Monday, March 13, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Speaker: At this time, we will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Abel: I would like to introduce to the House this afternoon the principal of the Old Crow school, Phil Broten, and his wife, Eleanor. Along with him are four students from the community: Nicole Frost, Lance Nukon, Wayne Ollett and Jeffery Peter, Phillip Rispin and Joseph Bruce. I would like to ask Members to help me welcome them to the House.
Mr. Cable: I would like to introduce the new Yukon Liberal Party leader, Ken Taylor, and his father-in-law, Mel Lee, from Dundas, Ontario.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a document for tabling.
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?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Harding: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, based on the present lack of a clear and consistent forestry policy and the continuing allowance of the export of raw logs and other devastation of the resource by the Liberals, that the territorial government immediately move to develop a Yukon forestry policy that includes federal government representatives, First Nations governments, representatives of the forest industry, conservationists and all other interested Yukoners in a comprehensive Yukon forest policy development process.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Oil exploration on traditional lands
Mr. Penikett: Last Thursday, the Minister of Economic Development admitted that he had sent two officials from the oil and gas branch to Calgary to discuss oil exploration in the Kotaneelee Range in southeast Yukon, in the Laberge Basin and along the Alaska Highway. I would like to ask the Government Leader if it is government policy now to enter into discussions about potential mineral developments within the traditional territories of First Nations without even advising those First Nations first that those talks have been scheduled.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I spoke on this during debate the other night. The talks with the deputy minister in Calgary were merely to try to entice people to think about the Yukon when they are making their investment decisions.
Mr. Penikett: Last month, after two decades of negotiation, the land claims and self-government agreements were proclaimed in Ottawa. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he does not agree that the Vuntut Gwitchin, who have opposed oil and gas extraction on their lands, will be deeply offended by this government's decision to promote oil and gas exploration in its traditional territory without even consulting the First Nation first.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought I clearly heard the Minister of Economic Development say that they were discussing the potential of the Kotaneelee field, not the Vuntut Gwitchin traditional area.
Mr. Penikett: On Thursday, the Minister spoke about Kotaneelee, the Laberge Basin and along the Dempster Highway, and for the record, Chief Robert Bruce of the Vuntut Gwitchin phoned me Friday to express his view that the territorial government has violated the umbrella final agreement on land claims in that neither the Government Leader nor the Minister for Economic Development properly consulted the First Nation, as required by the UFA, nor did it involve them in economic opportunities discussions as required by chapter 22 of the UFA.
Could I ask the Government Leader if he or his Minister took any legal advice before giving offence to the provisions of the umbrella final agreement in this manner?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I heard the Economic Development Minister state that they were exploring opportunities, and making the oil companies aware that there may be some potential in the Yukon. Before anything would go ahead, there would be consultation with First Nations, and it is hoped that there would be some economic development agreements, such as we have created with the mining companies in the Yukon.
Question re: Oil exploration on traditional lands
Mr. Penikett: First Nations are going to be deeply concerned about that kind of paternalism, and these kind of back-door discussions, without their being involved. The Minister of Economic Development told the Committee of the Whole that he did not invite the Kaska, or the Ta'an Kwach'an, or the Kwanlin Dun, or the Vuntut Gwitchin to the Calgary negotiations with the oil industry executives. He said that such participation would, "create some sort of humungous, unworkable process." May we understand from the Minister's remarks that, like the Taga Ku project, partnership with First Nations and this government are a thing of the past?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government will not be making secret deals on street corners. That is one thing that this government will not be doing. The decisions will be documented in Cabinet records.
No one was negotiating anything, from what I understood from the debate in Committee. It was merely to advise the oil companies that there is potential in the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: I would be extremely surprised if the oil companies did not know that already.
Almost two years ago, First Nations at the claims negotiating table asked this government to definitively state its position on economic measures in the case of mineral exploration in traditional territories. The Yukon government has yet to respond.
Does the Government Leader not understand that private discussions with oil companies, against the background of this government's failure to deal openly and fairly with First Nations on this important question, sends all the wrong signals, both to First Nations and to developers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I totally disagree with those assumptions.
Our record speaks for itself in the development agreements that have been forged with First Nations with regard to mining since we came to power, something that was sadly lacking under the previous administration.
Question re: Oil exploration on traditional lands
Mr. Penikett: I would be happy to compare our record, but of course Question Period -
Speaker: Is it a final supplementary?
Mr. Penikett: It is, for this question.
Will the Government Leader commit his government to the simple courtesy of advising First Nations in the future whenever it initiates discussions with industry about potential developments on First Nation lands or other traditional territories, and will the Government Leader ensure that all First Nations are provided with minutes of the discussions in Calgary between the oil and gas branch and oil company executives?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I stated quite clearly that if and when developments go ahead we will certainly be consulting with First Nations people. Further to that, I have been trying to arrange a meeting with the Kaska Nation about oil and gas but have been unsuccessful. I am going to continue to try. Furthermore, I understand that some of the oil companies have already been in touch with the Kaska Nation.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader about funding for non-government organizations.
A year ago, the Health and Social Services department directed correspondence to a number of non-government organizations in the health and social services field. The standard form letter sent to some of them read, in part, "With increasing pressures brought about by the financial realities we are facing, it is the intent of the department to not provide core funding to organizations that provide primarily advocacy services."
There have been a number of mixed reports from the government since that letter, both on the scope of the non-government agencies funding policy and when we will see the policy.
Who is actually driving the bus in this area? Which Minister and which department?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the information of the Member opposite, we are just following the lead of the federal Liberal Party. In the budget just brought down, the federal government said it would no longer provide core funding but would be moving to fee for service.
The Executive Council Office is working on a government-wide policy for the funding of non-government organizations.
Mr. Cable: Just to confirm this, is the Government Leader saying that the policy the government is working on will integrate all grant policy, right across government, with respect to all departments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes. The Executive Council Office is developing a policy so it is clear for all departments on what will be available for funding and what guidelines will apply.
Mr. Cable: A year ago, the Minister of Health and Social Services was asked what was driving the government's approach to funding these organizations - was it philosophical in nature, or was it budgetary considerations? The Minister said both.
Is that the government's position today - both philosophical and budgetary matters are driving the new policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The $20 million hit from the federal government helped us to make up our minds in one heck of a hurry. The Member is right to the extent that it is both financial and philosophical.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: I have a question for the Government Leader. I hope he will not blame the Liberal government for this one.
The Government Leader stated in his Speech from the Throne that one of the priorities of his government was improving Yukoners' quality of life by creating vibrant communities where there is hope for the future and a better life. In the same speech, he said that his government agreed in principle with the construction of a tourist-oriented gambling casino. Does his government also agree that building a gambling casino will improve the lives of Yukoners? Does it agree that that will happen?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that it would probably improve the quality of life for some Yukoners. Nobody said it would be Yukon-wide or that everybody's quality of life would be improved. People in the territory have different goals and desires.
Ms. Commodore: It is obvious that he does not know what the heck he is talking about.
He also said in the House that a Cabinet subcommittee has been gathering information on the impact of gambling in the Yukon for two years. Since he has been in government for two years, I would like to ask him if the government has come up with any recommendations regarding the impact of gambling on Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is quite right. We have been gathering all the information that is available and we will continue to gather that information. As for making recommendations, the committee has summed up the information that it has.
Ms. Commodore: I asked the Government Leader almost two months ago if he would provide that information. This is a long outstanding issue, yet they all agreed that it was going to be healthy for Yukoners. I asked him to table information in this House regarding the number of people he has working on this and the departments that are involved. I would also like to know if he is going to be tabling the information in the House soon. He has had two years; he made the promise two months ago. I would like to know if he is going to do it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought we had answered that orally, but if we have not, I will bring something back for the Member.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: In the past, the Government Leader has said that he will drop the casino proposal, if that is what people want, adding, however, that if there is opposition to it, no one has told him. Since he promised in this House that he was going to be consulting with Yukoners, I would like to ask the Government Leader when he is going to do that. Is he going to wait until we get out of this House before he pulls his dirty deal?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, we said we agreed in principle. We also said that we were not going to be building a casino. We have been in consultation with the City of Whitehorse, and we are waiting for a reply from the city. If a casino goes ahead, it would have to be in the city. If the City of Whitehorse is not in favour of it, we certainly are not going to be pushing it.
Ms. Commodore: This was a heavy promise made in the Speech from the Throne. It was one of the Government Leader's high priorities. He said that he agreed in principle. What caused him and his Cabinet colleagues to agree to the construction of a gambling casino? There must have been something because they have been working on it for two years.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, it was one of the recommendations from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, which said that a tourist-oriented casino may be acceptable to the people of the Yukon. YCEE set out some principles and guidelines to be followed if the government decided to go ahead with it.
Ms. Commodore: I do not know where the Government Leader gets his information. I would really doubt if he has even read the YCEE report. It sure does not sound like he has.
The Government Leader has also said that he has consulted with aboriginal people in the Yukon, but we found out that holding a couple of brief meetings was how the Government Leader defined "consultation". I would like to know if the Government Leader has had any meetings to discuss gambling with CYI since January 16.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, we have not.
Question re: Forestry policy, consultation with First Nations
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. A lot of people seem to be listening to the talk going on between the federal and territorial governments about devolution. However, Yukoners have been left out of this process, and the devastation of our forests continues.
What has this government been telling the Liberal government about forestry issues, such as raw log exports, and what has the federal government done to try to stop the exports?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am sure that the Member opposite is aware that we were opposed to the raw log exports. Under the last timber harvesting agreement that the federal government extended for the Watson Lake area, the Yukon government stated that it wanted a mill constructed in the Watson Lake area, wanted money set aside for the construction of the mill and money set aside for reforestation. The federal government agreed to that, but I am not sure just how much money Kaska First Nation has set aside to implement those two initiatives.
Mr. Harding: The Minister should be aware that there is much more in the way of raw log exports underway than what the Minister has indicated in his last answer.
This new federal policy exercise that is now underway seems to be just there to make some room between the Liberals and the criticism over the abuse of this precious resource in the Yukon.
What is the Minister doing to ensure that the concerns of First Nations and other Yukoners are heard by the federal government on the issue of forestry policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This government has made suggestions to the federal government that First Nations and all other people be involved in the development of the forestry policy.
We are currently putting together an action plan so that when forestry is devolved to the Yukon government we will be in a position to consult and gain input on a made-in-Yukon policy.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps this government should set an example in regard to consultation with First Nations. If the government were to do that, perhaps the federal government would take this government's representations about consultation with First Nations seriously. It is obvious to the federal government that this government does not consult with First Nations.
I would like to say to the Minister, who should start bringing Yukoners together to develop a forestry policy, this: if
we get First Nation governments and other stakeholders agreeing on new policies on issues such as raw log exports and silviculture, the Liberals are going to have to listen. Will the Minister take a lead role in doing this, irrespective of who has control? If our voices in the Yukon are clear, the federal Liberals are going to have to listen.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are working toward a made-in-Yukon forestry policy. We will be working with the affected First Nations and with all other Yukoners, such as the Southeast Yukon Forest Association and the new coalition group that has been struck here in Whitehorse. Certainly we will be working with those people.
Question re: Government employees, operating private businesses
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. On February 1, I asked the Minister some questions about whether or not a government employee should be able to operate a private business from a government facility while he or she is working for the government. Has the government completed its investigation and will it provide me with a copy of its decision on the perceived conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe that the Member for Mount Lorne has had conversations with my deputy minister. We are completing that investigation and she will get a copy of the report.
Ms. Moorcroft: This is a matter that was first raised with the Minister on February 1; it is now March 13. The people who approached me about this problem feel as if they cannot penetrate the system, that they cannot make a difference in how the system works and that they are being penalized for asking questions.
Can I ask the Minister why the department has not released any information to the people who raised these serious concerns?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not think, as I have said, that the study has been completed yet, but the MLA for Mount Lorne is well aware of what its status was at the time that the deputy minister spoke to her.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister what actions are taken to deal with a conflict of interest, if one is found?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the first place, we contact the person involved in the conflict. In this situation, it was assured that it is not going on any longer, and it should not have been, to start with.
Question re: Hearing aids, privatization of sales
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. It is a new question but about an issue I raised last week.
The Government Leader has one position on privatization. He agrees with it but he is not doing anything about it. The Minister of Government Services has another position on privatization. He agrees with it but only if special operating agencies fall flat on their faces. So I would like to get on the record the Minister of Health and Social Services' position with respect to privatization.
I would like to examine a few areas in Health and Social Services, but I would like to start with audiology services - hearing testing and the sale of hearing aids. I have contacted the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and found that we are unique in Canada in that most of these services are supplied through the private sector, not government - particularly the sale of hearing aids. I would like to ask the Minister if he is going to look at privatizing the service to Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is not something we are going to be doing in the near future. With regard to the policy on privatization by government, we are all adhering to the same policy so I am rather surprised that the Member thinks we are acting on a different set of principles from each other on this side. I would remind her that a form of privatization - devolution of some of the functions of government to non-government organizations - has been something we have been doing on this side; for example, in the case of continuing care. A lot of work has been done with non-profit organizations in having services provided for us.
Mrs. Firth: Devolution is not privatization. As for "in the near future", this government has only 18 months left in its term so I would like to see it do something positive in the remainder of its term.
I would like to see the government get out of the business of selling hearing aids. I have made some inquiries and am trying to make some positive recommendations to the government. The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association indicated that all other provinces sell hearing aids through private companies. Some testing services are provided by government and some provinces have legislation in place to maintain Canadian Hard of Hearing Association standards for the sale of hearing aids.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will look at privatizing this service and if he will look at doing it sooner, as opposed to later.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is always a joy for us on this side to hear about some policy or principle in which the Member for Riverdale South differs substantially from the Official Opposition - the NDP - because she votes with them on these things, including voting against budgets and other important legislation.
In this particular case, where she totally differs in her antithetical position from that of the NDP, we are quite curious about her suggestion. We will certainly look at it with the perspective in mind that, if there are some substantial savings to be passed on to those purchasing hearing aids, we would be interested.
Mrs. Firth: Is that not just ducky?
The way I read it, the Liberal Member and I are the only people who seem to support the concept of privatization. The Members opposite stand up and talk about supporting it, but then ask why they should do anything about it. The policy is the same as that of the previous government.
I am trying to offer a good suggestion to the Members opposite, who are supposed to stand for something. We will find out sooner or later what it is.
The NWT has an audiologist, hired by a medical clinic. Referrals are made by other family doctors. The appointments are quicker, it is a more efficient service and it produces cost savings.
I would like to ask the Minister when he will instruct his department to examine the issue of privatizing this service.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the intention of all of these questions was to make a representation so that we could examine its merit, we will take it in that light and thank the Member for that representation.
If the intention was simply to embarrass the Liberal Member in the presence of his new leader in the gallery, that is unfortunate. We will assume the first option is the one she was pursuing.
Question re: Tourism initiatives, First Nation consultation on
Mr. McDonald: I think that embarrassing the Yukon Party was the stated objective, and it was done quite well.
The new tourism business centre in downtown Whitehorse is expected to cost approximately $3.2 million. The design tender call has just gone out asking for the facade to be a gold rush era theme. A lot of people have asked me to raise the issue in the Legislature. They are saying that, once again, another big tourism project will be evoking a non-aboriginal historic theme. Can the Minister tell us when the government is going to live up to the spirit of the umbrella final agreement and showcase aboriginal history and culture in large tourism projects?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is kind of an odd question coming from the side opposite, because they built the monstrosity on the hill. I fail to see how that represents First Nations history and culture, inside or outside of the facility.
We will be contacting First Nations and discussing displays within the facility. In fact, I sent a letter to them the other day to invite them into the group to discuss types of displays, First Nations involvement inside the centre, and that kind of thing.
Mr. McDonald: I recall distinctly that, when the Minister of Tourism was in Opposition, he voted for the visitor reception centre. However, times do change - that was then and this is now.
I am speaking of the umbrella final agreement that the government signed, and for which we had numerous signing ceremonies, of one sort or another, in the last couple of months and years. It distinctly states that aboriginal culture and history is under-represented in large projects. It indicates that there should be a commitment by government to redress that error, and ensure that aboriginal culture and history is given greater prominence. Now that the government has decided that the two latest projects, the Beringia Interpretive Centre and the visitor reception centre downtown - the new tourism business centre - are not going to be showcasing aboriginal culture and history, what and when is the government going to be living up to its obligations under the umbrella final agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for the question, because it gives me an opportunity to tell the Member something he probably should have known. Last year, there was money in the budget for a First Nations cultural centre. We are working and having discussions with First Nations with respect to developing a First Nations cultural centre. There is more money in the budget this year - in fact, more than last year - which helps us move on to discussions as to the type of cultural centre First Nations want to build.
We are quite concerned about First Nations culture and First Nations tourism. In fact, I am speaking at a conference next week with respect to First Nations tourism, at which I will be addressing some of those issues. Also, we hope to work out an agreement with First Nations on the direction in which they wish to go on the cultural centre.
Mr. McDonald: The money the government had last year for a First Nations cultural centre lapsed. The same amount of money - $50,000 - is in the budget for this year to promote a First Nations cultural centre. This compares to the $6.6 million the government expects to spend between the Beringia Interpretive Centre and the tourism business centre. There is clearly an imbalance in terms of financial commitment.
Can the Minister tell us what they are going to do, aside from lapsing promised funds for the First Nations cultural centre, to live up to their very specific obligations under the umbrella final agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Again, I find this request from the Member opposite rather unusual. That is the Member who asks, "Have you consulted? Have you worked with them? Have you sought their advice? Have you discussed the issue with them?"
That is what we are doing with the First Nations cultural centre funding. If we had money in the capital budget to build a First Nations cultural centre - X-million dollars - this Member would be standing up and asking, "Have you discussed this with them?"
That is what we are doing now. When the discussions are complete, they will have decided whether or not they want to build one cultural centre, several in each community or something else. They are the ones driving this, not us. The money is in the budget. Some money was expended last year, and we hope more will be expended this year. We are moving at the speed the First Nations wish us to at this time.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader about the funding policy of non-government organizations. Over the last year and a half, Ministers have made a number of pronouncements and promises about tabling definitions, such as that of advocacy services, core funding and fees for service. So far, we have received nothing. On February 15, the Minister of Economic Development said that the policy had been drafted and was being circulated, and that it would eventually get back to Cabinet.
When will we see the integrated non-government organization funding policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Minister said that it was in the draft stage. The Legislature will see it when it is completed.
Mr. Cable: That is not what the Minister said. He said it was being circulated, that there was some process going on. I will have to assume that the Government Leader does not know and we will be out in the wilds on this for another year and a half - the way we have been going.
Members of the Opposition are constantly approached to determine what type of funding is available for various organizations. Can the Government Leader indicate if the draft policy was circulated to the public, or was it formulated solely within Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, it has not been circulated to the public.
Mr. Cable: The final question is obvious. Will it be circulated to the public after it has gone to Cabinet and after it has gone to the various government departments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure of that. I can tell the Member that there has been some discussion with the public about the whole issue of non-government organizations and how they are funded.
Question re: Abattoir
Mr. McDonald: We are not batting a very high average today.
We have been told that the government is supportive of the construction of an abattoir, yet nothing has happened. According to industry observers, there has been serious backsliding on the government's part in its support for this particular project.
Can the Minister of Renewable Resources tell us what the government has done in the last couple of months, since we last raised the issue, to see to it that lands be identified and funding sought for the abattoir?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Yukon government has identified land along the Takhini Hot Springs Road, and has reserved it in the name of Community and Transportation Services for an abattoir. The Department of Renewable Resources has money in its budget this year - 1994-95 - and we have committed to finding up to a maximum of $200,000 toward the construction of an abattoir if the industry is able to come up with whatever else is needed in the way of money and if it decides to proceed.
Mr. McDonald: We are all aware that a maximum of $200,000 will be approximately one-fifth of the total construction costs of the project. We have heard about the federal budget cutbacks, and we have heard about the elimination of the economic development agreement. Does the Minister seriously believe that the industry will be able to support the construction of an abattoir with the kind of financial commitment that the Yukon Party government is prepared to make?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the Yukon Agricultural Association has also applied to the Department of Community and Transportation Services, under the infrastructure funding, for some money from that source.
Mr. McDonald: The deadline for funding applications has passed for that particular program. Will either Minister tell us whether or not the Yukon Party government will be advocating that the Yukon Agricultural Association receive more than the $200,000 that the Minister mentioned, and that it will be coming from the Department of Renewable Resources or any other government department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure what the Department of Community and Transportation Services has committed or is willing to commit, but the Department of Renewable Resources has committed to the Yukon Agricultural Association that it will contribute $200,000 toward the abattoir.
Question re: Abattoir
Mr. McDonald: I left it open for the Minister who knows about the Department of Community and Transportation Services to answer the question about whether or not the Yukon Agricultural Association will have an opportunity to receive funding under the Canada/Yukon municipal infrastructure program. Will the association receive funding under that program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not aware of the decisions made by the federal/territorial committee that is responsible for that funding.
Mr. McDonald: I would ask that the Minister make it his business to find out what the committee is doing, because this project is clearly getting zero support from the Yukon Party government. This project has been languishing, year after year, as one site or another has been rejected and funding programs and funding commitments fall away as programs die. Will the Minister make it his business to find out and tell us when the government will actually consider this particular project proposal?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will find out that information for the Member. However, I must point out that the federal government must agree to infrastructure agreements before we can make them public.
Mr. McDonald: Certainly, that was the case for all of the other infrastructure projects that have been approved and made public. This would include everything from sidewalks in Carmacks to projects right around the territory. I am sure that is the case.
Could the Minister of Renewable Resources tell us whether or not the land on the Takhini Hot Springs Road has been approved by First Nations that have selections in the area, and whether or not the neighbours have been consulted?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The land in question was formerly under an agreement for sale so it would not be subject to land selection. The Yukon Agricultural Association is to determine the support for it among the neighbouring properties.
Question re: Contracts, sole sourcing
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader. In January, I asked the Government Leader questions about Cabinet sole sourcing contracts. I expressed concerns about the fairness of the contracting process, which, at the time, was a concern voiced by some members at the Chamber of Commerce function I had attended prior to asking the question.
We were concerned then about a sole-sourced contract for $400,000 that this government told us about. It has now turned into a project with a price tag of almost $1 million. I asked the Minister then to bring back information telling us how many contracts Cabinet has sole sourced. That was seven weeks ago. Why is the Minister not bringing this information back to us?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know. I will check that for the Member opposite.
Mrs. Firth: At the time, the Government Leader said it did not happen very often and I think the Cabinet minutes would quickly indicate how many times it did happen, and the amounts, so I would like to ask the Government Leader if he has instructed anyone to provide this information. If he has, why have they not provided it to him?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If it was to come back in a legislative return, clearly someone should have done it. I will check on it. I do not know whether or not I made a commitment to the Member to bring back a legislative return on it.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister did make a commitment that he would look at it, but he has made that commitment on various issues for the last two and a half years. It seems we have to ask him five or six times to get any information.
I think this is very serious. It was bad enough for the government not to tell us the real amount of the contract in the first place, and now it looks as if it is keeping information from us that we requested seven weeks ago with respect to all the other contracts that were sole sourced.
Will the Government Leader give us a firm commitment to bring this information back this week?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes I will, but I want to clear the record. We did tell the Member what the sole-source contract was for, and it was for the amount stated at the time.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed with 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
Department of Economic Development - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Bill No. 3, Economic Development?
Mr. Harding: It is not my wish to be discussing forestry policy in Economic Development, but it seems that the government has moved the emphasis of forestry from Renewable Resources to Economic Development. That is a distinction that I think deserves some attention, because I for one, as do many people - particularly people who are from groups such as the Yukon Conservation Society - think that the realm of forestry policy should be firmly entrenched in Renewable Resources because it is a renewable resource. People think that this is a cognizant distinction of the government and that it is somewhat worrisome, given this government's attitude toward conservation, or its stated direction in terms of the development of this particular industry and the apparent lack of willingness to become involved in policy development.
I would like to ask the Minister a few questions about what is happening about forestry policy work, given the statements made by the Minister and a PROFS internal civil service memorandum that fell from the sky to us, in which it was stated - this was approximately early February - that Renewable Resources would be taking the lead role in forestry policy development, assisted by Economic Development and the Executive Council Office.
At that time there was very much confusion about who was going to do what in the development of forestry policy. I would like to ask the Minister which department is presently working on forestry policy, who is taking the lead role and what is being done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Renewable Resources has been and still is taking the lead role, but it is working with Economic Development and the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Harding: What are they working on, what is being done and what specific steps are underway?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are putting together an action plan and strategy about the development of policy and legislation for the eventual devolution of forestry.
Mr. Harding: What will be contained in this action plan? Policies, principles, discussion items? What is the focus of it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Essentially, the Member has it. It will be the principles and actions, legislation and consultation plans - that sort of thing.
Mr. Harding: No one is being consulted about this at present, so am I correct in assuming that the forestry policy is going to be comprised of the government's principles?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, not at all. The strategy will outline an action plan, but then the policies, legislation and so on will be reviewed by the public in general.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just told me that the action plan will contain the principles. I asked him if they are going to be the government's principles, because it is not talking to anyone else. In what way did I not hear the Minister correctly?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is just an outline of what we hope to do. Part of the policy development will include consultation.
Mr. Harding: I am finding this somewhat confusing. W
ho is being consulted in the development of this action plan and the principles that are going to be contained therein?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The strategy simply lays out the plan about how people will be involved in the overall policy development.
Mr. Harding: What has been decided on the action plan thus far?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not even seen a copy of the action plan yet. I am making some assumptions here, but I assume that the action plan will lay out who we talked to, what we talked about, and that type of thing.
I think that this would be more appropriately discussed under Renewable Resources because, by the time that budget comes up for debate, the action plan will probably be completed, and I will have more information on what it contains.
Mr. Harding: Quite frankly, I am appalled that the Minister has such a lack of knowledge of what is happening about the action plan.
Over a month ago, on February 8, on CBC Radio, in response to a question from a person with the initials, M.D., from CBC, the questioner said, "As we look at devolution, you are going to need some kind of forestry policy. Has anything been started on that? Have you started public consultation or anything else?" The Minister I am talking to said, "Yes, we have. The Department of Renewable Resources, the Department of Economic Development and the Executive Council Office are working together to develop a strategy for developing a sort of made-in-the-Yukon forest policy. The strategy that they are putting together right now will include identification of the major issues that will have to be dealt with by the policy and a description of the process.
"In the developing of that policy, we will be consulting with First Nations, the industry stakeholders and with the Yukon public."
I asked today for an update from both the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Renewable Resources. Today is March 13, nearly a month later. We have had all this public discussion and public debate. Every time we turn on a radio or read a paper, we read about somebody in the forestry industry or somebody in the First Nations or somebody who is a conservationist or some Joe or Mary Yukoner who is concerned about what is happening to our forests. On March 13, I stand up and ask the Minister what is happening with his action plan that he announced on CBC over a month ago, and he does not know what is going on in the action plan. He obviously has not even been briefed about it. Can he tell me more about what is happening with his action plan? At what stage is it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The departments have outlined their objectives and the people who are drafting the action plan are taking those objectives and putting them into a plan. There was some consultation with the Southeast Yukon Forest Association. A staff member from Economic Development and a staff member from Renewable Resources travelled to Watson Lake and talked to about 11 different groups of people about issues and concerns with forestry policy as it exists under the federal government. They will put together the objectives of the various departments and create an action plan for consultation and for policy development.
Mr. Harding: Of these 11 groups who met in Watson Lake, did they include First Nations, interested Yukoners and conservationists?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure of all of the groups. I know they visited with the Kaska Nation and some of the operators, town council and the Chamber of Commerce. There were several different groups. I do not believe there is an actual chapter of the Yukon Conservation Society in Watson Lake, but they met with anyone who wanted to meet with them.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has said that the departments have outlined their objectives and they are going to be initiating an action plan outlining their principles. Yet, based on what he said, they have met with 11 groups, but he cannot tell us exactly who these groups in Watson Lake were.
In determining objectives and principles, which is pretty serious stuff, why would they not meet with other Yukoners - not just Yukoners in Watson Lake, whose views are important, but all Yukoners? I do not think I would be going out on a limb by saying there are thousands concerned about forestry.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have any problem with what the Member is saying, but all that is being done to date is identifying how that consultation will take place; for example, what some of the objectives of the various departments are, the consultation process, who will be consulted, how much consultation will go on, et cetera. There must be a start somewhere and that is exactly what they are doing.
Mr. Harding: The department has determined its objectives already, before consulting with the other groups. The Minister has told me that. He said that the three departments have determined their objectives. I think that determining their objectives in a finite fashion, in advance of discussing this issue with all of the people that are concerned, is a backward approach. It is non-inclusive. The problem we have is that the government has locked in on one particular process and one particular objective without having discussed it with Yukoners in advance. That is unfortunate. I will not belabour the issue with the Minister. However, can he tell me what the objectives of the three departments are, now that they have been determined?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The objectives are to determine how we go about approaching the whole forestry management issue and the concerns that are out there. The Member is right, there are numerous concerns and issues that have to be resolved. Our objectives now are to determine how best to deal with those concerns and issues.
Mr. Harding: I think objectives are important; they are the mission statements of the department on this particular issue. Can the Minister provide me with the list of objectives that have been determined by the three departments, so that I am clear about what the objectives of the three departments and of the government are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the objectives for the Department of Renewable Resources, nor for the Executive Council Office.
The two main objectives for the Department of Economic Development are to identify the full range of forest management and development issues that impact economic development, and to determine how those issues may be best dealt with by the government and the departments, and to work together with the Department of Renewable Resources to determine a coordinated, comprehensive, effective approach to forest resource management and forest industry development in Yukon.
Mr. Harding: All we have done so far is determine those objectives. The Minister said that was underway on February 8. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are developing a package on the whole approach. They did not spend that amount of time writing those two sentences.
Mr. Harding: What is in the package?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is the action plan.
Mr. Harding: What is contained in the action plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The three departments are putting together an action plan that will determine how those departments will develop the policy and legislation for forestry. I do not know what the Member is getting at nor what he wants. An action plan is exactly that: it details to whom one will speak, what one will talk about, what the issues are. That is what the departments are putting together.
Mr. Harding: I am having a serious problem with this. On February 8, the Minister told all Yukoners that the objectives and a determination of the issues was being done, even as he spoke. This machine had been uncovered by the government. There were three departments working on it, and this was all happening even as he spoke.
Today, I asked the Minister about this action plan and for an update on it. He could not provide me with one. I asked if the action plan would contain principles. He said it would. I asked who had been consulted in the development of the principles, or if they would just be principles of the government. He said they would not be government principles; they would be developed in consultation with others. He told me they had a few meetings in Watson Lake. I asked who else they had spoken with. He could not tell me, because he had not spoken to anyone else.
I am very confused about what is really happening here. I find we are all over the map. We have come back around to the action plan. The Minister now tells me an action plan does not contain principles; it contains the process under which a determination of Yukon principles will be developed.
Which is it? Is it an action plan with principles, as he said about 10 minutes ago, or is it an action plan that is an outline about how the government is going to obtain the principles that it wants to see in a Yukon forestry policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The action plan will outline the process, and the principles of the process will be who we talked to and the issues and concerns that are there following the consultation.
Mr. Harding: What does the Minister mean when he says, "following the consultation"? Will the action plan be issued before or after the consultation, and how long will it take?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The action plan will come out before the consultation.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has told us that the plan for the process and the principles will be contained in the action plan - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The principles for consultation, not the principles of the whole forest management regime, will be contained in the action plan. It will be the principles for the consultation and the things we want to see in a forest policy.
Mr. Harding: How is that going to do anything positive for the territory? We know what the issues are. The Member should go to the meetings and talk to the people. They will tell the Minister what the issues are. There has to be some suggested direction to send to Yukoners. That suggested direction should come from Yukoners. There should be some options about what we are going to do, not a vague paper that will make this thing drag on and on. Will there be any suggested options in the action plan that will be going out for consultation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess the Member is playing for the media, because I said before that I have not yet seen a copy of the action plan.
Mr. Harding: This is the Minister who was on the radio on February 8 and said everything was underway. There has been tremendous public discussion about forestry in the Yukon, yet today he cannot even tell us what direction he has given to the departments under his control - Economic Development and Renewable Resources - about how to handle forestry policy. Does this Minister know what he is doing?
I asked the Minister in Question Period if he would take a lead role. "Oh, yes, Mr. Member for Faro, we will take a lead role." But when I asked the Minister in Committee of the Whole - when all the cameras, the lights and the media are gone - more about what is really happening, when I had the opportunity and when the Minister cannot get out of it because my second supplementary is over, what happens? The facade ends in a hurry.
It is well and good for the Minister to get on the radio to discuss this with a reporter who has limited time - in this case it was Marty Derby on the CBC noon show on February 8. In Committee of the Whole, it is my time to question the Minister about what he said on the radio, because I did not have an opportunity to be on the radio to talk about what I think is going on, or the lack of what is going on. Committee of the Whole is my time to question the Minister and to hold him accountable for the comments he makes on the radio. Because I am asking some tough questions about an issue that has been raised to such a high profile in the Yukon, I would expect the Minister to be able to give me some answers.
Everything else aside, let me ask the Minister this specific question: can I see what has been done in the way of development of objectives and an action plan for the three departments? Can he table the documents about what has been done thus far? If he wants to tell us that it is a draft, that is fine by me. Can he also tell me who has been consulting about the development of the action plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will table the action plan, once it has been completed. I do not have any problem doing that. I do not want to circulate the action plan now, because I have not seen it and I do not know what it contains.
Mr. Harding: Has the Minister been briefed about forestry development policy lately?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I have been briefed by the two departments at different points in time.
Mr. Harding: What points in time? Recently? A week ago? Two weeks ago? Three weeks ago?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not certain when, but there have been ongoing discussions about forestry taking place since I took over the portfolio.
Mr. Harding: When did the Minister take over the portfolio?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: August.
Mr. Harding: I am glad the Minister was briefed on forestry policy in August. I hope that more briefing takes place, and I hope that, after today's debate, given the comments he has made that further briefings will take place, there will certainly be a lively debate on Wednesday. I have had confirmed my worst suspicions about what is happening in forestry policy development.
In terms of the action plan that the Minister says he has not seen, is he aware of any interested groups in the Yukon or any advisory bodies that have been given direction to engage in any work on forestry policy development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to make a couple of things clear.
First, forestry has been, and is, a total federal government responsibility. The Member opposite is gleefully picking on this particular Minister and this government for, as he says, doing nothing in the area of developing a policy when, in fact, if that Member would bother to read the Yukon Conservation Strategy or the Yukon Economic Strategy, he will find that the NDP government, as far back as 1986, said that they were going to start developing a Yukon forestry policy.
This government did not begin working hard toward the development of the policy or the legislation, because the devolution agreement contained dollars to pay for that development. There was $150,000 in the devolution agreement to put together policy and legislation for forestry.
Since the devolution agreement has, more or less, fallen apart, we felt that it would be necessary to start developing policy on our own, using our own budgets. That is what we have started to do.
Mr. Harding: The NDP cannot do everything for this Yukon Party government. One day, when the Minister said that, I jotted down the comprehensive legislative, training and strategy policy work that was done by the NDP. I also wrote down what I could think of that this government had for new legislation - new, comprehensive policy work. I found that this government had initiated the Ombudsman Act - in two and a half years.
The NDP did the Yukon Economic Strategy, the Yukon Conservation Strategy, the Environment Act. There were all kinds of pieces of substantive policy work undertaken.
This government has been in power for over two and a half years now, but it is still trying to blame the NDP. It is almost like listening to Mulroney, during his last term, trying to blame Trudeau for everything. What we have here is a Minister who cannot stand up and give us an answer about anything substantive he has done - absolutely nothing - and tries to blame it on us. We are not in government any more. We got the boot in 1992.
This is the Minister responsible for forest policy. It has come to a point where it has risen to a level - I see the Minister is getting briefed by the Minister of Tourism. He should watch that because it might get him into some more trouble. The knowledge that would be passed on by the Minister of Tourism would certainly be brief; it probably did not take long for the Minister of Tourism to pass on his knowledge to the Minister of Renewable Resources.
The level of interest in this particular issue has risen over the last couple of years. The reason for that is because there is a policy void. I know the federal government has the responsibility, but people do not care any more. They want to do something about it. They want the Yukon government, or the federal government, to do something about it. They want somebody to stop talking and to start doing.
The Minister is babbling over there. When we are talking about policy, he should stand up and give some answers.
He is joking with his official. Perhaps the official could share the joke with me. I do not think it is too funny. I am concerned about forestry policy, and I am interested in what this Minister is doing about forestry policy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Minister is still talking about the sawmill - that is how desperate they are getting, in terms of responding to this policy work. This government is using something that happened five or six years ago in a desperate attempt to deflect the attention from its lack of work in forestry policy.
Without question, this is one of the biggest issues in the Yukon. Today, my feelings have been confirmed that this Minister does not have a handle on what is going on in forestry policy. When all else fails, he says it is a federal responsibility.
If I were Minister of this department, I would be seizing the public's willingness to be involved in forestry policy in an effort to bring Yukoners together to come up with something. If we can put that to the federal or territorial government - whichever has the responsibility - we would have something substantive and comprehensive, and which we can all use here in the Yukon. Instead, I get no feeling that that is what this Minister wants to do. Yet, he is quick to go on CBC Radio to tell Yukoners how hard he is working, and that the government has all the bases covered on forestry policy. Just do not worry, the Yukon Party is diligently working on it.
When we really find out what is really going on, there is so little.
Have there been any advisory bodies engaged to discuss the issue of forestry policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we have not set up any advisory committees. It is too premature yet. As I said before, the federal government had committed $150,000 for the development of a forestry policy and for legislation in the Yukon following an agreement for devolution of forestry, and we are waiting to access that funding. We are putting together an action plan that will lead to the development of forestry policy and eventual legislation after devolution. It was probably similar to what the NDP thought back in 1986 - until we have some sort of a timeline for the devolution of forestry, spending taxpayers' dollars to create legislation would not be a good idea. We want to get our action plan put together and then we want to get a Yukon policy on forestry for Yukoners.
Mr. Harding: Let us not put the cart before the horse. It does not necessarily have to be Yukon legislation without devolution, but certainly there can be consultation and policy development that involves everybody. I cannot understand, for the life of me, what this Minister is saying. I would take a totally different approach toward this.
Things have changed since 1986. The level of public interest and knowledge about what is happening in forestry has changed over the last couple of years. Surely the Minister would agree with that. Governments usually determine how they are going to respond to public wishes and public interest through policy development and through the eventual creation of legislation that will answer those concerns, or do something to answer those concerns.
I do not think that the comparison with 1986 or 1990 is relevant to what is happening now. We did not have a Yukon forest coalition with 100 people showing up in a room on a Tuesday night to talk about forestry with a group who, at the time, was not entirely sure what role it was going to have. People went there because they wanted to have some input and some part in the role. Surely that is a sign to the Minister that things have changed in the forestry industry in the Yukon over the last few years. It may or may not be a result of action or inaction on the part of the Yukon Party, but it is a fact.
I do not think that the comparisons are worthwhile or productive at this point. The point is that that it is what people care about now. We should be comprehensively responding to that now.
I will ask the Minister again what role the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment will be having in forestry policy work. Has he directed it to do anything?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment will be reviewing forestry after it does the energy sector review.
Mr. Harding: How will they be reviewing it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not positive about the exact process. It will involve a forestry conference. It will be similar to the way in which it has been dealing with energy.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister have any idea when that will take place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the energy sector is going to be dealt with in the spring, in April or May - some time around there. It would be some time after that, perhaps in the summer and early fall, that forestry issues will be dealt with.
Mr. Harding: Is this is an initiative solely undertaken by the YCEE, or is this direction from the government to YCEE, as an advisory body, to look at this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment suggested looking at each issue by sector. It works under the Government Leader and he agreed with the approach. It decides the sectors it wants to do and the order in which they are to be done.
Mr. Harding: I would like one last question definitively answered. The Minister has told me he is going to give me a draft update of the action plan. What time lines are we looking at? The Minister has told me the action plan is not really that substantial. I had the impression from his radio interview that there is more to it. When are we going to get the action plan fully completed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We should be able to provide it to the Members in three weeks to a month.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have some questions for the Minister. I received a phone call from Faro, after I had been asking the Minister some questions about YukonNet and about Economic Development supporting a regional hub. The people in Faro wanted to be quite clear about the fact that the Internet demonstration that was done at the Yukon College campus there was a 24-hour hookup only. They had to cut off their fax line in order to have Internet for the 24-hour period in which they offered training in February. They also wanted to be quite clear that, not only was the training and the demonstration a success, but that residents in the community would see a significant advantage to having regional hubs outside of Whitehorse, so that the communities, including Faro, could have access to Internet without paying the long distance telephone rates. Presently, in order to use Internet, anyone in the communities has to pay long distance phone rates to Whitehorse.
I have had an opportunity to have a look at the latest YukonNet Operating Society regional network proposal, which is something I would hope that the Minister would have taken an interest in looking at. The Minister made the statement that the Department of Economic Development has always supported YukonNet. Can I ask the Minister to give me some concrete evidence about what his Department of Economic Development has done to support YukonNet?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department has been working very closely with YukonNet. In fact, at least once it approved an application from YukonNet that was subsequently pulled back by the society.
Ms. Moorcroft: I want to be quite clear, for the Minister's benefit, that these questions are being raised because they will benefit businesses in communities and students in communities - both at the elementary and adult education levels.
The Minister made some statements about the YukonNet applications having been withdrawn in order to prepare a business plan. The fact of the matter is that the YukonNet Operating Society does have a business plan. In fact, it has had two business plans. One was prepared by Ernst & Young, at a cost of $112,000. The department wanted a different business plan, which has since been done. The information has been given to the department.
This is infrastructure development. This is the stuff that the government makes a lot of noise about wanting to support.
I would like the Minister to be accountable for the decisions being made. I would like the Minister to tell us that he recognizes that supporting the application for regional hubs would be something that would lead to infrastructure development in the communities. It would also bring down the cost of the service to Government Services as a customer.
Does the Minister understand that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us whether or not he will give any direction to the committee that is reviewing this proposal and ask it to come forward with a decision in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The committee that reviews these applications has regular meeting times and dates. I am not sure if they have reviewed this application, or, if they have reviewed it, whether it has been approved or rejected. I want to make it very clear to the Member opposite that I am not going to interfere in the workings of that committee. If it is rejected, then I would ask the department to give me the reasons why and see if there is some way that it could be reconsidered. I am not going to involve myself with the committee because it is an independent board and its mandate is to review the applications and to approve or reject them on their merit.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me ask this of the Minister: does he see that there is merit in providing regional hubs to the communities so that the networks they use are ones for which they do not have to pay long distance phone rates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that the idea is great, but it depends on how efficiently it can be operated, the cost effectiveness, and a myriad of other issues I am sure the board will be looking at.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just like to make the pitch that supporting this would be supporting infrastructure development that would benefit our communities, our businesses and our students. I do not think that the application should be hung up pending an evaluation of a pilot project in Haines Junction, when it is hard to go ahead with a pilot project before a regional hub is in place.
I would like to encourage the Minister to consider supporting it, even if it is the department supporting it outside of the particular funding application that is now present.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is going to bring back that information today. Could he please list the information that he brings back and provide it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have the terms of reference for the business development fund evaluation and I have the response to questions about the State of the Environment report for circulation.
For information, I believe this was a question - I am not positive - from the Member for Riverdale South about the loans subject to court action, which led to payment. There was court action taken against three loan clients, which resulted in the client agreeing to, and honouring, a repayment schedule.
The final one was regarding Loki Gold. Direct discussions with Loki Gold have involved the same government employees as indicated in the legislative return tabled February 23, 1995.
Mr. McDonald: I have not had a chance to review all the questions I put to the Minister and the commitments the Minister made to provide information, but I will take the opportunity to do that shortly. I am trusting that the Minister is following through on the commitments he made, and in the time lines he had promised.
I have had a chance to look at the fax poll response the Minister tabled, outlining issues facing small businesses in the Yukon, which was conducted by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, I believe, and supported by the Yukon Department of Economic Development. One of the interesting conclusions one could easily draw from the poll is that access to business financing is quite a significant issue for small business - at least, the small businesses that responded. The regulatory environment under which they operate is also fairly important to them.
Two issues were raised that had also been raised in previous debates in the Legislature as being issues that government might want to address, so anyone who believes for one moment that the Opposition is not prepared to make some constructive suggestions need only look at the debate over the last two and a half years, where many suggestions for things the government might want to do have been made in Committee. I feel, too, that the fax poll identifying issues facing small business suggests that those suggestions were in fact suggestions that would have been supported by small business as well.
The Minister indicated recently that the department is doing a lot to ensure that the development agreements with First Nations are concluded in advance of new mines coming onstream. Can the Minister list all the agreements that have been struck with First Nations associated with mining projects in the territory in the last two years and four months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Part of the encouragement to mining companies is to help make agreements with First Nations. We are not actually party to those agreements. We are aware that an agreement has been reached between the Ross River Band and Anvil Range. There are meetings taking place between the Ross River Band and Cominco, the Kaska Dena First Nation and Cominco, and Loki Gold and the Dawson First Nation. However, I do not know whether or not they have been finalized, or exactly where they are at in the process.
Mr. McDonald: It is true that a section of the industrial support policy outlines the desirability of development proponents signing development agreements with First Nations, but that those development agreements will not be a precondition to receiving any public funding - is that true?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. McDonald: As far as we are aware - unless the Dawson First Nation has done something very recently - only one First Nation has signed an agreement with one company, that being the Ross River Dena Council and the Anvil Range mining group - is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe there have been two agreements. I believe the Ross River First Nation signed one with Anvil Range, and I believe it has also signed with Cominco on the Tag property.
Mr. McDonald: Then the Ross River First Nation's deal with Anvil Range was essentially forced on Anvil Range by the Ontario courts - is that not the Minister's impression?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure. I did not think it was an actual condition. I knew that the courts were suggesting it. I could be wrong, but I did not believe that it was an actual condition that they had to make a final agreement with the Ross River First Nation.
Mr. McDonald: They certainly had to discuss Ross River First Nation's requests prior to the deal going ahead, did they not, and that that was a condition of the sale - is that not the impression that the Minister had?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it is probably a condition. I am not speaking with any authority, because I am not certain. I would expect that it was a condition that Anvil Range would have to deal with the issue. I am not sure if they said there would have to be an agreement. I think they had to take it into consideration.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us precisely how the government - the Yukon Party government, particularly - has changed the policy toward the signing of development agreements with First Nations from the time that the New Democrats were in government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member was pointing out the other day, our industrial support policy addresses the development of partnerships with First Nations. It is brought up in discussions when mining companies speak with our mining facilitator, and also when members of other departments are dealing with mining people. It is to encourage mining companies to make some sort of an arrangement with the affected First Nation in a given area.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us how that differs in practice from the NDP government's policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of the NDP's policy or practice. I think that we have had some pretty good results, especially in Ross River. I understand that the Dawson First Nation and Loki are in the discussion stages. I do not know how that is going. I believe that we have also tried to encourage the Kaska Dena to start dealing with Cominco, both on the Tag property and on the Sa Dena Hes.
Mr. McDonald: I am interested in pursuing this because I thought, from hearing the Minister's remarks in the House, that he has some first-hand knowledge of the NDP government's policies and practices, and consequently was speaking from some authority when he indicated that the Yukon Party government had done something, or had initiated something that was making a significant difference. I am trying to ferret out what that difference is. So far I have not been able to detect any difference.
The Minister indicates that they have had good results from the Ross River-Anvil Range deal. However, given that the actions taken by the officials of the government were essentially no different from what I remember of the actions taken by officials of governments in past years, one can only conclude that the stiff words and stiff direction from the Ontario courts would have had something significant to do with the terms of the arrangement between Ross River and Anvil Range. As a matter of information, I remember the situation as it involved Sa Dena Hes, and the direction that had been given by the government to Curragh Inc. to discuss the mine project with the First Nations in Upper Liard and the Kaska Tri Corp.
Not only were there discussions undertaken, but also deals were struck between the Kaska Tri Corp. and Sa Dena Hes that ensured jobs and business opportunities for First Nations. In fact, one of the most significant elements of the deal was the road maintenance and building contracts that were supported financially, in part, by the Yukon government.
Good things have happened in the past. I hope that they will happen in the future as a result of the deal that the Ross River First Nation has signed with Anvil Range. I am just trying to determine what the differences are. Does the Minister recall any significant differences after hearing me speak about this? Have there been even minor differences in the approach taken by the two governments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I do not know. I do recall the three-party agreement - I guess it is a four-party agreement - of the three bands in the Watson Lake area and Sa Dena Hes. I certainly was not aware of how that went, who did the negotiation or anything else.
I would like to point out, too, that the Mayo Band had an agreement with Westmin Resources regarding employment during the exploration phase that was going on last summer. It will likely be continuing this year. The Champagne-Aishihik First Nation has also been working with Cash Resources on the Braeburn property.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to point out a little piece of information that might help the Minister understand what happened in the Cash Resources and Westmin situations. The most significant difference between that and the Dawson First Nation in its relationship with Loki Gold or the Ross River First Nation in its relationship with Anvil Range or even, in the past, the Kaska Tri Corp.'s relationship with Sa Dena Hes, is land claims. It really does help to have a huge land base in the area. Certainly, mining companies do take note of the fact that, for example, in the case of Cash Resources, half the coal deposit is on selected lands, which encourages Cash Resources to deal with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. It was no less in its best interests to deal with the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun, given the very extensive land selections in the area north of Mayo and Elsa.
In conclusion, it has to be that old land claims agreement that is turning the trick for some First Nations, and that is the way things were expected to play out.
In sum total, I would make the point that, as my colleague said, we do not have media watching and we do not have anyone taking pictures of us. We just have us. Based on the rhetoric in the Legislature during Question Period, I was under the impression that, somehow, the Yukon Party government had done something to initiate new programs and policy, and that it had done something daring, like tying financial support for a mining project to the development of a socio-economic agreement with a First Nation. I thought something had changed, that something significant had been done, and that was the reason we saw the Ross River First Nation/Anvil Range Mining deal struck, in the end.
Unless the Minister has more information he can provide to us to enlighten us, I will merely repeat the conversation we just had to the Minister the next time I hear a lot of discussion about the success of the Yukon Party's efforts to have mining companies develop agreements with First Nations.
A suggestion was made that consultation with First Nations about resource development in their traditional territory would only take place if and when a specific developer was making a specific proposal. Can the Minister elaborate on that promise? Is the government saying that a developer has to take active interest in a specific site before the Government of Yukon will consult with First Nations about development activities in their traditional territory?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I want to go back for a minute to the issue of financial support. Last week, the Member opposite brought up the industrial support policy. We encourage industrial companies to deal with First Nations. I would like to point out that both the Mayo and the Champagne-Aishihik bands had these agreements in place before the finalization of land claims. It is not a big deal, but it is something I would like to point out.
We would certainly attempt to involve the First Nation as soon as we were aware that a company was interested in looking at an opportunity that was on traditional land or if it was on settlement land.
Mr. McDonald: I am interested in following up on that. As we make it a practice of going back and dealing with postscripts from previous conversations, I would like to point out to the Minister that the land claims agreement was formally signed just last month; however, land selections took place many years prior to that time.
As the Minister knows, the negotiating principles during the land claims process included that First Nations would not be selecting lands for which there was an identified, third-party interest. If there was a third-party interest in the area prior to the selection process, the First Nations would not have had an opportunity take advantage of certain opportunities. In the Cash Resources example, they did identify and select lands that did have mineral potential prior to Cash Resources engaging in their aggressive exploration program, which is apparently going on now.
The point of the matter is that land claims makes a big difference. Land selections during the negotiating process makes a big difference and anybody who does not believe it should talk to any mining company, or any First Nation, and they will find out in a real hurry that a pending final agreement is important to anyone who wants to develop a resource project in traditional territory. That is one of the reasons why Cominco is talking to the Ross River First Nation at this time - even before Cominco decided it wanted money from the government through the industrial support policy.
The Minister has indicated that the department will involve First Nations in discussions with any developer who wishes to undertake exploration activities in a particular traditional territory. How does the Minister regard the process of attracting developers to the area before they actually identify a specific interest in a particular resource? Does the government feel that it is worthwhile speaking to First Nations before inviting developers to come in and before the government itself tries to attract interest to a particular district?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It depends on the circumstances for the type of discussions that are going on - where they are happening, to what level, and so on. If there is an expressed interest in actually coming to the Yukon and doing some exploration, it is incumbent on the Government of Yukon to encourage it. Also, it is incumbent on the government to outline how the umbrella final agreement may affect a mining company and how it should go about the process of discussions and negotiations with the First Nations.
Mr. McDonald: When it comes to trying to encourage development activity in a particular area or region of the Yukon, does the government feel it should be at least informing First Nations that it intends to do that kind of thing? Does government feel it is worthwhile to tell First Nations that they are not responding to a request from a developer but trying to incite interest from developers to come to a particular area and to engage in a particular activity? Does he feel that the government should be talking to First Nations about that kind of activity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that if the Yukon government were to try to entice a mining company or some sort of an industrial resource extraction company to a certain area, then certainly I think it is probably important that the First Nations be involved before we actually start the discussions with the company.
Mr. McDonald: If, for example, the government wants to encourage oil drilling activity in the Laberge Basin, would the Minister feel it was important to speak to First Nations in the Whitehorse area about it before expressing encouragement to the oil industry?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. If we were specifically looking at the Laberge Basin. I think it would probably depend on the level of interest, too. If we were going out to actively try to recruit a company to come to the Yukon to look in the Laberge Basin, then I think it would be proper to speak to those First Nations involved - the Kwanlin Dun, the Ta'an, the Champagne-Aishihik - prior to actually inviting the company in.
Mr. McDonald: Does the government in fact tell developers about the umbrella final agreement and the developer's obligations under that agreement? For example, when the department officials from Economic Development visited Calgary recently to talk to the oil industry about coming to the Yukon, did they explain the developers' obligations under the umbrella final agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, apparently they did. The whole state of the Yukon land claim is always of interest to the mining community. Last fall, I recall being questioned in Victoria about the umbrella final agreement.
Mr. McDonald: What sort of information package on the UFA does the government provide to developers? Is it just whatever the government can think of off the top of its head, or is there something more prepared than that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the officials just generally describe at what stage the initiatives are.
Mr. McDonald: What does the government do to provide potential developers with more information? Are they sent a copy of the UFA, or does the government try to digest it in any way? Are the developers' precise obligations made clear in some way?
I note that there were some concerns expressed about Cash Resources' apparent understanding of the UFA when the company made its announcement about the development of the Division Mountain coal project, or about the exploration behind this project.
I am interested in precisely what the government is doing - and I mean precisely what the government is doing - to let developers know what their rights and obligations are under the UFA.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure. I know that a copy of the UFA has gone to some companies, but there is not an actual guide for companies. Any time that officials speak with companies, they make them aware that there is a land claims process going on and that it covers most of the land in the territory, in one form or another.
The mining companies are generally quite knowledgeable before they actually start to work on an exploration program. They are generally quite knowledgeable about it. I know there have been requests to the Land Claims Secretariat. I do not know exactly how it deals with those requests, but I know there have been requests for information.
Mr. McDonald: I want the Minister to take as a constructive suggestion that the department ought to put a little more thought into how it will explain the umbrella final agreement to proponents in the future.
The Minister may be aware that one of the issues at the Geoscience Forum and, to a lesser extent, at the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment's conference on mining, was the issue of what the land claims agreement actually means and what people's obligations actually are under that agreement. There was a lot of discussion at the Geoscience Forum after Paul Birckel spoke briefly. There was a lot of private discussion over coffee about, in particular, what mining companies' obligations are.
The discussion was less significant during the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment's day-long discussion on mining, because most of the people who attended that conference were local and not mining company officials. Consequently, I noted on a number of occasions during the Geoscience Forum that this issue should be raised in the Legislature.
I make the suggestion only because I believe that there are significant opportunities for developers, as long as they know what the rules of the game are. In my conversations with a few developers it appeared to me that, although they were senior officials in their companies, they knew very little about the land claims agreement, other than that it was about to be settled in some way, and that First Nations were going to be land owners, in some way, and that there should perhaps be a one-window development assessment process.
Apart from that - and I kid you not - that was the limit of their knowledge.
Misunderstandings can arise very quickly and people can make decisions based on their understanding of what a situation is, only to have them reversed if reality is expressed to them. I make the suggestion to the Minister that he and the department spend more time thinking about how they are going to digest, on behalf of mining companies or developers, the land claims agreement and perhaps put together a lay guide to the UFA and, perhaps, to band final agreements, so that people will be aware of their specific duties and opportunities under the land claims agreement.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think it is a good idea. I would not have a problem with the department putting together, as the Member suggested, a lay persons' booklet that would summarize some of the relevant sections of the UFA and perhaps even some of the band final agreements. In the same booklet could be information about where people can get additional information.
Mr. McDonald: I am glad to hear that. I would recommend that such a guide be drafted in consultation with First Nations. We would not want to make any mistakes in interpreting the UFA.
I had a lot of questions about the Whitehorse mining initiative, and I could go through it recommendation by recommendation. However, I have a feeling the Minister will stand up and bleat on about the business plan development, which will tell us all how the government is going to meet its obligation under the Whitehorse mining initiative.
If the Minister is prepared to take some detailed questions right now, I would be more than happy to ask them. If he is going to tell me that the business plan and action plan, of one sort or another, are going to address the Whitehorse mining initiative, but that they have just not got around to finishing them, could he commit to providing a detailed update on the recommendations in the Whitehorse business plan, and state how the government is going to respond to each recommendation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to accept the Member's offer. How we are going to deal with each of the 187 - or whatever number - of recommendations in the Whitehorse mining initiative will be built into the whole business planning process in our energy branch.
Mr. McDonald: There are a lot of very interesting recommendations in the initiative. There are some potentially controversial ones. I will ask the Minister to do precisely that and give us a detailed report on the Whitehorse mining initiative. Can he tell us when he is prepared to do that? Would it be in the next couple of months?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would not want to commit the department. Maybe I can talk it over with some of the people involved and the deputy minister, and get back to the Member after the break.
Mr. McDonald: Let us raise the issue once again after the break so that we can tie it down a bit. I am going to be pretty easy about expecting information on the various recommendations. However, keeping it wide open about when we might get a report might be going a little too far.
I have a few questions about a number of other issues. I understand that the Division Mountain coal feasibility study has been completed. Is it completed? Is it public?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know. I will have to get back to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: What is the government expecting from the proponents in order to make commitments to provide support to Cash Resources and the Division Mountain coal project? What level of information is the government looking for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is similar to other projects. The project has to be viable, and there have to be short- and long-term benefits to the territory and to the various communities. The requirements would not be any different from Loki Gold's requirements.
Mr. McDonald: The Division Mountain coal project is a little different from Loki Gold, in that it wants to sell a large portion of its product to Yukon Energy Corporation and burn coal to create electricity. It wants some guarantees about the demand and perhaps even some financing guarantees on, probably, a multi-million dollar project. Presumably, the test about the viability of the project would be a little more severe than it would be for Loki Gold. Is that it, in terms of viability? Is there just a general feasibility study that needs to be conducted? Following that, would the government commit to purchasing coal? What is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If they were going to set up a coal-fired thermal plant, they certainly would have to look at the need for the power over the long term. No one from that project has asked for assistance from the Yukon government to this point. They may be coming to ask us if we would purchase power from them. If so, they may very well want some long-term commitments. I am certainly not aware of any of those things at this point in time.
Mr. McDonald: I do not have my Division Mountain coal file in front of me, but I do recall seeing reports of press conferences around the time of the Geoscience Forum where proponents such as Archer Cathro and Cash Resources were talking about proceeding, but required a commitment from the Yukon government to purchase coal. I am certain that is what they were talking about and I am certain that the government was saying it needed more information. Even though the government mentioned Division Mountain coal in the throne speech and also indicated to Cash Resources in a letter this fall that it would be prepared to put the regulatory approvals on the fast track if certain, basic information was provided by Cash Resources, the information would have to contain particulars about the viability of this project, including the generation of electricity.
I am trying to tie down what the government is looking for in terms of information. I am trying to find out what the government wants to do and what it is prepared to do to see the project go ahead. What kind of information is the government looking for and when does it expect to receive this information?
I am presuming that the government had thought about these things prior to highlighting the Division Mountain coal project in the throne speech.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It has not approached the Yukon government to see if we would be willing to buy 30 or 50 megawatts on an ongoing basis. There have not been any discussions along those lines at all, and I do not know if they will be making that type of representation to the Yukon government. I do not have the date, but the Development Corporation commissioned a study on coal-fired power generation in Yukon. The contract was awarded and the study was expected to be completed by November 1994, but I have not seen a copy of it yet.
Mr. McDonald: Precisely what information is the government expecting to receive from Cash Resources to give it the level of comfort it needs to agree to provide guarantees or financial support to the mining company? All we know for sure is that the government has indicated a lot of desire to see coal-fired electrical generation take place in the territory. It has given words of comfort in writing to Cash Resources that, if it can show the economic viability of a project, the government would support the project and put it on what the government calls the fast track. The throne speech identified the Division Mountain coal project as a really good prospect, and in answers to questions in the Legislature it has indicated, from time to time, that the government supports in principle coal-fired electrical generation and is looking to encourage it to happen if economically viable.
What does economically viable mean? That is the essence of the question I am asking. What precisely is the government going to want from the industry proponent - Cash Resources in this particular case, or Archer Cathro - to give the government comfort that the company can live up to the commitment to see something happen here in the way of coal mining and coal-fired electrical generation? What does government want? What does it need?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the developer of the coal mine at Braeburn is interested in producing power, then we would like to see the price per kilowatt put into the distribution system, and then we could make a decision about whether or not we would be interested in purchasing power from them.
Mr. McDonald: So, a price per kilowatt is what they are looking for? Apart from the environmental regulations that have to be respected, is that what the government is looking for to determine whether or not it will give a green light to this project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we would like to know what the price is, how much they intend to generate, and what our own demand would be for the future. Those are the kinds of things we would be interested in looking at.
Mr. McDonald: How is that being undertaken? The Minister says that the government would have to know a price per kilowatt hour of electricity generated. It would also have to have a sense of what its own needs were in terms of supplying power. Presumably, the government will also have to know whether or not the mining company is going to need some purchase contracts, which would essentially guarantee the purchase of electricity over a specified period of time, because that is precisely what the company has speculated in the press reports that it would need, if it were to proceed with this project. So, in what form is the government asking for that information? Or, is the government expecting to receive that information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A lot of this is premature. I think everyone heard either Friday or today that the exploration program still has to determine how many reserves there are in the Braeburn area. No one has actually approached the Yukon government, other than through a general inquiry about whether or not we would be interested in purchasing some power from them. That is as far as it has gone. There have been no meetings where they said they would be interested in developing 50 or 30 megawatts, or anything else.
I do not believe there will be much happening there until they determine the actual reserves and what they will do: if it will be shipped out, if they will put in a generation plant, or exactly what they want to do with it.
Mr. McDonald: The media was given the impression that Cash Resources had enough coal reserves to supply a 50- megawatt plant for over 100 years at that particular site. They feel pretty comfortable that they had a lot of good, clean coal - as clean as possible. Also, given that they have only, right now, tested and drilled less than 10 percent of the available coal, they will have much more coal they can export. They have even been talking about exporting to consumers around the Pacific Rim. There has been speculation about how close we are to tidewater. There have been a lot of very encouraging signals coming from the company, as well. There have been equally encouraging signals from the government. This is not just another exploration project undertaken in the Wind River area, or down south of Carcross or somewhere else. This is the Division Mountain coal project, which was highlighted in the throne speech.
We have had radio interviews by Ministers talking about how they believe in coal-fired electrical generation. The reason I am asking these questions is because it was the government who raised the profile of this project and indicated that it is interested in pursuing it. I would like to find out how it is being pursued.
Whom does the government expect to provide information about the viability of the project? On whose onus is it? Who is responsible for seeing this project go to the next stage? How will the government bring this project forward? Does the government have an interest in bringing the project forward? What precisely is it doing? How is it supposed to work?
Can the Minister just elaborate a bit on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I expect Cash Resources would probably involve a large coal company. The Member is absolutely right - the company is quite confident it has a very large reserve there, but before it can make a decision to actually start production, a lot more exploration work has to be done. That is exactly what they are starting to do at the end of this month. I am not sure of the exact date.
Once the company has confirmed the reserve, it will probably start talking to us about the possibility of purchasing power from it. It will probably talk to various European markets and to transportation companies for transporting it.
I think that is all premature, until such time as the company determines what it has for reserves.
Mr. McDonald: Cash Resources, in the news release of last Wednesday, indicates that the management of its company has discussed the coal project with a major thermal-power-generating company and the Yukon Energy Corporation, and has been approached by four coal-producing companies with a view to exploiting the Pacific Rim thermal coal export market. It goes on to add the line, "The Yukon Territorial Government is highly supportive of the project." Consequently, there has to be more to it than just simply saying, "Hey, if you guys can present us with a completed package and answer all of the questions, then maybe we will have a look at it." There has to be more to it than that, and according to Cash Resources, there is more to it that than. It is having ongoing discussions with the Energy Corporation and it has already been approached by coal-producing companies with a view to exploiting the coal-export market in the Pacific Rim. Obviously, this project is going along apace. So far, the impression I have received from the Minister is that we are at the very preliminary exploration stage.
There is nothing to talk about between the government and Cash Resources, until the company has designed a proposal that not only includes a viable mining venture, but also a viable, coal-fired, electrical generation facility. There has to be more to this than the Minister is leading me to believe; otherwise, there would not have been such hoopla around the announcement and the throne speech. There would not have been so much enthusiasm at the Geoscience Forum and the ongoing discussions with the Yukon government would not have taken place.
Cash Resources seems to be of the opinion that it is conducting ongoing discussions with the Yukon government and if a few things are tied down, the Yukon government will sign a contract with the company to purchase coal.
The Government Leader indicated on a number of occasions that he has great faith in coal-fired electrical generation. There are certain things that only the Yukon government, not Cash Resources, can answer. That includes, for example, an assessment of the Yukon Energy Corporation's energy requirements and what level of liability it is prepared to assume, based on the price and how much electricity the company is willing to provide. It is going to have to be a two-way street. It cannot only be decided by Cash Resources; it has to be done partly by the Yukon government. What has the Yukon government been doing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We just had very preliminary discussions with Cash Resources. The Member read the letter that we sent some time ago. We said that if power were to be produced and the cost is such that it is cheaper than what we were currently paying, we would be interested. There have certainly been no signed agreements with anyone - at least not that I am aware of. All we have said is we are interested, we would like to see the mine go ahead and we would like to purchase power if the price is right.
Mr. McDonald: It is more than price. I thought we had gone past that point. We decided that the price per kilowatt is an important feature of an agreement, but an assessment of what the Yukon Energy Corporation's energy requirements are is also important. The willingness of the Yukon government to enter into a purchase contract, over a specified period of time, in order to share the risk of a very significant capital investment is also part of the equation. Certainly,
Cash Resources thinks that is a part of the equation.
Given that Cash Resources can probably figure out what a competitive price per kilowatt-hour is, and does not need the Yukon Energy Corporation to say what that is, how will it get the information on the government's energy requirements and the government's willingness to sign the long-term purchase contract? It is going to have to come from the Yukon government.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it would come from the government when they come and ask us. There has been no request. They have not made an offer to sell power to us for any number of years at any particular cost, and we have not agreed to buy power from them. I would expect that when they have proven their reserves, when they have the amount of coal that they think is there, and when they find out, after some cost analysis, what it would entail to build a plant, and so on, I expect they will come to the Yukon government with some sort of request or offer.
Mr. McDonald: Cash Resources says they are already talking to the Yukon government through the Energy Corporation. Cash Resources indicates that they have already spoken to other branches of government and to Ministers. Surely the Minister does not think that Cash Resources is going to come forward with any old proposal to see if it flies. Given all the technical and detailed work that will have to go into drafting even a single proposal, surely that which is realistic will be narrowed down in some way through negotiations with the Energy Corporation.
Are no such discussions taking place? What is Cash Resources talking to the Energy Corporation about right now? They have already had discussions. What are they talking about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We know this coal study is being done. I am not privy to negotiations or discussions the company is having with the corporation. I do not believe that there have been any more talks than what I have outlined here.
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 Economic Development?
Mr. McDonald: The Minister was going to come back after the break with information about the Whitehorse mining initiative report and when the report would become public. Secondly, the Minister was going to provide information about the Division Mountain feasibility study.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The government should be able to provide some further information about the Whitehorse mining initiative by the end of the month.
Mr. McDonald: What is going to happen by the end of the month? Is the Minister going to have the business plan, which has all sorts of sub-plots, that he has promised to deliver to us? Is that what we can expect to receive? The department officials have been told, according to the Minister's opening remarks, that they will have to sit through Question Period if they do not get that information ready. I am sure the gallery can handle all of them if they arrive.
I have a few follow-up questions about Division Mountain coal, because I am still puzzled about precisely what is happening, and I need to know a little bit more. I looked at some of my files to see what was said not only by development proponents, but also by government Ministers. I got the impression that a lot more is happening than the Minister makes out. Either that, or the Ministers and the proponents are leading us to believe that more is happening than is actually happening. There has to be a reason for that.
On November 22, 1994, Mr. Carne of Archer Cathro & Associates said, "The territorial government Cabinet has indicated to us they are very keen for us to do this" - meaning the project - "and they would very much like us to go ahead, but of course we explained to them that without some promises or some sort of contract down the road, we cannot possibly raise that kind of money."
It goes on to say that if Mr. Carne has a contract with Yukon Energy, it would make it much easier to raise the money for the project. That would mean Yukon Energy would have to agree to buy the power even if the economy declines and demand falls off. Obviously, there had been some discussion about this between the proponents and Archer Cathro last fall and about the need to strike a long-term purchase contract. It was after this press report that we listened to the throne speech a couple of weeks later, which indicated the government's enthusiasm for this particular project.
In early December, the Government Leader had an interview with CBC in which he said, "The Yukon Development Corporation is doing a study on the cost of coal-fired generation because we could not do it under the Energy Corporation because the Utilities Board would not allow us to that so we have done it under the Yukon Development Corporation and that report should be out before Christmas. It will give us a better idea of the costs of thermal generation, but I believe that this is the answer to Yukon's power needs for many years into the future."
Obviously the bottom line, as far as the Government Leader is concerned, is that coal-fired generation is the way to go.
That brings us back to the original question. What is the Government of Yukon contributing to this equation? What information is it providing? What is it expecting? Can the Minister elaborate some more on what precisely it is seeking, and when it expects to get that information? Can he also indicate to us whether or not the department is prepared to release the report that the Government Leader referred to in his CBC interview in early December? That would be the study on the cost of coal-fired generation, sponsored by the Yukon Development Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if that study is completed. If it has been completed, I am not sure if it is available to the public or to the Legislature. I can find that out from the Government Leader. If it is both completed and available to the public, I can circulate it. I will have to find that out.
The Member seems to think there is some kind of conspiracy, or something, going on here. Since this Division Mountain coal project was first discussed, we have always encouraged it. If anyone were interested in setting up a coal-fired electrical generation plant, the government may very well be interested in buying power, depending on what our needs are and what the cost is.
During the break, I did check to see exactly what the energy branch was doing. It has started to assess what our short-term and long-term power needs will be, or what they forecast them to be two, five and 10 years from now. They have not completed that report, but they are in the process of assessing those needs now.
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader indicated that the report should be done by Christmas. He even refers to it being out before Christmas. Christmas passed a couple of months ago, so there should not be any difficulty in assuming that the report is done. When can the Minister tell us about the report?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can probably find out if the report is finalized, and if it is available for circulation. I can probably find that out today and report back during debate tomorrow.
Mr. McDonald: I will even ask the question this evening, too, given that the Government Leader is around someplace.
I want the Minister to understand that I am not entering into this discussion under the assumption that there is a conspiracy and that somehow there are some sneaky deals being undertaken between the Government of Yukon and Cash Resources. I assumed that a lot is happening and that we had just not been informed about it. I had a hard time hearing myself think among the din of the 50-piece band that struck up every time the words "Division Mountain coal" were uttered by anyone.
The fact that it received such air play during the throne speech, that it has been the subject of CBC morning interviews, that we have had nothing but positive comments about coal-fired electrical generation and that the Government Leader has even volunteered information to us when we did not even ask for it about his correspondence between the government and Cash Resources - all these things were happening, as well as studies on coal-fired generation and very positive signals at the Geoscience Forum - was letting us in on the fact that there is a fire raging in the bellies of the people who want coal-fired electrical generation.
I did not realize that nothing was happening. Archer Cathro is going through a fairly routine drilling program. Their people are probably as competent as any mining company could be that knows this will have to go public at some point. I did not realize there was so little going on.
Right now, I am trying to determine precisely what is going on, so we know at precisely what stage this project rests.
One assumption is being made here about the generating plant that we have spoken about in the Legislature. Is the generating plant going to be owned by the Yukon Energy Corporation? Is it going to be owned privately? What is the government's current thinking on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, that has not been discussed in much detail. My preference would be for a corporation to own and operate the plant, and to sell power. However, that has not been definitely finalized.
We need to find out what our power requirements will be first, and we need to know what the cost of power would be before we make those decisions.
Mr. McDonald: So, even though it is not discussed in any detail yet, presumably it has been discussed. Would this plant fall under the independent power producers policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I would expect so.
Mr. McDonald: In terms of project size, what has the government been thinking about, in general terms? I realize the government cannot be too specific, but what is the government thinking about, both in terms of generating capacity and in terms of costs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the cost would be. Probably the plant would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30 to 50 megawatts.
Mr. McDonald: What is this assumption based on? Is there any technical information that leads the Minister to draw that conclusion?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said before, the Yukon Energy Corporation is going to conduct a full assessment of our power needs. In a hypothetical situation, it would be able to say that it could use 20 kilowatts more in two years and 30 more kilowatts in five years. I do not know what the assessment is going to reveal. When the power requirement assessment is completed, we can determine what type of power plant the government would prefer to see in place.
Mr. McDonald: I recall the Energy Corporation once tabling, through a Minister, its perceived energy requirements for the short, medium and long term. Did something special happen recently that caused us to want to wait for a more lengthy review to be completed? What precisely is happening right now?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are more mines on the horizon that are going to have power requirements. I think that is what the corporation will want to take into consideration.
Mr. McDonald: How would that make a substantial difference to how they have always done business? There have always been mines on the horizon to fold into the equation; there have been some mines actually operating in the past. Many of these mines will not be using Yukon Energy Corporation power through the grid because the mines are too far afield. What precisely is happening now that makes this calculation qualitatively different from the calculations that the Yukon Energy Corporation has used in the past?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if the calculations are any different. With the mining activity and the exploration activity undertaken to obtain permits, there are more mines nearer to production than there were two or three years ago. For instance, the Casino project would take a very large amount of power if it were to go ahead. I think that the Yukon Energy Corporation is probably looking at those types of mines. They are probably looking at different scenarios - what it would mean if there were different grid extensions, and so on.
Mr. McDonald: As I said, I am not convinced, but can the Minister tell us precisely when the Energy Corporation's energy requirement assessment will be complete?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I could check with the Government Leader. The Energy Corporation reports to him.
Mr. McDonald: Am I correct in thinking that the government will make that report public?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. I do not know if those reports are public or not. I believe they are. I think I have seen them in the past and, if they are generally made public, certainly we will.
Mr. McDonald: I think they are made public. As I mentioned before, I have seen them tabled in Legislature so I am presuming this one will be, too, and I am taking the Minister at his word that they will be made public if they have been before.
The Minister, then, is going to report back with respect to the feasibility study for Division Mountain coal. I have another question, of a general nature, about Division Mountain coal. The letter sent to Cash Resources by the Government Leader on November 3, 1994, indicated that if the proposal is the most economic and environmentally sound one, the government is prepared to assist the company with infrastructure and permitting for the plant and coal mine on a fast-track basis. Can the Minister tell us what "a fast-track basis" is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure exactly what was meant in that letter; it is not from me. We have a mining facilitator who helps to walk mining companies through these processes. We would certainly be willing to offer his services, and I think that may help speed up the process.
Mr. McDonald: As far as we know, the mining facilitator helps all mining companies that come forward, does he not? What does "fast-track basis" mean? Does it just mean that the mining facilitator will help?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know. That letter was not written by me. It was written by the Government Leader. I would expect that the question would be more appropriately answered by him.
Mr. McDonald: I am not in a position to be able to ask him that question at this moment. However, this is the department that deals with this subject, and we are talking about it at this time. I do not know where that leaves us.
Does the Minister know what the sentence itself means? I will tell him how people have read it and he can tell me if I am correct. It says, and I will quote exactly, "In the event that your proposal is the most economic and environmentally sound one, our government is prepared to assist you with infrastructure and permitting for the plant and coal mine on a fast-track basis." Some people have taken that to mean that, if there are other proposals that are not quite as economic and environmentally sound as Cash Resources' proposal, the government will not be prepared to assist in the same way that it would be prepared to assist Cash Resources. It also implies that the government is, in essence, calling for proposals to undertake the Division Mountain coal project and to proceed with coal-fired electrical generation.
Are either of those two assumptions in any way correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, the Member had the opportunity to question the Government Leader when we debated that particular item in general debate. I do not want to interpret what the Government Leader may have meant by his letter. I think it is far more appropriate for the Member to ask him.
Mr. McDonald: I have tried to avoid being chippy about this, but let me say this to the Minister: this is general debate in Economic Development. A Minister of the government is enunciating government policy to a mining company. This Minister is indicating that - apparently - the government is going to provide support to Cash Resources on a fast-track basis, and he puts "fast-track" in quotation marks. So, I can now ask the obvious question: is this a policy of the government that the Minister does not know anything about? Who would be doing this fast-track support? Would it be someone outside of the Minister's own department? Does the statement here imply that the government entertained proposals for Division Mountain coal, and Cash Resources is but one seeking to curry government support?
I did have the opportunity to discuss - in general, general debate - this particular letter with the Government Leader, when the Government Leader was answering questions. However, we were also discussing major financial issues of government - formula financing and a lot of other things - and the assumption I had was that, when we got to Economic Development, it would be appropriate to deal with the detailed kind of questions that I am now asking Minister responsible. I am certain, given the amount of punting that goes on, that the Government Leader would have told me to talk to the Minister responsible for the department.
I just want to know what "fast track" means. Does it simply mean that the mining facilitator is going to be involved? If so, it means that everyone is on the fast track. If everyone is on the fast track, it means that no one is. If there is nothing more to it than that, perhaps the Minister can just let me know. If he knows of any proposal call for Division Mountain coal, perhaps he could let me know. If we feel that it is so important that we ask the Government Leader, then we will wait for another time to do that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, the mining facilitator is going to be helping the company through the process. We sit on the Environmental Assessment Review Committee. We will certainly be giving that particular application priority. Perhaps that is what the Government Leader meant in his letter.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us what a priority service is? Can he tell us what is justified about this particular application that gives it priority status among mining projects?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really do not know what the Member is getting at. I think we are wasting time. That is fine, we can waste time until June. That is quite all right with me.
The Member could have asked those questions of the Government Leader when he had the letter. By his own admission, he has had it for a long time. It was tabled in the House; the Member could have asked the question then. I believe the Member may be trying to get me to say something that might be contradictory to something in the letter.
I do not know what the Member is trying to do. I suggest he talk to the Government Leader. I suggest he ask him what he means by it. I would expect that he will get an answer.
Mr. McDonald: I cannot ask the Minister, on the record, the obvious question. His caucus can do something about the situation if it wants to. It is not up to me, and it would be unparliamentary for me to make the obvious observation.
This is the observation. See? That is the observation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is asking me if I will ask the Government Leader.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: This is not asking questions for the sake of asking questions. The Member for Klondike says, "Sure it is.'' The Member for Klondike - God help us that he is not a Minister. He is saying that it is.
Let me tell you, Mr. Chair, that this letter suggests that there is priority treatment for a particular company and I want to know why. There are lots of companies out there who have an interest in mining development and I want to know why this one has priority.
We do not have any information about this company at all, other than the fact that the government regards it as being a priority, and it has given it top billing in the throne speech.
The Minister spent half an hour this afternoon telling us how little work has really been done. If there is so little work behind this project, why does it get the fast-track service? And what is fast-track service? What is priority service?
One could make a really big issue out of this if one wanted to.
When this letter was written, the Minister of Economic Development was the same Minister who is Minister of Economic Development today. Presumably this Minister knows what is going on within his department, and that is what I am asking.
Is Anvil Range Mining receiving fast-track service? Is Loki Gold? Is Westmin? Does Cominco receive priority service?
What is priority service? Can the Minister answer that? Does he know whether or not his department has priority service, or fast-track service?
If the government does have a fast-tracking service, what is it and what does it entail? How does the government decide who will receive this fast-tracking service?
The only reason I ask this question is because Cash Resources, by its own admission, is years and years away from actually making a decision. There are other companies that are only months away from making a production decision.
Can the Minister answer those questions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess we are going to waste a lot of time, so that is fine.
I would think that priority service in government means that whomever is dealing with a particular item is dealing with it on a top priority basis.
That person would deal with that first from their basket.
I expect that any major economic activity that took place in the Yukon would be dealt with on that basis. That is what we mean by priority.
Mr. McDonald: I do not give a hoot if the Minister or the Member for Klondike or anybody else on that side of the House thinks this is a waste of time. I do not think it is a waste of time and I will continue to ask questions.
The Minister is saying that the procedure to deal with the first item in one's in-basket constitutes priority service. The first person in line receives one's full attention, and then one waits until the next person comes along. That does not sound like priority service or fast tracking to me. It sounds like we will get to you when we get to you. Is that all the Minister is saying is involved in fast tracking?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That Member is deliberately wasting time. We do not know why; I do not know why. It does not matter. The Member for Riverdale South is going into hysterics and chuckling. This is a big joke to her.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
She says that I am a big joke. The Member knows what priority means when government officials deal with an item. He knows what priority means, and that is what I said. I said it would be dealt with on a priority basis.
Mr. McDonald: I just caught the Minister in the middle of a choking exercise. The Minister is choking here.
The reason why the Minister is referring to this as a waste of time is because he realizes that this is, in fact, a very serious issue. When one promises a fast track to a particular company, cannot explain how that company got on the fast track and refuses to explain what a fast track is, then it is a big issue. It gets to be a bigger issue when the government refuses to explain itself.
If I were a company seeking to do business in the Yukon, and I was told that some companies get on the fast track and some companies do not - meaning that some companies might get preferred treatment and some would not, I would want that discussion to dominate this Legislature for weeks - not for 45 minutes in one afternoon, because there will be millions of dollars possibly invested or possibly lost in this territory, and perhaps lots of lost opportunity, because somebody might be thinking that this is a bit too much like a ThirdWorld country, and it is who you know and not what you know that is going to get you ahead. There will perhaps be the assumption made that we should be spending a lot more time on this subject, not a lot less time.
I think the situation we are facing could be resolved quite simply if we had a better definition of what priority service is and why Cash Resources, which had not even finished its feasibility studies yet and had not even undertaken any serious exploration program at this time - because it was announcing the results of its preliminary work only last week - somehow got on the fast track. How is it that this company is featured so prominently in government statements and government announcements?
How is it that this company, which is years from a production decision, seems to be getting such preferred treatment and seems to be well on its way to a major contract with the Yukon Energy Corporation to sell coal for a coal-powered electrical generation plant? How did this all happen?
If there is a simple explanation, the Minister has not given it to us, and has disavowed himself of any knowledge of this statement of policy - a policy that was within the domain of his department while he was the Minister. Clearly we have a problem that can only be resolved if, perhaps, someone injects more information into the discussion. If it cannot, then the only operating assumption with which we can leave this discussion is that Cash Resources and Archer Cathro are insiders.
They know someone in the government, and that personal relationship is driving public policy, and that is wrong. That is not the kind of message we want to deliver to people who may want to invest in this territory - other mining companies and resource extraction companies. That is not what we want to be telling them. That is not the impression we want to leave. If the government cannot come up with more information, we must draw the conclusion that Cash Resources has suddenly hit the jackpot.
They hit the jackpot before they had the technical background work to justify it. The Minister appears to say that priority service means that when the public servants get to one, then they will give one their undivided attention. By any normal definition of the word, that is not priority service.
The Minister has not been able to answer the question. He could easily answer the question by giving us this information because, presumably, he would know whether or not this statement to Cash Resources suggests that there was a proposal call being put forward by the government to seek some development work, particularly in coal and, specifically, in the Division Mountain area.
The government would provide support if theirs was the most economic and environmentally sound. I do not know why the language is structured in this way, but it suggests that a proposal call might be one interpretation. Perhaps the Minister can just say there was not a proposal call - never was and never will be. I have asked the question a couple of times, but he has not said it.
If he says, "No, there was no proposal call. That is an interpretation that is not valid, we can get on to the next point," we will. But if he does not tell us, we are faced with the idea that perhaps there is a proposal call and we have to understand more about the proposal call, because whoever cashes in on this project is into mega-megabucks. Ratepayers and taxpayers in this territory are going to be on the line for a long time to come if they are going to be asked at some point to share the risk.
I ask the Minister to think about that.
Chair: The time being 5:30, we will recess until 7:30.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Mr. McDonald: I will ask the question. The government is committed to providing fast-track service to Cash Resources. What is "fast-track service"?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Over the break, I had an opportunity to look at the letter from Cash Resources and our response to it. I believe "fast track" is either in quotation marks or italics in those letters. Cash Resources asked if we would fast track it and that was our response.
Essentially, fast tracking means that we would give it priority, as we do with any major industrial project in the department. That would mean that we would devote the resources and time to our portion of it. Whether or not it might be your process, or whatever it may be, we would give that item priority.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that a large project gets priority treatment and small projects do not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if one could actually differentiate. I do not want to get into what is classified as a small company or a large company, but I am sure that the Member opposite knows the general workload of the staff. A large project would get priority from the staff and would get the necessary resources devoted to it to move it through as quickly as possible.
Mr. McDonald: Any large industrial project, meaning any mine coming onstream, would receive the so-called fast-track service - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Mr. McDonald: The distinction about fast track and priority treatment has everything to do with the size of the project, then, and not to do with anything else - is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know that it is necessarily the size of the project. As I said, I would not want to stand here and make decisions about what is and is not a small or large project. The staff would treat a project as priority over general office work and would devote the time and energy necessary to deal with the project.
Mr. McDonald: I do not know whether the Minister's story is going to make smaller Yukon-based companies any happier, but I am not going to make a big issue about that. What is the status of the feasibility study?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to find that out tomorrow, because there was no one to ask after 5:30 p.m.
Mr. McDonald: I take it that the Government Leader does not know, then.
Other Members who have questions about Division Mountain coal and fast tracking, please lead on.
Mr. Cable: The Cash Resources project raises a number of questions in relation to the industrial support policy. This has been touched on briefly over the last few days. What is the role of the Department of Economic Development and the role of the Energy Corporation in negotiations with major industrial project promoters, and how are they integrated? The reason I am asking this question - and I think this is what the previous Member was talking about - is that there appear to be a number of disjointed negotiations going on. There are millions of dollars being spent on exploration, but the eventual role of government appears to be speculative.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Essentially, the Yukon Energy Corporation would assess the need of a large industrial user, such as Anvil Range, Loki Gold, or someone who was going to be purchasing power from the government. The Yukon Energy Corporation would assess the needs and would determine a rate. The department would work closely with the Yukon Energy Corporation to determine net overall benefits of the industrial user to the territory and the region. Those are the kinds of things the department would be involved in.
Mr. Cable: What sub-groups within the Department of Economic Development would be devoted to analyzing, say, the viability of the Cash Resources' Division Mountain coal project and what would eventually be required of government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The economists would look at it. The energy and mines branch would look at the mine feasibility. The economic policy and planning unit would look at it for the economic benefits. Our mining facilitator would be involved in helping the company go through the processes. Those are the dynamics of it.
Mr. Cable: This is a project that requires electricity, but it will also produce electricity for sale. Is there a working group involving the Energy Corporation and all those people to whom the Minister just referred?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A group has been put together as part of the business planning process to work with the Energy Corporation, energy and mines branch and someone from policy. Their task will be to look at the energy needs of mines. In the case of Division Mountain coal, they would be looking at the other end of it. If Division Mountain coal wanted to sell power to the Yukon government, then that group would be working with the Energy Corporation.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated this afternoon, in response to some of the questions asked, that there were demand projections being made by either the Yukon Energy Corporation or by his department. Are these electricity demand projections? Has there been any analysis of the cost of production or the likely retail price for electricity to be provided by a coal-fired generating station near the Division Mountain coal deposit?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the coal-fired generation study we were referring to earlier looks at the whole cost of coal generation, not just the Division Mountain one. I believe it looks at the cost anywhere in the territory.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister satisfied or does he know if the price of electricity to be produced from a small, coal-fired generating set would be competitive with other sources on the Whitehorse-Faro-Aishihik grid?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not know yet. It would certainly have to be competitive and environmentally sound.
Mr. Cable: Has there been a target price to which the proponent can work as a goal?
The reason I ask is that there seems to be quite a number of variables that do not seem to be tied down. Everyone seems to be rushing off in generally the same direction, but I am just wondering if it is not the wrong direction. What is the government's goal for the price of electricity that would make this project economically viable?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The study will tell us a lot more. We want it to be less costly than what we are currently paying, and I do not know yet whether that has been determined.
Mr. Cable: Who is going to be determining this? Will it be the Minister's officials or the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If it were to become an independent power producer, it would be assessed by the Yukon Energy Corporation in cooperation with our department,.
Mr. Cable: There is a backdrop to this project - the environmental concerns - and the Minister, with his other hat on, has some considerable concern about greenhouse gas production, as the chair of the environment ministers. What is being done by his department? I think he has spoken about this in the House before but perhaps he could reiterate it. What are his departments doing to determine whether the carbon dioxide that is produced will meet Canada's international convention requirements?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: National air quality guidelines exist, and we would ensure that the plant would meet or exceed the allowable guidelines for Canada.
Mr. Cable: Of course, there are global guidelines that the Canadian carbon-dioxide production should be reduced to the 1990 levels by the year 2000-and-something. How will the Minister mesh a large carbon dioxide-producing generating station with his goals as the environment Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is going to be very, very difficult. Three weeks ago, at a meeting that I attended in Toronto, the ministers of Canada, generally speaking - with the exception of the British Columbia minister - had a lot of problems with the commitment that has been made. Right now, without doing anything additional, we would miss that commitment by approximately 13 percent.
Electrical generation by burning coal does exceed the maximum CO2 emissions for diesel fuel. The other thing that we are not sure about in the north and want to explore further is whether, in drilling for oil, refining the diesel fuel and transporting it, we are not very far off the amount of carbon dioxide we would produce by burning coal.
Over 90 percent of the power generated in Canada is produced by coal. Therefore, coal has been accepted in Canada as a form of power generation. The technology is improving all the time; however, it is my understanding that currently the carbon dioxide emissions are still higher than the emissions from burning diesel fuel.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister stating the only comparison is between coal and diesel fuel? Are other options being examined to see whether or not the Yukon and the Yukon government can do its part in meeting the international convention requirements?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are methods. For instance, hydro does not create the gases, but it does create all sorts of other environmental concerns. Any form of power consumption is going to have some negative aspects. Hydro is a little cleaner, no question, but what does it do to the overall environment by flooding vast stretches of land?
Burning natural gas is similar to burning diesel. Every form has a negative side to it.
Mr. Cable: I think that has been established. Right now, the major consideration is carbon-monoxide generation. I believe a major concern of the Minister, with his environment hat on, is carbon-monoxide generation.
I have some questions about the industrial support policy in the context of the Division Mountain coal project. Specifically, what does the Minister see the government doing for the promoters of this project? Has there been any contact with the promoters that would indicate what specifically they want from the government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was the letter the Member saw. There was a meeting with Cash Resources. They asked if we would be interested in buying power, to which we answered yes. However, there has been no request for assistance, other than asking if we would be interested in purchasing power.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister see any infrastructure needs being requested by the proponents - roads, railways or whatever?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not really see any request for assistance at this time; however, we do not know until after the reserves are proven and they get very serious about going into mining. At this point in time, I do not see that we would be requested to provide any assistance, other than our regular operation and maintenance of the Klondike Highway.
Mr. Cable: I have a question that could eventually relate to the Cash Resources project; however, it relates more particularly to the Minister's industrial support policy of January 1995. Does the Minister have the policy there with him? We have talked about this in the House before. Under guidelines and conditions, number two reads, "The project must be accepted by the Department of Economic Development as economically viable, and show net positive benefits to the Yukon." There is a guideline in condition number six that seems to contradict that. Let me just ask, firstly, about guideline number two. How do the Minister's officials intend to determine if the project is economically viable? Is that before or after government assistance of any sort?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We passed out a paper - standards for project assessment for the industrial support program - which explains number two. I think we discussed this last week some time. When the company has made a production decision, we would like to provide the company with a bit more of a level playing field in terms of cost. We would work with the company before and after the decision had been made. The example I used the other day was that if someone were to open up a mine up in the Bonnet Plume area, it would be a long haul to get the ore or the product to tidewater, if that was what was necessary. Whereas if that mine were in New Brunswick or pretty well anywhere else in Canada, unless it were in the northern part of some of the provinces, it would be easier to move the product to market.
We are willing to go in and assist the company in order to make a more level playing field so that it would not be that much more difficult to make a decision based on being in the Yukon, as it would on being based in New Brunswick, or one of the other provinces.
Mr. Cable: I think the Minister has been around that maypole before, but it seems to me contradictory to say a project is economically viable if the playing field has to be levelled. The market has already done that. That is what the market is all about; it determines the playing field ahead of time.
If the Minister says, according to guideline number six, "The proponent will need to show to the satisfaction of the department that the assistance will act as a necessary incentive to carry out the project," does he not see the contradiction between that and saying the project has to be economically viable to begin with?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is a bit of a balancing act. There is no question about that. The other thing, too, is when a mining company is trying to obtain public funds through a stock offering, or something like that, if the government of that jurisdiction has shown some support, it has a much better opportunity to raise funds. It may very well be that, because the capital costs of most industrial projects are very large at the front end, we can help out with a certain amount.
As time goes on and they start reaping a profit from their investment, we will get our money back. I think that the two somewhat contradict each other, but I think it is kind of a balancing act.
Mr. Cable: I do not have the Minister's handout that he described a few moments ago in front of me. When net positive benefits to the Yukon are being determined, will the Minister and his officials be determining the cost of the infrastructure support? Will that be factored into the equation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: What the department would do is measure the benefits to the territory against the cost of the infrastructure or the continuing O&M. For instance, Anvil Range has a very large O&M factor in the highways portion. When Anvil Range is shipping ore, our highway maintenance costs rise substantially in order to keep the road to the standard the company requires.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps this was dealt with last week, but what are the elements of these positive benefits? Are they all things that can be quantified and matched against the price of the infrastructure, or whatever support - like tax flows and that sort of thing - that is going to be provided?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if we would be able to calculate it down to the last dollar, but we would certainly be looking at the number of people employed over the period of time, the spinoff benefits from that, and those type of things. We would certainly be looking at them.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of brief questions about trade barriers and free trade. The government was good enough to send me a copy of the internal trade agreement among provinces and territories that essentially controls trading activities. The agreement itself cites three exemptions to the general commitment to freer trade in the country. The three exemptions include three programs established by the previous government: community contracting policy, business incentive policy and the supplementary conditions for construction contracts. There is also a limit to the time those exemptions will be in place. Can the Minister give me a statement about what the government's intentions are with respect to the internal trade agreement? Is it going to be trying to preserve the three programs in perpetuity? What is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding of the free trade agreement is that we are required to review those exemptions. I believe it is every five years. We do not have to kill them. We just have to review them to see if they are still doing what the initial intent was when they were put into place.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that, at least for the foreseeable future, the government will be maintaining these three programs? Is it anticipating that it is going to have any trouble whatsoever living up to its original statement that it wanted free trade in the country? It appears to be qualified free trade right now. What is the general philosophical position of the government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Essentially, we feel that we can live up to the terms of the free trade agreement. I believe that all of the provinces in the country have some restrictions in their own province that they want to maintain.
I am on rather thin ice, as neither my official nor I are sure about this, but I believe that there are other exemptions, aside from our own.
I am pretty sure that most of the provinces have an exemption.
Mr. McDonald: Some of them do. I went through the exemption clauses, and there are apparently two kinds of exemptions. One type of exemption refers to those that are sunsetted, and the other one appears to be indefinite. There appears to be a difference between the two. The Yukon exemption appears to be somewhat indefinite. I am just wondering what the government's intentions are.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I need to correct the statement I made a few minutes ago. I said that it was five years. I actually found the section on page 26. We are required to conduct a review of such policies and programs no later than January 1, 1998, to ensure that they meet the regional and economic objectives. That is a requirement for us. I do not know how often a review takes place after that. I thought I read that it was five years, but I am not positive.
Mr. McDonald: I see the clause the Minister referred to on page 26 of the agreement. It appears that, if the Yukon wishes, the Yukon could continue to apply the business incentive policy, the community contracting policy and the supplementary conditions in construction contracts for as long as it wanted. I am just trying to find out how long we want to.
We learned early on in the government's term that it was interested in a bid preference clause, something it has since abandoned. I am now of the understanding that it is looking to promote these three programs.
Generally speaking, is the government going to promote more deregulating activities between jurisdictions in this country? What is the government's current position?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: More or less, yes. We agreed with the deregulation of the transportation industry, and we have signed the internal trade agreement. We were looking at those three particular programs.
There is another one, called Regional Economic Development. It allows some preference to be given if one is trying to create regional economic development.
We agree with those. The three programs we have protected provide employment, and so on, for Yukon residents - at least, we feel they do. We would try to maintain those particular practices unless there are compelling reasons not to continue them. We would want to consult with industry before we made the decision to discontinue them.
Mr. McDonald: The government signed an agreement with the federal government that is called an efficiency of the federation agreement. This agreement was announced on July 18, 1994. In this, it is agreed to pursue an action plan outlining priorities for reducing duplication and overlap between the federal and Yukon governments.
Can the Minister tell us what has happened to this action plan? Can we have a copy of it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I actually have not heard of it before. My understanding is that it is an Executive Council Office initiative. We will try to get some information on it to provide to the Members.
Mr. McDonald: Is it one of those agreements between First Ministers that are sometimes really useful the moment they are signed, but are something of a pain in the butt to everyone associated with them later?
In any case, I would like to have a copy of that action plan. If the Minister can secure one, I would appreciate it.
I had a chance to read briefly through the terms of reference of the business development fund. According to the terms of reference, the evaluation of the business development fund was completed a month ago. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It actually fell behind during the drafting stage and is about one month behind right now. We expect it around the end of this month.
Mr. McDonald: It says it will be finished by February 15, so if it is one month behind it should be available in about two days. I am sure we can keep Economic Development estimates on until we see a copy of the report.
Who is the contractor associated with this project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is ARA Consulting. I am not sure if ARA is an abbreviation and means something else or not.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Tourism asked me to ask if this was a division of Xerox.
Who are the principals of ARA and where is it based?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The company is out of Vancouver. I do not know the principal's name.
Mr. Penikett: I am going to leave my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, to reflect on that last answer. We were all fascinated to hear of a consulting firm with the name of ARA Consulting. We did not hear it as a-r-a; we heard it as "e-r-r-o-r", which sounded great.
I want to make one comment about something that the Minister said earlier and then move on to a question on an entirely different subject.
I heard the Minister express less than what could be called enthusiasm for energy conservation as an option or as a key element in an energy strategy. We have learned that the long-awaited comprehensive energy plan, which was promised us a year ago, is still in the works. I hoped that provincial energy ministers would know that energy would play a very significant role.
Some weeks ago during Question Period, I asked the Minister if he was looking at the possibility, either through Economic Development, the Yukon Development Corporation, or the Yukon Energy Corporation, of implementing some government initiatives, either through a loan program or some other measure, for the replacement of electric baseboard heaters in Whitehorse homes. Of course, contractors love to install the heaters because they are cheap and easy to install, but they are a huge cost to consumers at current power rates and indeed are massively economically inefficient and extremely wasteful of energy.
I think the Minister knows, and certainly the former president of the Yukon Energy Corporation would know, that if you are burning diesel in the winter in order to heat electric baseboard heaters, you are probably burning three times as much diesel to produce the same unit of heat in the house as you would if you actually burned the diesel in the house. This is enormously wasteful, especially since we are, at least for now, still subsidizing residential energy rates.
I do not remember the numbers, but I seem to recall an official of the Yukon Energy Corporation, shortly before we left office, telling me that we could save the cost of quite a large energy project if the government took a fairly modest initiative to assist homeowners in replacing baseboard heaters, especially in Whitehorse, because there are an awful lot of homes with this type of heating system and there is an awful lot of energy wasted as a result.
I know that the Minister goes home every night, thinking deeply and musing about the day - especially Question Period and about the suggestions and representations made in Question Period. I know I asked my question several weeks ago, but I am wondering if the Minister has had a chance to think about this, and if he is prepared this evening to propose a brilliant plan to rip out all the baseboard heaters and replace them with another, more appropriate energy system - not just for the good of those individual home owners who may be paying $300, $400 or $500 per month power bills, but perhaps for the good of the whole community.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am sorry if the Member got a wrong impression, because I do believe in conservation. I think we would certainly have to look at the whole thing. Budgets are tight - there is no question about that - and I am not sure if a loan program is the answer. I know that the Yukon Housing Corporation does have some loans that are geared to bringing a building up to standard, but that can include new heating systems. I am not sure about those numbers the Member was using. I am a little bit reluctant to agree or disagree with him because I just do not know.
However, we are looking at some other energy conservation things right now. In fact, there are two projects - one in Yukon College and one in the Justice Centre - where we are using excess power at night to heat water, which, in turn, heats the buildings during the day. To me, that can easily be measured.
The government has for some time discouraged - it is not a new initiative of ours - the installation of baseboard heaters in new construction. I remember one time in Whitehorse when people were being encouraged to put in electric heat. I also remember when people were being given money to put in wood heat. They have both turned out to be dismal failures, in that the price of electricity has gone way up and wood heat, as we have found, is polluting very badly.
Mr. Penikett: Let me just put in my bid for wood heat. I think wood heat can be fine if you have an energy-efficient stove, and if you are not burning certain kinds of wood. There is a problem in Riverdale that we have had to address. I am told that the later technologies in wood stoves do address some of those problems.
That is not really what I am asking about. I am pleased to hear about the particular conservation projects that the Minister talked about. However, there is a problem between the thought and the execution of some of them. I will confess to the Minister that I remember being in government and Members of our Cabinet saying very early that we did not want to encourage the construction of homes with baseboard heaters - quite a long time ago. I thought that we had been pretty clear on that point, not only in terms of the cost to the individual homeowner, but also the cost to the Energy Corporation. I remember going to look at a new Yukon Housing Corporation apartment building - this was long after we said that we did not want to see any more baseboard heaters - and I was shocked to discover that the Yukon Housing Corporation had installed baseboard heaters in a new building - which was supposed to be energy efficient. I suppose that is an example of how it takes a while to get people off what seem to be superficially easy solutions, but really are not.
Before I move on to my other question, I would like to ask the Minister if he would give me an undertaking to, as Minister of Energy, come back with a legislative return on the question of replacing baseboard heaters. I am not going to rush him; I do not want to hold up the department. I just wonder if he might come back during this session with the legislative return. I would like to ask him, as the Minister of energy, rather than ask the Development Corporation.
If he will nod on that, I will put my other question to him. The Minister is nodding yes. I will accept that as a commitment.
The Minister may have forgotten this, but weeks ago I asked the Government Leader a question, and he punted to the Minister of Economic Development. I am now following that up. This is a question about how this government defines part-time and full-time work. I was trying to make sense of the data from the stats branch on the labour force survey, based on my commonsense knowledge of what was happening in the economy here, and I could not make sense of the data. So, I asked the Government Leader one day how he defined full-time and part-time employment. I never got an answer.
A day or two ago, one of our researchers phoned the statistics branch and got the answer. I guess the information was there, or they had the information.
I found something very interesting. Statistics Canada, which provides the definition to the statistics branch, defines full-time employment as anything more than 30 hours-plus a week, and part-time employment as 30 hours or less per week.
I was interested in this because I looked at some of the detailed data about the changes in the workforce over the last year, and noticed, for example, that according to the stats, there had been 400 jobs, I think it was, created in the private sector for women and I was doing what any one of us might do, which is to ask, "Well, where are these jobs?" I do not know what could have happened. They are not in Faro. They are in the private sector; they are not with YTG. What has happened in this town to see 400 more jobs? There are not that many new restaurants open; no new big hotels have opened. The closest thing I can come to is the Super Store, which I understood had employed something like 100 people, but most of them are in part-time jobs.
Then when I saw the information from the Statistics bureau that, according to them and Statistics Canada, a full-time job is defined as someone working more than 30 hours a week. It occurred to me that it is quite possible that there are a whole bunch of people who are working part time, at say, the Super Store, who may be working more than 30 hours a week, but less than 40. In our stats, they are shown as full-time employees, even though the employer does not see them that way, nor do the employees.
My question is really twofold. What detailed analysis have the economists in the Department of Economic Development done of the labour force data? If I could put it in simple terms for the Minister: what reality check has been done in terms of this data? That is the first part of the question. The second part is: on any monthly statistic, what is the margin of error in the statistic? In any one of these numbers about unemployment rate, numbers of employed, size of the labour force, et cetera, what is the margin of error? Can the Minister answer those questions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I assume that the Member has the legislative return to that question, dated January 18. I am not familiar with any more detail than is contained in the legislative return, but apparently the margin of error can be greater in the Yukon, just because there are small numbers.
Our people do tell us that the error can be greater in one month more than another, and so on. We have to rely on Statistics Canada for the information. We can get some information back to the Member on what the margin of error is and perhaps how some of those calculations are carried out.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate that undertaking from the Minister. I apologize that I do not have the January 18 legislative return to which he referred in front of me, so I cannot refer to it. I understand also that what becomes useful or relevant in this kind of data is the trend line, rather than any monthly statistics. The margin of error is reduced over time.
When I see a large increase in the mining workforce outside of Whitehorse, it is fairly easy to figure out where that is. If I see an increase or decrease in the public sector - federal, territorial or municipal - it is easy to track that and ask where those numbers come from. However, I have been looking at the private sector numbers over the last few months. From what I know about constituents either looking for work or finding work and businesses opening up or closing, I cannot make sense of what is happening. I still have many constituents who are looking for work and know many who cannot find work where they are looking for it.
The official unemployment rate looks quite low. I wish I had the numbers in front of me, but the labour force number had gone down quite a bit, which was one of the reasons why the unemployment rate went down. Going back a year, we had a drop in the population, a shrinking of the labour force and a small increase in the number of people working, which led to a much lower rate of unemployment. When I compare the December 1993 figure to the 1994 figure on the chart I am looking at, there are 600 more people working, but the labour force is actually a bit smaller than the previous year. When I broke the figures down to male/female and private sector/public sector employment, I could not see where the private sector employment gains came from.
My question is this: have the economists in the Department of Economic Development taken a look at the private sector numbers and do they have an analysis about where the new private sector jobs are occurring - I do not mean in terms of the individual businesses, but can they tell us if it is in retail trade or housing construction? Where has that new employment been happening?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Our economists would like to actually be able to do the type of analysis that the Member opposite is referring to, but they are hampered by the information they have. We are doing economic profiles. One has been done for Dawson City and we are in the process of doing one for Watson Lake and Haines Junction. Depending on the kind of information that we get from those, we may very well try to do one for Whitehorse. I expect that it would be a massive task. We will be working with the Chamber of Commerce in some of the other communities, but it may be worthwhile to do one for Whitehorse. I think I will talk to the department about doing exactly that.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Mr. McDonald: I have a few final questions, which I will pose to the Minister now. The first one deals with the business development fund evaluation. The Minister identified ARA Consultants as the consulting company. Can he give us the dollar value of the consulting contract? Could he also give us some information as to why we cannot identify this particular contract in the contracts list that was tabled by Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The price of the contract was $35,000. We still do not have the name of the principal. We can have that for the Member tomorrow.
Mr. McDonald: I could not find this contract on the contracts list. It may be an oversight, and perhaps the Minister can provide us with some information about that. I would like to believe that all the contracts entered into between April 1 and November 30 were listed. It appears this one was not. I cannot find it.
I have a couple of brief follow-up questions on the projects list for the Department of Economic Development. Could the Minister tell us when the agricultural policy evaluation is scheduled to be completed? What does this particular project entail?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The lead department on that is Renewable Resources. One of our policy people actually sits on the Agricultural Planning Advisory Committee, so he is working with Renewable Resources on that particular evaluation.
The agricultural policy that went into effect in, I believe, 1992, required an evaluation in 1995. That is actually the reason for the evaluation.
Mr. McDonald: I will follow up on the agricultural policy questions during Renewable Resources debate.
Does the same answer hold true for the Yukon Agricultural Association strategic plan? Is it led by Renewable Resources with participation by Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, but I believe that the lead on the strategic plan is the Yukon Agricultural Association.
Mr. McDonald: That was the next obvious question. I will ask follow-up questions about that when we get to debate on Renewable Resources.
I have a couple of brief questions about the winter employment program. As the Minister will recall, the program was listed as having been worth approximately $9 million in gross expenditures and approximately $8.3 million in net expenditures. Can the Minister tell us how the calculation to start this program was made? What caused the government to want to initiate a winter employment program, and when did the discussions begin?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: These were projects that could be moved forward, or conducted in winter. Our portion of the overall program worked out to $350,000.
Mr. McDonald: Was there any information being delivered by Economic Development that would justify the need for a winter employment program? That is the question I am getting at. I was not asking particularly about Economic Development's specific projects, but I was asking about the rationale for the program itself. What caused the government to start a winter employment program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The program was put into effect mainly because of the normal downturn in winter employment. We did not actually see that great of a downturn this year, but normally it is the case. It was just in response to the normal situation.
Mr. McDonald: As the Minister characterizes it, it is a normal downturn that happens virtually every year - a perennial event. Unemployment levels tend to rise in the winter, and consequently the government initiated the winter employment program. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: If it is a regular event, why is it not budgeted as a regular event?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The projects are budgeted in the 1994-95 fiscal year. I suppose that they could have been taken out of the regular budget and put into winter works. However, what actually happened was that the department put together the winter works projects last summer and early fall. It took monies that had not been expended and put those projects into the winter works - they targeted those types of projects for winter works.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that the winter works programs is something we should expect every year, and that when the government realizes how much money they think is going to lapse by period four, it will redirect that lapsed funding into their annual program entitled "winter works"? Is that how it is going to work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not necessarily think they expect the funds to lapse. Some of these projects had been identified by the departments earlier in the year, but they were actually carried out in the winter rather than in the summer.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that the government is simply reprofiling the same programs that it announced in the main estimates, and because the project is going to take place in the wintertime, it is going to announce it once again as its winter works program so it essentially gets a little extra media coverage?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the Member's definition of "reprofiling" is fair. Instead of some projects being taken on in the summer, they will be conducted as winter works projects to spread the employment throughout the year.
There was some anticipated lapsed money identified in other departments, and we were able to access some of it for projects in our department.
Mr. McDonald: Would any project that is going to take place in the wintertime qualify as a winter employment project? Any funds that may lapse from one department or any number of departments might then be dedicated to a project that is taking place in the winter and, consequently, be called a winter works project - is that more or less how it will work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a relatively fair assessment. There are ongoing projects that occur in the winter, but these were targeted to be done in the winter rather than in the summer.
Mr. McDonald: That is what I understood. If a project was going to be done during the winter - if it could be done during either the winter or the summer - it was called a winter works project. Am I missing something? Is that how the government reprofiles the projects in the main estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If a project was intended to carry on during the winter anyway, it would not be classed as a winter works project. That is my understanding. These are ones that could be done either during the winter or the summer, and they were targeted especially to be done during the winter, so we called them winter works projects.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister just mentioned that these projects were being decided upon in the late summer, which means they could not be done in the summer; they had to be done during the winter. Consequently, if they were going to be done during the winter, they are winter works.
I am trying to gain a sense of what we can expect next year in terms of the winter employment program. I presume that, if decisions are made in late summer, the government will identify projects that will go ahead during the winter, as well as those projects it might be able to identify from monies that are lapsing.
It may also involve projects they advanced from their otherwise scheduled time, and all those projects together will be called the winter employment project - is that right?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is a fair assessment.
Mr. McDonald: Was an employment calculation made on these projects? Why do we call them employment projects? Why not give them some other name? What is special about them that we should be identifying the word "employment" there?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We tried to stay away from saying that the $8 million, or whatever, is equal to X number of jobs, because I believe a year or two years ago we went around and around and around about that for days and days and days, and I do not think anybody was satisfied with the result of the debate.
Possibly the people who are actually working were satisfied, but I do not think anyone was ever satisfied with the numbers.
The government has looked at road construction versus building construction and it has looked at different ways of calculating the numbers. This time the government did not try to calculate the exact number of jobs created through the winter works program.
Mr. McDonald: I can understand the government's frustration in not being able to convince the Opposition that they have reliable job creation numbers. The method of calculating job numbers seemed to vary from one department to the next; however, that does not mean that one simply abandons that particular industry in terms of determining whether or not a program is effective.
This government has not been able to convince the Opposition of many things, but that does not mean that it has completely abandoned all of its preset agenda. For example, if the government had been more successful, we might have found an extra three point something million dollars from that world-class facility announced by the government, which is going to make enormous profits and everyone is excited about.
The point is that if the government is going to call a program an employment program, one would think that one could justify such a program on the basis of employment created. One would not want to avoid that particular debate, but would engage it, if one felt one had reliable statistics and a good program to defend. Could the Minister tell us about the winter employment projects that he has - the mine information projects and the surplus electricity utilization project? Has he been able to determine what kind of jobs we might expect from those projects?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For the surplus electricity utilization project, we are estimating one and one-half FTEs.
Mr. McDonald: What is that project - the surplus electricity utilization project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the college and in the Justice Centre we are going to be using surplus electricity during the night hours to heat water. The water, in turn, will heat the building during the day. It will not require electricity, which will allow more for general use.
Mr. McDonald: What is the mining information project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are a number of projects under that particular heading. There is a data compilation in our geoscience office, a mining promotional campaign, a placer minifile data base, a geology and mining pamphlet, and a mining property information system.
Mr. McDonald: Are there a couple of jobs there?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is estimated at 1.2 full-time equivalents.
Mr. McDonald: As far as employment projects are concerned, I throw my support behind the surplus electricity utilization - that is $100,000 a job - versus the seemingly more inefficient mining information project, which is about $160,000 a job.
As employment projects are concerned, I am certain that the mining industry does need to get information out, and we should be using surplus electricity in the appropriate way. However, calling them employment projects seems to be stretching it, in my opinion.
I have already made my statements clear on that point in other departments, so I will not belabour it any further.
What is the future of the Toward Self-Sufficiency document, which was once the blueprint for the Department of Economic Development? Does the government still stand by its commitments there?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Toward Self-Sufficiency document was intended as a one-time document to actually access some infrastructure dollars, and it served that purpose. I do not see any necessity for revamping it in the current format.
Mr. McDonald: I wish I had brought the letter with me.
The Government Leader, in his capacity as the Minister of Economic Development, had written me a letter stating that the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document was still every bit as relevant in the early summer of 1994 as it was when it was first conceived. I can produce the letter if the Minister needs it, but he will have to wait for me to go through my filing system.
Is this document going to form the basis of the strategic planning exercise that the department is now undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is one of the reference documents in the business planning exercise. Once the business plan has been completed and made public - put into force - there will be no need for the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document.
Mr. McDonald: If the government removes all the embarrassing bits from the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document, there will be nothing left to carry forward into a new strategy. I am looking forward to the new strategy. I think it is the government's next best chance to state its intentions more clearly. I am hoping for the best.
Mr. Penikett: Before the break, I was asking questions about the statistics, and I found my earlier notes.
I want to draw the Minister's attention to some of the numbers, which I think would confuse a lay person reading the report.
According to this report, I notice that in January 1995, the labour force was 14,200 people; in January 1994, it was 14,003. In other words, it had gone down by 100 people. However, in 1992, the labour force was 14,983 - in other words, there were 600 fewer people in the work force in 1995 than there were in 1992. That is the first point for the Minister to keep in mind.
According to the statistics, in January 1995 there were 12,900 people working, as compared with 12,300 people working in January 1994, an increase of 600; but in 1992, and I am using an annualized figure here, there were 13,458 people working - in other words, there were 600 fewer people working in 1995 than in 1992. Remember, the labour force is 600 smaller now than it was two years ago, the number of people working is 600 less than two years ago, and yet for obvious statistical reasons the unemployment rate shows a reduction from 10.1 percent to 8.8 percent, even though there are fewer people working now than there were in 1992.
The other interesting comparison is that we have a smaller economy and a smaller workforce, yet there is a lower unemployment rate - not necessarily a sign of a robust economy.
The numbers I wanted to draw the Minister's attention to were the ones contained in part 3 of this report. The report I refer to is "Yukon Employment, January 1995". Any one of these documents can be used.
What we found interesting in this report in the new year, as I mentioned earlier - I was going from memory - was that, in looking at the new jobs that were created in 1994, according to the statistics, 300 of them were for men and something like 400 were for females. According to it, 300 jobs were for males over 25 and a much larger number were for females. The increase in jobs was 700 new full-time jobs. I already mentioned earlier that the definition of full time means anything more than 30 hours per week, which, of course, is still a part-time job to me.
The problem I wanted to bring to the Minister's attention is that, as I look around and look at what has happened, I just could not see where those 400 jobs for females in the private sector had been created.
I did note that the overall numbers looked like there were 800 additional jobs in this report - the January-to-January report - in the private sector, and 200 less in the public sector, and that number could be right within the ball park. I would only ask this question: the Minister said earlier that he had the economists working on economic profiles of the smaller communities. In the last two years, has any work been done by the professional economists in terms of analyzing this labour force data, published by the government, in terms of identifying, or bringing to the Cabinet's attention, areas where there was growth in the private sector that was unexpected, or in some sectors that had not been anticipated, or where there were not the increases in employment that had been expected? I will put the question in context. The Minister knows that the Faro mine, for example, now operates with far fewer people than it used to. Technology has changed things in the way of organizing the workforce. Dome Petroleum had a hundred more people in management on the Faro site than did Cyprus Anvil, for example.
Has any analysis of the private sector employment situation been done in the past two years? I have two reasons for asking: one is because we keep hearing about the changing nature of the workforce and the increasing tendency toward part-time as opposed to full-time jobs - to me, this raises a problem about the way we are doing the statistical counting now. The other problem is, of course, the changing nature in the public sector, which we all know about.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is my understanding that there has been none of the type of analysis that the Member has asked about. I guess some of the reasons are the very limited resources and information that our two economists have at their disposal. However, I would like to look into it a little further and check with the department.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that what the Member is saying has merit. We can argue about whether or not there are more part-time people. Our economists have actually told me that there are not more part-time people, but what do they regard as part-time? Perhaps that is only 20 hours a week - I do not know. I would like to get more information from the department and discuss it a bit more, because I think some of the things the Member is saying has certain merit.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that, and I look forward to the information. I would only point out that I do not have any independent statistical information about the Yukon economy. All I know is that every bit of data about the North American economy, and indeed the economy of the rest of the world, shows a shift from full-time, secure, high-wage jobs to more and more part-time, low-wage, temporary jobs.
It is rotten, and that is the trend that has been going on for at least a decade. I would be surprised if it had not had some impact here.
Could I ask the Minister this precise question, though? It has two parts. As far as he knows, does the Department of Education - I know they let go a lot of the policy people at some point in the last couple of years - still maintain some labour market analysts, and do the people in Economic Development talk to them on a regular basis?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of it. I know that our people work with the advanced education branch, but whether or not they actually have people on staff, I am not aware of it and neither is my official.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Penikett: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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 Legislative Return was tabled March 13, 1995:
Government employment statistics: number of positions terminated; comparison of number of full-time equivalents on November 23, 1992, and February 28, 1995 (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1158