Thursday, April 20, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a survey for tabling.
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Faro doctor
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Health. It is apparent that Cabinet may be discussing the issue of offering salary arrangements for doctors in some cases in the territory, as opposed to the normal fee for service. I would like to ask the Minister if these discussions have taken place and, if so, what decision was made? If these discussions have not taken place yet, is it being considered in some cases, such as the Faro doctor replacement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In other jurisdictions, the practice is - particularly in rural areas - to hire doctors on salary arrangements, rather than the fee-for-service arrangement that most of the doctors are under. In Alberta, salaries are paid to physicians in some rural areas; in B.C. it is done, and in the Northwest Territories, as well. We are certainly going to look at the situation in Faro as a possible pilot project for such an arrangement, depending on exactly what transpires there, as the search for a doctor continues.
Mr. Harding: Has there been active consideration of this issue in Cabinet, or is it just in the Minister's own thinking stage right now? What is the status of the recruitment of the doctor in Faro, from the Minister's perspective? What is being done about it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Cabinet has authorized the establishment of a pilot program, in the event that it is deemed to be advisable in a situation such as that in Faro. At this point in time, I do not have an up-to-the-minute update on how many people have expressed an interest in coming to the Yukon and practising in Faro, but I can come back to the House next week with such an update.
Mr. Harding: I would appreciate that. I did make that request of the Minister earlier in the week.
The former physician of Faro has made two proposals to the Minister. They have been sent to the ADM. I received a copy of them. I am sure that the Minister has had time, since they were sent a couple of weeks ago, to peruse them. I would like to know what his position is on the proposals from the doctor.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I did have a look at the proposals. They were, in our view, not acceptable. I am not exactly sure whether or not there have been counter proposals or negotiations since that time. Again, I would have to be brought up to speed by the department.
Question re: Medical travel
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the same Minister on another issue.
I have a constituent who has lived in Faro for several years now. During the mine shutdown, the constituent got a job at the Colomac mine, just north of Yellowknife. He worked there for several months trying to earn a living on a two-week-in, two-week-off schedule. On his days off, he drove home to the Yukon. Early in 1994, he suffered a heart attack while working at the mine. He had to be medivaced to Edmonton for treatment. He recently received a bill from the Northwest Territories government for over $9,000 for health care travel.
When I asked the Minister to help straighten out this matter, all I got was a letter from him saying that all medical travel must originate in the Yukon in order to be covered. Could he not have reviewed this situation to find some flexibility for this Yukoner?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, the policy is quite straightforward. It is the policy that I gave in my response to the Member.
Mr. Harding: The policy is strict but it is obviously flawed. Here is a situation where we have extenuating circumstances for a Yukon citizen, who is obviously going to have to fork out $9,000 to pay a bill for medical health care travel, which I do not believe he should be paying.
What happens to a Yukoner who is out of the territory on business or on pleasure, suffers an illness and has to be transported? Do they receive no coverage or concern from this government either?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Normally, when people travel or move about, particularly on holidays or extended travel, they take out appropriate insurance.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister this: could the government not try to help my constituent by doing a couple of things - one, re-evaluate the decision, given the circumstances, talking to the NWT government and Colomac Mines about resolving this, working together, acting as a liaison, re-evaluating the policy. Do the principles of coverage for our health care system not deserve better than a quick brush off from the Minister? This is an important case.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand the situation and the hardship imposed upon the individual. The facts of the situation are simply that our policy does not cover that situation. I am not sure whether the Member opposite has approached the NWT or the employer about it. We would certainly encourage anyone to step in and assist if it is within the mandate of that party.
Question re: Animal Protection Act
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources about the Animal Protection Act. Yesterday there was a media story covering that particular act and the draft new act. Previously, on January 25, 1995, the Yukon Humane Society had written to the Minister with a number of suggestions - a very lengthy letter. As of yesterday, the Humane Society had not received a reply. Can the Minister tell us why?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not recall seeing a letter from the Humane Society about the Animal Protection Act. I have had several discussions in the past with Ms. Lemphers of the Humane Society. I have not received a letter that I am aware of.
Mr. Cable: I will give the Minister a copy. In the first paragraph of the letter it states, "Legal opinions in 1989 and 1990 provided by both government and independent lawyers found that the existing federal and territorial statutes did not provide adequate protection of animals in the Yukon." Is that a position that the Minister and his department agree with?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is kind of interesting, because we did ask the Justice department to provide us with information on the adequacy of the Animal Protection Act. The information we received is that there is adequate protection under that particular act.
Mr. Cable: It would be useful to get the memo released to the Humane Society so that it can see whether it agrees with the proposition.
The letter goes on further to say, "In every province in Canada, it has been decided that the Criminal Code does not provide for adequate protection of animals. Each has subsequently developed and enacted tough and effective provincial animal protection laws." To the Minister's knowledge, is that the case? Does he agree that the provinces have reached the conclusion that they cannot rely on the Criminal Code and that they had to enact further provincial legislation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure of the legalities, but my understanding from information from the Department of Justice is that the Animal Protection Act provides for the care and custody of the animals, if there is a charge, and then the person is charged under the Criminal Code. According to the information I have from our Justice department, that is quite adequate.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Health and Social Services will be aware of the labour information picket at the hospital today, which happened to raise an awareness of working people's concerns about local hire on the hospital construction project. Many have suggested to me that the use of the government business incentive policy may be ineffective if local contractors - who know best how to make use of local labour - are screened out from the bidding process.
What other specific measures will the government take to ensure the Yukon gets maximum economic benefits from the project, particularly in the form of jobs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All Members on this side of the House have a keen interest in ensuring that the benefits, jobs and money flow to Yukoners as much as possible. Any politician would take that position. I am rather surprised at the suggestion that there would be any other agenda before us here.
We are convinced that by using the contracting practices that have been in place in the Yukon for a long time, and by utilizing the incentives, we will end up with a situation where most of the jobs and contracts go to Yukoners. That has been the case thus far on the hospital project, as well as in cases where outside general contractors have been awarded contracts, such as on the Thomson Centre, when Burt Pratt's Construction from St. Paul, Alberta, was the general contractor, and the federal building, when the contractor was PCL from Edmonton, Alberta, and Yukon College, when the general contractor was also PCL.
Our officials - my deputy minister and the project manager - are meeting with the Yukon Contractors Association to go over all the guidelines and rules that will be used. I am convinced that the association will be prepared to agree that the methodology is fair. If concern remains, I will sit down at a round-table discussion with them and sort it out. However, I have heard nothing to shake my faith, and I have every reason to believe that virtually all the jobs and subcontracts will go to Yukoners.
Mr. McDonald: I think many people are eager to see how the government's keen interest, as the Minister calls it, in promoting local labour translates into specific action. I would note that the actions that caused local labour to be used on some of the projects the Minister mentioned were a direct result of those jobs being union jobs.
If the Minister says, as he has in the past, that local companies and labour will in all likelihood be used on the construction project, why not screen in the competent local construction contracts for the purpose of bidding and provide proper inspection services - perhaps even enhanced inspection services - to increase the government's level of comfort that the job will be done competently?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With regard to all of the subcontractors and indeed all contractors - aside from the contractors who have gone through the prequalification process - I am convinced that we are going to see mostly Yukon firms be awarded the contracts. There may be some contractors from outside, but when that has happened in the past, they have used local trades people on the project. For example, the general contractor for the Thomson Centre - which was built during the NDP administration - was from St. Paul, Alberta, and the mechanical contractor was from Prince George, B.C., but it is our understanding that local tradesmen were used.
Mr. McDonald: There are some obvious questions about why that might have happened, but I do not have the opportunity to debate that during Question Period.
Surely, the Minister - as well as the rest of us - does not want this project to result in some confrontation between local people who need the work and contractors who may be insensitive to that specific local need.
Since the Minister is going to be discussing this matter with the Yukon Contractors Association and given that, in large part, jobs are at stake, is the Minister prepared to meet with the Building and Construction Trades Council who obviously have a very keen interest in ensuring that local labour will be used on the project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If I were made aware of some specific issue that is of concern to them, I would certainly be prepared to respond. Thus far, to be completely honest, I have not heard of any concerns that made any sense. I have heard some posturing and read some posturing in the paper, which seemed rather political to me, given the individual who was speaking, but, certainly, if there are some legitimate concerns or some concerns that they would like to have discussed, we would afford them the same opportunities as we are affording the Contractors Association.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mr. McDonald: The concerns that have been expressed were expressed by more than one person. They were expressed in person to everybody who showed up at the hospital this morning by way of a pamphlet that was passed out to anybody who would take it, so I think they have already expressed an interest. They have already indicated that they would like some work and they think that because this job is funded by the taxpayers, including them, they should be included in the discussions, and they hope to be included in the work of the job itself.
I do not know what the Minister wants. Perhaps a formal letter or perhaps he wants a scroll or something that indicates a formal interest by the building trades union.
If the Minister gets something formal, will he be prepared to sit down not only with the Contractors Association, who have a local interest, but also the Building and Construction Trades Council who also clearly have an interest, given that their members would be the ones working on the job?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our doors are always open. We are always willing to listen to representations made by groups. With regard to the Contractors Association, we are aware of their concerns. We made arrangements to ensure that their concerns are dealt with as best as possible and as soon as possible. With regard to representations made by the Member opposite about the building trades, I am not aware of their particular issue but certainly if they send some correspondence and want to make representations to me or to the senior officials who will be meeting with the Contractors Association, we can arrange for that.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, steam system
Mr. McDonald: That is a gilded invitation if I ever heard one.
I would like to ask the Minister a related question on the hospital project.
The government has used some outside experts to design a low-pressure steam system for the Whitehorse hospital, presumably to save money. Is the Minister or his department aware of the difference in boiler standards of supervision between Alberta and the Yukon and that what is being designed for the hospital does not conform to Yukon standards?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have not heard that representation before. I would be very suspicious about it, because, time and time again, Members of the Opposition have stood up and made allegations that have turned out not to be true. I will certainly take the question under advisement and see exactly what the situation is.
Mr. McDonald: I have seen, time and time again, the Minister spending a lot of time covering up, obfuscating and delaying responses in order to get past difficult political issues. It is a bit of a Mexican stand-off.
Evidently, this expert did not know that in Alberta only an eight-hour coverage is required for a low-pressure system, thus cutting down on jobs, while the Yukon required 24-hour coverage, especially considering the size and horsepower required at the new hospital. As I understand it, local public safety inspectors were not consulted.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not this lack of consultation and this difference in standards will cause further delays, resulting in increased design and reconstruction costs, or will Yukon standards have to be downgraded to match the hospital design?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, we have the Member bootlegging in a bunch of allegations. I have to be very suspicious about them from the outset, because of the fact that, previously, we have had all kinds of representations that have turned out to be less than true.
Thus far, we are very pleased with the progress that has been made on the hospital. It has been on time and on budget. I will certainly look into this allegation to see whether or not there is any truth to it and respond in writing to the Member.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Penikett: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could just ask your indulgence, as I begin my question, by calling your attention to the presence in the gallery of a former Yukoner and former president of the Yukon NDP and now president of the family business in Alberta, Mr. David Cosco.
Question re: Government construction process
Mr. Penikett: The design/build project system, which has apparently been vigorously promoted by members of the Department of Government Services at a recent Yukon Contractors Association meeting, effectively forces architects to work for large companies, rather than local communities, and tends to cut out local contractors and union workers. I was wondering if I could ask the Minister if he is absolutely convinced that this is a good idea and a good policy direction to follow.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe that we are absolutely committed one way or the other. The design/build has been suggested, and we are looking at that. As I say, I do not think there has been a decision made one way or the other. It will depend on what is going to be built and the needs at any given time.
Mr. Penikett: As I understand it, design/build and finance projects mean that the contractor would design, build and finance anything from a grader station, to a school, to a jail, and then lease it back to the government, at a prearranged price, over a long term. This is an arrangement quite similar to the controversial Yukon Family Services Association project. Is the Department of Government Services actually promoting such a system, which could put out of business its construction and property management arms of the department? What is the position of the government? I see that the Government Leader has just handed the Minister a note, so he has his instructions. What is the government's position on this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is no way that it is going to put the property management branch of Government Services out of business. I am surprised the Leader of the Official Opposition would even imply that that could happen. Perhaps he should get a note from the former Minister of Government Services, who is sitting beside him, that would explain how that would not happen. The design/build concept is just another option of dealing with acquiring space for the Yukon government.
Mr. Penikett: It is not an unkind question, because a lot of things that the Member opposite promised would never happen have happened in the last two or three years. It is appropriate for me to point out to the Minister that a number of people in the construction industry have complained that this method of proceeding also tends to produce facilities with low-quality building and material standards. I would like to ask, since that is a complaint, what exactly is the government's objective in pursuing this option?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The option is to have cost-efficient space for the government, in order to save the Yukon taxpayer money. If we are going to get into a low-quality building with poor working conditions for government employees, and it ends up costing us more, it is not a favourable option. I have not heard the concerns that the Leader of the Official Opposition is raising. I will take them as a representation and pass them on to the department for its reaction.
Question re: Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, labour nominee
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps the people in the industry will be able to get a meeting with this Minister without having to submit a written request.
I would like to ask the Government Leader a question about another matter. It concerns an issue that I raised some weeks ago with the deputy Government Leader, but he could not answer the question at all.
The question is this: why did this government communicate directly with individual bargaining units, rather than through the Yukon Federation of Labour or other labour centres, to seek nominations for the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, which indicates that what is supposed to be provided are democratically chosen and representative individuals to provide the views of all working people in a body such as the Council on the Economy and the Environment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is my understanding that the Yukon Federation of Labour does not represent all working people in the Yukon, and that there are many other unions that are not covered under the umbrella of the Yukon Federation of Labour, so we solicited the names from all unions.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader's view is, then, that he can show complete contempt and total disrespect for the organization that the working people themselves have chosen to represent them in political matters -the Federation of Labour - and choose anyone he likes from any union he likes to nominally represent the views of working people on a body like the Council of the Economy and the Environment. Is that his position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think it might be the Member opposite who is showing contempt, when he takes the position that the Federation of Labour represents all working people in the Yukon. That is simply not the case.
Mr. Penikett: Then, the logic of the Government Leader's position is that rather than listening to the Chamber of Commerce and letting it choose a legitimate representative of the business community, in his view it would be quite all right to pick, say, a director of Rocking Star Holdings, or some other company, to be the voice of business. Is that the logic of his position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The logic of our position is that the Yukon Federation of Labour does not represent all working people in the Yukon. There are many, many other unions and they should have the right to select someone as well.
Question re: Pairing with government Members
Mr. Penikett: That is an extremely interesting answer. Let me ask the Government Leader something else. We had a momentous event yesterday afternoon in Committee where the Government House Leader said, and it is recorded on page 1934 of Hansard, "When one has a majority government, one does not have to pair." Could I ask the Government Leader - it is important I ask him - if it is now the position of the Yukon Party that the Official Opposition in the Legislature will not be asked to absent themselves from votes when Yukon Party Ministers are away on government business any more?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If we did have a majority in the Legislature, that could quite well be the case but, quite clearly, we do not have a majority in this Legislature. We do not.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is talking absolute nonsense. I thought he could at least count to nine. There are seven Yukon Party Members and two renegade Tories in his government. That is a majority. Nine is more than 50 percent of 17; that means he has a majority.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Oh, it is not? Not according to him.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Member to ask his question.
Mr. Penikett: Is the Government Leader saying that while his party refused, with one singular exception, to pair for the government that had nine members a few years ago, it is now morally and logically appropriate for the Government Leader to insist on pairs for the majority of the same number that he operates with? Is that what the Government Leader is saying?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I never heard such a ridiculous position put forward on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, the Members opposite are trying to include you, in your position as Speaker of the House, which is supposed to be a non-partisan position in this Legislature, among the votes of this government.
Mr. Penikett: What an amazing position adopted by the Government Leader. The NDP government that I led never had a majority except with the vote of the Speaker and yet the Members opposite, with one exception, were absolutely rigid in refusing pairs.
Yesterday, the Government House Leader said that a government with a majority does not a pair. Is the Government Leader asking for pairs now or is he dropping the demand for pairs when he goes away on trips, or when other Ministers go on trips?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Member opposite should go back to school. The Member seems to forget that the Legislature was made up of only 16 Members when he was in government, not 17.
Question re: Government construction process
Mrs. Firth: A lot of the people here should go to school.
I have a question for either the Government Leader or the Minister of Government Services. I want to follow up on the question the Leader of the Official Opposition raised with respect to design/build, but in a different context.
I have just been reading an interesting article, called "The fall of an Ottawa empire". It is about the Canada Post headquarters that was built by a private company, to which the federal government gave a 99-year lease. The potential for that happening in the Yukon is real, from the comments the Minister of Government Services made this afternoon.
All I want from this government is a position - if I can get that. Does this government support this principle or not?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In answer to the question of the Leader of the Official Opposition, I clearly stated it was an option this government is looking at, and that I would take the concerns raised by the Leader of the Official Opposition back to the department for its response.
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, I do not want the department's response. I want to know what these people believe. I do not want the department telling the Minister what he believes. I want the Minister or the Government Leader to tell us.
Does the government support this in principle? Is it going to use the principle of design/build as an option on all future contracts with this government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. Let me make clear what we on this side support. We support cost-effective government, the efficient provision of space for government employees, and an effective use of taxpayers' money. Design/build is an option we are looking at for possibly achieving the aims of this government.
To make it clear, I should say that we have not considered the option of, nor support the concept for, 99-year leases.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the government is going to use it, considering the Minister's waffling around - sort of, but maybe not.
Has anyone been consulted about this initiative? Is the Yukon Contractors Association supportive of the government's moving in this direction?
There is an office complex/visitor reception centre to be built. Will it be considered for the design/build process? Will it be an option in that instance?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Probably for the third or fourth time - and I think I answered that in response to the Leader of the Official Opposition - it is an option we are considering. If it is cost effective and efficient for this government, we will look at it. If there are concerns, we will address them. There is no commitment one way or the other. From the question the Leader of the Official Opposition asked, I thought it was obvious that we were discussing it with the Contractors Association and that there was apparently some concern expressed, which I have not heard about. As I told the Leader of the Official Opposition, I will take that back to the department and get its response.
Question re: Legislature, fall session
Mr. Joe: I have a question for the Government Leader. We have now been sitting over 65 days, the longest sitting ever. When people ask why I have been away from home for so long, I tell them it is because this government does not want to hold two sessions, as we have done before. It is trying to push everything through in one long session, and not sit again until the next election.
Can the Government Leader tell the people why it is necessary to have only one session?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for the question.
We called this Legislature back in on December 1, 1994. We broke for Christmas and came back on January 4. It would not matter if we had three sessions. We are still debating the budget. It would not matter how many sessions we had; it is the Members opposite who have been dragging their feet and filibustering the budget because they want to try and derail our legislative agenda.
Mr. Joe: He has not answered my question, as usual.
This government said that, after this budget debate, they are going to bring forward 12 bills - 12 more bills. Why did this government not bring all this important legislative business to the House at the beginning of the session?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We made it quite clear when we came into session that there was lots of legislation. A lot of it was addressed in the throne speech. We have informed the Members opposite of the legislation. Most of it has been on the Order Paper for months. For them to sit over there now and say that they were not aware that this legislation was coming is pure nonsense.
Mr. Joe: I have one more question.
Will there be a fall session?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I told the Member's colleagues, if they do not start moving any faster, we will still be here this fall.
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 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.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 3. Is there further general debate on the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There were a number of requests made last night. I have some of the answers with me now. My official has just arrived, so I hope we will have a couple more of the documents that were requested.
The Member for Riverdale South requested the formula used for calculating the home repair program eligibility. I have that here, and I will ask the Page to take it over and set it on her desk.
The Member for Riverdale South also asked a number of questions about personnel policies, accrual of overtime, holiday pay and issues along that line. What I have is a response to that obtained from the Public Service Commission. I would again ask the Page to take it over to the Member for Riverdale South.
The Member for Riverdale South asked about the issue of overtime being paid to Yukon Housing Corporation staff. I am told that we will have that information in the next few minutes from the Department of Finance.
Last night, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini brought up the mobile-home review. I have a draft of the information that was gathered by what I will call the technical people. This information will be discussed, and options will be drafted by the technical people. As I indicated last night, we will also meet at the political level on this to make sure that there is progress.
Mr. McDonald: I have some questions about the mobile-home review. Obviously, receiving the information right now makes it extremely difficult to review the information. If the questions that I ask are dealt with in the review, the Minister can tell me. As we will not have another opportunity to discuss this, I will ask the question now.
Could the Minister let us know what meetings were held between the Yukon Housing Corporation and the City of Whitehorse and Yukon government, and who was in attendance, particularly from the trailer courts?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member is concerned this is the only opportunity we will have to discuss this. That is only true if he is not willing to participate in meetings or discuss it with me between now and the next session. I am prepared to invite the Member to become involved in all discussions over the mobile-home issue. I do not believe it is a partisan political issue. I would invite the Member to attend the meetings of the staff and the technical people, and I am also prepared to extend to him again an invitation to meet with the concerned individuals at the political level.
As I said, I am trying to get another meeting with the Mayor of Whitehorse. I will invite the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and senior officials from each group, and I will be there as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. I would invite the Member to have input on an ongoing basis.
Mr. McDonald: First of all, this does not have to be a partisan issue. It could yet be, but it does not have to be. The Minister will have to understand that, even though he may be relatively new to the portfolio, the issue has been raised in the Legislature long before he arrived in the portfolio. There were certain very clear commitments made by his predecessors, both in Community and Transportation Services and Yukon Housing Corporation.
It has been obvious to me that the government was only prepared to respond aggressively, from a policy perspective, when there was a severe situation cropping up in Kopper King with respect to the eviction of three mobile-home owners. While the response was relatively good at the time, it was pretty obvious that, despite discussions that we had about land development and about many different aspects of the problems facing mobile-home owners, there was a pretty sleepy period where people felt that as long as there was no political pressure, nothing had to happen.
I felt it was my duty, and it is my duty, to make sure that there is political pressure. That can be achieved through meetings with the Yukon Housing Corporation or with the Minister, or it can be in here and it can be high profile. Either way, I will still meet my obligations to my constituents.
That is the reason why there has been, in the past, some minor confrontation in the Legislature over this issue. Just so that the Minister does not think he is being unfairly targeted, I have also had discussions with city councillors, the mayor and others in the city administration, as well as mobile-home owners, about the issues that are facing the people living in rental trailer parks. There obviously have to be some significant changes in how things are done in order to accommodate people's needs.
I do not feel a need to go over, in great detail, the problems that people face. There is an increasing general knowledge about the nature of the problems and I think that is a very positive signal coming out of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
There is a need to keep up the work, pressure and discussions in order to ensure that something actually occurs. From the perspective of a number of my constituents, who do not participate in the meetings, all they see is a couple of years of dead time - that is what they see. There must be some very obvious progress made on a number of different fronts.
I would be more than happy to come to any meetings the Minister wants to invite me to, as long as they do not coincide with caucus meetings. If they can swing that, I will be there.
I asked a question of the Minister about who was in attendance at the meetings, and I would be particularly interested in who would have been in attendance at the meetings from the mobile home owners.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: To try to start at the beginning, I agree with the Member that there has been too much dead time or slow time in dealing with the issue, because if we do not do so we are courting disaster. I will look forward to the Member attending a meeting. I will not schedule any meetings to coincide with his caucus meetings, although by counting the sitting days I would guess that he has had 70 caucus meetings between December 1 and now. I am not sure how much more there is to say in those meetings, but I will accept his concern about the overlap and will not schedule a meeting at that time.
With respect to the meetings that have taken place, there have been representatives of the Real Estate Association, trailer park owners, the City of Whitehorse, the Yukon Housing Corporation and the newly formed tenants association. I am not sure of the status or membership of that association, but a fellow named Drew MacDonald attended, speaking, I suppose, for the mobile-home owners. I believe two meetings were held.
Mr. McDonald: Yes, I know Mr. MacDonald well. Can I ask the Minister whether or not the mobile-home owners have participated in all meetings, or have they just participated in a couple? What has happened?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member is right. The mobile-home owners have not participated in every meeting. I believe the first meeting simply involved the Real Estate Association. It was the following meeting that the single representative of the tenants association attended. That led to the higher level meeting that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini was unable to attend, which led to the background paper being prepared, which the Member has a copy of now.
What we expect to do from here is to develop options and take them back to meetings that would include the trailer park owners and the tenants - whether it be the tenants association, or whether it simply be tenants who are affected and interested.
Mr. McDonald: I would be a strong advocate of a day spent by someone from the Yukon Housing Corporation, or the building inspection branch of YTG, or the City of Whitehorse, or all three, participating in an open house workshop with anyone who wants to come from mobile home parks to discuss, not only the options that have been proposed, but also any other issues that people may want to address.
The public meeting may be a little too formal, and it may be a hot and heavy session, but certainly a day-long workshop or an open house of some kind, that would allow for more formal discussion, may be, at some stage at least, very useful. Some people have indicated to me that they would be more than happy - if it is not too formal or confrontational - to come in and express their concerns directly to whoever is in charge, although no one among the mobile-home owners is really sure who is responsible for what. Bearing in mind that this is going to have to be a joint effort, perhaps their confusion is justified. I recommend that and I will continue to recommend that action.
There are a number of other things that need to be addressed in this process. We talked about the availability of low-cost land. Can the Minister tell us what progress is being made on that front?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not think that there is much progress on that front. I think that is one of the important issues that has to be raised with the city. As I indicated, I would like to act on this as soon as possible. Again, I have asked for a meeting, and I guess it will be with the acting mayor, as I would like to have a meeting before the end of next week when I understand the mayor will be back from her trip to Japan.
I would invite the Member to attend that meeting, and I will give him notice when the meeting will take place. At that meeting, we can discuss the options and whether or not there will be a consultation process or a public meeting format. At that time, we should try to establish some time guidelines so that we all know that there is going to be progress and dates to work toward on each issue.
Mr. McDonald: I notice that the report does not have any obvious references to land development. Has the committee so far considered the issue of land development and a review of the city's bylaw restricting the moving of trailers within the city boundaries?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that the city is looking at its bylaw right now. However, it was not discussed, and nothing specific was done at the committee meetings. I can tell the Member that, at the Yukon Housing board meeting that was held two weekends ago, I believe, the issue of land availability was discussed as a possible solution, and something that should be followed up on - both the Member's suggestion that there be low-cost land developed and the other option, which was to expand existing trailer parks. It is one of the topics that has been discussed, and is one of the issues that has to be dealt with. It will, I think, be at least a partial solution. It will not solve the problems that we talked about before in the House. I do not want to get into them - the health and safety issues of the very old trailers, and moving them. Low-cost land availability is something that would alleviate the problem.
Mr. McDonald: The availability of low-cost land comes up in virtually everybody's conversation about this - at least people who live in the mobile homes. Their concern is that, as long as they are living in a rental situation, they are going to be captive to rental increases and the rules in the trailer park over which they have virtually no control.
Very few people are prepared to move their trailer outside the City of Whitehorse, if they could, at a great expense in order to avoid a 20-percent increase in the stall rental. One may think the increase sounds like a lot, but it is not as much as trying to find a piece of land outside the city, getting an insured move for a trailer - at $6,000, $7,000, or whatever it happens to be - as well as getting the trailer upgraded to some standard at the other end.
People obviously swallow the rental increase. I understand that many of the mobile-home owners do not even have a rental agreement, so there is no sense of a clear set of rules they buy into when they buy the trailer in the park or put their trailer on a stall in the park. Consequently, conditions may change to their detriment, and they have very little recourse.
Perhaps expanded mobile-home parks are a part of the solution, but as long as people continue in rental situations, there will be increased pressure for much tougher landlord-tenant laws in order to ensure that the rules and obligations are clear and that unreasonable action cannot be taken by a landlord to the detriment of the mobile-home owners.
I have always believed that the availability of land and the ability to move would serve a number of purposes. It would partly address the issues I have just mentioned, but it would also allow people to buy land and get a proper mortgage.
In talking to some people about how they have come to get the financing for their trailers, I am shocked at how much they actually have to pay. It is obvious that some people, even though the payback terms are pretty short - four or five years in some cases - the monthly payments are higher than they would be for a proper mortgage. Obviously, people could be in a true home-ownership situation, owning their own land, and end up paying less per month than they currently pay. This would make living more affordable.
People have also said to me, on many occasions, that they do not want to live in a trailer that is below code; they want to live in one that meets code requirements. They understand the reasons why the code is there. They are thinking about their safety.
As they have calculated it, if they can get a proper mortgage and loan of a reasonable size, not unlike people who buy a stick-built house someplace, they can bring their trailer up to code and afford to do it. They will, again, be in a home ownership situation, which they will appreciate.
I would strongly recommend that some pressure be brought to bear in the right places so that land development takes place to accommodate many of these folks. They are people who want to escape the rental situation in which they currently exist.
I am aware of the city's concerns about developing low-cost land or lots that are less than what I have always referred to as the "Cadillac" lots - lots with everything. There may be some legitimacy to their desire to not want to face subdivision upgrading at some time in the future at increased costs to the general taxpayer, when the alternative is that all the costs for an upgraded subdivision could be folded into the lot price at the very beginning.
Unfortunately, as much as I appreciate that concern, it does not address the problems that are faced by low-income people.
Unless the solution could be found that considers affordability as a prime objective, then all the other concerns are merely concerns, in my view, and simply have to be overcome.
The issue of "buyer beware" has come up over and over again. Many people have indicated to me that if only they had known better, they probably would have stayed in an apartment rather than having bought a mobile home, but someone told them that they could have real home ownership if they just moved into a mobile home. It was not clear that the mobile homes were, in some case, well below code. All the talk recently about being unable to bring the mobile homes up to code has caused new impetus for some buyer-beware protection to unfold into some consumer law in this territory at some point in the future. I think a lot of people would like to be able to address the existing situation, and try to escape from their situation, before proper consumer protection laws are put in place. However, that begs the question, will there be, ultimately, others who may have to face - if they are not made aware of the condition of the mobile homes - the same situation that exists today?
Has the Minister given this any thought? Has the Yukon Housing Corporation given it any thought? Has the Government of Yukon given it any thought?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. From the perspective of the Yukon Housing Corporation, virtually all those issues have been brought up and considered, and it is clearly recognized that mobile-home owners, in particular, seem to be discriminated against at every turn, including by Yukon Housing Corporation programs, which limit mobile-home owners much more than stick-built home owners. Bank financing is much more onerous.
As the Member has described the other issues, yes, most of them have been considered and we hope we can set up a timetable to deal with the issues and get closure on at least some of them in the very near future, and work toward the longer term solution, with a definite timetable, so that we are not always standing up and talking about it or sitting at a meeting discussing all the issues, and all going home thinking, "Boy, these problems are virtually overwhelming. I wonder who is going to solve them."
That is what has taking place, to a certain extent. It is such a big mess that no one wants to tackle any part of it. I hope Yukon Housing can lead the way in dealing with it.
Mr. McDonald: There is no question that the Yukon Housing Corporation bit off a lot of material here. What influence they have on other government departments, let alone the City of Whitehorse, remains to be seen.
Obviously, I would advocate that Department of Community and Transportation Services personnel, not only in inspections, but also in land development, be involved at a certain stage so that we do not come to conclusions about what needs to be done only to find that somebody in the lands branch feels that they have other ideas and the matter gets delayed for a year or two.
The Kwanlin Dun had a meeting with me sometime ago. They indicated to me that they are also aware of the problem and are very interested in land development. They stated that they would be more than happy to provide general contracting services once land is identified, through the land claims process, to develop land as one element of a solution. Does the Minister know if the government has considered this option? I have stated it for the record a few times. Has the government come to any conclusions about it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the government has considered it. I believe the conclusion was that it is a real option that can and should be considered. It has not gone any farther than that, but I think that, if it is brought up at our meeting, there can be specific instructions given to discuss the issue with the Kwanlin Dun to find out how and when it could be done and to provide more shape and substance to a proposal.
Mr. McDonald: I have one last question, and I will leave the other questions and comments to meetings the Yukon Housing Corporation will arrange. My question is about participation of mobile-home owners at the meeting level.
I was somewhat distressed - as the Minister may have gleaned from the questions during Question Period - that, at one meeting the Real Estate Association, and even the trailer park owners, outnumbered the mobile-home owners three to one. As eloquent as I am sure the one voice was, it does not carry the same impact at a meeting as the other voices around the table, given the numbers involved.
Is it the Minister's intention to ensure that when these issues are discussed in the future a proper balance is struck to ensure the voice of mobile-home owners - whose problems we are trying to address as the top priority - is heard clearly and not smothered by the interests of other legitimate groups?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will pass those instructions on to the Yukon Housing Corporation, which I am sure is listening at this very moment. I will ask them to ensure that there is representation from the mobile-home owners so they can get their position across. As I said, I hope the Member for McIntyre-Takhini will attend the meetings, and we will see what numbers come out.
Ms. Moorcroft: I see the Minister wants to conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I just wanted to go back to the request from the Member for Riverdale South for information on overtime that has been paid to Housing Corporation employees. I have it here, and I will ask the Page to take a copy over to her desk. I have a spare copy here, and I would ask that it be delivered to the Member for Mount Lorne.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for the information. I would like to go back to the issue I asked the Minister about last night, which was the policies of the Housing Corporation and of the individual housing authorities.
I would like to thank the Minister for providing me with a copy of those policies this morning. There are about a dozen policies there. As I said to the Minister last night, we had requested them previously and had not been able to get copies of them, so I am pleased that we now have them. I would like to know if the Minister has followed up on the question that he was asked about in March, and that was to inquire into how the policies of local housing authorities are developed. Who does it? What is the process?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that each of the housing authorities is given a binder containing basic policies. If they wish to change them, they can do that, but there is a process to go through that includes approval of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Ms. Moorcroft: The policies that are developed by the local housing authorities have to conform with the Yukon Housing Corporation's policy manual, a copy of which the Minister already provided us with this morning - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is correct.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister explain how the policies of local housing authorities are approved by the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure I caught the question the Member asked, but I will answer what I think she asked. If it is not the right answer, I will try again.
My understanding is that if a local housing authority - such as the Whitehorse Housing Authority, for example - wants to develop a policy, it would go ahead and develop its policy, which would then be reviewed by the staff of the Yukon Housing Corporation to ensure that it is in compliance with Yukon Housing Corporation policies and standards. If it is, then it is approved at that level.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is what I wanted to know. We have a problem with a number of the specific policies of the Whitehorse Housing Authority, which do not seem to match up with the Yukon Housing Corporation policies, such as on eviction.
We have asked the Minister questions on the tenant absence policy, which is still in this manual.
One of the regulations of the Whitehorse Housing Authority policy on tenant absence reads that the tenant will not be absent from the premises for longer than 30 days without the prior written approval of the Whitehorse Housing Authority.
During Question Period, it was pointed out to the Minister that this violates the Human Rights Act and that the landlord does not have the right, simply because someone is in Yukon Housing Corporation housing - or renting a house from anyone - to say that a tenant cannot leave for more than 30 days without the landlord's prior written approval. I am curious about how that policy was passed if, as the Minister says, the Yukon Housing Corporation makes sure that the local housing authority's policies conform with the Yukon Housing Corporation's policies. Is that particular policy still under review? If so, why is it still in the manual?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That particular policy was brought up and reviewed. The idea behind the policy was the concern arising from unoccupied units. The focus was on the maintenance, security, health and safety issues. The Yukon Housing Corporation got a legal opinion from its corporate solicitors and contacted the Human Rights Commission on it. The legal opinion was that the tenant absence policy is not in contravention of law, nor did it contravene the Human Rights Act.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister actually standing there and saying he thinks it is reasonable for a tenant to have to have prior written approval of their landlord in order to be absent for longer than 30 days? If there are concerns about unoccupied units and maintenance and security, there could be a policy in effect that says a tenant must notify a landlord if they expect to be absent for longer than 30 days, but it is absolutely unreasonable to have a requirement of prior written approval for a tenant to be absent from their home for more than 30 days. Does the Minister think that is reasonable?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Personally, I agree with the Member that it does seem a bit harsh that prior written approval would be sought. In instances with a private rental agreement, I would not expect that sort of provision. In this instance, though, we are dealing with what we call social or low-cost housing. There is a considerable waiting list for people to get into these units and if someone is going to be away that long - and apparently there were instances - this was to address the specific problem of people, for example, leaving the Yukon and going south for several months, maintaining control over that unit while other people were on the waiting list, living here in the Yukon, who could still not enjoy the benefit of social housing.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that affordable, decent housing is a right. People need shelter. However, simply because someone is in social or low-cost housing, it does not mean that there should be a different set of rules with a very paternalistic, patronizing approach taken in the policies that govern their tenancy agreements, which are different from other tenant agreements. Would the Minister be prepared to provide us with a copy of the legal opinion that was obtained, which stated the requirement for tenants to give written notice if they were going to be absent from the dwelling for more than 30 days?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will not promise to provide the Member with the actual legal opinion, but I will provide a response to that question that discusses the issue and the legalities. If that is not satisfactory, we can discuss the issue again.
The Member is concerned and mentions that the benefits of housing are, in her opinion, a right. What the Yukon Housing Authority is trying to do is to balance the rights of everyone. It is also concerned about the rights of the people to affordable, decent housing who are sitting on a waiting list, while others who are enjoying the housing are not using it but are, in fact, out of the territory. It is a balancing act to try to deal with everyone's individual rights.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are tenants who are absent from the premises for longer than 30 days still paying rent?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. I believe that they would have to pay rent or they would face eviction.
Ms. Moorcroft: What rules does the Yukon Housing Authority use to determine whether or not an absence of longer than 30 days will be approved? If a tenant, when following this tenant absence policy, writes a letter to the Yukon Housing Authority seeking approval to be gone for longer than 30 days - perhaps the tenant is taking a six-week course somewhere, or has a relative who is ill and lives out of the territory and expects to be gone for longer than 30 days - are there rules in place that say what reasons are acceptable for absences and what reasons are not?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will check with the Whitehorse Housing Authority to see if it has a list of what is acceptable and what is not. My understanding is that it is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. For anyone who wants to leave for 30 days, there can be a legal expectation that that permission would not be unreasonably withheld. It is the legal test of reasonableness that has been tried and used in our legal system for centuries.
Ms. Moorcroft: The legal test of reasonableness is one thing. The policy that a tenant has to have prior written approval for an absence from leased accommodations is another. I would very much like to know the details that concluded that this is not an imposition against people's legal right to mobility, for example, and to housing.
I believe the tenant arrears policy is under review. Is the tenant absence policy also under review? Before I move to the tenant arrears policy, I would like to conclude with the tenant absence policy. I know the Minister is coming back with answers to previous questions of mine.
Is the tenant absence policy under review?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe it is.
Ms. Moorcroft: So, his position as the Minister is that the corporation has investigated this and it does not have a problem with the Whitehorse Housing Authority requiring a prior written approval for tenant absences?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As the Minister, I am not aware of any challenges to the policy, or individual cases that have been brought to the Yukon Housing Corporation board or taken to a level that would cause a review and confirmation of that policy by a higher authority than the Whitehorse Housing Authority that administers it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the tenant arrears policy under review? Has it been withdrawn?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that the tenant arrears policy is under review, and particularly with respect to damages and the collection of damages that may have been done to a unit, and how that relates to the arrears policy.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have been told that the tenant arrears policy, as it was mailed out to all tenants of the Whitehorse Housing Authority on January 24, 1995, contravenes not only the common-law right of the tenant, but also the Landlord and Tenant Act. The policy requires tenants to pay damages for repairs immediately, without benefit of a legal judgment from a court of law.
There appears to be a presumption of guilt and liability. The policy also states that the alleged damages and repairs will be paid for out of the tenant's rent, thereby placing the tenant's rent in arrears. I am glad the Minister is telling us that the policy is under review, because we have a lot of problems with it. I would like to know if it is still in effect while it is under review?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not believe it is. I believe the idea was that it was to come into effect April 1, 1995, and because of the concern, it is not in effect at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Whitehorse Housing Authority sent out a letter to all tenants who were informed of these new policies on January 24, advising them that the tenant arrears policy will not be coming into effect on April 30?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know. I will check that, and confirm it with the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would suggest that might be worthwhile. There is a also a policy on the applicants' refusal of housing. It indicates that an applicant for housing can refuse on the basis of, for example, reasons such as school, medical, transportation, and notice required by current landlord. Those are examples; however, I would like to know what the specific rules are, because the policy also reads, "If an applicant refuses housing with a valid reason the first time, they will remain on the waiting list. If the same applicant is offered a second unit and refuses without reasonable cause, they will be removed from the waiting list." They indicate that refusal by an applicant of a unit because of size, shape, colour or location, will result in the applicant being removed from the waiting list. I think that size is a reasonable and relevant concern to a tenant and their family. I think also that the location of housing is a relevant concern to a tenant and their family - for example, if they have children in school. I would like to know how the housing authority deems what is a reasonable cause for refusing housing.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot answer that for the Member right now, but I will contact the Whitehorse Housing Authority and ask it to answer the Member's question specifically. I do not know the status of the right of refusal of housing.
Ms. Moorcroft: At the beginning of this discussion, the Minister indicated that the policies of the local housing authorities had to conform with the general policy manual used by the Yukon Housing Corporation. I think it is important to have safeguards in place, so that the Human Rights Act or the Landlord and Tenant Act are not being violated. The Minister cannot answer those specific questions now, but I would like him to come back with answers because I think they are reasonable concerns.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I agree with the Member, and I will come back with that information.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a tenant parking policy in effect, which states that, effective October 1, 1994, "Only those tenant vehicles which are currently licensed and operable will be permitted to park in designated parking areas associated with housing units managed by the Whitehorse Housing Authority." Does each tenant have a designated parking spot if they rent a house or an apartment from the housing authority?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not aware of any shortage of parking spaces. I believe that the city bylaws require at least one spot per unit. I do not believe there is an issue here, but, if there is, I am prepared to contact the Whitehorse Housing Authority and look at it. However, I think the bylaw department does take care of it, to a certain extent.
Ms. Moorcroft: The issue I am raising is that the policy states that unlicensed or inoperable vehicles parked on the landlord's property will be removed at the tenant's expense. There may very well be tenants who only license and drive their vehicle in the summertime and who take the bus in the wintertime. I know home owners who do that. I do not see why a tenant should not have the right to keep a vehicle in a parking spot if they are not abusing the policy and taking more than one parking spot, and having a vehicle that they do not license year-round.
This policy says that if a tenant does not have a vehicle licensed, it is going to be towed away at their own expense. What happens if a vehicle is towed and the tenant is charged and does not pay? Are they going to be threatened with eviction in that case?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know. What I will do is provide a copy of the Member's comments and concerns to the Whitehorse Housing Authority and get it to respond. I do not want to try and interpret its policy. I am not sure what is meant by "parking in a designated parking area" - whether it would be taking up room that another tenant with a licensed vehicle should have, or whether an unlicensed vehicle could be set off to the side and would not be in violation. For fear of stepping on a mine, I will ask for help from the Whitehorse Housing Authority to get through the field.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister think it is a reasonable policy to require a tenant to have a licence on the vehicle year-round and to not be able, as some people choose to do, to license a vehicle in the summer and park it for the winter?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, I do not have a problem with that issue. I know there are people who sometimes licence two vehicles for the summer and only one for the winter. I am not familiar with, nor have I dealt with, any issues related to this policy. I will ask the Whitehorse Housing Authority for help on that. My only comment is that, in my experience, for virtually every one of these policies and their enforcement, the Whitehorse Housing Authority is reasonable and would consider, I am sure, a specific request.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has a responsibility, as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation and its policies, which guide local housing authorities, to ensure that the policies are fair.
eople who are in social housing may own a vehicle that they cannot afford to insure and licence year-round. They may only be able to afford to licence it for the summer. I am not talking about people who have two or three vehicles and want to only insure and licence the extra ones. I am talking about people who have one vehicle only but cannot afford to licence it year-round. That is not an option available to them if they are a tenant of the Whitehorse Housing Authority. If they are a tenant of the Whitehorse Housing Authority, their vehicle will be towed away at their expense if it is not licensed. Does the Minister think that that is a reasonable requirement for a landlord to impose on a tenant?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure that is the case. If the Member can bring me an example of that situation happening, where the Yukon Housing Association towed someone's vehicle away under those circumstances, I would be prepared to investigate, because it does sound heavy-handed. I had agreed with the Member that there were people who did that. I am sure there are tenants in social housing who own more than one vehicle, who own only one vehicle, and some who cannot afford any vehicle at all.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thought the Minister would have gotten the point when I read the policy out to him. The policy says that unlicensed vehicles parked on the landlord's property will be removed at the tenant's expense. Does the Minister think that is a reasonable requirement on the part of a landlord?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know how long we could debate this. As I said, I am not sure of the policy and how it is interpreted, nor of what the Housing Authority does. If it is interpreted in the manner the Member has interpreted it, then it may be unfair. However, I read it as saying that if these vehicles are parked in designated parking areas they will be towed away, not if they are on the tenant's property.
Unless the Member can give an example of a tenant who was treated unfairly because of this policy, I do not see the issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: I suppose we could continue debating the issue until I receive an answer from the Minister, but he seems to be unable to understand the question. It is not a matter of interpretation. I am simply reading the policy and asking if the Minister thinks it is fair. I have pointed out examples of when it would be unfair, and he thinks it might be unfair, but I must provide a specific example.
The policy is in effect where that could occur, which is why I am asking him if he thinks it is reasonable and if he is willing to respond to that concern.
I will wait until the Minister comes back with that information and I will follow it up from there.
Under the late-rent policy, tenants having late-rent payments and late-rent letters twice during the past six-month period will be brought to the board of directors for review. The board of directors will review each file and, based on that file's merit, may issue a termination of tenancy. Those tenants receiving two late-rent letters during a period greater than six months may also be issued a termination of tenancy at the discretion of the board of directors. I would like to ask the Minister if an eviction based on two-late rent payments complies with the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe the Landlord and Tenant Act deals with that specific issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister think that it is reasonable that a tenant be evicted after having two late-rent payments?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, it depends upon the circumstances. I have confidence that the Whitehorse Housing Authority will police this policy in a fair and reasonable manner, but if it is not, and people are being treated unfairly, I am prepared, as the Minister, to intervene.
Ms. Moorcroft: What avenue of appeal is open to a tenant who has a problem with the application of a policy or has been evicted because he or she has had two late-rent payments?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The system is that the first appeal is to the Yukon Housing Authority Board. Then, it can be appealed to the chair of the Yukon Housing Corporation. The chair of Yukon Housing Corporation can decide at that point whether it should go to the full Yukon Housing Corporation Board for a decision, or whether to make the decision at that level. If it goes to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board and it is, for example, upheld, then the next appeal is to the courts.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the chair of the Yukon Housing Corporation determines that the appeal does not merit going to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board, does that mean that the tenant does not have the ability to appeal to the courts?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, it just means that the decision would be made by the chair and the next level would be to the courts. It would not be dealt with. There is not an appeal from the chair to the board; it is from the chair to the courts, if the chair makes the decision. If the chair does not make the decision, it is made by the board and then the appeal goes from there to the courts.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me how community board members are selected for local housing authorities? Do the communities have input into the decision about who sits on a community housing board, and how do they have input? What groups have input?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, there certainly is input from the community. In fact, it has been my experience that finding people to sit on the local housing authorities is not easy. The Minister and Cabinet have final appointment authority, but in virtually every case we depend on input from the community.
Ms. Moorcroft: Do the members of the local housing authorities receive an honorarium for their work?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: They do receive an honorarium. I am not sure what it is. It may be that it is $75 per meeting, that being for each four-hour meeting. If that is not correct, I will find it out this afternoon and give the Member accurate information.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards still active? If so, could the Minister tell us what it has done this year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it is still active. In fact, it met very recently - I believe, a couple of months ago - and I attended part of that meeting. The main item on the agenda was a review of the Housing Corporation's home ownership program.
Ms. Moorcroft: Who is on the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards, how are people appointed to the board, how long do they serve, and what mandate does the board operate under? Is it simply to look at the home ownership program, or does it have other responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, the board is not to look solely at home ownership. It looks at a broad range of issues. My understanding is that the formation came out of a housing conference that took place under the previous Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. I do not have the names of the members in front of me, but they are representatives of specific groups. After we have our break, I will bring back the list of people on both advisory boards, along with whom they represent or where they work.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the Minister says he will be bringing back a list of the membership of the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards, and he referred to the two boards - was the second board the Territorial Housing Industry Advisory Board? The Minister is nodding his head, yes.
In June 1994, the former Minister announced that the home ownership program would be reviewed by the Territorial Housing Industry Advisory Board and the Housing Advisory Board, which the Minister has just stated. Can the Minister tell me what recommendations came out of their meetings? The capital budget for the home ownership program has gone down by $1,500 in this budget. I would like to know what recommendations were made by these advisory groups, what changes have been made, and when the changes would go into effect.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Apparently they are in the process right now of finalizing the report that will come to the corporation board of directors for consideration. Perhaps we can discuss the budget line item a bit more when we get there - I will be on the right page. Because of the review, there was a considerable dip in the uptake of the program. We expect it to increase a bit in 1995-96. Again, however, we are not certain what the uptake will be.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister would also let me know when we get to the lines how many homes were built under the program.
How many people are on waiting lists for Yukon housing in Whitehorse and in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We will look for that figure for the Member right away. If there are any other questions, perhaps I can answer them while that information is being gathered.
Ms. Moorcroft: In 1994, when the Minister announced that the home ownership program was going to be reviewed by the two advisory groups, there was also a focus group. Are they still advising the Minister, and who are they?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, that focus group was the forerunner to the advisory group.
Ms. Moorcroft: How is the housing market now? Does the Minister feel that the Yukon Housing Corporation is having an effect on the market? How does the corporation evaluate whether or not its programs are a success?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Yukon Housing Corporation is a very small player in the housing market in the territory. There was some concern about Yukon Housing Corporation programs interfering with the mobile-home market and that is one of the issues that is being considered in the mobile-home review.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have asked the Minister questions in Question Period about some of the problems that some of my constituents have had with shoddy work being done. For example, the work never gets done properly or they are having to pay for work that had to be done again, and having to borrow money twice to end up with a satisfactory job.
Since I have raised those concerns in the House, I have also had calls from constituents of the Minister who have had similar problems and from people around the territory.
What is the role of the Yukon Housing Corporation to inspect projects that it funds through its home improvement loans and other programs?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is an issue in which I am interested. At the present time, I am working to try to clarify exactly what role the inspectors and loans officers take. That is something that I do not think is as clear as it could be. I think it would be very beneficial to have a clear indication of it so that when home owners use our programs they know exactly what they are or are not getting when someone from the corporation assists them in using the corporation's programs.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the Yukon Housing Corporation is lending money to home owners - for example, to fix a roof - there should be some responsibility to ensure that the roof is fixed and does not end up leaking and causing more damage and financial liability to the home owner and tenant, as well as to the Yukon Housing Corporation, which is a funding agency in some cases.
When does the Minister expect to have some answers on this problem?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Fairly soon. It is an issue that should be dealt with. Overall, there have not been a lot of complaints compared to the number of people who have used, for example, the home repair program. My concern - which I believe is shared by the Member - if that, to a large extent, the onus and responsibility has been on the owner. The owner may or may not be qualified to inspect the work and approve payment by the Yukon Housing Corporation on their behalf.
Ms. Moorcroft: Another concern I have is the acceptance of the lowest bid. For the most part, people who have brought their complaints to my office have had the Yukon Housing Corporation decree that they accept the lowest bid. If they randomly ask for bids from three contractors, the lowest bid might be from someone who is underbidding to the extent that they cannot afford to do a satisfactory job.
I believe that concern is the one that needs to be addressed. Can the Minister respond to it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that the inspector goes in first and determines what needs to be done and, essentially, the value of the work. Our inspectors are experienced in housing and repairs. If a bid comes in so low that the contractor cannot do it, the inspector would be aware of it and would deal with it.
The idea is that the corporation would loan money based on the lowest bid. If the home owner wanted a specific contractor who was a bit more expensive, and the Yukon Housing Corporation has no objection to it, the home owner would then have to finance the difference.
It is not an absolute decree that the lowest bid be accepted. First of all, the lowest bid must be qualified and, secondly, the home owner has the option of going with the lowest bid or not.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to hear the Minister state that the lowest bid must be qualified. He also said that it is not necessary for the lowest bid to be accepted. The fact is, as he just said, if the home owner does not accept the lowest bid, they have to pay the difference between the lowest bid and the next highest bid.
The Minister said that the inspector determines what needs to be done and a minimum value for that work, so that the Yukon Housing Corporation would not accept a bid that was too low to allow one to meet the standards. The fact is that I have had three specific complaints from people who have not wanted to accept the lowest bid - in one case - but who had to, and had inferior work done. How does the inspector determine what the value of the work is? There seems to be something falling apart in the system here.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Housing Corporation and the inspectors cannot do everything for everyone. The home owners who decide to have their home repaired have to take some responsibility, and it is the home owners who decide from whom they will get bids. We would expect that the home owner, when asking for bids, would ask for bids from people to whom they have been referred, whom they know, or based on some criteria. If they did not know about a bidder, it is the home owner's responsibility to ask for references to find out. Then, if the home owner does not like the contractor or the bid, they are not obligated to borrow the money to make the repairs. They can stop. They can start again. They can finance the difference. What the Housing Corporation is trying to do is to assist people. The aim of the program is to work with owners. It is not to impose anything at all on them.
Ms. Moorcroft: The vast majority of the contractors are competent. The fact that thousands of people use these programs and do not have complaints indicates that there are a lot of satisfactory contractors doing work, but the fact is that we do get complaints from people who had contractors do work and who have then left the territory with the work having been done unsatisfactorily. They end up paying for something while their home continues to deteriorate because of the shoddy work.
The Minister said earlier that the contractor must be qualified. How does the corporation determine if a contractor is qualified?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are in a fairly small community. Most of the contractors are known to the Yukon Housing Corporation. The corporation and its programs are known to most of the contractors. The inspector goes out and inspects the house to see what repairs should be done. In fact, the inspector may suggest that specific work be done. They know how much that work will cost, based on the experience of many, many home repair jobs. When the bids come in, the inspector can see what the contractor has put in their bid, how they bid for materials and for labour and can tell at that point whether there is an anomaly, such as a very low bid that should be examined. Once that is done, the low bidder should be accepted by the home owner. Again, it is up to the home owner. If either the home owner or the inspector is uncomfortable with a bid, there is no obligation to accept it.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said that the Yukon Housing Corporation's inspector determines what needs to be done and the value of the work. Who does the blueprints for the work?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I understand that for virtually all of the home repair programs there is not a blueprint; it is simply repair and replacement of the existing structure. One of the things that the home repair program specifically does not do is, for example, build bedrooms onto a house, or something like that. This program does not do that sort of thing.
Ms. Moorcroft: Who prepares the drawings that are used in undertaking renovations? Is it the contractor, the home owner or the Yukon Housing Corporation? Who does it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not positive, but my information is that it would be the contractor who does that work. They do the drawings, submit their bid on that basis and follow them in doing the repairs.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe I heard the Minister saying that, as far as the Yukon Housing Corporation is concerned, a contractor must be qualified. Has the corporation awarded any more bids to contractors who have not done satisfactory work? For example, in the cases that I have written the Minister letters about on behalf of my constituents, is there a mechanism in place whereby unacceptable contractors would be removed from the list?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not think that there is any formal qualification process. If the Housing Corporation and the inspectors were having trouble with a specific contractor, it would not recommend that contractor.
I think we should be a bit clearer with our terminology. The Housing Corporation and the inspectors do not award contracts, in that sense; they approve a loan to the home owner to do work. The approval of a loan would not be given if the inspector felt that there would not be value or that the contractor could not do the work. What we have experienced is that there have been problems with some home repairs that a certain contractor has done, but that certain contractor has done very good work in another instance. We really have not run across a situation where there would be a contractor that we simply would not accept or approve a loan for, even if the home owner really wanted that contractor to do the work.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to know what the Minister meant when he said that contractors must be qualified. Does the Yukon Housing Corporation have criteria to determine the acceptability of contractors?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. As I said, there are no formal qualifications that contractors have to have, other than a business licence. For a loan to be approved, they have to enter into a contract with the home owner. The approval of the loan depends on the confidence the inspector has that the work can be done at that price, and that it will be of sufficient quality to justify the money being expended.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why does the corporation not have any rules in place about having a good, quality product?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, some responsibility and some discretion can be exercised by the home owner. We are not doing the work as the Yukon Housing Corporation. The work is not being done for a Yukon Housing Corporation building, the work is being done on behalf of the home owner. The home owner is the one who is important in the equation. The Yukon Housing Corporation is simply providing a loan.
Ms. Moorcroft: I want the Minister to know that I support the home improvement loans and that I support the programs of the Yukon Housing Corporation. However, the fact that several people have come forward with complaints indicates that there needs to be some improvement made here. It is the Yukon Housing Corporation that is lending money to home owners in order to make improvements to their homes. I think it should happen that our constituents and Yukon residents do end up with a home that is improved. They should not have a home with a leaky roof, a home that has windows that do not fit the openings, or a home with damaged walls. I will not get into the horror stories; the Minister is well aware of them and he knows the problems that we face.
I would like to hear the Minister say - he said that he is investigating the problem - that he intends to come back with something that will improve things for Yukoners who want to take advantage of these programs.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have just completed the circle. We are back to the beginning of the discussion, where I said I recognized it as a problem. As the Minister, I am interested in it. The issue I want resolved fairly quickly is clarification so that home owners will not get themselves into trouble by becoming too reliant on the Yukon Housing Corporation to look after all their interests. On the other hand, we have to make a decision about whether or not we are prepared to take on the responsibility of looking after every issue for a home owner.
There are two functions. We have inspectors who evaluate, but they also act as a loan officer, in a sense. Those roles have to be clarified for the home owner. In particular, for the constituent the Member brought up as an example, I would like clarified whose duty it is to climb up on the roof to make sure the job is done right. We do not want a situation where the home owner and the inspector/loan officer are standing there trying to decide if the job has been satisfactorily completed - the inspector asks the home owner how it looks to the home owner, and the home owner says the new tin roof looks fine, so the inspector says it is fine and the loan is approved.
The home owner would assume then that if there were anything possibly wrong, the inspector would have climbed out on the roof and found it.
That is the difficulty I see with the program, and that has given rise to the problems. It is the issue I would like to have clarified fairly soon, one way or the other, even if it is to put the full responsibility on the home owner - they are the ones who should go out on the roof to check the job carefully, because that is their job. The home owner then knows their responsibility.
I recognize the concern of the Member, and I am sure we will talk about it again. I will try to clarify that to protect both the corporation and the home owner.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have not come exactly full circle yet, because I do want to make another couple of points here while we are talking about the inspections, because that is the critical issue.
The Yukon government issues permits and conducts inspections for electrical work and plumbing work and ensures that building codes are followed. Within city limits, city inspections are required. The Yukon Housing Corporation inspectors go out and do an inspection, then they release money based on their inspections. What the Minister should come back with, when he is looking into this problem, is how that all fits together.
Does the Yukon Housing Corporation inspector decide that 80 percent of the job is done and the cheque can be released to the home owner to give to the contractor for 80 percent of the work when Yukon government building inspections and safety branch have not approved their permits and said that the work is satisfactory, or when the City of Whitehorse has not approved their permits?
I talked to one home owner who got a loan under the home repair program from Yukon Housing Corporation, who was not even aware that the City of Whitehorse had to do any inspections. This was another case where the work was not done satisfactorily and the contractors never got their final two-percent cheque, but in the meantime the home owner ended up with a home that has been deteriorating badly ever since.
The Housing Corporation should have some responsibility to ensure that the work is done satisfactorily before they release those cheques. It is not only home owners, but contractors have also complained to me that the Yukon Housing Corporation inspections are part of the problem here.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will accept those representations of the Member and consider them in looking at this issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know what the rural housing stock is right now?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I would like the Member to repeat the question. I was looking at the names here to see if I had the Housing Advisory Board names for the Member. I will stay with her if she will repeat the question, and I will look for the information at the break.
Ms. Moorcroft: I had asked the Minister about the people on the waiting lists for Yukon housing, both in Whitehorse and in the communities. I would like to ask him what the Yukon Housing Corporation is doing to find new homes, especially in rural communities. What is the status of the housing stock in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There are no plans for new housing units at present.
The waiting lists for rural areas are in fairly good shape, other than Watson Lake. I have some of the figures here that I can read into the record. If there are any missing, I will get them for the Member.
I believe there are 69 people on the waiting list in Whitehorse. There are 11 on the waiting list in Watson Lake. The others include: Carcross, three; Carmacks, zero; Dawson City, zero; Destruction Bay, zero; Faro, zero; Haines Junction, zero; Mayo, zero; Old Crow, the units are full, but I do not see any on the waiting list; Ross River, zero; and, Teslin, zero. I believe that completes the list. It is really Watson Lake and Whitehorse where there is a shortage.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could also get back to me with the list of how many housing units are available in rural communities and how many social housing units are available.
Is there still funding from the federal government for social housing? Where does CMHC stand on this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is no funding for new construction, but there is funding for the operation and maintenance of existing units.
I have the list of units here, if the Member would like to hear it. Perhaps I could take a minute to read it into the record. It will not take long. If she would like a copy, I can provide it.
In Beaver Creek there is one staff housing unit. In Carcross there are six social housing units and four staff housing units. In Carmacks there are 18 social housing units and 13 staff housing units. In Dawson City there are 65 social housing units and 16 staff housing units. In Destruction Bay there is one staff housing unit. In Faro there are 21 staff housing units. In Haines Junction there are 13 social housing units and six staff housing units. In Mayo there are 26 social housing units and seven staff housing units. In Old Crow there are three staff housing units. In Pelly Crossing there are five staff housing units. In Ross River there are 15 social housing units and eight staff housing units. In Teslin there are 13 social housing units and 11 staff housing units. In Watson Lake there are 29 social housing units and 20 staff housing units. In Whitehorse there are 339 social housing units.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was a comprehensive review of staff housing and the needs policy completed?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: A review of the staff housing issue was started, but it was not completed. In essence, it is on hold at the present time. I do not know when it will be reactivated and completed, but it is an issue that has to be dealt with.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister had stated last year that he might look at getting out of staff housing in Dawson, Haines Junction and Watson Lake. Is the Minister still contemplating doing that? If so, why and when would that occur?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Those were some of the recommendations made at the housing conference and there is nothing that I, as the Minister, have in the works, or that the Yukon Housing Corporation is specifically undertaking in that regard at the present time. The status quo still pertains.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess that will be another item contained in the report from the boards that the Minister was talking about earlier.
Is the rural native housing program still available? How much Yukon participation is there in that program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is my understanding that that program is a federal program available through CMHC and that there is no Yukon Housing Corporation participation in that program.
Ms. Moorcroft: What has happened with the CMHC housing program, following the recent federal budget cuts? Do they still play a role in the housing market, and will any joint programs suffer in the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Probably a partial answer for the Member is that the new programs funded by CMHC are ended at this point except the programs that apply to First Nations housing.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister ran down the waiting lists of people who need housing. Has there been any movement within the Yukon Housing Corporation to look at co-op housing? That might be one way of encouraging home ownership for people who might not otherwise be able to afford a home and it also might lessen the waiting list.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Apparently there was a program cost shared with the federal government, but it was cancelled four or five years ago. There are no plans at this time for the Housing Corporation to get into co-op housing.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not think the Yukon government can look to the federal government to play a leadership role in the area of new programs. It is quite obvious that the federal government is going the other way. That is why I am asking this Minister if the Yukon Housing Corporation is doing anything to make home ownership more possible for Yukoners.
What about support for the homeless? Is the Minister or the corporation contemplating a program directed at the problem of homeless people in the city or the territory?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, there is no program by the Yukon Housing Corporation aimed at homeless people at the present time.
To go back to the previous question, I should tell the Member that the Housing Advisory Board will be making recommendations to the Yukon Housing Corporation on various housing issues that could include the possibility of co-op housing or programs for homeless people. However, I have not seen a report or recommendation at this time, and I am not sure what advice the board will give to the corporation on those issues.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it also looking at the need for senior housing? Does the Minister know how many seniors are on the waiting list for housing and if anything new is being done to help find housing for seniors?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe the advisory boards are specifically considering seniors at this time. We have more seniors housing than we had previously, which is encouraging for those of us who are getting older. I glance over at the Member for Riverside when I say that, whom we hope will remain in the Yukon for a long time to come - there is also the Member for Kluane.
We have nine seniors on a waiting list in Whitehorse. It is not something that has been taken care of completely.
Ms. Moorcroft: How is the program for rental units in private homes going? How many units have been done in the last year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe we have those numbers. I will have the official see if he can locate them. We can talk more about it when we get to the line, but at this time I can say that the uptake on the rental suite program is less now due to the increase in vacancy rates, so there are less being done now. That is also an issue that is being dealt with as a subset of the mobile-home review in dealing with health and safety considerations. The group that includes the city, Community and Transportation Services, and Yukon Housing, was also concerned about health and safety in illegal suites. One of the things that the city wants to do is look at correcting that problem.
I have a figure here. What I have is rent supplement agreements. I do not know if I am going to confuse the Member, or if I am answering a question that she did not ask, but it is information for Members. The Housing Corporation has a total of 78 rent supplement units - 60 in Whitehorse, 13 in Dawson and five in Old Crow.
Ms. Moorcroft: The only time I get confused is when the Minister stands up and contradicts himself with some of the answers that he has given, so I do not think he needs to worry about confusing me by giving me some straight factual information.
I have asked the Minister about co-op housing, social housing, seniors housing and homelessness. He has indicated that he is awaiting a report from the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards and the Housing Industry Advisory Board. He has also told me that he expects to hear from the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards soon. Has the Yukon Housing Corporation taken any new directions in preparing its budget for the next year? What are they?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. We are just expecting reports from the advisory boards and the advisory group at this time. Most of the figures in the budget were prepared last August. There have been no significant changes in programming or budget other than to adjust for, as mentioned earlier, a slightly higher uptake for the home ownership program. Otherwise, essentially, the 1995-96 budget is a continuation of programs and budgets that were in place for 1994-95.
I have now the names of the individuals on the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards and the Housing Industry Advisory Board. The Housing Industry Advisory Board is made up of Doris Penner, from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce; Terry Bergen, from the Yukon Real Estate Association; Bernard Menelon, from the Association of Yukon Communities; John Allen, from the Yukon Home Builders Association and Ivan Dechkoff, from CIBC.
The members of the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards are Theresa Smith, from Carcross; Bill Harris, from Carmacks; Joe Magee, from Dawson; Deborah Bastien, from Haines Junction; Gord Hind, from Mayo; Mike Powaschuk, from Ross River; Brandy Greenwood, from Teslin; Margaret Gardiner, from Watson Lake; and, Lana Annau, from the Whitehorse Housing Authority.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for that information. I would have thought, from what he said earlier, that there was representation from groups other than industry groups. I do not see any representatives other than ones from the housing industry.
Is the Minister not concerned about the fact that there is no representation on behalf of tenants, seniors or people who are using the housing, not constructing the housing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is why there are two groups. There is the Housing Industry Advisory Board and the other group, the Territorial Association of Housing Advisory Boards. The individuals the Member refers to are represented in those groups. Some of the members of those boards are seniors and some are tenants. They represent a whole range of interests other than industry, which is represented in the Industry Advisory Board.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know that the Yukon Housing Corporation has been trying to assist the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to find a new home. I would like to ask the Minister if he supports that and if he can tell me what the status of that is at the moment?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I sure do support it. In fact, I gave instructions to the Yukon Housing Corporation to do everything it could to assist the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. As far as I know, it is an ongoing process. There has not been any conclusion reached. I can find out exactly where the Yukon Housing Corporation is at. My instruction to the corporation in that regard was that we would reach an agreement with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. There was, based on our loan program, an agreement where they would be paying back the loan. We would assist them in every way, but it would not be an outright grant or the provision of accommodation for them. It would be an arrangement where they would have control over their space and building.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is great. I would like to know when that is going to happen. They have been working on it for some months now. Will it be completed soon, or in three months, six months, or another year? When do they expect they might have a place that is satisfactory to the Women's Centre and which the Yukon Housing Corporation will support through the home ownership program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that the ball is now in the court of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. As soon as they find suitable accommodation, the Yukon Housing Corporation will do everything it can to assist them to purchase, finance or acquire that space they need.
It is really up to them to find the place. Then the Yukon Housing Corporation will try to facilitate the acquisition.
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 at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Yukon Housing Corporation, under Bill No. 3?
Ms. Moorcroft: The policy manual the Minister provided me with this morning, which has the Yukon Housing Authority policies, does not have any local board policies for any other local housing advisory boards in any other areas of the Yukon. Are there local policies under any of the other housing authorities?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, there are. The binder that the Member has is simply the binder used by the Whitehorse Housing Authority. As the Member can see, it has different tabs with respect to general policies and their own, so what the Member has is the Whitehorse Housing Authority binder applicable only to them, not to other areas.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide us with copies of the local board policies for the other local boards around the territory?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will copy what is essentially the back tab that contains the local housing policies for the Member, because most of the other material is applicable Yukon-wide. I will provide the individual policies for each authority.
Ms. Moorcroft: The concerns that I was raising earlier about some of the policies being arbitrary were because we have had calls from people who feel that they are over a barrel if they complain. I believe people should have rights even if they are poor and in subsidized housing.
We have heard a lot of rumours that board decisions never go favour of the tenants. That is one of the reasons why I was asking the Minister about the appeal process. Has the Minister heard anything about this and is it a concern?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, not overall. I have heard specific concerns from individuals about some of the policies of, in particular, the Whitehorse Housing Authority, but I have not heard general dissatisfaction with the Whitehorse Housing Authority taking away the rights of tenants as a group or class of people.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just like to ask the Minister, when he comes back with that information and justification for some of these policies that I have asked him about earlier - I am not going to go through them all again - that he will consider things such as, for example, if you have two late rent payments, you are going to be kicked out and that is that. That is unfair to tenants. There should be an adequate appeal mechanism available to people so that they are not being subjected to arbitrary decisions with no recourse.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will ask the housing authority to comment on those issues, and if there is a concern that I have, I will react to that. I will pass on to the Member both the Whitehorse Housing Authority's response and my reaction.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the pet policy been changed yet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, it has not been changed yet. The Yukon Housing Corporation Board asked the staff of the Yukon Housing Corporation to consider options with respect to the pet policy. For now, however, the policies of each individual housing authority remain in effect.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe the Minister has heard the representations we have made that seniors benefit from having a pet, particularly if they live alone, that single-parent household's children would benefit from having one and that elders living on their own might have their safety enhanced by having a guard dog. There is also the issue of people who may have a seeing-eye dog being able to have that pet in Whitehorse housing, or in any Yukon housing.
Will it be strictly voluntary for the Whitehorse Housing Authority to change its pet policy? What kind of direction has the Minister given to the Whitehorse Housing Authority?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We will look at the options presented and discuss them with the Whitehorse Housing Authority. We hope to be able to come to come mutually agreeable resolution. I agree with the Member and the Leader of the Official Opposition when they talk about the benefits of having pets for seniors and children, and I passed that on. In response, I received recognition of that. I also received horror stories of tremendous damage done to social housing units by pets, especially dogs and cats, that cost thousands of dollars to repair and replace carpeting, et cetera. There were huge amounts of money spent that was not recoverable from tenants - money that went into repairing pet damage that could have been used for many other more beneficial things.
There are two sides to the issue. When we get the options back, we will discuss them and see if we can come up with something that is administratively simple, yet will still provide for some recognition of both sides of the coin.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister about the housing conference that took place in late 1993. As I understand the sequence of events, what took place was that there were a number of meetings where issues were identified, some papers were prepared and then the housing conference took place - I think it was in November 1993. Out of that housing conference came a number of recommendations. Either at that time, or around that time, there were committees formed - the Industry Advisory Board and the Territorial Housing Industry Advisory Board - that have just been discussed by the Member for Mount Lorne. Is there some sort of coherent work plan that deals with all of the recommendations arising fronm the housing conference? This afternoon, we have heard about some of the initiatives that took place, but is there a coherent work plan tying all of these initiatives together?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. The Housing Corporation board of directors has placed the recommendations in order of priority and has instructed the staff of the Housing Corporation to deal with them on that basis - to try to address each issue in order of priority.
Mr. Cable: It is not exactly analogous, but, with respect to the education review, the Minister responded to the Education Review Committee's recommendations with a document, indicating the department's position - what had been done and what it planned to do.
Is there a document that the Members can be provided with that the Yukon Housing Corporation has prepared and which outlines the list of recommendations and the status of each recommendation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not have it here, but I will check with the Yukon Housing Corporation to see if I can provide the Member with that list of priorities and where the corporation stands in dealing with them.
Mr. Cable: Does the document the Minister is talking about have a time frame on it? I think he indicated that there was some prioritization involved. Does it also have a list of the issues that have been disposed of and their disposition?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is no specific deadline set, but the board has asked the staff and corporation to report back to it on a regular basis, so that the board can make sure that implementation is progressing and that the recommendations are being dealt with.
Mr. Cable: We heard this afternoon that there is an initiative on mobile homes, which assumedly came out partly from that conference. Is any other major initiative being examined by the Housing Corporation that is on the list the Minister just talked about?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, I will get the list for the Member. The four big issues were home ownership, the home repair, mobile homes and land availability.
Mr. Cable: As I recollect, there were also some issues relating to social housing and seniors housing. Are any initiatives underway in relation to either of those two issues?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. As I discussed briefly with the Member for Mount Lorne, there is nothing going on in those two areas at the present time.
Mr. Cable: Does the department have a multi-year, long-term projection for social housing and senior housing? I know we have multi-year projections with respect to schools. Is anything of a similar nature done by the Housing Corporation in relation to those two areas?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, there is not. The programs are ongoing and the corporation is in a holding pattern because of the federal cuts. We do not know exactly what more is coming in the social housing area. Nothing is different. There are no new initiatives or any long-term plans to try and maintain what we have.
Mr. Cable: Is the planning of the Housing Corporation solely dependent upon the federal government's intentions, or does the Yukon Housing Corporation have a second option, or plan B, in the event the federal financing is withdrawn from those two areas?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. As Members will see as we go through the budget, the Yukon Housing Corporation is dependent, to a large extent, on federal programming and monies flowing through from CMHC. There is just not a lot of room to manoeuvre and the Yukon Housing Corporation cannot take on very much that is new or innovative without knowing what the federal government is going to do.
Mr. Cable: Is the CMHC money primarily debt capital or is it grant capital?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Most of it is essentially grant money that subsidizes up to 75 percent of operation and maintenance costs.
Mr. Cable: I take it, though, that there is an element of borrowing involved, in that some of the money has to be repaid to the federal government. Is 25 percent the number?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The other 25 percent is the Yukon Housing Corporation's and the Yukon government's responsibility, but some of the programs require a payback and I think that there are some that flow through to the end-user, who repays CMHC.
Mr. Cable: Is it practical, possible or probable that the portion that is debt capital can be borrowed from other sources, other than CMHC, so that at least part of these programs can be continued in the event that the federal financing is cut off?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know the answer to that, but it would be a fairly minimal amount, because the vast majority is O&M monies that are received on virtually a grant basis and spent. It it were borrowed anywhere else, we would have to repay it. As CMHC reduces its programs that fund between 50 percent and 75 percent of some of our programs, we are just faced with a reduction in the program or replacing that money with our own.
Mr. Cable: What are the time terms on the CMHC, not the repayment terms? What is the length of the indebtedness? When will it be paid off, and when can we expect these housing units to spin off some cash?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can get the Member more detail on the specific programs and paybacks. My understanding is that, quite a few years ago, there were 50-year programs. Since 1986, the programs have been over 35 years.
Mr. Cable: Is there any likelihood in the near future that these projects now owned by the corporation will create cash and provide some money for additional housing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am told that they will not in the near future.
Mr. Cable: I had some correspondence with the Minister's predecessor on the change in the rules with respect to seniors' rents. I gather there was some error in the way the rents were collected. Eventually, the rules, as set down by Canada Mortgage and Housing, were enforced, whereby some of the tenants had to pay 25 percent of their income.
I asked the Minister's predecessor about whether or not the people who had been under the impression they would be paying under one set of rules would be kept on that original set of rules. On December 2, 1993, the Minister's predecessor said he would not make that commitment at that time.
Has there been any further consideration given to providing these people with a rental arrangement they thought they had been under all along, prior to the enforcement of the CMHC arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have not looked at that issue at all and it has not come to my attention as an issue while I have been the Minister responsible. If the Member wants to pass on the same concern, the correspondence, I will have a look at it and get back to him.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I will do that.
In a letter dated October 4, 1993, the Minister's predecessor wrote, "I would also like to state that the Government of Yukon is receiving pressure at the national level to increase our rental assessment to 30 percent of gross household income. Our government does not support this approach and we are striving to maintain the existing formula of 25 percent of gross household income." That was nearly two years ago. Where does that issue sit right now? Is the federal government still exerting that pressure?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The situation today is exactly as it was then. If I wrote to the Member today I would probably include that very same line in my letter. The thing that I could add is that it will be a major topic of discussion at the upcoming housing ministers conference in July of this year. I will be able to update the Member after that July meeting.
Mr. Cable: Does that pressure relate to new housing units, which we have heard may or may not get funded, or is it a change in rules for existing housing units?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is a change in rules for existing housing units.
Mr. Cable: Something that I cannot understand is why the formula is based on gross income rather than net income, or taxable income, which is readily identifiable through tax returns.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know where it originated, but I am told that it originated a long time ago based on income that was earned for one week of the month, being the proper amount to go for housing needs.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Riverdale South says that some statistician made it up. I am in no position to argue with that; that is probably what happened and no one has done anything about it since except when new programs are introduced.
For example, our home repair program - for which I provided the Member for Riverdale South with the formula - includes a lot more than simply a percentage of gross income.
Mr. Cable: It does not seem to make much sense that the same rules would apply to a widower or a widow as would apply to a single parent with five children. The costs are different and of course the tax deductions are different.
Could I get a commitment from the Minister to take this representation to this conference to determine why we have what appears, on the surface anyway, to be somewhat of a silly rule?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will do that. The arguments that the Member brought up are arguments that the Yukon has been using to keep the level at simply 25 percent in order to make housing affordable to the maximum number of people.
It is my understanding the increase to 30 percent does not have any more legitimacy than leaving it at 25 percent, other than it is a new number.
Mr. Cable: There is the other point - the point of available income, as opposed to gross income. Could I get the Minister's commitment to argue with vigor at this conference that that is a silly proposition?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will give that commitment. I will report back on my success or lack thereof at the meeting. I think that the Member is correct. I do not know where it came from and why there has not been a move to determine rents on a more practical basis, with respect to disposable income rather than gross income, if the disposable income is founded on some reasonable premise.
Mr. Cable: I had a discussion with the Minister's colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, during his debate, on his department's strategic plan. I am not sure that the Minister and I connected on this point, so I am going to ask the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation just where we sit. I had asked his colleague about the devolution of land development in Yukon municipalities to private enterprise and/or municipalities. Then we got talking about - and I am reading from page 108 of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' May 1993 strategic plan. It reads, "The director of land disposition and assessments branch are to provide terms of reference and time lines for study dealing with devolving land financing to the banks."
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services and I got into a discussion - it is at the bottom of page 875 of Hansard. I said, "I will refer the Minister to the next entry under that date, January 3, 1994. It says that a director of land dispositions and assessments branch is to provide terms of reference and time lines for study dealing with devolving land financing to the banks. Has that been done?"
Then the Minister's colleague replied, "That was turned over to Yukon Housing last April." Then I asked the next question, "The development of the terms of reference was turned over to Yukon Housing? Or what was turned over to Yukon Housing? The Minister's colleague replied, "No. The financing has been turned over to Yukon Housing." Then we had a few further questions.
Could the Minister clarify just what Yukon Housing is doing in relation to financing either large projects or single residential land projects?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that we may be dealing with two different issues. My understanding is that what has been transferred to the Yukon Housing Corporation is the management of the agreements for the sale of land, because the Yukon Housing Corporation is better equipped and has the staff and expertise to deal with the purchase agreements for land that has already been developed.
The other half of that, which is where the ball may have been thrown into the Yukon Housing Corporation's court, is about land development within city limits being part of the considerations that the mobile-home review will be undertaking, and that is to deal with the city on how land will be developed within the city limits. One of the issues is land being developed within city limits on a lower cost basis, without meeting the standards that we have required in the past to provide for mobile homes.
I would say to the Member that the Yukon Housing Corporation has fully taken over management agreements for the purchase of land, but land development within city limits is still floating among the Yukon Housing Corporation, Community and Transportation Services and the city. It has not settled on any one of those three yet.
Mr. Cable: Let me back up a step. With respect to the turnover of land to private enterprise or the municipalities, is the Yukon Housing Corporation involved in any way, or does it anticipate being involved in any way, in the financing of those transactions?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: At the present time, the answer is no. However, I believe that issue will be considered at some time in the near future, perhaps with respect to the Yukon Housing Corporation becoming involved in the financing of land that is under development. That is something that is to be discussed.
Perhaps I should just simply have said no and sat down. However, I know that down the road the Member would stand up and say I had said no, and now the Yukon Housing Corporation has its finger in this pie. The long answer is that we do not now, but we are hovering over it.
Mr. Cable: Just so that we are clear on this, because I am not 100 percent clear yet - we are having a vigorous misunderstanding. What is it that the director of land dispositions in the assessments branch is actually looking at when we speak of providing terms of reference and time lines for study dealing with devolving land financing to the bank? What land are we talking about? Is that subdivision financing as opposed to financing out of the government's cash flow? What are we talking about?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I think that is what we are talking about: the financing of new developments by the bank, possibly through the Yukon Housing Corporation, rather than with money through Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Cable: What is anticipated, then, is that there would actually be some debt attached to each subdivision - is that what we are talking about - with interest charges accumulating?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: To back up just half a step and then to go ahead, what Yukon Housing is looking at possibly getting involved in is the financing of the sale of land or financing land purchases from a new development, rather than the development costs. To get to where the Member is now, I am not certain, and that is what is being looked into - how that system would work - but yes, debt would accrue to the development, which would be repaid.
Mr. Cable: I have a question on another allied issue. I think one of the issues from the housing conference was the financing of rural purchases - if I remember correctly - the deputy minister is nodding his head. There were some suggestions that banks were not providing money in the rural areas. Is that one of the issues on this list of priorities the Minister talked about earlier? If so, what is its status?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is being looked at right now through the home ownership review by the advisory boards at this time. It is included as one of the top priorities of the corporation, which is the home ownership issue.
Mr. Cable: How did this list of priorities come into being? Was it created with these two committees or was it done by the Yukon Housing Corporation's staff?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It was done by the board of directors of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Cable: Was there any input or consensus formed with these two advisory committees before that list was compiled?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding of what happened is that some of the recommendations were very clear and set out in order of priority. Others that needed policy work were sent to the advisory group and committee to be brought back into the list. The groups did not participate in the formulation of the lists, but they are working on policies that relate to each of the recommendations on the list of priorities.
Mr. Cable: The Minister has misunderstood. Who actually set the prioritization? Was that done internally at the Yukon Housing Corporation, or was it done on the basis of consultation with these advisory committees?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know if it would be termed as being done internally. It was done by the board of directors of the Yukon Housing Corporation, which is appointed from a variety of areas. I do not know what resources or input the board had to decide or make the list, but the chair of the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation and the directors were the ones who did.
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the banking agreement that the government now has with the Toronto-Dominion bank, I believe there is a line of credit for the Yukon Housing Corporation for $25 million. Can the Minister tell us what that is for?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know why it is $25 million. Perhaps that is an amount that was authorized by the government, but the Yukon Housing Corporation board of directors authorized a $10 million maximum line of credit for the corporation, and that is for the ongoing operation of the corporation.
Mrs. Firth: Is that done through the banking agreement?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure if it is done through the banking agreement. I will check that and bring it back to the Member at the beginning of next week when we continue debate.
In view of the time, 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, 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.
Mrs. Firth: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 20, 1995:
Shallow Bay Development Area: "Minimum Lot Size" Survey Results (Brewster)