Monday, January 30, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a paper for tabling regarding the lots available in
the City of Whitehorse for 1995.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
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: Mobile home code requirements
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The Minister is well aware that I have hundreds of constituents in Whitehorse who own trailers, which are not up to the current building code requirements. They want to live in safe accommodation, but they realize that they must agree and be able to afford to bring their trailer homes completely up to current code requirements all at once in order to get the proper permits. They cannot get approval to make improvements to code requirements gradually. Has the Minister asked the Yukon government's building inspections branch to meet with the city inspections branch to devise ways to resolve this fundamental problem?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We again met this morning, and Yukon Housing Corporation will be taking over in that area, being the chairman of the thing between the city and our department.
Mr. McDonald: I presume the Minister was referring to a group that was called by the Yukon Housing Corporation to find solutions to what are obviously some very significant problems; however, the situation is changing quickly and we now know that there is at least one landlord who has planned some evictions in the next couple of weeks, to make matters better, I presume.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not he is prepared to advocate an inspections policy that encourages safety improvements to be made to older trailers, but one that acknowledges the hard financial reality that many home owners face - that is, one that allows mobile-home owners to gradually upgrade their homes to meet current code requirements.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is what we would be advocating. I am sorry that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini could not meet with us this morning. He was invited, and we hoped that he would be at the meeting this morning to discuss this very issue. We decided that the inspectors from the city and the territorial government and officials from Yukon Housing would get together to identify the problems that trailer owners had to overcome with respect to building codes and with respect to health and safety. They would then come back to us so that we could give them direction from what would be considered the political level.
Mr. McDonald: I think the time has come for all of the discussions to be on the record. I think we have given the government enough notice of this problem.
The Yukon Housing Corporation offers a funding program, which is available to other home owners, to upgrade their homes. It currently permits trailer owners to receive loan funding of up to $5,000, but even this is not available to bring trailers up to code. Can the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation tell us why there is no loan support to meet the greatest of need, which is the one we have already identified?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is interesting to hear the Member say, "...we have given the government enough notice...". We would like the Member's assistance to solve this problem. It did not come up only in the last year or two. Many of these trailers are 25 years old and older. The problem has been ongoing for a long, long time. I am sorry that that Member, who seems to have all the answers, did not do something while he was in government.
We invite him to work with us to solve this problem. There is no magic solution. If he means that we should simply give these trailer owners large amounts of money, then he should stand up and say that and we will look at it.
Question re: Mobile home code requirements
Mr. McDonald: I am incredibly upset by the Minister's attitude, given that only last spring we were faced with a situation where there were three forced evictions - three forced removals of trailers in the City of Whitehorse. In the media today, the same trailer park owner said that there are going to be more evictions in the next couple of weeks. There is clearly a big issue that has to be addressed now, and I am more than happy to provide advice. Last week, I provided about two hours' worth of advice to the Minister, on the record.
The Yukon Housing Corporation convened a meeting on January 17 to address many of the issues raised as significant problems last spring. Of the 14 people present, only one was a mobile-home owner; the trailer-park owners outnumbered that person three to one. Given that, in real life, trailer home owners probably outnumber the park owners by 200 to one, why did they have such little representation at the meeting that was called to address their problems?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know the answer to that. I know that some of the trailer owners are trying to organize an association, and I hope that they will be well represented. I think that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini has clearly identified the problems that they are facing. I think that the owners' problems and concerns will be listened to. We are aware of them; it is the solutions that are difficult.
Mr. McDonald: It is not as if we are not aware of the inspections and safety problems that have been plaguing mobile-home owners for some considerable time. Can the Minister tell us why representatives from the inspections branch of YTG, or even from the city's inspections branch, were not present at the meeting?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot. I can tell the Member that when Yukon Housing first asked that the issue of mobile homes be looked into, what I wanted looked into, as the Minister, was the allegation by the Yukon Real Estate Association that stated that the programs of the Housing Corporation were ruining the mobile-home market. That was the initial issue to be addressed. What happened was that we got into the far more serious issue of health and safety. I think that is what will become the focus, rather than the market issues. The third issue on the list to be addressed in order to help solve this problem is land development.
As I said in my answer to the first question, we had a meeting this morning. We asked the technical people from the city, from Community and Transportation Services and from the Yukon Housing Corporation to get together and identify the problems with inspections, so that we can look at what we can do to solve the problem.
Mr. McDonald: Seven or eight months ago, the issues facing mobile-home owners
were raised in technicolour in the media, after one mobile-home park owner decided that he
needed to create a vacant lot from what was once occupied by three trailers.
Can the Minister give us some sense of whether or not he is prepared to give us the minutes of the January 17 meeting, so that we can see what precisely was discussed, and can he also tell us why the meeting was not called earlier to address the obvious issues that face mobile-home owners, and was not called until 1995, ostensibly to address the market conditions for the resale of old trailers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will look into providing the minutes of that meeting for the Member. It has been my position, from Yukon Housing Corporation's point of view, that the inspections and dealing with the mobile-home owners was something that the city should, and would, be looking into. Obviously, that problem has not been solved and, because it is the mandate of the Yukon Housing Corporation to provide affordable housing to Yukoners, we are actively involved right now and we will try to solve the problem.
Question re: Yukon Excellence Awards
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Education about the Yukon Excellence Awards program that he announced in the House last Thursday. The program has not met with universal approval from the teaching profession, so a few questions have been generated. Where was the idea for the program generated? Was it through the department or as a result of the education review, or some other jurisdiction, or from the Minister's political staff?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There has been a lot of consultation with the public over education. I have had innumerable conversations with parents and teachers and people on school councils. I guess the idea for the program stemmed from those kinds of conversations that both my predecessor and I had. This was something that was really driven by the Minister.
Mr. Cable: The ministerial statement the other day carried a price tag of $182,000, so presumably some sort of definition on the participation rate was determined.
Can the Minister advise the House about what percentage of students would be anticipated to participate in the program - what percentage of students would get over 80 percent and would actually draw on the program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have the actual numbers with me here in the House, but they were part of the package that was given to the media and to Members opposite with the copy of the ministerial statement. The actual numbers are contained in that information and I can look them up. The actual student population is somewhat over 5,000 in the territory. As for the number of students or percentage of students within the certain grades, I could come back with that information.
Mr. Cable: The program has been criticized as being elitist. Where did the 80-percent level come from? Was it pulled out of a hat or was there a study paper that would justify setting the threshold at 80 percent?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is an interesting comment - the elitist comment. Clearly, some people are against scholarships.
For the Yukon Teachers Association to come out with that statement seems rather curious to me because they sponsor a scholarship known as the Doris Stenbraten Scholarship and, by their very definition, it is elitist.
I would like to table a copy of information about that scholarship for the Members'
Question re: Mobile home code requirements
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask a question of the Minister responsible for the Community and Transportation Services, which arises from the observation that, according to Statistics Canada, 12 percent of Yukoners call a trailer home their principal residence. This compares with two percent for the rest of Canada, which means that there are over 900 mobile homes in Whitehorse, many of them predating 1974 construction standards and contemporary rules, which makes them extremely difficult to move and relocate within the city.
Can the Minister tell the House why there was no specific provision made in the huge land development budget of his department for low-cost land for mobile-home owners within this city in the coming budget?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I made it very plain that the Yukon Housing Corporation will be speaking about this situation and not the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry, the Minister cannot wiggle off the hook that way. We are talking about his budget, money under his control. The Minister has $8,310,000 allocated for residential land development in this city in the coming year. I want to know why he - he - made the decision not to provide any money for low-cost mobile-home land development in this city. Why did he make the decision - not another Minister? He is the Minister responsible and accountable for this money.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that there are 88 lots left in the Arkell subdivision for trailer units at $24,000 apiece. They simply cannot be developed much cheaper than that without getting into real problems. As I told the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, in response to the first question, one of the issues that we will be looking into as a potential solution to the problem is land development. The city must be included in those talks.
Mr. Penikett: We seem to be developing some very peculiar notions of ministerial accountability in this House.
The Arkell lots are not low-income lots. They are high-quality lots. They have underground services, as the Minister well knows. They have paved streets and lighting. They are way beyond the means of many mobile-home owners.
I want to ask the Minister responsible for the land development budget why he has not made any provision for low-income, low-cost lots to be available for mobile-home owners in this city?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We discussed that issue this morning. I am sorry that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini could not have been there.
This is a concern. It is not as simple as saying that we are going to clear some land and let people put trailers on it. We cannot see developing what the Leader of the Official Opposition is probably talking about, which are homestead lots for mobile homes that do not meet the National Building Code. We will run into terribly expensive problems to set them up on the lots, even if they are cheaper.
Question re: Mobile home code requirements
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about his responsibilities and his area of accountability to this House and to this Legislature. I would like to ask him a question about a matter for which he is paid big bucks to look after.
How is it that every Minister before him could provide, in every other community, low-cost mobile-home lots for low-income families. However, this Minister refuses to even consider doing that in a huge land budget. He refuses to do that in this city. I do not want to hear from the housing Minister. I want to hear from the Minister who is responsible for this budget.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I presume that the Leader of the Opposition just sat on a tack because he is getting a little wild about this issue. First, the city has not okayed anything; there is no zoning yet. The rural communities have asked for it. The last item on the agenda of the meeting is land. We presume that we can go ahead with the land issues when the other problems are solved.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for finally answering the question within his departmental responsibility. I would now like to ask him this: has he personally met with the city to address this problem and to discuss their joint responsibility in developing land within the city, in solving the zoning problem and the other problems, so that low-income people who live in mobile homes and want land on which to put their homes can have their needs met, as they have every right to expect having them met by this government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, the mayor was at the meeting this morning. We also thought that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini would be there to put in his two-bits worth.
Mr. Penikett: This is a matter that was raised in the media and in this House over a year ago. Is the Minister now telling us that this morning was the first occasion that he has met with the city to talk about it, when it once again becomes a public issue? Is that what the Minister is telling us?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. I had a breakfast meeting on a Friday, about two weeks ago, and I talked with the mayor.
Question re: Mobile home code requirements
Mr. Penikett: Let me press the Minister on this. Is he telling us, after the issue was raised many months ago in this Legislature, and after there was a huge amount of publicity in the local media about the tragedy of people being forced out of their homes, approximately a year ago at the Kopper King Trailer Court, and we then discovered problems in the law, problems in regulations, problems with standards, problems with inspections and problems with the lack of land, that the first time the Minister met with the City of Whitehorse to discuss this issue was only two weeks ago? Is that what he is telling us?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Leader of the Official Opposition has really answered his own question. The problems that were identified over a year ago were not about the availability of land. The problems were with the building codes, the inspections, health and safety. We were very concerned that the city take responsibility for that and allow some leeway in the inspections and that we would work with them on it.
Mr. Penikett: Let me quote the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services from Hansard on May 2, 1994, where he admits that there was a problem with land availability at that time. The Minister should check the record. I want to ask this to either the Minister of Community and Transportation Services or the Minister newly responsible for mobile homes: many months ago, when this issued was raised, and there was a huge amount of public concern, my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, extracted a commitment from this government that one of the things the government would immediately do would be to look at the Landlord and Tenant Act and the problem that mobile-home residents have of being home owners, but renters of the land. Can I ask the Members opposite, either the Minister newly responsible for mobile homes, or the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, if we will be seeing new legislation to deal with the problems of mobile-home owners in this session.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: During the last session, we did amend it to a certain extent. If the Member is asking me to go against the wishes of the city, then he has me all wrong, because I will not do it.
Question re: Mobile home code requirements
Mr. Penikett: We are not asking the Minister to go against the wishes of the
city. We are asking the Member opposite to work with mobile-home owners - not one
mobile-home owner, but all of them - and the city, and YTG and city inspectors, and solve
many of these problems. At the time we had the debate last year and when we were dealing
with the amendments to the Mobile Home Act, both sides of the House seemed to
recognize that there was a problem in that the Landlord and Tenant Act, as it is
now written, is not adequate to deal with the problems of mobile-home parks and mobile-
home tenants. Has the Minister, since that debate took place, addressed the issue? Are we
going to be seeing legislation during this sitting to address that problem?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I doubt that we will see legislation in this sitting to address that, but we are addressing it right now. No matter how long and loud the Leader of the Official Opposition yells at us, he is not going to turn the clock back to one year ago. We are working on it right now and we hope the Opposition will work with us.
Mr. Penikett: This issue was raised loud and clear a year ago. It was raised by my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. I, and others, raised questions. Let me ask the Minister opposite, who has just spoken, how many times has he spoken to us or consulted with us or phoned us or written us in the last year to ask for our recommendations about this new legislation? The answer is "none", but perhaps the Minister knows something I do not. Could he tell us? How many times has he consulted with us in the last year about this problem, since it was raised here?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: None.
Question re: Xerox, travel contribution
Mrs. Firth: I have a follow-up question for the Minister responsible for Government Services regarding a trip to Toronto taken by three Government Services employees at the expense of the Xerox company.
The employees went out to check some new technology - the DocuTech 135 being one item we have heard about. I would like to ask the Minister what else the employees saw or were shown at Xerox on this trip.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Riverdale South has placed a written question on the Order Paper that asks for all that information. The department is preparing a response at this time and, when it is ready, I will provide the Member with the written answer she is requesting.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister indicated to the media that he had received a report
from the employees. I do not anticipate getting a response very promptly to my written
question - it has been the past track record of this government not to reply promptly - so
I would like to ask the Minister in Question Period, in light of the fact that he has read
the report, what other technology or what else did the employees see on their visit to
Xerox in Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have the detail in front of me. If the Member refers to her written question, she asked for considerably more detail than that. All of it will be provided to her. As the Minister, I do not plan to hide any aspect of this trip. We have already said it was not advisable for the officials to take the trip because of the perception that has been raised by the Member for Riverdale South. We have also said that that sort of travel will not happen again.
Mrs. Firth: Not exactly. Perhaps I could approach the questions another way with the Minister. I am curious about the communications with the Xerox company. As the Minister responsible for Government Services, has he met with any officials or representatives of the Xerox company?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I met with them last May about the tender Xerox had won to supply convenience photocopiers. My information was that the machines we received were remanufactured, rather than new, which other companies had tendered. The department required Xerox to provide us with new machines. Xerox felt its remanufactured machines were of equal quality, capacity and warranty, and they should be accepted as new. I met with the company and told the representatives that the tender had specified new machines, and that is what they would supply. That is eventually what the company did.
The company also asked about doing business with the government, and I said the dispute
over convenience photocopiers should not influence our doing business in the future.
Question re: Photocopier replacement in government
Mrs. Firth: That brings me to another question about the photocopiers that the government is going to be replacing. We have had representation made to us in our offices that the government is planning to replace 32 liquid photocopiers with dry photocopiers. That representation was made to us through the business community. I anticipate this to be a replacement value of approximately $250,000 or $260,000, if each photocopier is about $8,000. I would like to ask the Minister responsible if this replacement is going to go to public tender?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I expect that it will. The reason for replacing the liquid copiers with dry copiers was identified in one of the air-quality studies. Liquid copiers are not as environmentally friendly as the dry ones. That is the reason for replacing those copiers.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister give us assurances that they are going to carry on with the same policy that has been followed in the past of requiring new photocopiers, as opposed to remanufactured photocopiers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not exactly sure; I cannot state that categorically. However I can state that it is the position of the department not to design specifications so that they would limit competition. If tendering for remanufactured photocopiers would limit competition to one supplier, then we would not do that.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us if he has had any discussions with any corporate representatives, businesses or companies other than Xerox that supply photocopiers to this government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe that I have had any formal meetings. I have talked informally with other suppliers. We were not necessarily talking about photocopiers, but about the tendering process that Government Services plans and the changes in the contract regulations.
Question re: Yukon Excellence Awards
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Education about the Yukon Excellence Awards. In the first round of questions, when I asked the Minister where he got the 80 percent from, he tabled a letter with some information relating to the Yukon Teachers Association scholarship award, which suggests to me that the opinion of the Yukon Teachers Association is somewhat relevant. Did he, or his officials, consult the Yukon Teachers Association prior to bringing into force this Yukon Excellence Award program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, we did not.
I must say that it is interesting that we have had numerous calls from teachers in support of this program.
Mr. Cable: I guess we are talking to different people in the teaching profession.
I asked the Minister what he thought about the participation rates. He quoted his handout, which seems to be some historical information relating back to the 1993-94 awards.
Does the Minister have any goal for participation rates, so that we will know whether or not this incentive program is successful?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is an interesting question. The Member starts out expressing some concern about the standard, which is a first-class mark - 80 percent or more. Then he talks about whether or not there are goals as to how many people will, in our estimation, achieve it. We have given some preliminary figures as to what we see happening when the current situation is extrapolated. We would like to see an improvement in the results of our education system. Per student, it is the most expensive in Canada.
Not because of this program, but because of a lot of other changes that are taking place in the education system, we certainly hope that more and more students will be able to achieve excellence on standard examinations.
Mr. Cable: That is a hope I am sure we all share. However, what we want to know is whether or not we are getting our money's worth.
Has there been any study paper done? How did the Minister get this off the ground? Was it simply pulled out of the air, or was there some discussion paper that could be tabled? We would all like to see how effective the Minister's thinking is on this.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is an interesting thing. I really expected the attack of this program to come from the NDP; they are against any new program this government brings forward, no matter what, as long as it was not their idea. They have backed off, because their colleagues, and virtually everyone else across the country, is moving in the direction of standardized exams and measuring output from the system.
It comes to me as somewhat of a surprise that the Member opposite - the Liberal Member,
who was somewhat of a scholar in his own right - would be against the notion of
scholarships. Scholarships, by their very definition, assume that one must achieve certain
Question re: Yukon Excellence Awards
Mr. Harding: I do not want to disappoint the Minister of Education. I intend to ask him a question regarding the Yukon Excellence Awards program that was sprung on us on by the Minister on Thursday, out of the blue. I should point out to the government that certainly the NDP is not against scholarships and has played a major role in improving them in this territory. I want to ask him a question. He said that the push for this program came from consultations with the public and conversations with school councils. Apparently the YTA is no longer a partner in education. They seem to have been banished by the Minister for fear that he might be called a union toady by someone. I would like to ask him this: why did this particular issue not come up in the education review and why were all the partners in education, which I believe includes teachers, not included in the consultations in the development of this awards program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of whether or not we ought to be supporting scholarships for students in school is an issue that is within the prerogative of this government, which is newly elected. The fact that the NDP did not push standard examinations of any kind during its tenure perhaps belies their position on measuring output in the schools.
I am not at all embarrassed to say that this is something that I, as the Minister, after having spoken with numerous parents and numerous teachers, fully support. We do not have to consult on every little incremental change to the education system. We have consulted as a government far more, generally, about the public school situation than previous governments have.
Mr. Harding: That is an incredibly outrageous answer. I can put the record of the NDP education issues up against the destruction of the partnerships-in-education record of the Yukon Party government any day of the week, any day of the month, any day of the year. Everyone in the Yukon knows it. Parents and educators say it all the time, when one talks to them. This government is toast when it comes to education issues.
I want to ask the Minister specifically why he did not consult on an issue such as this, which involves everyone in the education system and involves partnerships in education, which was identified as a problem in the education review, because the government had broken down the particular bonds that had been built by the previous government.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a modest program that deals with awarding scholarships to students who achieve certain levels of excellence in standardized exams. There is no downside to this, and unless the Opposition can come up with something that is a downside, then why would they be concerned about the need for us to carry on extensive consultations on a very modest program such as this?
Mr. Harding: This program is going to cost over $180,000. The Minister has just described that as "modest" yet the special-needs increase in the budget for this 1995-96 year is only $143,000 - by his own terms, "incredibly modest".
Why would the government choose increased funding for excellence programs over a stronger commitment to special- needs funding, which is desperately needed in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The side opposite always measured their commitment to education in terms of input - dollars in, never mind what the hell comes out. We are talking about measuring output. We are talking about standardized examinations for grades 8 to 12. We are talking about diagnostic assessments for those kids. We are talking about a very real concern that here in the Yukon, where we spend over $11,000 per student per year, we are getting damn dismal results.
Speaker: Order. I would appreciate it if Members would try to refrain from swearing in the House. It is unparliamentary.
Question re: Yukon Excellence Awards
Mr. Harding: Once again, the Minister has his figures confused. I want to ask the Minister a little bit about this output.
This particular program only measures the output on cumulative test scores. It does not measure the sweat and toil that a lot of students who cannot measure up to 80-percent scores put in. How does the Minister intend to reward these hard-working students and improve their opportunities for higher education?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a whole host of programs in the schools, some of which
were actually implemented during the tenure of the side opposite. If one looks at the
education review - for example, pages 20 and 21 - it goes into all kinds of programs that
are intended to address the issue of kids staying in school. We have programs to assist
students in the transition from school to the workplace, and from school to apprenticeship
training, and we are going to work on that. Surely the Member is not suggesting to me or
anyone in the Yukon that we should have scholarships for everyone no matter what their
marks. Is that the position the Member opposite is taking?
Mr. Harding: All of the fine education programs that were developed by the NDP were developed in full consultation with all the education partners. This has been broken down by this government. The Minister now stands up and starts talking about cumulative testing, and he mentions diagnostic testing in a very verbose manner, indicating to me that he intends to implement diagnostic and cumulative testing in a broader manner. There is also a recommendation in the education review that there should be full consultation before this happens. I would like to ask the Minister this: what is the Minister's policy in this area? Is he implying that his policy is to move to broader cumulative and diagnostic testing?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Firstly, we are very pleased to share a concern with the Member's fellow party members in Ontario. For the Member's information, I would like to table an article from the Globe and Mail about that, and the intention of the Ontario government to move toward standardized testing and diagnostic testing. I am sure that the Members opposite have had a chance to peruse the response by the department to the education review, and we intend to come forward with a plan and then to consult regarding the implementation of diagnostic assessment for students from grades 8 to 11, as well as cumulative exams.
Mr. Harding: The Yukon has a made-in-the-Yukon education system that was developed by the NDP and supported by all Members of this Legislature. While it is important to look at what is happening in other jurisdictions, we do not believe the Yukon should necessarily make all of its policy based on what another government of another political stripe is doing in another province. I would like to ask the Minister this: is he planning to propose an increase in the amount of cumulative and diagnostic testing in Yukon schools? Can he tell us that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Let us first deal with the preamble, because the Member is saying that we have a made-in-Yukon education system, and wants us to believe that it is a perfect system. Parents, students, and a great many of the teachers are very concerned about the education system that was bequeathed to them by the NDP in their consultation process and everywhere else. They have good reason to be, because we have done very poorly on exams that have been given across Canada. The results were made public, and we were not very happy with them, nor are most of the parents, the students, or a great many teachers. The answer is yes, we intend to move ahead with diagnostic assessments and cumulative examinations for the core subjects from grade 8 onward. We will do this in consultation with the public. We will do this in response -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: - to the desire expressed by the vast majority of parents in
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have some more documents for tabling.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of questions about the handout that the Association of Yukon Communities provided to the Members, entitled "Toward a New Yukon Municipal Act". At the end of the document, starting on page 15, there is a discussion on process. I believe that they are talking about a two-tiered system that involves a fair amount of ongoing input from the municipalities. Has the Minister considered the suggestion on page 17, which is entitled "Yukon Proposed Model"? Does the Minister have that document with him?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That document is made to help us consider everything. That does not mean that we are going to accept everything, but we will consider everything. They worked very hard on it, and I feel it is quite a good document.
Mr. Cable: The particular question I was asking was not on the substantive matters that are raised in the body of the document, but on the process that is suggested for amending the Municipal Act. On page 17, there is a process set out that involves a two-tiered system, which includes an administrative working group. On the executive level, it includes the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and some mayors and councillors. Has the Minister considered that suggestion for the process and, if so, is he in favour of it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we will be considering that. I am not sure that I want to advance my view, because I do not know what the view of the municipalities will be when the time comes. Again, we certainly will be considering it, because I firmly believe that the municipalities should have more say about how regulations are made for the municipalities.
Mr. Cable: I do not think I am making my point. The time has actually come already. The municipalities appear to be asking for some input at this particular time. Is that the way the Minister reads the proposed model on the process?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This whole briefing is their input to us about the things they would like us to consider changing in the legislation and, yes, we are certainly considering all of it. We are working with them on it and when they have their meeting in March I hope we will be in a position to be able to sit down and discuss some of these items.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying that, at this March meeting he just referred to, there will be a discussion about whether the process suggested on page 17 is acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They make up the agenda for the municipal meeting. I would suspect that this would be on it and, yes, we would be considering everything in it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would first of all like to say to the Minister that we in the Opposition would like to clear the department as much as the Minister would like to clear the department.
This weekend, I spent some time reviewing the Hansard record and I found that there were not a lot of answers to our questions. I want to let the Minister know that we are not prepared to clear the department until the Minister answers questions. He is the guy with the millions of dollars and he is open, or supposed to be, to spending this money and being accountable to the public for it. The Minister, I am sure, has been briefed. He has made some comments about having his high-priced help here, but we have been getting empty calories from the Minister.
We expect him to know what he is doing, and we expect to ask questions about general
policy issues and be able to get answers. I know what information I want. I have been
asking the questions but not getting answers. If the Minister is not prepared to volunteer
the information, then we will just have to extract it slowly.
I would like to also offer a helpful suggestion, if the Minister is prepared to listen to it: when he tables information for the Liberal Leader, the Independent Member and our Opposition caucus House Leader, he might consider providing a copy of the information for the critic, as well, so that I do not have to send a Page for a copy. I am interested in getting the information that he is bringing back. I am interested in getting some information that perhaps the Minister has already provided, and I have just not seen it, but I do not believe it has come back.
The first is regarding the Hootalinqua North land plan. The Minister had said on, I believe, Thursday, that he had some information that he would table. I have spoken to some people who live in that area about the north Whitehorse land use planning and the work of the committees out there. The residents would like to know when they will be informed of the government's decision. The Minister indicated recently that there was going to be a minimum of 15-acre lot parcels there. I gather that came as a result of the survey conducted. The residents have not yet seen those results. Perhaps the Minister could answer that question.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will apologize for not giving the critic one of these. I have had a very longstanding problem with all this paper going around in circles. I understood that I only had to give it to one person. I mistakenly gave it to the House Leader instead of the Member, and I apologize for that.
In the Hootalinqua region, the Hot Springs is the only area that has made a definite decision. The people there have voted and they want the property minimum size left at six hectares. We will shortly send out the results of the questionnaire. The vote was about 77 percent in the Hot Springs area to keep the six-hectare minimum. There are four other divisions in the Hootalinqua region.
Ms. Moorcroft: Last week, the Minister suggested there was a pamphlet available regarding community planning. I think he indicated it was a pamphlet that was available following the results of this survey. Could I have a copy?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Just this morning, we asked the department to start distributing them. I will see that the Member receives one, probably this afternoon.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have been out to a couple of the earlier community meetings held in that region, and I have spoken to people who live in that area. The concern I have heard expressed is that residents there would like to see some coordination of an overall plan so that zoning rules and regulations comply with each other in the different areas.
Does the Minister plan to implement the Pilot Mountain area regulations before those for the other areas coming into effect?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Pilot Mountain area will be the same as the Hot Springs area. They also voted.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the zoning regulations for the Hot Springs-Mayo Road area be put into effect prior to the zoning decisions being made for the Deep Creek and Shallow Bay areas?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It will just depend on how soon they are ready. We are actually working on all three and they are in different stages. We are trying to get them processed.
Ms. Moorcroft: The point that I am trying to bring forward for the Minister's consideration is one that I have heard expressed often at planning meetings. I have heard it expressed at planning meetings in the Hootalinqua area, and by people working within the City of Whitehorse, and in the Mount Lorne area, and so on. The concern is that, in order to have some coordination and a sense of community, there should be an overall plan so that the plans for Deep Creek and Shallow Bay would be in harmony with the plans for the Hot Springs and the Mayo Road.
I would like to ask the Minister whether he is planning to implement the regulations and the zoning regulation changes for the Hot Springs-Mayo Road area prior to receiving a final recommendation from, and implementing zoning on, the Deep Creek and Shallow Bay areas.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As you know, the Hootalinqua plan covered the whole area and it certainly did not go over well. What I am finding in the questionnaires and in the voting is that people think of each area as different. There are actually five areas and each one of them seems to want a different set of everything. The way that we have approached it is to work with the five separate areas and their different needs.
Ms. Moorcroft: I can appreciate that different areas are different but I do not think it is impossible to bring people together to work out a solution that people can be happy with, regardless of their different concerns. Is the Minister prepared to try that route?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it was tried in Hootalinqua and it did not work. We are working with the groups right now, but I might tell the Member that the ones who have done some voting on the different sizes of land and such are in completely different areas.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask for some information related to personnel in the department. I would like to know how many positions there are in the department. We had some discussion last week about positions being cancelled when they became vacant. What the Minister indicated was that every time someone leaves a position, the department takes a look at whether or not that position needs to be maintained. So, I would like to know how many positions have been eliminated from the department, how many positions there are presently, and I would also like to get a picture of how many casuals have been employed, and how many overtime hours have been used, particularly with the casuals and auxiliaries who have been working on a seasonal basis. This is information that we requested at the budget lockup, and I am wondering if that information is available now.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Public Service Commission has prepared a complete report for the whole government, which the Member can probably get when we get into that budget. The auxiliary members in the department have actually gone into the FTE program. We will see what information we can get for the Member on that. We have never done that before, but we will get everything we can for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think that information has been provided before. We asked for that last year during the budget debate. This is one of the larger departments, which does employ a lot of people, and I would like to see the information on the personnel picture. Can the Minister tell me how many casuals have been hired in the current year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I cannot. As I said, we will bring back everything we can for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain the overtime policy of the department for me? What I am specifically referring to is a concern that has been raised before in the Legislature about proper engineering inspection coverage on work sites. In the Shakwak project and in other highway maintenance projects, the contractors work 10-hour shifts, and the employees work eight-hour shifts. There has been some problem with overlaps. Can the Minister explain the policy for me?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Some of the employees were not happy about having to work the
extra time. What we have been doing is hiring people to fill in.
Ms. Moorcroft: What I was specifically looking for was the overtime policy of the department.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have a policy that we do not have overtime unless we absolutely have to. In the case of contracting, we hire another person to work the extra hours.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could I ask the Minister if he could provide me with a copy of that policy?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The policy is just as I stated it. However, if the Member would like it in writing, I can get it for her.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me just explain to the Minister why this is an issue. When
one has highway contracts underway, there are millions of dollars worth of equipment and
materials being moved around. The Minister has just said that the government deals with
the no-overtime policy issue by having employees work eight-hour shifts, so that one would
presumably have an early shift and a late shift, and there would be an overlap.
The problem with that is that there is no continuity. It means that there would be different people working with the same contractor on the same project. There are people in those camps who are away from their families. They are casual employees. They are not getting any benefits and they are not even getting any overtime. In the particular case of the Shakwak project, the Alaskans are willing to pay for the overtime, and I cannot see where any savings are realized by hiring more people. The contractors prefer that the same inspectors work for the full shift so that one inspector is not briefing another one halfway through installing a culvert, for example.
Can the Minister tell me what he sees as the justification for the way they are going about it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Alaskans were willing to pay it, that would mean that we would have less money to spend on the road. I really question the Member saying that there is no continuity between inspectors. I have worked on the Shakwak project. It was a 24-hour project. The engineers seemed to get along all right. Surveyors were changed every 12 hours, and there did not seem to be a problem with that. They seemed to be able to work together, and the road went where it was supposed to go.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister just said that when he worked on a project, they changed every 12 hours, which is certainly not the same thing as an eight-hour shift. The point I am making is that there is some validity to having overtime work. I think it costs more money to have more people, and they have to be boarded. People with experience do not want to come back to a jobsite where they are stuck in a camp and not getting any overtime hours.
Does the Minister know how many of the people who are hired to work on these projects are from outside the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The government people must be qualified in the Yukon. As to who the contractors bring in, we would have to look at that. I do not know.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just want to make the representation that I think the workers who spend their money in the Yukon are the workers who are hired from within the Yukon and who live here. When people will not come back because they are not making enough money in a four-month or five-month work period to support themselves for a year because they are not getting any overtime and they are stuck in a camp, the result will be a loss.
I look forward to getting the information about the personnel, so I will leave that issue and move on to something else.
Can the Minister tell me what the overall policy is for building and maintaining bridges in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The policy is that when a bridge is required we build it. They are inspected every year. After they have been there for 15 to 20 years, we have to check them to see if they need to be repainted so that they do not oxidize. It is just a matter of maintaining the upkeep on them.
Ms. Moorcroft: What happens when the state of disrepair goes beyond having to
simply paint them? What is the government responsibility there?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When it gets to that stage, we would have to budget to rebuild them.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister for a little more information regarding the road improvements and the bridge in Carmacks. The Minister has been aware of this project. Certainly, he was just talking about papers and there have been a flurry of letters back and forth, both from a department level and a ministerial level regarding the need for an improvement to the single-lane, old Bailey bridge on the Nordenskiold River.
The village council requested cost estimates from the government on several routes, and expressed a number of concerns regarding safety features about road crossings and parking lots in the area of the nursing station. It was expected that the would provide some answers. When I asked the Minister about this on January 10, and again on January 19, he indicated that he was preparing to go to Carmacks on January 26 to talk to people there with some answers to their questions and to discuss their concerns with them. Can he explain why that did not happen?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I can explain it. The municipality wrote back to us and asked us some more questions. They wanted the answers and they suggested that we delay the trip so that they could talk to the people in Carmacks about the answers we sent them before we arrived. Therefore, we will schedule the meeting when they are ready to have it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister telling us then that all of the questions that have been raised have been responded to and that he is simply waiting for the village to digest the information?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The letter has not been completely finalized yet. I would not say all the questions could be answered. I suspect that when we get to Carmacks there will be some questions arising that we will have to answer at that time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister give me a commitment that the government is prepared to replace the bridge over the Nordenskiold River when it becomes necessary to do so?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I can give the commitment that if we do not decide to build a bridge upstream from it, it will be rebuilt. If we have to build a bridge upstream, then it is questionable whether we want to build two bridges that cross the same river.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister told the Member for Mayo-Tatchun just a week or so ago that he had never told any municipality that it has to build its own bridge. He said, "We have never told any municipality that it has to build its own bridge." Can the Minister explain the contradiction?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I still stand by that. I said that if we have to bypass the town, we will have to build a bridge upriver. However, we are not prepared to build a new bridge and repair the one that is already there. If the town decides it wants the road to go along the river, we will have to put in a new bridge. However, we are not prepared to build two bridges.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is saying that, based on what the government has told it, the village has to decide where the road improvements are going to go. It seems to me that he is indicating that if the village does not support bringing the mine traffic through the town and wants an alternate route, the government will not pay for the bridge.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: According to our conversations with the mining companies, the traffic will not be that great. If we look at the difference in the money, the traffic would be moving along the riverside. However, that has not been decided, and it will not be until we talk to the people who live there.
We will only build one bridge. It would be completely irresponsible for us to build two bridges that close together to get across one river.
Ms. Moorcroft: The fact of the matter is that the Village of Carmacks has no say in the decision. The government has provided the information that it will cost $1 million to replace the Nordenskiold bridge; the municipality cannot come up with that money.
The government is saying that it will decide where the road is improved, because it will only pay for the one bridge. The village was told, " With respect to the existing Nordenskiold bridge, there is uncertainty as to the responsibility for ownership and maintenance of this bridge." That contradicts what the Minister has been saying about the government having a responsibility to build, design and maintain bridges in the rest of the Yukon. Why is it different for Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member is asking me to build two bridges a very short distance apart at $1 million or more for each bridge. I could not justify that to any taxpayers.
Mr. Joe: I cannot understand why the Minister is talking about building two bridges. If the mine happened to open, whether he likes it or not, he will have to build a bridge anyway. The bridge we have now is not going to last that long. That bridge is very old. I guess we will find out more about it the next time the Minister goes up there, and we will find out from the grassroots people who are concerned about the road to town.
Every time I meet someone they ask me what I think about the new truck route that is going to run through the town. That is another thing the Minister has to think about.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I guess I do not speak very good English, because I do not seem to be getting this across.
Those two bridges would be less than one kilometre apart. How could I tell the taxpayers I am putting two bridges in? It would be irresponsible to put in two bridges a kilometre apart, on the same river to go to the same place. If we fix the existing one, we will build a new bridge and be responsible for its maintenance. However, I would think the town council and municipality could at least clean the snow off when they go across it to clean the other area. We will have to debate that with them.
If they are going where they are now, there will be a new bridge. If we have to go to the other road, there will be a new bridge. They are a kilometre apart. I cannot understand why the Member insists I build two bridges. I could not justify that to anyone.
Mr. Joe: Can the Minister tell me more? If he happens to build a new one, he has to take the old bridge out.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, unless we want to realign the road, it would be in exactly the same place.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister please run that one by us again?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If we build a new bridge where the old one is now, it will be on the same alignment and we will be removing the old bridge. We will be responsible for putting in a bridge. I would hope that the Village of Carmacks would at least clean the snow off and not expect a grader from the department to do that. There should be no problem there. We will do all of the major maintenance and be responsible for that part of it, as well as building the new bridge.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the decision is made to construct an alternate route, which would mean a different bridge, what access would be provided to the existing residences? The fact is that the present bridge has a finite life and there are homes on both sides of the river.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The present bridge, if trucks are not using it, could last for a number of years yet. The light traffic that goes into that residential area is not a problem, as long as the big, heavy trucks use the other bridge. Technically, the one old bridge is still there, and will remain there, until such time as we make the decision to replace it, and we think that time is a few years away yet - if we build the one up above it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have a determination of how many years the present bridge would last? There has been considerable energy spent investigating this over the last little while. If there is not increased industrial and commercial traffic on it, how long would the present bridge last?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is a Bailey bridge, and they last a long, long, time, especially if heavy traffic is not using it. I expect that it would last for a considerable amount of time. I must point out that some of the other Bailey bridges located in mining areas lasted quite awhile, even with the heavy trucks using them.
Mrs. Firth: I have quite a few questions to ask the Minister in general debate. I will start with a few of them, and then let other Members have a chance to raise their concerns. I want to start with a question to the Minister about travel within his department. In light of the issues that were raised here in the Assembly all last week, can the Minister tell us if he has given any direction to his deputy minister to compile a list of all the employees in his department who have travelled and had the trip paid for by someone other than government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The process has been started. Having said that, we do have some that travel at the expense of other governments. For example, people sometimes go to Alaska or Alberta for meetings. In Alaska they are quite interested in chipseal, and undoubtedly people have travelled there at the request of the Alaskans to explain our chipseal program.
Mrs. Firth: I am asking specifically about employees who have travelled at the expense of any company or business in the private sector. Will the Minister tell us if he has any employees in his department in that category?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not that I am aware of.
Mrs. Firth: Community and Transportation Services has not had any employees go out on any trip - educational or otherwise - that was paid for by the private sector, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There may have been some go out for educational purposes; I will have to check that. I am unaware of it.
Mrs. Firth: What I am trying to establish is if there are any employees within Community and Transportation Services who have travelled under the same type of circumstances that the Government Services employees travelled under. In other words, the cost for some of their expenses was picked up by the private sector. I am not just talking about people who are looking at new equipment. I want to know if any employees went out to be "teched up" on a new piece of equipment where the trip was considered to be educational, and that is the reason it was paid for by the private sector. Did anyone go out, for example, at the expense of a private company to look at new graders, trucks or new equipment?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I just said, we are not aware of it, but we will check it. I can say that a lot of them have come to see some of the equipment we have.
Mrs. Firth: I do not object to that if the company is paying for that itself, or whatever, but I am sure the Minister knows what the issue at hand is here. I am particularly interested in knowing whether our employees, who have responsibilities for tendering contracts, are being taken out by grader companies or truck companies to see their new equipment. I know the Government Leader has indicated that the government is reviewing this but I would like to ask every Minister, when we get into his department, whether his department is actually addressing that issue, and whether there is any information about whether or not there are employees who have travelled in that capacity.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said, not to our knowledge, but I will check it to make absolutely sure and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I want to move now to an issue about the new weigh scale and the Two Mile Hill construction, which will come under the supplementary estimates.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell us what the total cost of this project is - and when I say total, I mean all the Two Mile Hill construction, the landscaping, moving the weigh station, the cost of the new weigh scales, the cost of everything, such as lights, signage, and so on. I would like to know what the total package finally ended up costing the taxpayers of the Yukon. I believe the last time we debated this it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $14 million.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Pre-engineering detail design revealed that this was a much more complex project than envisioned in the Alaska Highway corridor estimate. This complexity is the major reason for the current total estimated cost of $8,038,000 for the Two Mile Hill work and $5,235,000 for the Alaska Highway work. Some of the major factors not considered in the Alaska Highway corridor study were as follows: major construction of the Alaska Highway to four lanes, land acquisition cost at $750,000 - or approximately $500,000 more than anticipated; very wet soil conditions encountered - escarpment evacuation cost $200,000 to sub-evacuate and replace; expensive and complex utility relocation - telephone, power, sanitary and sewer cost approximately $500,000; the need to mitigate the impact on adjacent property, such as the postal sorting station, arena, housing division; temporary accommodations that had to be made at the weigh scale - these requirements cost approximately $500,000; final landscaping, estimated at $560,000 in total; retaining wall at Industrial Road, $50,000; groundwater drainage, which was not envisioned in the concept or plan, and which cost $200,000; and signing, $80,000.
I will not go through the rest. I will give the final totals: Two Mile Hill roadworks,
$6,858,000; Alaska Highway and related roads, $5,235,000 - that is, Hamilton Boulevard,
Range Road South and valley access; traffic signal system, $440,000; land acquisition,
$750,000; for a final total of $13,273,000. That includes the other roads, such as the one
down by Cummings Diesel, the one to Granger, the Valleyview access and Clearview access.
Mrs. Firth: That does not even touch on the costs of the weigh scale relocation and the construction of a new weigh scale. Before I start asking detailed questions about the costs, could I get the total cost of the weigh scale construction, relocation, signage, landscaping and so on?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will get the information for the Member.
I must point out that, by widening the road there, the weigh scale location was not feasible and had to be moved so trucks could pull around.
Mrs. Firth: Part of this supplementary budget is for the weigh scale relocation. I believe that the department is asking for another $334,000 for that item. Is the Minister saying that he cannot provide the total cost of the construction of the new weigh scale and why the department is asking for $334,000 more?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have the information, but it is in a line-by-line item. It is rather hard to find in a hurry. Also, Finance is undertaking to produce a travel report for the Member's question on travel that is privately paid for. The information will be ready tomorrow or the next day.
Mrs. Firth: It is good to hear that the report is coming from Finance with respect to the travel. I am chuckling because if government is warned that we are going to be asking about something every day, the information comes a lot more quickly than if we wait for it for awhile.
I am very interested in the cost of the weigh scale relocation and how it is added into the total cost of the Two Mile Hill and Alaska Highway reconstruction. While the deputy minister is looking for that information, I would like to ask the Minister some questions about the planning process.
We have had some debates in this Legislature with the previous Minister about the planning process. Can the Minister give us any explanation of why the planning was so poor, with many things not taken into account? These things cost a lot of extra dollars. The project was supposed to cost about one-third of what the final project price was. I understand that this was originally planned to cost just over $4 million. It has now come in at three ties more than that.
Can the Minister indicate to us what went wrong and why?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Most of the total cost is for the Two Mile Hill, but there is the other road that was put in and built up to standard. There was a full lane added, as well as traffic lights. I gather from what I have been told by the department that this became a rush. It appears now that maybe they should have looked a little further and should not have done it at the time; however, these things happen and actually, I do not think that it is out of line at all.
I would like to point out that although it is unrealistic to make comparisons, much the same thing was done in Fort St. John with the Outer Ring Road, and that cost over $3.75 million.
Mrs. Firth: I do not like to justify Yukon's mistakes by someone else's mistakes. I do not know what this theory is about this rush order. The construction started under this government's term. I disagree with the Minister; I think it is way out of line. If a project comes in at about three times more than was originally anticipated, someone did not do their homework with respect to planning the project.
I wanted to get that on the record to start with. I would like to ask the Minister what is being done to see that this kind of expense does not happen again, that we do not have these rush orders and these kinds of cost overruns again because of poor planning.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: From now on, we will do the initial work and do a thorough estimate of it before we start any other projects. That is assured. With that particular project, it was simply a matter of moving too fast.
Mrs. Firth: Whom do we hold accountable for this? Is the department being blamed because they moved too fast? The Minister had to authorize the expenditure and had to come into this House with extra requests for funding. I very closely questioned the monies that were being allocated and very closely questioned the Minister about the decisions that were being made. I wonder if the Minister could answer that question for me.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not want to blame anyone, but the preliminary work was started before this government came to power. At the same time, we were in the midst of negotiations to have the Alaska Highway transferred to us, so we simply had too much work to do at one time. If we made a mistake, the fact that the other government was able to get the Alaska Highway transferred was well worth it.
Mrs. Firth: We have established that mistakes were made with respect to this construction project. It was poorly planned and has ended up costing three times more than it should have, because it was considered to be a rush order.
If the department cannot handle a project like this and the transfer of the Alaska Highway at the same time, that would give me a lot of concern as a Minister. What is the Minister doing to see that his department is going to become more efficient with respect to spending taxpayers' money?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think the department has done a great deal since then and, each year, we have been able to come in with a lower budget. I am not going to criticize the department for the Two Mile Hill project, because there was a lot of extra work done on it. As I said, the department was also trying to get the Alaska Highway transferred at the same time. I am not prepared to say that there was a great overrun during this time. The Member is talking about the first estimates and not the work that was done. We can give an actual breakdown of everything that happened.
Mrs. Firth: I think that if the Minister reads the comments he made today when the Blues are published tomorrow, he will see that he has indeed criticized the department, because he has indicated that it was a rush job, that it was poorly planned and that the department had too much on its plate, so that it could not handle it and ended up spending more money. Other factors also entered the picture.
I am looking for some comfort and some reassurance, on behalf of Yukoners who are paying the bills, that this kind of thing is not going to happen again. I would like to know what kind of reassurance or comfort the Minister can give us that his department is not going to operate this way again. I would like to know that it is not going to plan a project so poorly that we end up having all of these cost overruns again.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member opposite has a way of twisting everything around so that the government is never right about anything. I am certainly not going to say that we made no mistakes, but we had the decency to own up to them. I am not criticizing the department; it did its job. I think it was well worth the effort that was put into it. We have learned from the mistakes that were made.
Mrs. Firth: What did the government learn?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We learned that we must do a conceptual plan after we do our estimates. This would not necessarily change the price at all.
Mrs. Firth: That is easy to say, because it is all hypothetical. There is nothing to substantiate that comment. I would like to know precisely what the department did to fix the planning process so that this does not happen again.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: First, we do a conceptual plan, then we do a functional plan. After that, we do the detailed plan. Unfortunately, we neglected to do the functional plan on that road. It should have been done and it will be done from now on.
Mrs. Firth: That is quite interesting. In light of that information, I would like to ask the Minister if there is going to be a project audit done on this particular project.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have already asked the Auditor General to do an audit on it.
Mrs. Firth: When was that request made, and when is it to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It was made by the deputy minister about one year ago.
Mrs. Firth: When will it be ready?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When the 1993-94 report comes in, we are hoping it will be in there.
Mrs. Firth: Just for clarification for Hansard, the Minister is referring to the 1993-94 Auditor General's report. I will wait to see that.
What was the specific reason for requesting a project audit? What did the department say when it made this request?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The deputy minister felt that the huge jump from $4 million to $8 million was substantial and, therefore, wanted an audit to see just what had happened.
Mrs. Firth: Is the request all-inclusive? Does it include the Alaska Highway portion, as well as the weigh scale construction and relocation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They asked for everything and we told them everything, but until the report comes back, we will not know.
Mrs. Firth: I think the request for a project audit is somewhat based on the original request. I am aware of the cost of the Two Mile Hill project - $8 million - but, in that whole project audit, have they requested that the Auditor General examine the cost of the Alaska Highway - the $5 million portion - and the weigh scale, which, I am sure, is well in excess of $1 million?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Our understanding is that they will be looking at everything.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to receive that report.
I would like to get back to the weigh scale. Can the Minister give me a complete cost with respect to the relocation and construction of the new weigh scale?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will get to that this afternoon. I believe it is in the line items.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister some questions with respect to the planning for the weigh scale. I understand there are some concerns, having talked to truckers and other people who have been up there, and I also drove up there.
Can the Minister tell us if there are any problems with respect to the new weigh scale - its planning; whether it is functional; whether it is efficient to operate and maintain; and so on?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I have heard the same problems. The main problem is the one-way turn to exit the scale. We are looking at that and hope to rectify it some time this spring.
Mrs. Firth: That would be the comment I heard - that one cannot drive around it. Is that what the Minister is talking about?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes. It can be done but it is rather difficult. We hope to widen it.
Mrs. Firth: How much will that cost us?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is in the design stage but we may have a figure. If we do, I will get it back for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I must have thrown out the process the Minister referred to - the three steps. Is this design going to go through those three steps: the conceptual design, the functional one and the third step? I believe the functional one was missed before. Will they do that for the redesign of the drive-around?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it will not go through that. It is a very small deal. All we have to do is widen it on the south end so vehicles can turn around in there a little easier than they can at the present time.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, it was not in the original planning if it is not
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is functional. We discussed it with the truck drivers, and it is just not handy. The truck drivers want it widened, and we are going to try to accommodate them this spring.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me what the extra $334,000 in the supplementary budget is for?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We were not able to finish the weigh scales, and so we revoted the money for this year. It will all be broken down in the line items.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait until we get to line-by-line debate for the breakdown. Can the Minister tell me what the building cost - a 1,400 square foot building?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I told the Member we will get back with those figures as soon as we can.
Mrs. Firth: I will follow up when I get the figures.
I have had some concerns raised with me about water delivery. There is no well at the weigh scale. They are on stored water, so they have water delivery. I guess the septic tank has to be pumped. Can the Minister tell us if that process is working efficiently and what it is costing us to operate and maintain it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have not heard of any problems, but we will check it. We will get back to the Member about the cost as we do not have it here.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to get that information. I heard about the incident concerning the old weigh scale trailers. The old weigh scale trailers were going to be used as an asset in Renewable Resources. Is the Minister familiar with this situation? The trailers were going to be used as an asset in Renewable Resources, but there were some requests made by the private sector that it should perhaps be put out to tender so that the private sector could bid on the trailers. I wonder if the Minister could tell us exactly what happened.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We dispose of it. It goes to Government Services and they put them out for tender.
Mrs. Firth: The Department of Community and Transportation Services put it into government assets. Government Services was to tender it, but I had heard that Renewable Resources was interested in acquiring this asset to use itself. The Minister to whom I am now speaking would have been the Minister for Renewable Resources at that time, so he would know whether or not that is right. I understood that it did not go to Renewable Resources, but was put out to public tender. Can the Minister tell us, in detail, why that happened and exactly what the process was in that instance?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Renewable Resources was going to keep it but it was not sure what it was going to keep it for. First, it was going to tow it to Haines Junction, then possibly Carmacks. It is another one of the old trailers that I doubt would even stand going that far. It was not in good shape inside. There was a question about whether it was even worth moving it anywhere. In fact, at one time they talked about bringing it down the Two Mile Hill to store it for awhile, and I was very worried about it falling apart in the middle of the road, because it had been sitting there a very long time and was not in good shape.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously it was in good enough shape that the private sector expressed an interest in it and wanted to bid on it. I understand that there was a successful bidder, and a member of the private sector did buy the asset from the government. I just want to know why it was not suitable for Renewable Resources but it was suitable for the private sector to bid on. I would like to know how the decision was made, or how the change came about, to put it out to private tender instead of permitting it to go to Renewable Resources.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As for private industry buying it, one would have to ask the purchaser why they bought it. As for it not going to Carmacks or Haines Junction, I suppose I can take the blame for that, because I saw no reason for pulling an old trailer like that one, which was pretty well shook up, somewhere it may not even be used. Perhaps, some time in the future it could be, but it just would not stand up to it.
Mrs. Firth: I am not raising the issue about why the private sector wanted it; I am raising the issue about how the decision was made to dispose of this government asset. I know this is a bit of a sticky wicket, because I heard about this issue several times. I heard that there were two or three Ministers involved and that representation was made to one of the Ministers about it going to the private sector for public tender. What I am trying to establish is what the process was.
The Minister for Community and Transportation Services has said that when he was the Minister, Renewable Resources had originally wanted it for something that he said he was not quite sure about, and that he did not think it was a very worthwhile asset.
Did the Minister then say, "We are not going to take it in Renewable Resources.'' Then did he say to the Minister in Government Services, "We do not want this asset, so do whatever you want with it, put it out to public tender, do whatever.'' How did that process work?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not say that in those words. I simply felt that the department did not need it, so it should go to Government Services to be contracted out.
Mrs. Firth: Did the Minister make this decision spontaneously? Did he have representations made to him from the private sector or did another Minister make a representation to him? Did Renewable Resources really need this asset or did the Minister just make this decision on his own with the advice of Renewable Resources?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I pretty well made it with Renewable Resources, although some employees did not agree with it. I made that decision. Several phone calls were made to ask if we were going to put it out to tender. I made it very clear that that was not my decision.
Mrs. Firth: What I understand happened was that Renewable Resources had put in a request to get this trailer. There had been some phone calls from the private sector indicating an interest. The Minister said something to the effect that, in consultation with his staff, some of whom did not agree with him, it could go to the private sector. The Minister relinquished any claim over the trailer. Whose responsibility did it become then? Was it Government Services' responsibility to put it out to private tender?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is correct.
Mrs. Firth: I will have to ask the Minister of Government Services with respect to who phoned. Did this Minister get any phone calls from the private sector requesting that the trailer be put out to public tender?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I already said that I received a couple of phone calls from people asking if it was going to be put out to tender - not to put it out, but if it was going to be put out. I stated that I did not know at that time, and that Government Services would make the decision as to whether or not it should be put out to tender.
Mrs. Firth: Was that before or after the Minister had relinquished the claim on the trailer for Renewable Resources?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think it was about the time we were debating whether or not to keep it that these people phoned to inquire if it was going out to public tender.
Mrs. Firth: Were there several people who phoned the Minister to ask if it was going to go out to public tender? Was there a fair number of people calling about it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, there was not.
Mrs. Firth: Okay, I will follow up with questions about the weigh scale when the Minister comes back with the information that he has indicated he can bring for me.
I want to move on to another issue, unless anyone has any specific questions about this - I do not see anyone jumping up and down.
The government launched quite an active consultative process with respect to the highway right-of-way through Yukon - the highway sign policy. There were public meetings launched, and so on. Would the Minister tell us what the status is of this consultative process?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are at the point right now of pulling together all the information we have received from the different communities and groups of people.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister anticipate having all this information compiled, and what are they going to do with it then?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Once it is compiled, it will go to Cabinet to determine what the regulations are going to be. We hope to have them in place by this spring.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister see this as a major undertaking? Are there going to be major changes to the signage policy that is presently in force?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: From what I assume - and I was at one meeting and listened to the people there - I do not think we are going to have a great change. We have always had a problem with it, and we hope to tighten things up now. When we say someone can have one sign, three signs, four signs, that is all they can have. One person will not have 16 signs and another person only one because he stayed within the rules. We hope to get enough teeth in the law that we will be able to say "this is it; everyone obeys this", so that everyone will obey the law rather than going their own way.
Mrs. Firth: I know everybody is not allowed to go their own way in the existing
regulations. Could the Minister explain to us a bit in detail how that happened? The
present regulations say a person can have so many signs, and give very clear
specifications about the size, location and so on. Why is it that the policy was being
abused and why was the person responsible for the policy not checking to see that it was
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are probably two things involved in that, but I have not been a lodge owner for awhile.
Number one, we tried to get something that everyone would accept. Of course we will never succeed in doing that, but we may get the majority to accept it. The other thing was that every foreman was told to enforce the policy in his area. When the foreman lives in that community, it may not be a very pleasant situation. We hope to be able to change it so that someone other than the foreman will make the decision about the signs, and not have it left to the foreman living in the small community. People will do whatever they want, but it can be a real problem when the person charged with enforcing the policy also lives in the community. We hope that getting someone else to make the decision on whether signs come down or stay up will leave the road foreman out of it, and he will not be fighting with his neighbours.
Mrs. Firth: I gather that part of the enforcement policy will be changed to take that responsibility away from the road foremen in the small communities. When that happens, who is going to be responsible for the enforcement?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There has been no final decision. The Member is correct; there is going to be a little change. I do not think it is a drastic change. In fact, I think it is a change for the better. We have not really decided who will do it, but I think we will come up with one person who will do it on all of the roads.
Mrs. Firth: I heard the Minister say that they hope to have the new regulations in place by this summer. We are not going to be sitting here in the Legislature, and I know the new regulations will be in the Gazette. As soon as Cabinet authorizes and agrees to the new regulations, would the Minister provide the Members of the Legislature with a copy of them? We will have inquiries from constituents, and it would help if we could see the new policy and regulations prior to constituents making application for summer signage.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member almost made my day; she indicated we would not be here this summer. I have that to look forward to.
They will be given to the Member as soon as they are ready.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want the Minister to get his hopes up. I hope he
understands my limited sway in this House with respect to determining how long it will
sit. I am only one little Member, with no power, authority or pull.
Mr. McDonald: I am wondering about the sign policy. In Whitehorse, there is a pretty long list of businesses that currently have signs that do not conform to the existing regulations. In fact, there are about 20 businesses that I know of in that category.
In the interest of fairness, will there be anything done to ensure that everyone falls under the guidelines? If there are non-conforming signs, will those persons be asked to remove them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know if there are 20. I will take the Member's word for it; we did not count them. We will admit that there are some.
Yes, when the new regulations come into effect, people who have signs that do not have permits or whose signs do not conform to the standards that we have set will be asked to take them down.
Mr. McDonald: In saying that, the Minister has indicated that there will be no exemptions given to any existing business in Whitehorse? Will everyone be required to follow the newly established rules?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Whatever the rules are, everyone will follow them.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell the House what role the Department of Tourism has had in providing advice to the department on the question of highway signs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe they have been consulted and have had input
Mr. McDonald: Has the Tourism Industry Association been specifically consulted? Have there been meetings with the association about signs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, there have. We advertised meetings and held them in every community.
Mr. McDonald: In so doing, meetings actually happened between the department and the Tourism Industry Association. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The group met with everyone who wanted to meet with them.
Mr. McDonald: I appreciate that answer, but I would like to completely clear up this matter. The Minister's department had a meeting with the Tourism Industry Association. Is that correct? Discussed at that meeting as a major issue was the development of new regulations regarding highway signs. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We advertised all over the Yukon, and the committee traveled all over. I suspect the association would have been at one of the meetings, because it is one of the interested groups. I cannot guarantee the association was at a meeting. We did not single anyone out, because if we started that, we would have a lot of groups. We went to every community and we had meetings in Whitehorse. I suspect the association would have been at one of the meetings, if it were interested.
Mr. McDonald: I am asking a very specific question. I appreciate the department went through the process of making itself available to anyone who took an interest in coming to the public meetings. I am asking a different question, though, to find out if the department tried to have a meeting with the Tourism Industry Association, particularly about signs. There has been a lot of discussion about signage. I know the Minister has dealt with some signage issues for private businesses in the Whitehorse area. Consequently, I am very interested in precisely what tourism-related information the Minister has received to ensure the highway signs policy has at least acknowledged - and, in some cases, accepted - the advice given to the department by the industry.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I cannot say that specifically, but I will check and get back to the Member about whether or not we had a special meeting with them or whether they were open meetings. I will get back about that.
Mr. Cable: I have noticed a number of signs spray painted with the initials YLF. Has the Minister been able to identify the people who come under the heading of the Yukon Liberation Front?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. For all my detective work, I have failed to come up with anybody.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister know whether or not these people are devoted simply to ripping down signs or do they have a broader social-upheaval agenda?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: My detective work has not told me that either.
Mrs. Firth: In general debate, I would like to ask the Minister some questions about the direction in which this department is going with respect to contracting and trucking. I know there are some people in the public who feel that closing Tuchitua was a big mistake. Individuals have seen highways equipment parked along the highway - the new dump trucks and trailers with dump trucks, very expensive units - and there is a concern about whether the private sector could accommodate the government with some of this hauling and road work, yet the government seems to be growing and buying more new equipment. Again, this is consistent with my concern about the government being the best printing company in the territory, having the largest law firm, and now being the biggest gravel-hauling and dirt-moving business in the Yukon. I would like to hear the Minister's comments with respect to this concern that people have.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are six new ones, and I presume they are the ones about which the Member is talking. They are used in the winter for snow clearing. They travel much, much faster than graders ever did. On top of that, we redesigned them so that we could put a sander on them, so as to eliminate one truck following behind to sand. One truck can do the snow clearing and sand at the same time. In the summer, we have trailers for them, whereby we can pull the gravel crushers in to where we want to chipseal and make one trip instead of two trips every time we travel.
As far as cutting trucks out of work, I do not see where we are doing that. The belly-dumps would not drop the crushed gravel in piles like these trucks do, by dumping out of the back end. Long jobs and heavy work are contracted out to private contractors.
Mrs. Firth: I understood these were dump trucks, not the plough trucks. Is the
Minister saying they outfit the dump trucks to be plough trucks, and then they each have
their own trailer on which to haul them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: These trucks have a V-plough in the front, an underplough below, and have now been equipped so that gravel can be put on the back of the truck. The tailgate lifts up, allowing gravel to be spread while the truck is moving. We have eliminated the need for one truck because of this. I can tell the Member that the people who sold these trucks to us came to have a look at the equipment that was added to them because they have never seen it designed this way and this strong. They will now be doing it for other provinces.
The trailer I am talking about hooks on the back and hauls a load, the same way as the truck does. This means that we are hauling two at once. When they dump, the gate is opened and they create a pile. With a belly-dump, they create windrows.
Mrs. Firth: I understand now what the Minister is saying. Obviously, the dump trucks are being modified somehow. When it was brought to my attention, the individual saw this brand new fleet of government dump trucks and, as I am sure the Minister can appreciate, it was very demoralizing to him because he compared it to doing haulage - not to snowploughing - of gravel and dirt, and indicated to me that there were lots of businesses that could probably use the extra work. I will pass the information on to the individual. If there are any further questions, I will come back to the Minister with them.
I still have a concern that, when the government purchases new equipment, it should analyze the impact that it may have on the private sector. I would like to ask the Minister if his department did do some analysis in this instance, and does it see if the government is going to have an impact on the private sector when new equipment is purchased? Does it consider if there will be any business dislocations that cause the number of employees to be reduced because government is in competition with the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Actually, we are doing the same thing we have been doing for years and years, except that we have cut down the fleet and we are moving faster. There is a difference in the snow ploughing. They can travel about 50 to 60 kilometres an hour compared to a grader, which can only travel at 20 kilometres an hour. We are saving on clearing roads. Government trucks always work in chipseal areas because it is slow, tedious work and they have to dump immediately before the chipsealer comes along. We also have an underblade on it so that it can be used to blade, to some extent, in the summer.
Mrs. Firth: I will just follow up on this issue with the individual with whom I talked and then come back to discuss it further with the Minister.
I want to move on. I have several other issues I want to pursue, but I want to move on to one particular issue with respect to the Yukon River bridge at Dawson City, since we have been talking about bridges in the House today.
I have written to the Minister requesting a copy of the preliminary design with the
respect to the bridge at Dawson City. I have been given some information. This is the
preliminary design and environmental impact assessment of the Yukon River bridge at Dawson
City, Yukon. I would like to ask the Minister - he has indicated in my letter, so I do not
want him to get excited - that no commitment has been made to proceed with construction of
this bridge. The feasibility study in conjunction with planning and design activities is
in response to a motion in the Legislature. He also gave me copies of tender documents in
regard to this project. He also spoke of public consultation.
I would like to ask the Minister if he can give us an update of the status of this particular project? That is the first question.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will get the information early this spring, and then we will decide if we are going to go on to the next design section of it. Right now, it is simply information to see what we need and to get through the environmental assessment. Once this report is given to us, we can then make a decision on the rest of it.
Mrs. Firth: I know we are not on the capital budget, but if I am not mistaken, I did see a sum of $400,000 in the capital budget for beginning the design work for this particular project.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member is quite correct. There is $400,000 for the design, which will not even get the design completed. It is only there in case we decide to go ahead with the bridge. If we do not go ahead with it, we will use the money somewhere else.
Mrs. Firth: That is quite interesting. The $400,000 is in the budget for design work only if the government decides to go ahead with the project - is that correct? This money may be a $400,000 slush fund surplus in the Community and Transportation Services budget if the government decides not to go ahead with it. I see the Minister shaking his head, but if they have not yet made the decision to go ahead with it, why would they be putting money in the budget for it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is very simple. If we do not go ahead with the bridge, we will have to do something to improve the ferry system across the river. There will be something done to improve access across the Yukon River. As the Member is probably aware, a lot of people are complaining that they have to line up for too long.
Mrs. Firth: I can appreciate the Minister's explanation, but the line item in the budget does not read "design work for bridge, or upgrade to ferry system". It reads "design work for the bridge over the Dawson River". Can the Minister tell us when he anticipates the government making a decision about whether or not they are going to build a bridge across the river at Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I cannot tell the Member that. When we get to line by line, the Member will see that we have stated that if we do not go ahead with the bridge, we will improve the ferry system.
Mrs. Firth: It is not written in the budget book, so I have to wait for the
Minister to explain that. If someone in the public picked up a budget book, they would not
see it either. They would not even have the benefit of getting an explanation. If that is
what the government's intention was, my advice would be that they should have written the
whole explanation in the budget book so that we would know the name of the game.
The Minister cannot tell us when they will have a decision with respect to this project. Has the government any idea or preliminary estimates as to what the cost might be?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we have not.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the government is expecting that it will get that information if it proceeds with the design proposal. I am trying to figure out just how much money it is prepared to spend on the bridge over the Yukon River at Dawson.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When we get the report from N.D. Lea Consultants this spring, it will have the first estimates about what it will be.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that the first estimates are in already or that they will come in the spring? The Minister is saying that he has not received the report yet from N.D. Lea Consultants Limited from Vancouver.
When that report comes in, will the Minister be prepared to provide it to the Members of the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would have to check with Cabinet on that.
Mrs. Firth: In the letter the Minister sent to me, he states, "At present, a study on the preliminary design and environmental impact assessment for a bridge crossing the Yukon River at Dawson is being conducted.", and that the government has retained a consulting company from Vancouver. What does the Minister see obstructing our obtaining the information that is being brought forward? Why would he not want to make that information public?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I just said that I would have to check with Cabinet first. I can see no reason why that could not be given out.
Mrs. Firth: Is that the policy of all the departments? Are they not allowed to give out any information or make a commitment to give any information to Members of the Opposition without Cabinet approval?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is my policy. With something as big as this, I check with my colleagues before making any decisions like that. We have found out - as did, I am sure, the other government - that if we issue a report in advance, it signals that we are going to commit to the project. At this point, it is not a foregone conclusion that we are going to do it at all.
Mrs. Firth: My concern, as a Member of this Legislative Assembly, is that government gets consultants reports, keeps them private and then makes an announcement that the project is going ahead. As a Member of the Legislature, I have absolutely no opportunity to have any input or even know what the potential costs could be or assess the expenditure as a priority of the government. We are told about it after the fact.
We will not be meeting again in this Legislature until December 1995. That is a considerable length of time away.
The government is going to be making decisions with respect to this project, so I would like to ask the Minister if he will make a very serious representation. Will he tell his Cabinet colleagues that he thinks we need to have this information, instead of just asking for their permission? I have a big concern about Cabinet making a decision with respect to every little bit of information we ask for in this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: One thing I learned a long time ago is not to go in and tell Cabinet what they should do.
I said that I see no reason why they would not and I will request that, but that is all it means. I am certainly not going to go in and start telling Cabinet what to do. I have lived this long, and I intend to live a little longer.
Mrs. Firth: That just indicates how well the Cabinet Ministers are getting along.
One of the other Members wants to ask a question about the bridge.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just want to follow up on the proposal to have a bridge at Dawson across the Yukon River. I intend to ask about it more fully in the capital debate, but the fact is that, in the capital estimates, we have seen $400,000 put in for design work. Could I ask the Minister if he would provide me with the information available to date on what studies have been tendered and what has already been undertaken on this? We will look forward to having more complete information when we debate this in the capital estimates.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will see what information we can get on the bridge. To my knowledge, there is only one perception out there, and that regards the people in Vancouver, but I will see if there is any other information on it.
Mrs. Firth: The information that I have, for the benefit of the other Members of the House, is a copy of a conceptual study completed by UMA Engineering in 1989 for the Department of Community and Transportation Services and an economic study for a bridge that was carried out by DIAND in the 1970s, in relation to the Clinton Creek mine haul. I have that information. It is fairly sketchy and, as the other Member who has just spoken said, I look forward to having all this information provided to us when we have the debate on the capital budget, if the Minister would give us a commitment to do that.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we will try to get the information to them. At this time, I would like to say that the Cabinet gets along very well. It is also responsible, so that when money is spent, a good debate is expected to take place about where and how it is spent.
Mrs. Firth: Every time we hint that the Members opposite are not getting along, the Ministers stand up to say how well Cabinet is getting along. That is all right. I just find it rather humorous.
I want to get into some rather lengthy, detailed questions about revotes and special warrants. I have asked the deputy minister and the Minister to have with them their list of contracts. Before I ask the questions, I should extend the courtesy of asking if they are prepared to proceed with that particular information. I am specifically referring to the contracts from the contract list that is in the government contracts registry, April 1-November 30, 1994-95 and from the previous year as well.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have the contracts information here, but the Member will have to be patient as we go through them, if she is asking questions about different contracts.
Mrs. Firth: I will start with the questions about the revotes.
First of all, can the Minister tell us the policy with respect to revoting recoveries? Does his department revote recoveries and, if so, how can that be done?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not quite sure what the Member is looking for, and would ask that she provide an example of a revote that she is talking about.
Mrs. Firth: It comes into question with respect to multi-year contracts, such as the Shakwak project. Does that help the Minister? Can he provide me with an explanation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Member is talking about the Alaska Highway, we have a contract, and we have not used all of the money. The Americans have no objection to our revoting it in the next year.
Mrs. Firth: In the contract list for the first half of the current fiscal year - that is 1994-95 - there is over $16 million worth of construction projects alone identified that were contracted for in the 1993-94 fiscal year, and some of them prior to that. If the Minister looks, he can see the contract number at the top of the page that starts with a contract, entitled Klipperts Transfer Limited. By giving the names, I do not mean to identify a company; it is easier to follow by name than by number.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: For the Department of Community and Transportation Services,
fiscal year April 1 to November 30, at the top of the page the vendor's name is Klipperts
Transfer Limited. If one goes down the list, one sees that there is $16,327,000 million
worth of expenditures that were actually made in the current fiscal years. Can the
Minister tell me how these expenditures show up in the budget?
Mrs. Firth: I have added the first 24 or more contracts. How does the expenditure for all these items - previous contracts - show up in the budget? Was it included in the $60 million capital budget, approved last year; was it included in the $17 million supplementary budget we are currently discussing; is it in the $44,360,000 of capital expenditures for Community and Transportation Services in the Public Accounts for 1993-94?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Some of those contracts were awarded the year before and we just carried them forward on a revote. Some of the smaller contracts were absorbed into the department's budget in that section.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that some were revoted but in others the money just lapsed and went into the general revenue of that particular area of the department?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If they were large contracts, they would have to be revoted; if they were small, they just go back into general revenue.
Mrs. Firth: The concern is that the 24 construction contracts that were incomplete at the end of the last fiscal year were paid for in the current fiscal year. Can the Minister tell us why that would happen?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Those contracts we knew would be extra large and would carry on had some of the money been revoted into them for this year. Otherwise, they were last year's contracts.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to get a grasp of how the Department of Community and
Transportation Services does its budgeting. I will give an example: on the page I
mentioned, which starts with Klipperts Transfer, the second contract is for Pelly
Construction. That was a contracted amount over $5 million. The current year commitment is
$1.00, yet the current year expenditure is almost $15,000. Why is it like that in the
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Government Services current balance amount reflects pay outs of the holdbacks. This should not show up on the report. In 1994, a change order that reduced the contract value by $10,873.83 was approved. Holdback owed was $257,000 and there were 333 payments made to companies, totalling $148,858.17.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the concern is this: it appears that there has been an expenditure made for which there was not commitment. Accounting procedures require use of the commitment system. Yet, in this case, and others, I have questions about similar contracts. Perhaps the Minister and his deputy will sit at the break and look at all 24 of them. There is a similar concern about a contract for over $4.3 million for emulsified asphalt. It was signed in the 1993-94 fiscal year. There was no commitment made in 1994-95; however, there was an expenditure of $1.6 million made. I would like to have some explanation from the Minister with respect to just how the department is spending its money.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The contract rates she reports shows no commitment in the current year under CC93093006. This is a multiple-year contract. Community and Transportation Services opened a commitment under CC94093030 instead of under CC93093006. Committed opening was for $2,444,643.38. The amount paid on November 30 for the 1994-95 commitment is $2,308,653.00, leaving a balance of $135,939.41.
Chair: Is it the wish of Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will now read out the cost of the weigh scale. It is $1,001,000. Would the Members like to know how that breaks down?
For the building and scale pad, there is $352,000, paving is $196,000, earth work is $216,000, relocation of the pipeline is $13,000, the installation of street lights is $52,000, line painting is $2,000, survey and design materials is $149,000, equipment rental and supplies is $14,000 and office and furniture equipment is $7,000.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has not given me the cost of the building. What did it cost to build it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The building and scale pad are $352,000.
Mrs. Firth: The building and scale pad are $352,000. I do not know how much a scale pad costs, but I am more interested in the cost of the actual building. I understand that it is approximately 1400 square feet. To me and most Yukoners who drive by it, it looks like an average bungalow that someone would build. I am sure it did not cost $352,000 just to build the building.
I would like to know exactly what the building cost and why it was so expensive. It is not an elaborate structure, by any means, but I would like to know what the building costs were.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will separate the costs of the building and the scale pad.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that.
The relocation of the weigh scale was originally estimated at somewhere in the neighbourhood of $400,000. Can the Minister tell us why the cost has more than doubled?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Primarily, it is earthwork, relocating the pipeline, installing street lights and line painting.
Mrs. Firth: Was that not anticipated in the costs when the original plans were made?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When the original budget was made, we did not actually know where the weigh scale was going to be - whether toward the Kopper King or down where it is now.
Mrs. Firth: Again, it was not very good planning to go ahead with a project without the proper funding being allocated for it and with no functional plan done. Again, what is the Minister doing to see that this kind of thing does not happen again?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is the same thing. The functional plan was missed, and this will not happen again. The department will go through the three exercises.
Mrs. Firth: I am sure the Minister can appreciate my frustration as a Member of the House. For almost two years I have raised issues about this particular project. I came to the House and asked questions. The previous Minister kind of pooh-poohed it, told me everything was fine and that I was asking questions that were hysterical. I was being told, as I was continually raising questions on the project and the cost overruns, that everything was fine. We are now at the stage where the auditor is doing a project audit on it.
I know the Minister can appreciate my frustration with this and perhaps he could give
us some suggestions about how we, as Opposition Members, can get the Minister's attention
when we raise issues like this, so the Minister will go back to the department and examine
it instead of just coming back and saying everything is fine.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A year ago, we said the functional plan had missed. Rest assured that a bunch of truckers have my attention. We have asked questions, and we think the whole system will be improved.
Mrs. Firth: I know money was identified for redesign and construction for the Two Mile Hill and the South Access Road. All the money identified has been spent on the Two Mile Hill, and there is no money left for any redesign or reconstruction of the South Access Road.
Can the Minister tell us if his department has any plans to redesign the South Access Road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have the design completed, and we are now working with the city to see where their area starts. We will progress on it this year in this budget.
Mrs. Firth: On the design?
I know this road is in other Members' constituencies, and they also have questions about it. I am particularly interested in the projected costs of redesigning this road. The Minister says the design is done. Does he mean the conceptual design, or has a functional design also been done? What are we looking at with respect to cost?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will have to come back with that figure, as it is not in the budget for this year.
Mrs. Firth: The design work must have been paid for with either this supplementary budget or in the previous budget year. Which budget had the money for the design work?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The design work was done mostly in 1993-94. We can bring back the cost for the Member.
Mr. Penikett: As the Minister may know, I have asked questions about this project in previous budget debates in the life of this Legislature. I have expressed my concern about the condition of the road and the safety of this heavily travelled road, particularly on what I am sure Mr. Cormie would admit is an extremely poorly designed corner halfway down the road. I do not think the design would meet any contemporary standards.
I would note that this road is much more heavily travelled than many of the other roads that the government has been prepared to put money into. I understood perfectly the reasons the Minister gave for waiting until work on the Two Mile Hill was finished before starting work on the South Access Road. If the Minister has to get back in writing, that is fine; however, I would like to know exactly where we are on this project. The Minister has talked about some planning work being done, and the need to consult with the city about sharing costs. That is fine. This road was not mentioned in the throne speech, and there is no detailed discussion of it in the budget. I would like to know what the government's intentions are, because we are talking about a budget that begins April 1, 1995, and goes through until March 31, 1996, and this government will be out of office before long. I would like to know what its commitment is to the South Access Road.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The actual road is not in this budget, but there is $150,000 for the bad corner that the Member is talking about.
Mr. Penikett: Might I ask exactly what the Minister is planning to do to that corner for $150,000?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If we could get an agreement with the city, we would probably hold off until we do the whole project. If not, we will try to align that corner so that it is not so bad. I am not an engineer, so I do not really know what that involves. If the Member would like a detailed report, I will get it for him.
Mr. Penikett: I would really like to get a detailed description of exactly what the department is doing in writing for my constituents, because this is the road about which I get more questions than any other, for obvious reasons.
One of the issues that goes back to the days when I was in government - a difficult question - was the major issue of an intersection at the top of the South Access Road. The issue arose from the fact that, over time, YTG had sold the land on which the General Enterprises batch plant is on, and had also sold the land that Yukon Gardens is on, thereby making it difficult to do what a number of people, Mr. Cormie and I included, had talked about doing back in 1975-76, when Underwood-McLellan was first doing the overall plan for what we now call the Granger subdivision and the whole development on the west side of the Alaska Highway.
The original concept was that Hamilton Boulevard would be the major artery, run parallel to the Alaska Highway and come back down and connect in such a way that there would be a properly lighted and controlled intersection that would then go down the South Access Road into the city. So, there would be two routes into the city centre, but essentially there would be a circuit through the area that was originally planned for five neighbourhoods, five schools and one high school. The plans have changed since then, but that was the original concept.
I would like to know what the current thinking is in the department about that. How is
the department going to manage that project? Is the department going to wait to rebuild
the South Access Road until that planning decision is made, or is there a planning concept
already decided upon that takes the eventual development of - I do not even know what it
is called any more - the whole development on the west side of the Alaska Highway into
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is still a right-of-way through the area of Yukon Gardens. There is still the plan for Hamilton Boulevard. It just will not be this year.
Mr. Penikett: Surely the Minister is not saying that he plans to eventually build the road right through the middle of Yukon Gardens, is he?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I said that there is a right-of-way between Yukon Gardens and our highway, which would make room for Hamilton Boulevard to come down.
Mr. Penikett: I know the area the Minister is talking about and one could not exercise the government's right-of-way without destroying what is now Yukon Gardens. There was another problem, as I recall, and Mr. Cormie will understand this. At the back of Yukon Gardens is a very steep, rocky outcrop, which local climbers use. I think when planning permission was given, at some stage, to Yukon Gardens to develop or expand their property, it was clearly understood by many people that because of the nature of and the shape of that outcrop, it would be extremely difficult and expensive to build a road over that area. For that reason the original concept showed that a road would have to be moved south, perhaps to the existing Lobird Road. As a result, the South Access Road would also have to move further south so that there was an intersection across the road, if you like, on the Alaska Highway, not an awkwardly aligned connection between what would be Hamilton Boulevard and the South Access Road. Is that no longer the thinking in the department?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I understand that there is a right-of-way between Yukon Gardens and the campground. Can I get the Member a complete written outline of the project?
Mr. Penikett: I would appreciate that.
At the simplest level, if the Minister is talking about the right-of-way south of the Yukon Gardens property, that is also south of the present South Access Road - I go by it fairly frequently. My guess is that one would have to do a fairly major redesign of the top of the South Access Road, because if one comes up that road, the main entrance gate to Yukon Gardens is directly across from the highway. One would have to move the South Access Road south if one were going to connect it with that right-of-way. I believe I am correct.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am told that the gate to the Yukon Gardens is not on its land.
I will get the department to give the Member the complete information.
Mr. Penikett: I would appreciate that.
As I understand it, the Minister would be talking about a connection between Hamilton Boulevard and the South Access Road, which would have to jog a bit around the Yukon Gardens property, because my sense is that when one drives up the South Access Road and looks into the gate - I am sure that Mr. Cormie is correct and that the gate is not on private property, but on a highway right-of-way - immediately west of the gate is Yukon Gardens.
My guess is that a job has to be done. That is different from the original concept and I understand why. I am not arguing about that. All I really want to be satisfied about is that the nature and design of the intersection between those two roads has been thought through before we put a lot of money into rebuilding the South Access Road, which is something I want to see happen, of course.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think we all want to see it happen. I agree with that. At times, it is not a nice road to have to come down. We will get the Member a map showing our right-of-way through there, as well as any other information we have on it.
Mrs. Firth: I have just a few more questions about the South Access Road. The Minister has indicated there is no money for it in this budget, except for the $150,000, and he has also made some comments with respect to talking to the city about it. Obviously, it is not a priority for this capital budget, but could the Minister tell us when he anticipates that his government would consider this project? How high is it on their list of priorities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It will be considered in the next budget. We will have to see how the priorities are and how our negotiations with the city are going.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister elaborate a bit on the negotiations with the
city? Is it a jurisdictional question, or a responsibility question as to who is going to
pay? What is the decision to be made there?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Right now, its authority is right up to the Whitehorse sign on the corner. It does not have the money. We are trying to work out a deal so that we can do that and the city can take over some other projects inside the city limits.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister talks about the sign on the corner, does he mean at the highway intersection? Where is the Minister saying that the city's jurisdiction ends and YTG's begins?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is at the sign that has the population of Whitehorse noted on it.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is indicating to me that the city is saying that its responsibility for the South Access Road ends at the population sign that says "Welcome to the City of Whitehorse". There is a pull-out there, just past the Robert Service Campground. The rest of the South Access Road is YTG's responsibility. Does the Minister agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: What is the problem? I do not understand what the negotiations are all about or what is presenting a problem.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We want to do this job in conjunction with the city, which also does not have the money to start that project this year. We are trying to see how we can take over part of that.
Mrs. Firth: I am not quite clear about what the Minister is saying. Could he elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This is still in the talking stage. There has been nothing finalized, except for the fact that the city does not have the money to do this, and we are trying to find a way to help.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I can explain to the Minister what my concern is.
I know there has been some planning done with respect to another lane on the Robert Campbell bridge that ties into the turnoff for the South Access Road and traffic coming back into town, and upgrading the South Access Road to the population sign and then up to the highway.
I know there were plans done quite some time ago with respect to those transportation routes and the possible changes to them. Is this work being done in a coordinated fashion? We have heard the comments made by the city with respect to the Robert Campbell bridge. It is considering spending something like $1.8 million on changing it. What happens with the South Access Road intersection and the Second Avenue intersection?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is in the city's plans and we are trying to coordinate the whole thing between the two of us so it all joins in together at the end.
Mrs. Firth: So the department is trying to coordinate the city's future plans with respect to changing that intersection and its portion of what could be considered the South Access approach, or however they refer to it.
The decision has been made with respect to the Robert Campbell bridge. Was that decision made in isolation of the plans for the rest of that transportation route?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We would just come down to Fourth Avenue.
The bridge part of the decision was made in 1993, and we will try to coordinate that in if the city goes ahead with the bridge.
Mrs. Firth: I understood the city was going to go ahead with the bridge. I see
both the deputy minister and the Minister holding their hands up in a gesture that means
they do not know. Is YTG making a commitment to the city to provide the funding for the
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In all fairness to the city council, the members were only elected in October. It is a new council, and we are working with it, but the members have not been there long enough to make some of these decisions. We still have the $500,000 available for the city if it decides to go ahead with the bridge design.
Mrs. Firth: I am not criticizing the city council. I simply recall having read an article in the paper, which stated that the city was probably going to be going ahead with the bridge reconstruction, or renovation, or third lane. Unless I read the article wrong, I thought it had made that decision based on the fact that YTG was going to supply the money for the project.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No one told us that. My understanding is that there is $500,000, which is our share.
Mrs. Firth: All YTG is prepared to commit to the bridge upgrade is $500,000? The Minister is nodding, indicating yes. Is that a construction project planned for this year for the city?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The city has not told us anything about it.
Mrs. Firth: I am not trying to confuse the Minister. I am just trying to find out how all this is going to tie in. The last time I examined it, it was all supposed to be coordinated, including the hospital turn-off. It is a major transportation link and there were plans in the works for the whole process. I am just trying to see what stage the department and the government is at with respect to tying in the road system and making changes. Has the Minister's department any figures about what that whole change could cost? I am talking about the bridge, combined with the turn-off to the South Access Road and the South Access Road itself.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The only figures we have are the ones we have on our section. I believe the city has some figures on the other section, but we have not committed ourselves to any more than $500,000 on the bridge. Do you want our figures? We will have to get them for you.
Ms. Moorcroft: The upgrading of the South Access Road is an issue that I have asked about in previous years. I am interested in it for the upcoming budget debate as well. I would like to ask the Minister to bring back some information about what they are actually planning to accomplish in the next year. There are a lot of safety considerations there. The Minister has just been talking about the potential upgrading of the bridge and the intersection at the South Access Road. If the visitor reception centre is built on the Motorways property, there is going to be a significant traffic problem at that intersection. I would like to see some information coming back to us before we go into the capital debate on the whole plan regarding the South Access Road and that traffic area.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are not responsible for that part of the roadway; it is the city's responsibility.
Ms. Moorcroft: This is just one small example that illustrates the problem of a government that does not recognize the validity of planning. This government is responsible, it seems, for making the decision to put a tourist information centre on that route that brings additional traffic to the area. The government is going to have to work with the city on the problem, and it is going to have to come back with some answers.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will bring the Member a complete breakdown of our plans.
Mrs. Firth: I want to go back to the discussion I was having with the Minister before the break with respect to the contracts. We were dealing with the issue of revotes.
In looking at the purple contract book - which has been tabled and is dated April 1 to November 30, 1994-95 - and comparing it to last year, I understand there has been a change in the way Government Services is presenting the information. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, there has been. Government Services changed it. The revote is the holdback that we put in the original budget. When the job is finished, the money is put in a different column in the new contract book.
Mrs. Firth: I will have to take that issue up with the Minister of Government Services. I want to know from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services if that department is going to make a representation to Government Services with respect to the way this information is presented. The research staff in my office has found a lot of questions with respect to the contracts, perhaps partly because of the way in which the information has been presented. This is particularly true with the principle of revotes. I also have some further questions about change orders.
Perhaps I will let the Minister answer that, and then I will proceed with some of the other concerns.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will be talking to Government Services on the way it deals with holdbacks.
Mrs. Firth: I have some concerns about changing contracts. I noticed that some contracts in one year were predicted to cost $1 million, and in the subsequent year the value of the contract doubled. Is this just through change orders? What is the department's policy with respect to change orders? How many change orders and how sizeable do they need to be before the job is retendered? Have they already been retendering them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We try to keep the change orders down as much as possible because they cost us more, but sometimes, no matter how well one plans, soft ground has to be moved and replaced with other ground. This requires a change order, and can sometimes cost quite a bit of money.
Mrs. Firth: I guess that is part of the concern. For example, for the emulsified asphalt in various locations, the contract was signed in May 1993, with a completion date of September 1993. The original contract appears to have been about $2.3 million. About $1.9 million was spent in 1993, leaving a balance of less than $400,000. Yet, in the 1994-95 contract book, the contract is listed at being increased to about $4,315,241. To me, that looks like it has almost doubled. Is that a result of change orders or is there another explanation for that discrepancy in the contracts?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This is a multi-year contract. The Department of Community and Transportation Services opened a commitment under CCD9409303 instead of under CCD3093006. The commitment opened was for $2,444,643.38. The amount paid at November 30 of the 1994-95 commitment is $2,308,653.97, leaving a balance committed of $135,989.41.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that a new contract was issued or is it an extension of the old one and, therefore, would be change orders?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it is a multi-year contract, which means it can go over a two-year period.
Mrs. Firth: If the contract was originally tendered as a multi-year contract, but was originally only for $2 million or so, how can it go up to $4 million or so?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Would the Member like us to get her the whole contract, so that she can go through the whole thing?
Mrs. Firth: The original contract was about $2.3 million, even if it was multi-year. The new contract in the book now says $4.3 million. I just want to know how a $2.3 million contract could have jumped that much by the next year.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will get that information for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to getting that information.
I want to ask some questions about special warrants, but, if Members wish, I will leave it until after the break, in light of the time.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to recess until 7:30 p.m.?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Ms. Moorcroft: I wonder if the Minister has any papers or information for us that we had requested before the break. If he does not, I will go on to some other questions.
The land inventory year-end totals that have been presented to us, along with the breakdown of current lots by community and type and, also, the land availability in the City of Whitehorse are the information sheets that I am looking at right now. I wonder if the land inventory is in acres or hectares.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I suspect that, since the government drew them up, they are in hectares. I will check that. In most cases, they are in hectares, but, once in awhile, I notice that the department uses acres.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is interesting to note that the raw land has remained at 79. That is the figure that is given from 1990 through to 1994-95. The amount of land in the work-in-progress category has changed, as has the finished land. Unless the Minister corrects that, I will take it that the measurements are in hectares.
Have there been any block land transfers in the current year from the federal government to the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, there have been some small ones.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was it agricultural land or residential land or cottage lots? Can the Minister provide some information on how much land was transferred and where it was?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It has been a miscellaneous group. For instance, I know of some land in Haines Junction and other areas. I will bring back a list of exactly what it was - agricultural, residential, commercial or whatever.
Ms. Moorcroft: Have there been any requests for block land transfers that have not been dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Between the federal and the territorial governments, it takes some time to get these transferred over.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am aware that it takes some time. That is why I am asking how
much land has been applied for and how much land has been received and what the status of
the ongoing requests are. I understand that the Minister is going to come back with that
information. Have there been any municipal land transfers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Nothing substantial at all.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister if he could bring back a breakdown of the municipal funding for us before we get to the lines.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I can.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to move on to another area and ask some questions regarding airports and aviation management in the Yukon. First of all, I would like to say that the document that the Minister provided to us on January 11 has been quite useful in giving an introduction, indicating what is presently the responsibility of the Yukon government and what remains the responsibility of the federal government. Nonetheless, there are a number of questions about the status of negotiations about airports. Generally, Transport Canada is trying to privatize and cut costs. The information we have before us is that the Minister has been given the authorization to negotiate a transfer of airports. I would like to ask the Minister to give us some details of what his mandate is and how he is exercising it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are actually just negotiating for the Watson Lake airport and the Whitehorse airport. Although my department is involved in the negotiations, the agreement will have to be cleared by Cabinet before it is accepted.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us who is involved in the negotiations and how often they meet? People are worried that there will not be any money for airports if the negotiations do not proceed quickly.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Tim McTiernan and Mr. Marc Tremblay are the two who are negotiating for us. The federal government has told us that they will keep the funding at its present level until we negotiate.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me who is involved in the negotiations and how often they meet?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I thought I answered that; Mr. Tim McTiernan and Mr. Marc Tremblay are the two who are negotiating it for us. It is an ongoing process. I do not know if they have certain days for meetings. I think it goes on most of the time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Do they have a target completion date in mind?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: April 1, 1996, would be the earliest date.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister expect that the federal government is going to have the same level of funding in its budget to support the airports as exists at present?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They have told us that they will not change the budget unless they talk to us first. My experience with the forestry devolution is, quite frankly, that I am not very optimistic.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is something we can agree on - not being optimistic about the federal budget.
The community aerodrome radio station service, the CARS system, is in place at several
airports in the Yukon and some of them are seasonal. That is presently under Transport
Canada control, but the Yukon government administers it. The Yukon government and
Transport Canada signed an agreement in April last year for the Yukon to negotiate greater
local control of the CARS program. Can the Minister tell me how long that agreement is in
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is an agreement for us to take over more control of the airports. It has not progressed very far.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is that agreement going to remain in effect until the April 1996 date the Minister just gave us?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Actually, they are different things. We take over the airports but not CARS, which is still under the federal government, and there is no agreed upon deadline for this.
Ms. Moorcroft: The CARS program is under Transport Canada control, but I understand the Yukon government is administering it. According to the summary we have been given, the Yukon is negotiating for greater local control of the CARS program. This would mean that some of the concerns we have heard about - losing jobs in Mayo and Watson Lake and maintaining the positions at other community airports - are ones that will be dealt with in those negotiations.
Can the Minister give us more details of the agreement that was signed so that the Yukon could negotiate greater local control of the CARS program? What does it say?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are still seeing little progress on it. The federal government wants to put an automatic weather observation system in. As Members know, there are objections from quite a few areas about this. I suppose we just have to keep going, hoping that we can hold them until the AWOS proves that it will work. However, I must point out that it is their funding, not ours. If they cut it off, we will have problems with the people who are working there.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the agreement that the Yukon government is signatory to, between the Yukon government and Transport Canada, stay in effect until the negotiations for devolution are complete?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have individual agreements for the CARS at the airports. This will carry on until an agreement is reached.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister some questions about what is happening in Watson Lake. The automatic weather observation system is set up there. Transport Canada, since then, put a moratorium on the installation of new AWOS stations, until they corrected some of the errors that the system had.
Last summer, there were some CARS employees at the Watson Lake airport. What is presently happening? Is it now simply the AWOS in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes. We only had the agreement for three months for a CARS at Watson Lake.
Ms. Moorcroft: One of the issues that the public is concerned about in terms of
the safety of air travel is whether or not the territorial government plans to change the
way services are delivered once the Yukon government is operating the airports. Does the
Yukon government plan to change the way services are delivered when it controls airports?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Once again, things are being mixed up. CARS does not come over when the airport is transferred. That system belongs to Transport Canada, and it has not made, nor are they interested in making, an agreement. All we are taking over are the airports. That does not include the weather stations or anything else. Those things will remain with the federal government.
Ms. Moorcroft: The airports and the airport transfer does include lands, facilities, and equipment. So, the Yukon government is presently operating airports, including airfield maintenance, building and property management, airport planning and development, and so on. The question I would like the Minister to answer is whether the Yukon government intends to change the way those services are delivered.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will not actually know until negotiations are finished, but we do not have any plans to make major changes.
Mr. Harding: I have some questions for the Minister in general debate. The issue involves home owners grants and, specifically, home owners grants for people in my riding who have entered into, at various times, rental/option-to-purchase agreements - or, we often call them rental/purchase or rent-to-own agreements - with Faro Real Estate. I want to go through a bit of the history with the Minister concerning this particular issue, so that we are clear, because I really do want to come to some resolution of this issue. Earlier in the session, I tried in Question Period, but it is not an appropriate forum for dealing with a complex issue such as this. I hope that in Committee of the Whole we can come to some understanding that is going to benefit my constituents.
The issue of home owners grants to Faro residents on rental/purchase agreements came up in the Legislature. The first recollection that I could find of it is in 1987. At one point, I provided the Minister with quotes from Hansard. The questions were asked by the former MLA or the former Minister of Department of Community and Transportation Services. An important quote, from April 16, 1987, should be read into the record. In answer to a question about whether or not the rental/ purchase owners would be eligible for the home owners grant, he said, "If the agreements are changed to agreements for sale, then we can undertake to review the situation. When the renters in Faro become home owners, even in a technical sense, then they will be eligible under the act."
At that time, the people in Faro were not being given home owners grants. I believe that that was perhaps not the correct decision at that time, and I would strongly argue with the Minister that the policy was continued by the department in the early stages of the new government's mandate as well. The issue resurfaced after I had communication with the government concerning the home owners grant with the previous Minister responsible for it. I received some responses and spoke to a few of my constituents about it. They made application to the government for a home owners grant in 1994, as some of them had been doing for awhile. They argued - I believe quite legitimately - that they had entered into a purchase agreement, which made them owners. It was recognized by banks and insurance companies that there had been a form of a sale, that there had been a purchase agreement, and that they did have equity in their homes. They had also been named as defendants in a case between the Yukon Housing Corporation and Faro Real Estate that dealt with a foreclosure action as defendants and home owners, in that particular case.
On that basis they argued - and a few other details that are not unimportant but I think the crux of the issue surrounds those particular areas - that they should be eligible for home owners grants, and these home owners grants should be retroactive. Many people in Faro, based on earlier advice, have essentially given up trying to apply for these grants each year because of the comments made in 1987 and comments that were made by the new government prior to this Minister taking over the portfolio. They had not submitted these claims each year. They were well aware of what went on in the Legislature back in 1987, and a lot of them are aware that there had been some confirmation of the previous government's policy and that it would be undertaken by this government.
Subsequently, as I stated before, some of my constituents applied for this fiscal year. On October 25, one of my constituents who had applied for a home owners grant for the 1994 year received a letter from the property assessment and taxation manager. He said in a letter to my constituents, which is dated October 24, 1994, and received by me on October 25, "I wish to convey that we have confirmed that you entered into a purchase agreement with Faro Real Estate in 1986." To me, that indicates that there was a purchase arrangement. That means that they are home owners. This was confirmed by the department on the date of October 25, and subsequently, this constituent has been paid the home owners grant and two others whom I know of have been paid a home owners grant.
Now when I brought this up in Question Period, the Minister said that - we got into a typical Question Period discussion on this issue - he would respond to me in a more detailed manner. On January 11, I received the legislative return from the Minister in response to my question surrounding this particular issue that said, and I will read the answer into the record for the benefit of the Minister and for my constituents who may read this. "The policy, as stated in the letter from the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, dated January 3, 1995, remains unchanged. If the 'option to purchase clause' of the rental/purchase agreement with Faro Real Estate is exercised, the option E qualifies for the home owners grant."
Home owners grants were issued only to those optionees who applied for the grant after the department had confirmed with Faro Real Estate that the option to purchase had been exercised.
There are two issues here. One is a separate issue from the other, obviously. The first issue is that, on October 24, the department said that a purchase agreement was recognized in 1986. Nothing in terms of their agreement has changed for these three people, who were paid out the grant this year. There has been no acceptance of the option-to-purchase clause; there has been no exercising of any option to purchase. They are simply making the payments as they were before. On October 24, the department indicated that that purchase relationship was established back in 1986, and we still have the status quo with that same agreement, yet the home owners grant was paid out on that agreement. Of the three I am aware of, no option to purchase has been exercised by any of the people who applied and were granted the home owners grant for this particular year.
So, we have a conflicting response in my mind from the Minister. One letter from the department, if not from the Minister, says that the purchase agreement was recognized in 1986; the other says that the reason these people were paid was because the option-to-purchase clause was exercised. In my research with my constituents, I found that it does not look like the clause has been exercised. I am hoping the Minister will be able to work this out with me. Does he have any response to the comments I made?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have to ask Faro Real Estate if they have purchase
agreements signed. They are then entitled to a home owners grant, but I must point out
that it has to be filled out by a certain date each month, and it is not retroactive. If
they paid these out and the purchase agreement did not go through, then we either made a
mistake or Faro Real Estate did not give us the right information.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said they would check with Faro Real Estate to see if purchase agreements had been signed. That is the difference.
There is a difference between a purchase agreement, which is what they entered into in 1986, and the exercising of an option to purchase, which is when the final payment is made and the title is officially cleared, as I understand it. It is almost the same as when one makes the final mortgage payment at a bank, thereby clearing a lien.
There is a difference between a purchase agreement being signed and an option to purchase. In this case, the constituents signed purchase agreements some time ago. They have not exercised the option to purchase, which was determined to be the criteria, according to the legislative return I was given. So, in saying they had signed purchase agreements, Faro Real Estate was correct. The question is whether that is good enough for the government, considering this letter stated it was good enough for the department.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That situation is not good enough now, and it was not good enough in 1986.
Mr. Harding: I have stated, with no reservation, that both the previous government and this government have made an error in judgment on this issue. The people who have entered into these agreements are home owners and should be entitled to the grant.
What is the actual position of the government? If it is negative, as the Minister just indicated, why is that? Obviously the department felt, on October 24, when a letter was sent to my constituents that the purchase agreement was entered into in 1986, and they were therefore eligible for the home owners grant. Subsequently, three constituents I am aware of were paid the home owners grant, and none of them have exercised an option to purchase.
I wonder if there can be a further commitment by the government to honour home owners grants, with the recognition that they are purchase agreements.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said, it was apparently done in error. We rely on Faro Real Estate. Somewhere along the line, one of us made an error.
Mr. Harding: Is it the policy of the government to recognize the rental/purchase agreements as purchase agreements when they are signed, or is it only when the final option-to-purchase clause is exercised that they are eligible?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is exactly the same policy as the previous government's policy. There has to be an option to purchase.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is saying that Faro Real Estate gave the government incorrect information and informed him that the option-to-purchase clause had been exercised by these three constituents and that that is why they were paid the home owners grant. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is our impression. However, it may have been the fault of the department. Someone may have misunderstood something.
Mr. Harding: Why did the Minister's department issue a letter to my constituents saying that they were correct in their application in 1994, and confirmed that they had entered into a purchase agreement with Faro Real Estate in 1986, and that that was the justification for the home owners grant being made?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It was because they thought that Faro Real Estate had informed them that the option to purchase was there.
Mr. Harding: The Minister will understand that the option to purchase could not have taken place in 1986. That was the year that the purchase agreement was entered into. This letter clearly states that the government, as justification for issuing a home owners grant, was concerned with a purchase agreement, but not an option to purchase. The people buying the house could not have exercised an option to purchase in the year that they bought the house - at least, it would be highly unlikely. So, there is a distinct difference between the initial payment of the grant and the justification for it by the department and the policy of the government now that there has to be an option to purchase. Does the Minister see that the reference in the department's letter of October 24 confuses this somewhat?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, it does confuse things, and it mostly confuses me. I have been advised that it has to be an option to purchase and that this has to be given to us by Faro Real Estate.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister aware of the letter of October 24 to which I am referring? After Question Period, did he receive a briefing on the letter from the department and the people from the property assessment and taxation branch? When I brought the matter up in Question Period, the Minister said that he was not aware of this particular letter to my constituent.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: What was returned to me was a legislative return, which I then tabled.
Mr. Harding: This is only supplementary debate, so could I suggest that, if I give the Minister the legislative return and a copy of the letter to my constituent, he could re-evaluate the point I am arguing? We have not even touched the retroactive issue. If the Minister could again evaluate it, perhaps we could try to clear up what I believe to be a legitimate argument by my constituents and come to some understanding on it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We can go over it again but, as I said, somebody made a mistake somewhere along the line. Who it was, I do not know.
Mr. Harding: Let me just make a plea for some flexibility by the government. I
have no problem saying that I did not agree with the previous government's position on
this. I believe the people who were on these arrangements in Faro are home owners; there
is a lot of evidence that says they are legitimately so. I have copies of letters from
three of my constituents, written to the Department of Community and Transportation
Services, and they make some pretty solid arguments that they should be entitled to the
home owners grant. They do pay taxes, they do get recognition for their equity by
insurance companies, they have been named in a lawsuit by the Yukon Housing Corporation as
defendants, along with Faro Real Estate, in the housing issue, and they also are
responsible for all the upkeep of the houses. If there are any capital improvements or
repairs required - anything ranging from a roof to a new furnace - they are responsible. A
lot of them have done a lot of work on their homes, so I really believe they are home
owners. I always have, and I appeal to the Minister, on the basis of this information and
what was apparently an initiative by the department, to revisit this and if possible adopt
a new policy to address it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is not policy; it is legislation. I am not prepared to bring the legislation in and change it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister some questions regarding the Golden Horn area development regulations. They were recently amended to prohibit open burning of waste materials on industrial or commercially zoned land in the area. The Minister will be aware of this situation and of the concern that formerly existed, that the current wording of the regulation before this particular amendment lent itself to potential problems with successful enforceability. I would like to ask the Minister whether he has satisfied himself that there are no concerns about enforceability now.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are always concerns about enforceability, but we think that it is enforceable as it exists now.
Ms. Moorcroft: The legislative return that I received also indicated that it has been decided that offences against the prohibition of burning will not be ticketable offences under the Summary Convictions Act. Can I ask the Minister why the decision was made not to make it a ticketable offence?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department felt that the inspectors who check on this should not be in the business of enforcement. They report the offences, which are then dealt with by enforcement agencies.
Ms. Moorcroft: What are the enforcement agencies?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is just not a typical enforcement, but once the report is in, then it is enforced by the government.
Ms. Moorcroft: The order-in-council also provides that the burning of waste material is prohibited except in an incinerator or similar apparatus approved by the fire marshall appointed under the Fire Prevention Act. I would like to ask the Minister what guidelines the fire marshall would use. What legislative authority is there for determining what kind of an apparatus would be appropriate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am told, by people who know more about it than I, that the new incinerators are almost completely smokeless and that they will not emit a great deal of smoke at any time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I suppose there is some reassurance in knowing that there are effective incinerators on the market; however, what I would like the Minister to tell me is what guidelines, statutes or regulations govern the use of incinerators? Somebody could get a little Yukon stove and say, "This is my incinerator," and put things in and have the smoke coming straight out, unless there are regulations that the Minister can clarify.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Section 21(1) says, "No person shall burn waste material on any lot that is zoned either C-commercial or I-industrial, except in an incinerator or a small apparatus approved by the fire marshall appointed under the Fire Prevention Act." I might add that it would be under the Environment Act, too.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has any work been done on bringing forward regulations under the Environment
Act that would govern the burning of waste material and incineration?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is under Renewable Resources but their schedule for that is one of the schedules that they are looking at right now.
Ms. Moorcroft: It seems that this Minister has left his old portfolio behind with the transfer of all the various branches from Renewable to Community and Transportation Services, and vice versa. When we start getting close to some answers, we end up having to save debate for another department.
There have been questions raised here about the Campbell Highway and about the Tuchitua camp and its closure. With the Faro mine reopened, there is a lot more traffic on that road, and people in the community and people involved in the transport of goods have been saying that now would be the time to reopen that camp. Can I ask the Minister for his thoughts on that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have been down there and I have talked with people in Watson Lake and others who are using the road, and they tell me that the road is quite passable. We have extra staff on it. Ross River and Watson Lake staff do it. We have two trappers in the area who radio in in the morning about the weather conditions. I have not, as of today, had any complaints at all from anyone.
Mr. Harding: The Minister certainly has had complaints. I know they were filed through the MLA. I know that, if the Minister had read some of the letters and heard some of the concerns that were supposed to have been raised by the Member for Watson Lake, which were raised by his constituents, he would have heard some complaints about the closure of Tuchitua camp. I distinctly remember an article in a local newspaper. I also heard complaints from some native people in Ross River when I was there. I heard some complaints from people in Watson Lake when I was there. I heard complaints even in Teslin when I was there on the education community tour. There were widespread concerns raised with me. I raised the concerns with the Minister and I know that at least one member of the public raised concerns in the media.
The concern I have is twofold. We have the mine reopening, and we have a considerable increase in traffic on that highway, which creates a need for a solid level of maintenance.
I believe there is a serious safety issue involved. I know the people at the Tuchitua camp were critical to maintaining the road and, many times, they contributed to the safety with their constant patrol and work on the highway. Several of my friends have been helped, and possibly had their lives saved, by the folks working from the Tuchitua camp in the nine short years I have been in the Yukon.
While the talking signs are a precaution, they are not going to do much for the travelling public on that highway. If they live in Ross River or Faro, they have to go down the highway, whether it is -20, -30 or -40. Having people at the Tuchitua camp provided good road conditions and a safety comfort factor. That is now gone.
I have talked with truckers who haul to the Faro mine. They do not travel that road any more because of blowing snow and poor road conditions. They go the long way into Whitehorse, then up to Carmacks, then to Faro, which creates an added cost and a longer trip. They were not too thrilled about it.
I believe it is not a prudent decision on the part of the government, and I have stated that unequivocally to the Minister in the past. This decision was made at a time when the government did not know whether the mine was going to open. We now have upward of 240 people working at the mine, with people in and out and an increased level of traffic on that highway, and the decision to close the highway demands a second look.
I heard the argument that there were extra people put on the Ross River and Watson Lake ends. I have also heard it said by people who live in Ross River that they do not see how that could possibly have taken place.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to take a second look, given that there is increased traffic in the area compared to when the decision was made.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I am not. I have made a trip there. There is very little snow in that area this year. The superintendent goes down there quite often. There may be a bit more traffic, but it is only about 25 or 30 cars. It is very hard to justify spending all that money because of a few more cars.
Mr. Harding: First of all, the Minister made one trip down that highway. It may have been a nice day. There are a lot of days in the Finlayson belt when there is a lot of blowing snow. While I commend him for making one trip down the highway, I do not think that qualified him to be the final judge.
The Minister should talk to the citizens in the area. There has been some concern raised. We even discussed it with the municipal council in Watson Lake while we were there. They felt that the Tuchitua camp should be reopened. The people we talked to in Ross River felt the same way. We met with the chief and some of the councillors; they agreed. We talked to some people from the school, who had unexpectedly brought it up with us, because they had heard some concerns about it on the radio. They thought it was a solid criticism to close the road.
There were no firm, hard positions taken by anyone, except for a couple of angry people, but there was a lot of concern. I think that is probably the appropriate reaction to the decision.
My worry is that, while the superintendent may make some trips down there, the fact is that the road is closed and the conditions have become so poor, according to some truckers I have talked to, that they do not even use the road any more.
All Yukoners believe that the ton of money that is granted to the territory for
services and infrastructure is given the basis that all of our highways will get a certain
level of service, and that all Yukoners, at least in principle, can expect that they can
travel on the highways - even from Faro to Watson Lake, and back. They expect that the
highways will be maintained at a reasonable level and have a reasonable level of safety.
The Tuchitua camp decision takes away from that. I think that the evidence, aside from the Minister's and superintendent's trips down the highway - incidentally, the department has obviously argued vehemently in favour of this, so I would, at this point, question their objectivity on this particular issue - points to the fact that the public is indeed much in favour of the Tuchitua road camp being opened. On that basis, I would, once again, argue that the Minister should take a second look at it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I agree that when it was first closed there was quite a bit of concern. However, it has been working this way for three months. As I said, I have not really had any complaints from people coming up or down that road in the last two to three months.
Mr. Harding: It is unfortunate that it is going to take some sort of serious accident to occur on that highway. I will make this prediction: if someone is seriously injured on that highway, things are going to happen really quickly. It is unfortunate that it is going to take that kind of very serious representation from people before this Minister will act. I do not think that the Minister realizes just how dangerous this highway can be in the wintertime. It can be quite treacherous, and does take a considerable level of maintenance to keep it in passable condition. Even with that, there is a safety factor involved with the Tuchitua people working on the highway between Ross River and Watson Lake that provides a level of safety comfort. It is unfortunate that the Minister needs a big push from the public before he acts, even though they made their concerns known.
It is funny, but I raised this issue at a meeting with council in Faro. They told me that I should not get too excited about it, because this camp just had to be opened now. I asked them why they thought that was. One of the councillors stated that the mine had reopened, so there would be no argument. The government was going to see that there is increased traffic and more trucks, and would reopen it.
I said I hoped they were right but it unfortunately looks like I was not right, and the Minister is once again obviously digging in his heels. I would just say that it is unfortunate, but if something bad happens on that road, I will be holding the Minister accountable for this decision.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We do not just walk out and abandon anything. There are people on that road every day, watching and checking. As I said, we have two people in different areas on the road who radio weather reports and so on to Watson Lake every morning, and we have done a number of things to make it more feasible.
Mr. Harding: I question what the Minister has done. A couple of people registering weather reports, while a safety precaution, is hardly the level of comfort and road maintenance that was provided by the Tuchitua camp. There were talking signs put up, but I will say again that a talking sign does not really help someone who has to travel that road, period. If they have to do it, they have to do it.
While they are precautions, they do not take away from the key issues here, which are quality of maintenance and safety of the people travelling the road. I would still submit to the Minister, even based on his arguments, that I think it is an errant decision on the part of the department and the Minister, and I hope he will reconsider and change it before something does happen there.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me when he will have the information he had promised regarding the Hootalinqua planning exercise?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Member means the information on the survey we did, she
will receive it as soon as we can get it published. We have it in draft form and are now
putting them into regular publications, and these should be out very shortly.
I thought that it was a little further along than that, because the Minister was responding to questions I had asked him last week about the decisions made regarding lot size. I gather that the surveys are all in, have gone to Cabinet and decisions have been made. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, the survey is going out to everybody. It was answered by about 97 percent of the people - that is for the Hot Springs and Pilot Mountain areas. It does not include the other areas.
Ms. Moorcroft: The point is that decisions have been made and the surveys have been examined. I see the Minister is nodding his head.
I have spoken to residents who went to the meetings and were involved in the process, and they have been told several times that the government wanted to take direction from the residents. The question they had was whether the policy of the government was to find a general consensus and then take it to government. Who has the final say? Is it Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If we change the regulations, that would involve the Cabinet. If we proceed with the briefing from the reports they gave us, then we can go through with it, because they are fairly solid about what they want.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure that the regulations will cover more than the minimum lot size. What questions were asked on the survey, and what issues were brought forward to the residents for their input and participation in the decisions?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will give that when we file the questionnaire.
Ms. Moorcroft: There have been questions raised during this discussion about the future rezoning of lot 608. The Minister may be aware that that is the lot at the Mayo Road and Hot Springs Road junction. It has been a rural-residential property, but it has a number of cabins on it. One of the issues that was discussed during the zoning review was whether or not the area would be rezoned to commercial.
What is the decision on that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: On the basis of the vote in that area and in the Hootalinqua plan, it will be partly commercial and partly residential.
Ms. Moorcroft: How many acres of land will be zoned commercial?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not quite sure. I will bring that back for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said the decision made to approve commercial rezoning was based on input from the residents. Were the residents specifically asked if they approved of commercial zoning in that area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, they were.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister seemed to remember the figure for how many residents wanted 15-acre parcels as the minimum lot size. Can he tell me what percentage of residents supported the commercial zoning?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will bring that back tomorrow, too.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have some information on the Gerbers subdivision No. 608. The property is 12.78 hectares, or 31.9 acres. Since 1987, they have been trying to conform to regulations. The count was 54 percent in favour of proposed commercial uses, 28 percent in favour of proposed commercial uses except for tourist accommodation, 12 percent opposed to rezoning and six percent with no opinion. It is broken into 10.78 hectares for multiple rural residential, and two hectares for general commercial.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was the question about whether or not the residents were in favour of the multiple rural residential dealt with on the survey? The residents with whom I have spoken had information about the survey they were given regarding the minimum lot size, but they indicated there were a number of concerns about the commercial zoning, and particularly about the multiple rural residential. There are 17 cabins there now and the proposal was for it to increase to 25. I got the sense that it was not universally popular. Can the Minister give me some information about how that decision was arrived at and who was involved in it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Before the break, there was some discussion and debate about the Campbell Highway, from Watson Lake to Faro. During the break, I phoned a friend of mine in Watson Lake who is a trucker and runs trucks on that road. He said that the road this year is as good or better than it has ever been in the past. He cited a trip that he made yesterday, and said that it took him four hours and 40 minutes to travel from Watson Lake to Faro, and five hours to return with a load. He was driving a tandem cab-over with a 45-foot van. I told him that there have been comments made that people are not using that road. This same man also owns two service stations in Watson Lake, and he said that he has never heard that comment.
Mr. McDonald: If it is really helpful, maybe we can phone somebody in Ross River and somebody in Watson Lake and trade anecdotes with the Minister of Renewable Resources.
I have a couple of questions I would like to ask. They are basic information questions that the Minister might like to answer on his feet or, if he has the information somewhere else, perhaps he can get back to us. I am interested in the number of highway construction projects for this past year that went to companies with a local main office in the Yukon. If he can give us a list of who got the road construction contracts over $25,000, that would be helpful. Can he do that for us - today, tomorrow or whenever?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we can do that. We can get it to him probably tomorrow.
If the Member has a question, he may go ahead, and then I will answer the Member for
There was a question about multiple residential. Forty-eight percent were in favour of existing and proposed multiple rural residential, 17 percent were in favour of existing residential use only, 20 percent opposed any rezoning and 15 percent had no opinion.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the present multiple rural residential housing meet the zoning and the code?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They would not have met the previous code, but they will meet it under the new regulations.
Ms. Moorcroft: Do the housing, sewage disposal and garbage waste practices meet the code?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Our coding deals with electrical, plumbing, sewage and the buildings. I suppose we have to face the catch-22 situation. We have tried, since 1987, to get it done. The majority seemed to want it. Also, the committee at the Hot Springs were well aware of what was going on. They had no objections to it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I can only say what I have heard. There are some very serious concerns about the zoning-regulation process and about the surveys that have been conducted. Since the Minister has not provided me with any information about what was sent to the residents or what was returned, I cannot really comment any further, other than to pass on those expressions of concern. It is felt that
a number of the currently occupied residences would not meet the building code.
There are a lot of other concerns that I expect the Minister is aware of, since they have been brought to my attention. I am certain they have been brought to the Minister's attention as well. As I have said, until there is more information available, I cannot really debate it further with the Minister. I will ask him to bring forward the regulations and the survey information when he can.
I would like to ask the Minister some questions regarding the Canada/Yukon infrastructure project. Earlier this fall, there was an announcement made about the funding for five projects that were approved. It is for $4 million, and they are generally equally funded by the federal and territorial governments. In some cases, there is municipal government involvement.
The deadline for submission for proposals for the 1995 fiscal year is January 31. I know from asking in Question Period about the Canada/Yukon infrastructure funding for the information highway, as it is called, that the Minister will defer those questions to Economic Development, so I will not ask him about that, but I would like to ask him if he knows how many people have applied for the 1995-96 fiscal year funding for the Canada/Yukon infrastructure works program - how many communities have applied, if the Minister knows and for what kinds of programs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We know there are four or five. We do not have details of what they are yet because they are still with the committee. That will be made public as soon as it goes through the committee.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know whether or not the program will run next year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, it runs through 1995-96.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know if the program will run out after that or if it is planned to continue?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As far as we know, 1995-96 will be it, unless the federal government decides to extend it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Minister considered asking the federal government to extend the deadline for submissions, if only four or five proposals have been received to date?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is what we are doing right now. We are waiting to see exactly how many proposals come in by the due date, and then we will see if we can extend it to use up the rest of the money.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to join in advocating that the Minister ask the federal government to consider extending that deadline, so they can get more projects in to apply for the funding, if it is only going to be available for one more year.
Have any of the five projects already approved begun work?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They are doing the design work now, but there is no physical building yet.
Ms. Moorcroft: One of the projects approved was a $508,000 project for the Village of Carmacks to construct two kilometres of pedestrian walkway along the Yukon River. This is going to have several small decks and interpretive signs along it. Some of my colleagues, who have been in this Legislature longer than I, could remember some significant debate that took place in the past regarding boardwalks and how much they cost to maintain.
Can the Minister tell me if there were any O&M costs associated with the Carmacks river boardwalk?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That would be up to the municipality of Carmacks. Once we give them the money, it is their responsibility from then on.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is saying that the project will be completely the responsibility of the municipal government once it is finished. Is that the same as the Whitehorse access road upgrade? Is that a project that is going to be turned over to the City of Whitehorse for O&M costs once it has been funded under the joint projects program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Do you mean Range Road?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, Range Road will be turned over to the city for maintenance.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Takhini and Mount Sima projects were supposed to have begun this fall. Has work started on those projects?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, Mount Sima is almost finished.
Mr. Chair, what was the other project? I did not hear that one.
Ms. Moorcroft: I should have asked the Minister one at a time. The Takhini Arena
upgrade was to begin in November.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we do not believe that one has started yet.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is a relatively small project anticipated to provide eight weeks of employment. Does the Minister know when that project will start?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we do not know when that one will start.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have any information about the renovations to the Golden Age Society centre at the Sport Yukon building? That was a 52 person-week project to take place over a month and a half. Did that start in October, and is it nearly completed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I honestly do not know. It is up to the persons or societies who receive the money to start when they are ready.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister some questions about this contract we were discussing prior to the break. We were discussing a contract for emulsified asphalt for various locations. In the year 1993-94, the contract was for $2.3 million. In the new contract listing in 1994-95, the same contract is for $4.3 million. I was asking the Minister how that contract managed to almost double in costs. I wanted to know if that was just the result of change orders, and we got into some debate about multi-year contracts, and so on. I wonder if I might get an explanation from the Minister about that.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is the one in which we said we would get the Member the information. We were not able to get it because some of the staff had gone home, but we will have it for her tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait until tomorrow, then, for that information. Just for the information of the Minister, it is the same contract number. It is not two different contracts. I have the same number here, and I see the deputy minister is also indicating they are the same number, so I will wait until tomorrow to get an explanation for it.
I will go on with some questions about special warrants. Last year, the Legislature
approved a capital budget of about $35.7 million for highway construction, which included
a $4.5 million reduction in the line item for the Alaska Highway to $27.9 million.
However, barely two weeks after the Legislature recessed, on June 27 the department was
signing contracts for highway construction projects, which meant that more than the
allowable expenditure of $35.7 million was committed to for highways. The numbers do not
take into account any consulting or engineering contracts, rental contracts or other types
of expenditures that may have been allocated to the highway line items.
It appears that the commitments carried on and on and were in excess of the votes made by the department. Could the Minister explain to us why that happened?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When the $4.5 million was removed from the budget, we did not proceed with that project.
Mrs. Firth: I am not specifically asking about the $4.5 million. When I got the contract book, I looked at it and added up the commitments that the government had up to June, when we were here in the Legislature, and the commitments added up to what was in the budget. Yet the Department of Community and Transportation Services continued to put out contracts and spend more money beyond that commitment.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: With the Shakwak project, we entered into multiple-year contracts. Some of the money was used for this year and some will be used next year.
Mrs. Firth: I understand the principle of multi-year contracts, but since that budget and the time we left the Legislature, the department continued to spend money on consulting and highway contracts. I looked at the date of the contract for the Shakwak project and I am sure it was for a week after we got out of the Legislature. The government entered into a major contract with an expenditure of something like $5 million or $6 million after we had just gotten out of the Legislature. When I added up all the contracts they had already entered into, they had spent their voted authority by that time.
If commitments of over $35 million were required by mid-June of 1994, they should have come with a supplementary budget. Of course, we were not sitting at that time, so there was no supplementary budget presented. Instead, they went for the special warrant.
I know the Minister knows that the largest portion of funds from the special warrant was directed toward Community and Transportation Services. I would like some explanation of how the department makes the decision to keep spending money. On what basis does it do that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: On July 30, we undertook a contract for $18.48 million. There was $13.5 million for this year. We then went to the Management Board and received $2,300,000, which was used on other highway projects, besides the Alaska Highway.
Mrs. Firth: Where is the $2 million that they got from Management Board covered? Is it included in the supplementaries?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: That is in the supplementary budget that we are now debating.
I just want to correct the figure I gave on the Shakwak project. I said the amount was $5 million or $6 million; it was actually $12.9 million. This is the project for which the date of the agreement was extended to June 15, 1994, which is about a week after we got out of the Legislature.
This contract was signed in July by the Minister and the contractor. When we asked questions of the Government Leader with respect to this contract, he indicated to us that the companies were there and were on site. He indicated that people wanted the work and were able to do the work, so they just went ahead and got the money, and made the commitment to tender the contract again.
I would like to ask the Minister what involvement his department had in that contract.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are having a bit of trouble figuring out what contract the Member is talking about.
Mrs. Firth: It is the contract for which I had asked the Government Leader for a copy. It is called Shakwak Highway Project Contract Documents. I have a picture of it, which I am holding up for the deputy minister. It is for the Shakwak Highway construction project, for kilometre 1893.7 to kilometre 1915.7, Alaska Highway No. 1. This contract was signed by the Department of Government Services on July 27.
We asked the Government Leader about this, because I was concerned about its timing. It was issued about one week after we got out of the Legislature. The rationale that we were given by the Government Leader was that it was more convenient, people needed jobs and were on site, and so on. I just want to know how the Minister's department was involved in this contract.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The contract was worth $12,940,000 and of that, $6 million was in the budget right from the start.
Mrs. Firth: So where did the other $6.9 million come from?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It was for the next year, 1995-96.
Mrs. Firth: This $6 million will come out of the 1995-96 capital budget?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The $6 million will come out of this year's budget and roughly $6,900,000 will come out of the 1995-96 budget.
Mrs. Firth: So there is $6 million of it in the 1994-95 budget and $6.9 million in the 1995-96 budget. Did the money from the 1994-95 budget come out of the original capital budget, the supplementaries or the special warrants?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will have to check on that.
Mrs. Firth: I guess I will also wait for that to come back tomorrow. In the contract book, this new contract is not listed. I do not see a listing for it anywhere. If it was awarded in July, and this book covers the period from April 1 to November 30, I would think it should be in here. Can the Minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is 12 lines down on page 2.
Mrs. Firth: Why is it not listed as Shakwak? Why is it just called highway construction?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The only reason I can think of is that the kilometres occur in the Shakwak section of the highway.
Mrs. Firth: Under contract administration, contracts by department, it is just called highway construction, and the kilometres are noted, yet this is called a Shakwak highway project. Why was it not put into the list of contracts as the Shakwak highway project, as were all of the other Shakwak highway projects on the previous page?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know why a kilometre listing was used rather than the Shakwak project listing.
Mrs. Firth: As a recommendation to the Minister, I think it would be helpful if it had been put down as a Shakwak project. When we get the final listing of the contracts, I think that the department should make sure it is listed as such, so that it is easily recognizable.
That is the $12.9 million. The current year commitment is $6 million. Of that, we have
already spent $4 million plus the current balance. Has that already been paid? Have the
holdbacks already been paid out as well?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That was until November 30 and we moved some. The holdback remains until the contract is completed.
Mrs. Firth: The holdback is still there.
This is part of my concern. It raises an argument for having two sittings of the Legislature. This decision was made, as the Minister says, by Management Board. It was probably being made while we were still in the Legislature, if the contract was awarded in early July and the agreement was actually signed on June 15. We were in the House for the first week of June. So this must have been being signed and sealed while we were still sitting here in the Legislature, yet nothing was ever said about it.
The only opportunity we had to find out about it was when the House was sitting and when we were provided with this book on government contracts. I think that is a good argument for having two sittings a year, so that we can track the contracts that are being given out. Otherwise, the Opposition and, particularly, the public, never have an opportunity to find out about them until after the fact. Then, we are asked to come in the House and rubber stamp the expenditure. It is quite a sizeable expenditure - $6 million.
Also, if we do not agree with the concept of the government, or we ask questions about it, they say we do not agree with it or we are against the project. Well, that is not the case. What I am against as a Member of this Legislature is not being able to find out about government expenditures, and then coming back into the Legislature and being asked to rubber stamp all the money that the government has spent.
Can the Minister tell me if his department was actively involved in this contract being drawn up and developed while we were sitting in the Legislature in June?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I was not Minister in July.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is indicating that he was not the Minister at the time. Was the Minister of the day and the Department of Community and Transportation Services actively involved in the preparation of the contract?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have been advised "yes".
Mrs. Firth: I figured as much and I appreciate the answer. I cannot ask questions of the previous Minister on these activities. I cannot ask questions of the new Minister because he says he was not the Minister at the time, yet I think it was wrong for us to be sitting here in the Legislature without the Minister telling us about this.
The Members opposite are always saying that when we are sitting they bring all the
information forward to us, but obviously they do not. I would like to get some comments
from the present Minister with respect to that kind of activity. At the very least, I
would like to get some kind of commitment from him that he will not have his department
officials engaging in that kind of activity without bringing it to the attention of the
Members of the Legislature, particularly if we are sitting in the Legislature at the time.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That was American money, and we went to Management Board to see if we could get approval to spend it.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think that is the answer. There is a principle at stake here, a principle of disclosure, a principle of keeping us informed and of providing information. It is still an expenditure that has to be made and recovered. It is an expenditure that the Management Board made a decision about at a time when they could have told us, as Members of the House, that they were doing it, and we were never told. That is the principle I am concerned about.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will discuss it with the Minister of Finance and the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has given us a commitment to discuss it. Will he come back to the Legislature with an explanation about why this happened?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, as soon as I can get it.
I would like to report progress on Bill No. 3.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
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?
Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Ac, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. 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 January 30, 1995:
Lot availability in the City of Whitehorse (Department of Community and Transportation
Services, dated January 30, 1995) (Brewster)
The following Documents were filed January 30, 1995:
Doris Stenbraten Scholarship: information pertaining to (Phelps)
Revamp education, Ontario urged - commission to recommend testing of students in grades 3 and 11: article from the Globe and Mail (Phelps)