project, but we are going to have to look at many areas in our capital and O&M budgets to be able to do it.
Mr. Harding: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services is an excellent reader. He wants to use percentage terms to compare what we are talking about here. We are talking 25 percent of this years tax increases. If the Minister wants to put it in percentage terms - in terms of an investment - the whole Grum stripping project is less than one percent of the entire budget.
Mr. Harding: I do not think putting it into percentage terms necessarily creates a more palatable argument. It is such a contradictory thing to do at this point, not because we do not believe in the Dawson water and sewer problems but because of the statements of the government - one, above all else, even though this was the biggest standing, highest taxing budget in Yukon history, it was balanced; a balanced budget, not taking lapses into account. As a matter of fact, it was so tight, the Yukon Party government said, they had no choice but to raise taxes to make it balance. Now we are going to bring in a supplementary, no doubt, to pay for the Dawson water and sewer, because I doubt that the department, after checking under the mattress and robbing the piggy bank and finding $400,000, which I am sure they were clinging to, will not find $1.8 million when the supplementaries come out. I will put $100 on that one right now.
The problem is, to take the logic of the argument of the government at the time of the budget speech - that they had no choice but to raise taxes in order to balance the budget - now that we have a $1.8 million shortfall - because we know, from what they said, the budget was so tight - are we going to raise taxes another $1.8 million in revenue to pay for this expenditure? It is not consistent. It is not consistent at all. We have some real difficulties with the governments plans in this respect - actually, in entirety, in light of the comments made by the government at the time of the budget.
There were some other things said. We had been told the tax increases were to avoid laying off 200 people, so the government put people in fear for their jobs.
We were told that it was to balance budget. Now we know that the budget is not balanced so that does not seem to hold much water. We were also told that the taxes were raised because the federal government bureaucrats told the Government Leader they should raise taxes in 1987-88. So we really do not know why taxes were raised. I lean to the latter, because I think the Government Leader got swindled by the formula financing perversity factor promises, which really have never come to fruition because we still have no relief from the perversity factor and now we are stuck with taxes.
I do not know what is going to be next from the Yukon Party, whether it is going to be a sales tax or whatever the case. I am certainly worried about it.
We have $1.8 million added to a budget that is supposed to be balanced and we have $1.8 million that will be paid for in lapses, but the Yukon Party said we had to raise taxes because this budget is so tight we are not going to have any lapses.
I think that we have some real problems and the explanation read out by the Ministers is the same one. I do not feel like going over this ground over and over again. I think our point has been made on it; we certainly feel that it leaves us in a bit of a quandary as to exactly where the government is going. We fully expect to see this as a supplementary budget item. We are disturbed, in light of the way the budget was presented, not so much that the sewage system replacement is not needed but, in conjunction with the way the budget was presented, it does cause us some concern.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My colleague is getting a little upset here.
I just wanted to thank the Member opposite for the constructive criticism. I expect that we will be discussing this again in the fall.
Piped Sewer Main Replacement - Dawson in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Water Supply, Treatment and Storage
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister give us an indication of what this money is for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for the purchase of a new water truck for water delivery in the community of Old Crow.
Mr. McDonald: Good.
Water Supply, Treatment and Storage in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Roads and Streets
On Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister give us a breakdown on that amount, please?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to move
THAT the Estimates pertaining to Bill No. 6, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, be amended in Vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item, Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets on page 26 in the capital estimates by $30,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Chair: Is there further debate on the line item?
Mr. McDonald: The Member for Faro asked for a breakdown before we started, so if the Minister would provide that breakdown it would be appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Pre-engineering Roads and Streets was at $60,000 prior to the amendment. This is to provide the municipal engineering branch with funding for projects for pre-engineering work.
Roads and streets upgrading funding of $50,000 is for upgrading streets in Beaver Creek to a tax standard, with emphasis on solving drainage problems.
Mr. Harding: Could he tell us what the cut was?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The cut was $30,000.
Mr. Harding: I think we understand how much the cut was. What we would like to know is what was cut, not in dollar terms but actual items.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will be doing a little less work in Beaver Creek.
Amendment agreed to
Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets in the amount of $30,000 agreed to as amended
On Road/Streets Upgrade
Mr. Harding: That is a significant reduction from the year before - 87 percent. Could the Minister give a breakdown of the $50,000 expenditure, and why is there a major cut from last year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The design work was in the one we just discussed a minute ago, and this is for street upgrading in Beaver Creek. It is upgrading of the local streets in the community to a tax standard, with emphasis on solving existing drainage problems. The project is phase 1 of a four-phase multi-year project. Phase 2 consists of detail design and preparation of tender documents. Phase 3 consists of construction of the improvements, and phase 4 consists of the application of bituminous surface treatment.
Mr. Harding: Does that explanation tell me what the major cut was from the $372,000 forecast of the year before? What was cut, and why the reduction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have the information of what made up the $372,000 from the previous year. It is a number of projects similar to the one I have told you about. We could provide that information, if the Member opposite wishes it.
Road/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Public Safety
On Fire Protection
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask for a breakdown of this line item. I would also like to ask, when the Minister is providing the breakdown, if there is any money for additional equipment for the Golden Horn fire department in this budget. Is there any money available for the Hamlet of Mount Lorne to offer fire protection from a temporary location in the current year, when they complete the steps they are now taking toward having fire protection in the hamlet?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will read out the projects we have. The fire protection budget consists of three major areas: training room, Golden Horn, $60,000 to allow volunteer fire fighters the ability to have weekly training sessions; fire equipment and protective clothing totalling $124,000, consisting of separate projects for 12 Yukon communities, to provide funding to equip the fire department to a standard of the fire protection policy; and, a communication system totalling $57,000, consisting of separate projects for three Yukon communities to provide fire departments with telephone interconnect systems, radios and pagers.
Fire Protection in the amount of $281,000 agreed to
On Computing Equipment and Systems
Mr. Harding: What are we spending the $5,000 on computers for? I am sure it is an incredibly important new computer.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The computing equipment and systems budget of $5,000 is for acquisition of personal computer equipment and related software for protective services.
Computing Equipment and Systems agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Mr. Harding: I wanted to ask about the Prior Years Projects. Was there a cancelled project in that line?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $304,000 that shows up in the 1991-1992 budget - we do not know why - was for a land development write-off of $274,000. There was $30,000 to share a block funding project with the Village of Teslin.
Ms. Moorcroft: Before we clear the total, I have just gone over the figures that the Minister gave me on fire protection. He had training room for $60,000 at Golden Horn, fire equipment for $124,000 and communication systems for $57,000. That is still $40,000 short of the $281,000 total. Can the Minister tell me if I missed something there?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, they were the major areas. There is also fire hall construction consultation and plans preparation of $25,000 in Burwash. There is a tanker rebuild/conversion, territory wide, of $15,000 for four pumper trucks that are presently in use as first fire-line apparatus and are due to be retired from this role because of age. They are being converted to the role of fire department tanker and suitably equipped to carry out this function.
Chair: Order please. I gather that we went back to line item Fire Protection?
On Fire Protection - revisited
Ms. Moorcroft: I had asked about the Hamlet of Mt. Lorne. They have presently completed a survey and qualified for fire protection and I will ask again if there would be any money available for them to operate out of a temporary location if they complete the steps necessary to do that within the next year.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is nothing in this budget and I will talk it over with the fire people. As you can see by the budget, there is not going to be a lot of leeway there. I cannot guarantee anything at this point.
Fire Protection agreed to
Prior Years Projects agreed to
Capital in the amount of $23,386,000 agreed to as amended
Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Chair: We are dealing with Vote 07, Economic Development. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Stimulation of the private sector economic activity in the territorial has never been more important than it has today.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Devries: Mr. Chair, do they want me to carry on or just clear it?
With this budget, the Department of Economic Development will be enhancing programs to encourage development in our mineral and business sectors. It is important to note that, first, our main objective in Economic Development is to promote and encourage development of the Yukons economy, through diversification, strengthening and growth in all sectors. This objective is now the main overriding goal.
In the last fiscal year, there were eight departmental objectives, some of which were redundant, as they were included in the overall objective. Our main objective for the 1993-94 year can be accomplished in four ways. The first is to develop and implement policies, strategies and programs for the development and management of mineral and energy resources in the Yukon. This stresses the importance of mineral and energy development to the economy, because they create jobs and spinoff benefits.
The second way is to develop and implement a comprehensive economic planning process and conduct research and analysis of the Yukons economy. This will include activities such as monitoring, forecasting and assessing the economy, and analyzing the effects of policies and structural changes to the economy.
The third way to achieve our overall objective is to support increases in, and equitable distribution of, the Yukons share of the net economic benefits from development, including increased Yukon business ownership, employment and training.
The fourth approach is to promote community economic development and community influence over the extent and pace of local economic development.
The budget that I will present now focuses on this main objective in our four-pronged approach. The highlights of our 1993-94 Economic Development budget include the following activities:
The Yukon mining incentive program, aimed at offsetting expenses for individuals and companies prospecting for, and exploring, Yukon mineral properties will receive a budget increase of $100,000 in contributions to $863,000 in the 1993-94 year. This year, the program will place renewed emphasis on target occurrence evaluation projects. This will allow individuals and small companies better access to funds to develop promising properties. The Yukon mining incentive program underlines the importance of prospecting and other grassroots mining activities. The program indicates this governments commitment to mining in the Yukon.
An electrical infrastructure program will be introduced this fiscal year to assist industries in providing electrical power to development sites. The program will provide loans to offset the capital cost of grid extensions or use of other energy sources. It will be available to all industry sectors, including mining developments. Management Board will approve all loans.
The Canada/Yukon Economic Development Agreement, or EDA, continues to serve as a tool through which development of new business, and expansion and modernization of existing business, can be funded.
EDA program funding in forest development, small business support, tourism, renewable resources, economic development planning and mineral development will be increased this year.
An increase of $50,000 has been specifically identified for the mineral development agreement of the EDA. This will allow the continuation of important geoscientific mapping and data base work of the Canada/Yukon mineral development office.
Over $2.8 million will be available for small business startup and development, under the business development fund. This includes carryovers from the previous fiscal year.
The community development fund will also continue to operate, with a 1993-94 budget of $3.3 million. Although figures for both the CDF and BDF are down from the previous year, the programs remain available to assist businesses and non-profit groups to develop economic opportunities in all areas of the territory. There has now been a new $100,000 cut from the CDF budget, which I will putting forward in an amendment later when we get to the line by line.
The coming fiscal year will see continued activity under the northern oil and gas program, or, NOGAP. This program will have $284,000 available for research projects relating to how Beaufort Sea oil and gas development will affect, and benefit, the Yukon. It is 100 percent recoverable from the federal government.
The saving energy action loan, or, SEAL program, will continue. This popular program assists home and business owners to upgrade the thermal efficiency of their premises. Administrative charges have been made to increase the loan recovery amounts, and make the program more financially effective.
It must be noted that the Yukon energy alternative program is no longer funded as take-up on the program. As well, success of funded projects was limited. Costs for internal energy management have been reduced by $50,000.
In summary, the budget for the Department of Economic Development reflects this governments commitment to sound fiscal management while encouraging development in the mineral and business sectors in the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: Several weeks ago, I asked the Minister some questions that he could not answer; I gave him notice of some other questions that we wanted answered when we get to the main estimates.
Today, on a point of order, I asked the Minister where the answers were to the questions that we put and indicated that we were not going to be in a position to discuss his budget until we got that material.
Does the Minister have that material for us yet?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I felt that the best way to go about it would be during the line-by-line debate, when we come to questions on that particular subject. I have a list of the questions asked and I will address those questions at that time.
Mr. Penikett: Given that that method proved to be extraordinarily time consuming and not very productive last time, could I ask if the Minister has any written material that he could table in the House to expedite the business?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Could the Member repeat his question?
Mr. Penikett: I was trying to politely make the point that the verbal method produced scant results last time and proved incredibly time consuming. I was wondering if, given the time the department has had since then, the Minister has managed to respond to any of those questions, in writing. I asked the question out of a serious interest in expediting the business and getting the information before the House.
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Member insists, I can give him the answers in writing tomorrow, if that is okay with him.
Mr. Penikett: Far be it for me to insist - he is the Minister, I am just an ordinary MLA - but what I would like to do is ask the Minister to table as much written material as he can, because I am mindful of the fact that there are some Members on the other side who want to go fishing. If we do not do that, I am forced into the position of having to go fishing tonight and that, as we know, requires patience.
Perhaps we could proceed on the basis that I will ask some general questions now and ask the Minister to provide the other material to the House tomorrow, in writing, and then we could continue the debate. I regret that we are not going to make good use of the next hour and 15 minutes.
Let me put a few questions on the record and then we can maybe stand aside this department until we get the written information.
Let us go back to the Ministers previous statement. When I asked him about new policies in the supplementary, he explained to us that he had appointed a person to a committee and bought some drinks for miners in British Columbia and would have new policy statements when the mains came. Without getting into detail now, could he indicate what the new policies are?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Many of the questions the Member brought forward in the supplementaries debate related to departmental objectives, and many of the changes in the policies are mentioned in the various changes we made to the departmental objectives. For instance, the Member had asked about where we had changed encourage the development of the Yukons economy to promote and encourage development of the Yukons economy - our feeling was that this basically expands the proposed role of the department in its main mission to do work that boosts the Yukons economy.
The Member seemed to have some problems with us changing that. Our feeling is that the change much better explains what the department is doing. To promote means to help forward, encourage and support actively. Encourage means stimulate by help, reward, promote or assist. It could be argued that there is some overlap in these meanings. It is intended to emphasize the importance that we place on the departments purpose to boost the Yukons economy.
Some of the other questions hinged on the fact that the words, in an environmentally and socially sensitive manner, had been deleted. As I had mentioned previously, in this day and age, it is taken for granted that government would promote economic development in an environmentally and sensitive manner. It is very similar to a few years ago when it was fashionable for departments to do things effectively and efficiently. Very few departments use those terms any more, because it is assumed that that is the way departments are going to act.
There was another question about the need to promote investment in the Yukon, and particularly that significant benefits from investment remain in the Yukon. As much as it had been dropped from the departmental objective, it is still located in the branch objective. It is not like it has been dropped; it has just been moved over to where it really belongs and that is in the branch objectives in the Department of Energy and Mines economic programs.
Another question was in regard to active participation in the sound management of the Yukons natural resources. The Member talked about sustainable development, and things like that. The new objective deletes reference to sound management and replaces it with development and management of mineral and energy resources in the Yukon.
With respect to the sound management of Yukons natural resources, the department felt this was also mentioned by several other departments. By changing the wording here, it pertains more to this particular department. Much of the sound management is a shared role of responsibility with various other departments.
Again, this does not imply that the department does not believe in the sound management of resources. On the contrary, having this referenced in the departments objectives makes it appear that it is the departments sole responsibility, and it is not. A broad range of departments have that responsibility.
The encouragement of development through diversification and growth within primary and secondary service industries has been reworked into the 1991-94 departmental objectives. This objective is actually strengthened and made more prominent in the 1993-94 version, adding the notation of strengthening the economy to the previously noted objectives of diversification and growth. The change to primary and secondary service industries to within all sectors simplifies the wording and helps the general public get a better grasp of what it is all about.
The other question asked was regarding the promotion of the replacement of imports with Yukon alternatives, and this is also located in the branch objectives of economic programs, Energy and Mines. Import replacement is referenced in several of the program objectives, as much as it is not in the overall departmental objectives. That does not mean that we are less concerned with it.
Import replacement represents an important area in which to explore good ideas for new business ventures for the Yukon, and examining what comes into the Yukon provides ideas for things that can be built, grown, or expertise provided to meet demand.
The pursuit of import replacements does not imply any particular position on free trade. Items that start out to supply the local market can become successful export items.
Another question was in relation to supporting subsistence and other non-wage economic activities and promoting their role in the overall Yukon economy. The specific reference to subsistence and other non-wage economic activities, as the Members see, has been removed. Removing this does not indicate a lack of commitment to these fields of economic activity. Our view is that the subsistence and non-wage economy are important sectors of the Yukon economy, and our revised primary department objective calls upon the department to pursue diversification, strengthening, and growth within all sectors, and we feel that subsistence and other non-wage economic activities would be included within this and do not need specific mention.
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Member has any further questions about the departmental objectives and the various branch objectives, I will attempt to answer them.
Mr. Penikett: I am afraid I have more now than I had when the Minister started to speak. First of all, I did not ask about the departmental objectives. I have a lot of questions about the departmental objectives, because the Minister had apparently very little knowledge about them and their changes during the debate of the supplementaries.
My question was a very simple one. When we were dealing with the supplementaries, the Minister told us that he had two new policies: one was to appoint a new person to the mining committee - YMAC - and two, to buy drinks for miners in Vancouver. He told me that other new policies would be announced in the main estimates.
My simple question is: what are those new policies? He does not have to describe them all right now; I just want their titles or the heads of paragraphs - some general outline.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Basically, it is not a specific policy. It is an overall change of direction in the department. They are trying to get down to more Ieconomic diversification and things like that.
The goals are to get Yukon control of local affairs, which, naturally, are through devolution from the federal government of various things that they are responsible for now. The other one is the economic self-sufficiency strategy, which reduces dependency on federal transfers in the long term. Both of these were mentioned in the throne speech.
It is also very clearly indicated in the four-year plan that we are really going to focus on trying to diversify the economy. As we see what has happened this year, especially, where so much of the economy seemed to hinge entirely on zinc and zinc prices, the minute that something went wrong there, it basically forced the territory into a recession.
During those good times, when Curragh was in its heyday, was when the government should have been focusing on diversifying the economy. The problem is once we are experiencing a downturn in the economy it is too late, it should be done when the economy is in its heyday.
The principles within our economic philosophy will be reduced dependency on the federal program, protecting the environment and resources, operate the government efficiently and economically, become more competitive in the global economy and avoid deficit financing, security or reasonable expectation of return for investments of public money and support for a subsistence economy and lifestyle, as I had mentioned earlier.
Much of what we are talking about here - building transportation, energy and communication infrastructure - was mentioned in the throne and budget speeches.
As much as we have been criticized for the infrastructure contained in the Self-Sufficiency Toward the 21st Century document, I believe this was a very good start toward trying to diversify the economy, in that we firmly believe that it is governments role to provide an infrastructure that would encourage economic development and encourage businesses to look at the Yukon as economic opportunities. Again, it has become very difficult during the past months when we see that, due to past policies, we are forced into power rate increases, and things like that, when much more should have been done in the past about these issues.
Right now, we are just stuck with many problems, of which I feel some could have been resolved by the previous administration, if they had attempted to resolve some of those problems while the pickings were better.
Another area is to strengthen the key industries of mining and tourism with new opportunities to diversify land and resource transfers, as I mentioned earlier, and re-examine regulations affecting development to provide a favourable climate for investors. Again, the IRC is a prime example. It seemed like it was going nowhere, and the new government placing much more emphasis on the importance of these IRC hearings, leading to something that was acceptable to both the placer mining industry and DFO, has definitely been a help to the placer mining industry. As the Members are aware, about a year ago, I believe, at the Gold Show, some of the ramifications of the stringent standards the federal people were going to place on the placer mining industry would basically have probably shut down three-quarters or half of the placer mining industry down completely.
Another thing is that we are very fortunate at this time, with the rise in gold prices, to be seeing a renewed scramble for placer gold, and there are signs that it is going to considerably increase the exploration that takes place this year.
There have been some minor changes made to the EDA, the BDF and CDF. Through these changes, we hope the programs will be more focussed on diversifying and expanding the economy.
The last, and one of the most important aspects is the settlement of the land claims. Even though it is not one of Economic Developments mandates, our feeling is that, once these land claims are settled, injection of cash will come into the economy through the settlement of the claims. Economic Development will be working very closely with the First Nations to assist them in developing economic opportunities, and things like that.
This governments philosophy is that our main role is to build an infrastructure and climate that is friendly toward the private sector, and to encourage the private sector to take the role of expanding themselves.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, I do not mean to be mean to the Minister, but he really is talking economic gibberish. He talks about diversifying the economy, yet his own statement talks about increasing emphasis on mineral and energy, which implies the direct opposite of diversification.
He talks about import substitution not being inconsistent with free trade. The Minister is talking nonsense. He talks about more Yukon control, yet he promotes free trade and an economic self-sufficiency strategy that essentially asks for more money from the federal government, and makes us more dependent on the federal government, but he says he wants to make us less.
He used defect financing in his statement. I do not know what that is. What the Minister has essentially told me is they are changing the direction of the department, but they have no new policies.
He has told me that the fact that during his time as Minister of Economic Development the economy has shrunk and we have gone from eight percent to 16 percent is the fault of the previous government. I think that is what he said. I do not know how anyone with half a brain would even suggest that, but that is what he seems to have said. He said that the fact that we have no operating mines now also seems to be the fault of the previous government and not his own mishandling of the issue.
The things we have heard from the Minister are quite extraordinary. Let me ask him again, very directly this: can he name one new policy that he has developed that is something that Members here would accept as fitting the normal definition of policy - not program, not activity, not appointment to a committee, not an expenditure, but a new policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Our main focus has been to try to improve on some of the existing policies. For instance, as the Members recall, last year, with great fanfare, they announced the potential energy infrastructure loans program. We hope to have that together within the next month or so. There have been continuous consultations going on with industry in trying to improve on this process. I am not going to get into it now because I have found out that no matter what you do, the Members tend to always be critical of it. Until we have the actual policy there to hand to them, all in place, I am not going to get into any great detail on it.
With the community development fund, we have tried to focus it more toward giving top priority to areas that have high degrees of unemployment and things like that. We also want to see that most of the projects that are given priority are the projects that take place during the fall and winter when unemployment is very high.
As far as developing an overall new policy - as the Members know - it involves going through the proper consultation process. You cannot just throw a new policy in place in six or seven months, because then we would be criticized for not consulting properly with the various groups that are affected. So I am not going to stand here and announce a new policy that is ready to go. Yes, there are some in the works, but I do not want to get everyone all excited because we have not consulted properly with all concerned.
Mr. Penikett: I am afraid the Minister invites criticism; he does not like it, but he does invite it. The energy infrastructure loans program was something that was an initiative of the previous government. He himself has announced it twice without referencing that fact. The CDF focus on areas of high unemployment is nothing new. That is why we created the program. We created the program quite deliberately to direct it to areas of high unemployment.
If the Minister was genuinely doing that, I may reasonably ask, how much CDF money has gone into Faro in the last six months. I bet nothing, which makes a lie of his whole claim that he is directing it at areas of high unemployment.
Let me suggest this to the Minister - many people who contributed thousands of hours of their time to developing the economic strategy, the conservation strategy - which have been widely praised elsewhere in this country and indeed in many other countries in the world - are getting pretty irritated at this government, which seems to have completely abandoned both of those policies, completely abandoned the Council on the Economy and the Environment, the annual reviews of the economic strategy and the annual reviews of the conservation strategy and completely abandoned the idea that more than a small, close circle should be consulted with. We have had no reference to sustainable economics from this government. In fact, we have really been going back to this 1950s -or earlier - approach, even with this new, cleaned up version of the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21 Century - a very silly document, which was about megaprojects, federal money, increased dependency on one sector and talking about backing a bunch of projects that may not come onstream for decades - while ignoring the most important economic asset in front of us - the Grum ore body.
The new version of this - the April 16 version, entitled the Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative - from the government was done without consultation with any of the key players in the economy, such as the labour community, the womens community, the environmental community, the aboriginal community or the small business community. They may have consulted the Chamber of Mines, but not anybody else. It certainly did not involve any Members of the Legislature on this side of the House. It is totally inconsistent with the economic strategy, which is still the law in this territory. It is totally inconsistent with the conservation strategy. It is totally inconsistent with the supposed objectives of the department, which the Minister has just read out. It was not the product of any consultation.
Let me ask the Minister if he would agree that the policy direction - which, I take it, is not entirely his own doing - expressed in the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document, and in the subsequent version, A Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative, is inconsistent with the economic strategy and the conservation strategy, and was not the product of any consultation with the Council on the Economy and the Environment or its component representatives, and that, whether the Minister has announced it or not, the real effort of the Minister is to kill the economic strategy, which thousands of people were involved in developing - ignore it and sweep it under the carpet, even though it is the law - ignore the conservation strategy, which is also the law, referenced in the land claims agreement, and replace it with this rather amateurish infrastructure initiative.
I am not going to spend a lot of time on the infrastructure initiative right now, because I want to spend a couple of days on it when we get into the mains. I believe it is a very dangerous and unsound document. However, I want to ask the Minister if he would agree that, based on the statements of the government in the throne speech, budget speech, budget presentation of the department, the opening statement he just made and all the public statements since - whether they were statements on the question of Curragh, sustainable economics or infrastructure-led development that he wants to pursue - that this is a fundamental change in policy direction from the economic strategy and the conservation strategy? Would he agree with that and would he agree, also, that it was done without consultation with any of the significant players or stakeholders that put together those two documents?
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Mr. Penikett: I would like to hear the answer to the question, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I disagree with the Member completely. Basically, he knows, and I have mentioned it again and again - I do not know when I am going to get it through his thick skull -
Chair: Order, please. I would like to remind Members not to use insulting or abusive language. Please carry on, Mr. Devries.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I apologize, Mr. Chair. I have mentioned this again and again. That document contains a number of various projects that we see potentially being developed in the Yukon. If, all of a sudden, tomorrow these projects all went ahead, it would not be sustainable development.
One or two of these projects going ahead is exactly what I feel the economic strategy and the conservation strategy were suggesting - to diversify the Yukon economy in an environmentally sound manner through consultation. Yes, we have not consulted a great deal on those projects with the community, but they are projects that have been sitting around, waiting to be developed. They may need a little bit of infrastructure injection here or there to get them onstream. The chances of them all going ahead at the same time are zilch; we all know that.
I do not know what the Member is referring to, because the economic strategy clearly indicates that it wants to see the Yukon economy develop; it wants to see the Yukon economy diversify, and basically what we have to do is get away from this dependency on zinc, even if it is through various aspects of mining. Often, if another mine opens, this will lead to machine shops; it will lead to more hotels, more motels, more of a business sector and everything else, and this is what we should be aiming for. This is what creates jobs; this is what creates healthy communities - jobs in Carmacks will create a healthier community. The economic strategy talks about healthy communities, and that is just what we are aiming for.
For instance, if the Grew Creek project eventually goes ahead, that means that the Ross River community will have more jobs, and it will become a healthier community; the people will have something to look forward to; they will have opportunities to look forward to. It just seems to me that, every time I stand up and make any suggestion that we want to create jobs, the Member opposite says, Oh, that is terrible.
Mr. Penikett: I have to ask one supplementary question, because the Minister did not listen to the question, nor did he reply.
I do not think he listens very well or very carefully, because he has not replied to a single one of the questions. For the record, I did not say any of the things that he just said. The Minister is not listening or paying attention.
Let me ask this very simple question, then we can take a break, and I will come back and we can discuss some of the other things.
Can the Minister explain why, if these items still remain the policy of the government that, in his opening statement in the main estimates and his opening statement in the supplementaries, the budget speech and the throne speech, none of them made any reference to the economic strategy, conservation strategy, or the Council on the Economy and the Environment. He, as the Minister of Economic Development, has a responsibility in every one of those areas. Why did he not mention them, if they are still a policy of the government?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, we will be using the Council on the Economy and the Environment on various projects, and we know they are mandated to review the economic strategy, and I know they are mandated to review the progress on the conservation strategy.
This is a mandate. I do not know why we have to keep mentioning this over and over again. It is legislation. Why do we have to announce in our throne speech, and all our speeches, things that are mandated? If we did that with everything, we would have a throne speech that would be like Fidel Castro talking for three or four hours.
Mr. Penikett: I think I would rather listen to Fidel. The reason that we ask is quite obvious, because this 21st century document, the throne speech and the budget speech all indicate a radically different direction, one that is inconsistent with the economic strategy and the conservation strategy, and this new direction has been adopted without consultation with any significant body of opinion in the territory. That is why we ask.
I am going to ask a lot of questions about this but, rather than trying your patience, Mr. Chair, perhaps I could suggest that we take a recess now.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole back to order. We will continue discussion on economic development.
Mr. Penikett: I was not getting very far with my questions about policy. Maybe I could try to change direction as a way of beginning general debate. Perhaps the Minister and I could pretend that everything he said up to now did not happen and all of my questions did not get asked; I will try a different tack. Okay?
I will deal with what the Minister implied was the bottom line of his department, which is job creation and diversification.
I will begin with a very general question. How many jobs has the Minister created since he took over his job?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is rather difficult to give an exact number, because we have also participated in the development of the capital budget. If you look at some of the capital projects that are underway now, then I could very easily say there would be several hundred jobs created. If the Member is referring to particular initiatives from Economic Development, without taking into consideration the capital projects of other departments, the jobs created would be somewhere between 50 and 60.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister is saying that since he became Minister he has created between 50 and 60 jobs. Could he indicate whether those are in the private sector or the public sector?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, the Minister is playing with words. We were also involved in the development of the capital budget so, basically, it is 260.
Mr. Penikett: Do I take it from that answer that the Minister is saying he has created 200 jobs in the public sector and between 50 and 60 in the private sector? I am not playing with words. I am just trying to deal with the answers the Minister gives me. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, it depends on how one refers to capital projects. There are also jobs created in spinoffs from capital projects. Would they be referred to as private sector or public sector? Basically, a job is a job, whether it is public or private. At this point, I say 260 jobs, as of today.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister does not have to get nervous about any traps here. In fact, I appreciate that a job is a job, whether it is in the private sector or the public sector. That is, in fact, the direct opposite of the position argued by the former Leader of the Opposition, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, when he was Leader of the Opposition, but I am glad to see the Minister of Economic Development has changed his mind.
From what I can gather, we are talking about approximately 200 jobs to date in the public sector, or public sector-driven jobs, and 50 to 60 private sector jobs. Could the Minister tell us how many jobs he thinks he has created or contributed toward creating in the mining industry?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Member wants to refer to the positive effects of the IRC hearings, and so on, I could very comfortably say that the positive results of that probably could have created another 100 to 200 jobs in the placer mining industry, which may not have taken place this year. That is in the private sector. Again, the Member was playing games with the 260 jobs I mentioned and the fact that I said yes, a job, whether it is in the public or private sector, is a job. What we have to remember is that some of these jobs, especially on capital projects, when they are in the public sector, often create private sector spinoffs once the project is completed through increases in tourism, increases in resource extraction, et cetera.
There is nothing simple. I am surprised that the Member has not picked up on that, since he seems to think of himself as such an economic guru.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry that the Minister is so touchy and sensitive. I have never claimed to be an economic guru. I am quite prepared to stand on the record of job creation and diversification in my seven and one-half years in government. I am sure that the Minister will be also prepared to defend his on the facts.
The Minister indicated that, I believe, his putting of a better person - or the right person - on the mining committee is responsible for creating between 100 and 200 placer mining jobs. Could the Minister indicate - perhaps his deputy may know this - how many placer mining jobs there are right now in the industry?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We are just in the process of completing a legislative return on the numbers. We hope to table it the beginning of next week.
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister indicate, from his expertise as Minister of Economic Development, approximately how many are there? Does he believe that there are 1,000 jobs, 500 jobs or 400 jobs? How many does he think there are in the placer mining industry right now?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Member is referring to today, I am not sure how many operations are running at this time. Last year, I believe there were somewhere between 140 and 200 operations. I would guess that there would be somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people employed in the industry.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister believes that his putting the right person on the committee may have been responsible for an increase in employment in that sector between 10 and 20 percent. I am referring back to the 100 to 200 number he talked about.
Could I ask the Minister how many energy sector jobs - since, along with mining, energy is the focus of efforts - he believes the department has created since he became Minister?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I was uncertain of what the Member meant by energy sector. Naturally, with the Curragh situation I would say that there has not been a great increase, if any. By the same token, my understanding is that there is some more exploration taking place in the southeast, if he is referring to the energy sector as oil and gas, as well.
Once we get control of oil and gas, there could be some developments in Eagle Plains, providing things go the way we would like to see them go.
Mr. Penikett: I am not sure I understood the Ministers answer, but I take it that he said that essentially there have been no new jobs created in the oil and gas fields since he became Minister - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, to the best of my knowledge I do not believe that there has been a great deal of expansion in that sector. Again, most of our mandate during the winter months when, normally, there is not that much exploration. I do not think that should be considered a negative but I know that what employment is in the Kotaneelee field has been maintained.
Mr. Penikett: Earlier in his statement - when I was using the word energy, I was using the same word that the Minister had used, which is why I did not think that we would have to define it - the Minister also referred to the tourism sector. Could the Minister tell the Committee how many jobs in the tourism sector he, or his department, have created since taking office.
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is a question better directed toward the Minister of Tourism, since our department is not necessarily involved directly in the tourism sector, although we do have some feasibility studies through the EDA agreement. If you are going to consider some of the people who are involved in various studies - there again, there are also a few studies in the energy sector - there would be some jobs created there.
Mr. Penikett: I apologize to the Minister of Tourism. I hope that he will accept it. The only reason that I asked about tourism is because the Minister mentioned it himself in his opening statement.
The Minister says, essentially as the result of studies, there may be a handful of jobs. Let us assume a handful in each sector is something less than 10. Can the Minister tell me, as a result of his efforts as Minister, how many jobs may have been created in the agriculture sector since he took over?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, agriculture is the responsibility of the Department of Renewable Resources. If he is going to get down to all these little nitty gritties like this, perhaps I will have to call a meeting of all the various Ministers to see how many jobs they think their departments are responsible for, and how many jobs they think my department is responsible for, as far as the agriculture sector goes.
As the Leader of the Official Opposition knows, the abattoir is still on the table. Again, as much as some of the money comes from my department, I believe it is also mentioned in the Renewable Resources budget. It is very hard to differentiate between some of these departments as to who is who and what is what. I think he is kind of wasting his time right now, trying to get those numbers down like that.
Mr. Penikett: I have a horrible suspicion that may be true. The Minister, shortly before he accused me of having a thick skull, was whipping me into submission with a flurry of rhetoric when he was pointing out that the number one objective of his department was to promote and encourage development of the Yukons economy through diversification, strength and growth within all sectors. That was why I was asking what he had done to create jobs in the agriculture sector. Can the Minister indicate what he has done and, in passing, can he tell me what an abbatar is.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Maybe I am pronouncing it wrong, but an abattoir is basically a meat-packing facility where they butcher animals and have a refrigeration system to process livestock.
Mr. Penikett: I guess the Minister is talking about the abbatoir. Can I ask the Minister how many jobs he and his department may have created - since I take it that the abbatoir is not functioning yet - or contributed toward creating in the fisheries sector?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Maybe the Member is not aware, but normally the salmon start to run sometime in June or July. I do understand that there are a few commercial fisherman that fish under the ice, but I would think that the Member is specifically referring to salmon fishery. Salmon normally run in the summer and fall, so if you were looking at the salmon fishery as such, no specific jobs have been created there, but we have had discussions with the Han Fisheries for their marketing attempts, so there could be a couple of people employed in that industry right now. One job in marketing can often lead to many jobs in the field. Marketing helps establish somewhere for them to sell their product. There can be tremendous spinoffs in this one job.
Mr. Penikett: I never knew there were salmon in the Yukon River and that they came up in the summer and fall. I guess that explains why, when I was Minister of Economic Development, I put money into the Han Fisheries, for which I was criticized by the Conservatives, interestingly enough.
Can I ask the Minister how many jobs he believes he has created, through contributions or initiatives he has taken since he became Minister, in the manufacturing sector?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, it is very difficult to put numbers to these jobs. Naturally, during the winter, the construction season slows down. My understanding is that there is a fair amount of construction out there. Basically, it is very difficult to determine exactly how many jobs have been created through the capital projects that we are anticipating.
Again, the Member is talking in the present tense. It is very difficult to respond to because if, for instance, Yukon Housing began a project next week, it could create a few more jobs in the window manufacturing sector, the door manufacturing sector, or wherever. Again, I think the Member is just playing a bunch of condescending games with me.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry that the Minister feels I am being condescending toward him. However, since he could not answer my policy questions, he could not answer my questions about the objectives in the supplementaries, he has not been able to provide us yet with any explanation of any policy, or any explanation why, according to his public statements, he has abandoned policies that are law, I am forced to ask the questions in the only way I think I can get a response. I am taking the Minister at his word that the bottom line of what he is doing in the department is about jobs and diversification.
I take it that since, in his other capacity as Minister of Government Services, some of the local furniture manufacturers are not very busy now - in fact, the work has gone to outside companies. I understand Northwestel is complaining, because work they had done previously, they have lost the contract to outside companies since this government came in - so there may be fewer people working in the manufacturing sector than before.
The problem I have is that the Minister says that creating jobs is his bottom line. That is what he is setting out to do. He is not able to come to the House and say what he has done to create jobs in any sector - although he makes a claim to maybe 100 to 200 in the placer mining sector, which I am frankly skeptical about, especially if you believe that putting one person on a committee would do that. I suspect it has a lot more to do with the price of gold. He also claims that he has perhaps created between 50 and 60 jobs, plus the jobs that are created from the capital program, or by government initiatives, but the fact remains that he cannot indicate where those 50 or 60 jobs are.
Indeed, the statistics from the Department of Economic Development show that full-time jobs lost to the Yukon economy amount to 900. In fact, the statistics branch also shows that unemployment has gone up every month that this Minister has had the job of Minister of Economic Development. That would seem to indicate, in the Ministers own terms, that perhaps he is not doing very well. He has issued a couple of versions of this infrastructure document, which do not seem to provide much of a response to the immediate crisis at all. I will want to come back to that.
Let me ask the Minister this, since he did not like either of the lines of questions I have pursued so far. Let me ask him something about which he has answered questions in the past, and that is about his economic forecast, a document that I think he told the House was developed by the Department of Economic Development and which, for some strange reason, is secret and has been made a Cabinet document.
Can I ask the Minister this question? Was the economic forecast developed from publicly available data? In other words, was it developed from information obtained from the statistics branch and from other public sources?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, I tabled the economic forecast and I find it interesting that the Member brings this question up. The Members opposite, for some reason or another, chose never to table the 1991-1992 economic forecast. Upon reviewing it, I saw a slight downward trend toward the end of the 1991-1992 year. I am assuming that perhaps that is why they never tabled it and called an election when they did. They knew that there were some serious economic problems on the horizon.
Again, I think that we have to go back to what the Member talked about earlier about the economic and the conservation strategies. I know that the Members opposite developed a strategy, but it seems that that is all that they really did. The strategy offers a fairly broad avenue of ways to improve the economy. It just seems that the ways in which they went about it, we are now finding, were not in the best interest of the Yukon. With one mine going down, we have seen a tremendous change in the economic shift.
In the Members preamble, he spoke about jobs and the April statistics clearly indicate that there were the same number of jobs in April of this year as there was in April of last year; yet the Leader of the Official Opposition seemed to say that there was a loss of 900 jobs.
As much as I agree that with Curragh shutdown there has been a loss of jobs, by the same token there are still the same number of jobs today as there were in April 1992, according to the statistics branch.
Mr. Penikett: Just for the record, during the time the NDP was in office the gross domestic product of the territory doubled. Thousands of jobs were created and in fact most of the recommendations of the economic strategy were implemented. If the Minister is able to say the same after a few years, I am sure we will all congratulate him.
He speaks about the Faro dependency. In fact, at one time - when we came into office - Faro, by itself, represented 40 percent of the gross domestic product of the territory. When it shut recently, it still represented an awful lot, but it was nothing like that. So, obviously the economy had diversified in the last several years.
It is obviously, now, going into recession.
The Minister is playing games when he talks about the winter forecast. He referred to a document here that provided an analysis of the economy with Faro shut down, which he decided was a Cabinet document. I made that quite clear in my question, and he refused to table it. He admitted that the document was developed using public data, and then he went into his red herring answer. I am afraid he will not get much help from the Minister of Tourism on that.
Could he also confirm that the computer model used to run the analysis was also paid for with public funds?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Mr. Chair, I will take it under advisement and ask you to report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No 24, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, and directed me to report it with amendment. Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 92, An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act; Bill No. 76, An Act to Amend the Judicature Act; Bill No. 4, Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93; and Bill No. 5, Fourth Appropriation Act, 1991-92, and directed me to report them without amendment. Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 71, An Act to Amend the Jury Act, and Bill No. 6, First Appropriation Act, 1993-94, and directed me to report progress on them.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 19, 1993:
Yukon Liquor Corporation Annual Report, year ending March 31, 1992 (Brewster)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 19, 1993:
Post-secondary education: comparison of percentage of grade 12 students proceeding to post-secondary education over the past 10 years (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, P. 766
Granger School (Elijah Smith Elementary): project budget, total project cost and breakdown of expenditures (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 771
Whitehorse Public Library: breakdown of renovation expenditures (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 775
Grey Mountain Primary School: expected completion date for tender documents (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 775
Maintained roads in the Yukon: list of (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 936
Health Services Branch: personnel budget, number of employees (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 796
Whitehorse General Hospital construction: number of jobs that will be created (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 882
The following Document was filed May 19, 1993:
Yukon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan: Council for Yukon Indians review and recommendations (letter to Minister of Renewable Resources from CYI, dated March 18, 1993) (Brewster)