Thursday, April 22, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Today, I rise to bring members' attention to Earth Day.
The first environmental awareness event in the United States on this day in 1970 has gone on to be recognized as the birth of the environmental movement. That first Earth Day celebration was spearheaded by Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson and Harvard University student Dennis Hayes. It involved 20 million participants in teaching and addressing decades of environmental pollution. This event inspired the U.S. Congress to pass clean air and water acts and establish an environmental protection agency to research and monitor environmental issues and enforce environmental laws.
Earth Day is a powerful catalyst for change. In 1990, two million Canadians joined 200 million people in 141 nations in celebrating the first International Earth Day.
In many countries, the global event brought pressure on heads of state to take part in the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to address issues such as climate change and the world-wide loss of species.
We can all take pride in initiatives spearheaded in the Yukon to protect our environment and to protect wildlife species and habitat. We have taken steps to deal with global warming and air emissions that can harm our health.
We have designated April as Biodiversity Awareness Month. This weekend also marks the annual celebration of swan family day at Swan Haven. This event provides a good opportunity to remind ourselves that every day is Earth Day.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I am pleased to take this opportunity to pay tribute to International Earth Day. First initiated in the United States 29 years ago, Earth Day has become a worldwide event celebrated by millions of people around the world today. In Canada, Earth Day has attracted the interest of many citizens and has become a week-long event to accommodate a number of activities that take place.
Here at home, Yukoners share a deep and abiding respect for the environment. For many First Nations, the environment is an intrinsic part of their culture. For others, the environment is a major reason for them choosing to make the Yukon their home. While we as Yukoners are fortunate to be blessed with an abundance of wildlife and wilderness, it is important to take time to recognize the importance of the environment and the need to act upon environmental challenges facing our planet today.
Earth Day is a perfect opportunity to raise the profile of our environment, to reflect upon our shortcomings, and to celebrate our accomplishments in preserving our mother earth.
Everyone has a role to play in making the world a healthier place to live, and we on this side of the House would like to take this opportunity to recognize those Yukoners who participated in planned events across the territory today in making Yukon a better place to live.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Earth Day.
Earth Day is now recognized as a symbol of environmental responsibility and stewardship. The message has finally started to penetrate - that our health is inextricably linked to the health of the world in which we live.
Now, more action is being taken individually or in small groups. The goal is responsible stewardship of the earth.
The Minister of Renewable Resources, the Mayor of Whitehorse and Councillor Bernie Phillips, and members from Kluane, Whitehorse Centre, their staff and myself were gathering litter over the noon hour today.
That's one small example of what people who believe in the future of our earth can do, because of people who don't care. The throwaway attitude of the past is changing, as the students from the first Earth Days move toward middle age. Students today learn to use and value the things around them, and are creative in their re-use of these objects.
I'm very pleased to recognize and pay tribute to the efforts of Selkirk Street School, as well. This school has completed 500 environmental projects, and is now an emerald school, third level on the path to becoming an earth school, with 1,000 projects.
As the "reduce, reuse, recycle" message has spread, Earth Day has become a symbol of what we strive for every day of the year.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Coroner position, vacancy
Mr. Phillips: My question today is to the Minister of Justice. Yesterday in the House, the minister stated, in response to my question about the imminent vacancy of the Yukon coroner's position, that this NDP government would follow its normal hiring procedures, and that there is no political decision making about who gets hired or who gets fired.
That was really scary, Mr. Speaker, because the minister doesn't appear to be aware, or remember, what this government has done to the Yukon government bureaucracy in the past.
Is she telling us, in this House, Mr. Speaker, that replacing the previous Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office by Mr. Tony Penikett and Mr. Harcourt's former NDP principal secretary wasn't a political decision? Is she saying that the replacement of the Yukon government's chief land claims negotiator in 1996 by a hand-picked candidate from B.C. was done in a fair and open competition, with no political decisions being made? And is she saying that this is the same process she is going to use to fill the Yukon coroner's position this fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, obviously the question should be directed to me because the bulk of the preamble dealt with positions in the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Speaker, the member may not be aware, even with his experience in government, that it is the Cabinet that chooses deputy ministers, and deputy ministers alone. All other positions in the public service are selected by departments and by senior administrators in departments. That's according to the Public Service Act.
The situation with respect to the DM of the Executive Council Office, of course, was a selection done by the political arm of government because that is the responsibility of the political arm of government.
All other positions are selected by the departmental personnel according to the Public Service Act.
Mr. Phillips: Except for the chief land claims negotiator, who was hand-picked by the Government Leader and his NDP friends.
Yesterday, I asked the minister if she had met with an individual from Seattle who was being considered to fill the soon-to-be-vacant Yukon coroner position, and she responded saying she did not meet with "a candidate". Now, Mr. Speaker, you cannot have a candidate for the position until the competition is advertised, so that is why I used the word "individual".
Can the minister advise the House if she or the Government Leader recently met with an individual from the Seattle King County area who is currently serving as the medical investigator there: yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The answer is no.
Mr. Phillips: The minister has accused me of making unfounded accusations, Mr. Speaker, but I'd like to ask the minister if the Government Leader has met with an individual called Arleigh Marquis in the last few weeks, who is a medical investigator in the King County Medical Examiner's Office and, at any time, discussed the possible opportunity of a job or discussed other opportunities in the Yukon for employment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that this is a very scummy line of questioning. The person, Arleigh Marquis, who in fact hails from the Yukon, came to pay us a visit because he is an old friend. I did say hello to him. I did not have a meeting with him and I don't know anybody else who did, but the fact that this individual tourist came to the Yukon means nothing, and the allegations that the member is making are scurrilous and scummy.
Question re: Vanier High School gymnasium floor
Mr. Phillips: I guess we'll see if the individual in question happens to apply for the upcoming job and is the successful candidate.
Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Earlier in this House, I raised a problem with respect to the type of floor in the Vanier High School gymnasium. I did so in the hope that the minister would in fact treat the problem that I raised in the House with some sincerity. Students in grade 10 and 12 who are playing basketball and other games in the gym are suffering leg or knee injuries as a result of the flooring. Some of these injuries are serious, and parents are continuing to complain to our office and other offices about nothing being done. I'd like to ask the minister when she's going to accept the responsibility and do something about this serious problem that is being created by the floor in the Vanier gym.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, the member bootlegged a comment in his preamble continuing to imply falsely, Mr. Speaker, that ministers are interfering in the hiring of personnel within the public service. That is not the case, and the member should be ashamed of himself for politicizing and bringing the names of individuals into this House who have no voice on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, I have met with the Vanier High School Council and continue to meet with them to ensure that problems to do with the gym floor or any concerns in any school are dealt with.
Mr. Phillips: We should have changed the name of this part in our time in our House to answer period instead of Question Period, Mr. Speaker, and maybe we'd get an answer.
I asked the minister a specific question about a specific issue. The minister previously stated that she was also made aware of the problem, not by me, but by the Vanier High School Council, and she's cried poverty that she had no money to fix the gym floor.
Mr. Speaker, can the minister explain why the government just announced that it received more money from the federal government and tabled a $8.4-million supplementary budget providing funding for all sorts of pet projects that this government has, but no money to fix the Vanier gym? I'd like to ask the minister why the safety of our children isn't a priority of this minister. 009
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is being completely ridiculous in this line of questioning. The safety of our children is of fundamental importance to me, as the Minister of Education, and also to our government, and you can see that if you read the budget and look at where we have committed funds to support all kinds of projects in schools around the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: Well, it's so fundamentally important, and the minister was aware of it, that she left it out in an $8.4 million supplementary. This is a serious problem, and I understand several students have been injured, and one seriously enough to be refused entry into the Canadian Armed Forces.
Can the minister explain to the House what financial liability the Department of Education has in relation to students who are injured by this floor - that it's aware has problems - and what financial responsibility or liability does the Government of Yukon share for knowing of the problem and doing nothing about it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member's accusation is not an accurate assessment at all. We are working to meet the needs in schools across the Yukon. We can't always fund everything in any one given budget. I'm continuing to work with the Vanier School Council on achieving a satisfactory resolution.
Question re: Liquor Act review
Ms. Duncan: My question's for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Shortly after coming into office, the NDP government promised a public review of the Liquor Act. Like so many promises the NDP has made to Yukoners, they haven't lived up to it. The promised public review has never happened.
Mr. Speaker, I've asked the minister in the past about the need to review the Liquor Act, and he's agreed it's necessary. He said in the House, "The member's right. There are a lot of issues that need to be discussed within the act."
Despite that, there's been no action. Why is the government so reluctant to tackle this issue?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member knows what our plans are for the next few years. We've taken on a big challenge as government in a number of different areas and I certainly haven't had a whole lot of people knocking on my door to have changes made to the Liquor Corporation. It was raised by the CYFN General Assembly. We have agreed to work with them to try and address some of the issues that are coming out of communities. That's what we're doing with them. We've met with CYFN and we're trying to work things out with them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, recently the Wine and Stein shop announced that it was closing. One of the reasons for the closure, according to the owner, is the Yukon liquor laws. He believes that our liquor laws smother small business instead of promoting it.
Mr. Speaker, this is yet another reason to look at the Liquor Act. The NDP is doing a great job helping businesses close, and that's the latest example.
The reasons to open up the act continue to multiply. When is the minister going to do something about a public review of the act?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I've told the public that we don't have plans in this mandate to do a review of the act.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that's not what the NDP promised Yukoners. Shortly after coming to office, they promised a public review of the act. The minister has stood on the floor of this House and said to me that there are a lot of issues that need to be discussed within the act. He's agreed that it needs to be reviewed. Why is the government so reluctant to deal with a public review of the Liquor Act? Why?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I've answered this question many times when it was brought up. This is not the first time it has been brought up on this floor. I told the member it wasn't in our plans to do a review in this mandate.
Mr. Speaker, we are working on a number of issues with communities to try and address community issues such as alcohol abuse and so on. We're trying to work with them as a government to try and improve and work on healthier communities.
Question re: FAS/FAE, programs for adults in rural communities
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Now, last fall our caucus raised a number of issues related to fetal alcohol syndrome and how this government is handling that issue.
Now, Mr. Speaker, programming for persons with FAS and FAE in the rural communities completely disappears at age 18. What is this government doing to develop programs for adults with fetal alcohol syndrome, and fetal alcohol effects in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think we've explored this in some considerable detail. One of the things that we've been doing is working with the Options for Independent Living group, because this is an area that we have identified. As well, we're also - as I informed the House earlier - moving on FAS as a reportable disease, and we've taken the necessary steps in that regard.
I can go through a very lengthy list of programs that we have undertaken in this regard, but I think that there are a number of issues around the whole question of young adults, and that's something we're working with the - as I said - the group, Options for Independent Living.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the Options for Independent Living is talking about developing a facility here in Whitehorse. I asked the minister in the last question about programming for persons with adults, or adults with fetal alcohol syndrome, in rural Yukon.
So let's go back to it again. The people on the committee, the Options for Independent Living, have committed two years of their lives to working on this project, that may or may not be up and running until next year.
Now, after all the hard work of dedicated volunteers, it would be useful to use that gathered information and expertise to create new homes both in Whitehorse as planned, and in the rural areas.
Has the government looked at using this home for fetal alcohol syndrome adults as a template for similar homes in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think first of all we're getting ahead of ourselves there on this. The group, Options for Independent Living, is looking at building or developing a facility for young adults with FAS, in sort of a sheltered living environment, and they're also taking a look at using that model, and doing a formal assessment of how this has worked, if in fact it has proven to be successful for people, in terms of such things as crime and issues primarily of victimization of such individuals.
Then, what would happen is they would be assessed of that and we would discuss if this can, in fact, be a template or a model for further development. I think one of the reasons why they've chosen Whitehorse as their place is, quite frankly, critical mass of people who they can utilize or people who could take advantage of such a complex.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again, the minister has not answered the question about the programs in rural Yukon for persons with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Now the Department of Health and Social Services funds some fine employment programs with Challenge here in Whitehorse, and many of the clients at Challenge are persons with fetal alcohol syndrome. What initiatives is the department looking at in rural Yukon to employ persons with fetal alcohol syndrome?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: One of the things we've done is made such programs that we support in that regard through Challenge and other groups available to people from rural Yukon and have invited them in. I was in one rural community, where I discussed with the folks there how they could get greater access to such programs run by Challenge, and we do make those available. As well, there are also social workers in communities who work with people in terms of supported independent living, and other kinds of programs. So, we are doing things.
Of course, as the member is aware, things such as housing options and matters of that nature, do depend on having enough of the population that you develop such a facility within the community.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, assessing child support payments
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Last March, we, on this side of the House, raised the issue of child support payments being included as income when calculating tenants' rent, which was based on 25 percent of their total income. Yukon Housing Corporation is continuing to deduct 25 percent of a tenant's child support payments for rent, despite the federal government having made changes to the Income Tax Act quite some time ago to not include child maintenance payments as income. The minister blamed the problem last March on CMHC policy. What is the minister's excuse today for not having done anything in the last 14 months to correct this additional tax on kids?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We haven't made any changes at all. We've taken on the CMHC, but we haven't made any changes to their policies. We're adopting them, and we will work with them so that we can, in the future, have one policy directed to all our programs.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this government goes on and on and on about how it cares about people, but what we've seen them do is gobble up people's disability cheques, leaving mothers hung out to dry by not providing them with legal aid, having them go to court and face delinquent dads trying to reduce their child support payments.
Now we have Yukon Housing Corporation coming in and taking 25 percent of any payments they do receive. The Government Leader goes on - and I'll quote the Government Leader as saying that it's shameful that in a society as privileged as this, Canadian people, including more than some three million children, continue to live in conditions of poverty.
When is the government going to negotiate a change in this policy to exclude child support payments when calculating the total rent due for housing?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has changed their views on low-income people in the Yukon. It's not a position they took when they were in government. So all of a sudden they're in opposition, and they're trying to appear to be fighting for the poor and fighting for the low-income people.
Mr. Speaker, we're doing a number of things, and we've announced them in this House. We looked at low-income family tax credits. We looked at improvements to maintenance enforcement. We're doing a number of things to build healthy communities.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess when this government doesn't have an answer, it just makes excuses and attacks the opposition.
Now, what is the government going to do, and when is the government going to renegotiate with Canada Mortgage and Housing so that child support payments are not included in the basic rent? When is the government going to make a commitment to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we have negotiated with CMHC. It has come over to Yukon Housing. We have the ability to make changes. I know the member wants to do it right away, and it's something we could do as a government and the Yukon Party couldn't do. It's such a simple procedure but the Yukon Party couldn't do that. But we were able to do it, just with a little bit of initiative to take over CMHC. We're doing many things in Yukon Housing, and the corporation should be proud of the things that they are doing.
Question re: Liquor Act review
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some more questions for the minister responsible for the Liquor Act.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There have been numerous calls from the communities, from CYFN and from non-governmental organizations, to open up the Liquor Act for public review. Last year, in this House, the minister himself said there was a high demand for this review. He said, "If we started to get into the issues of where we'd like to see amendments in the Liquor Act, I think we would be filling up the agenda quite full."
Mr. Speaker, the demand is there. What is lacking is the political will to do something about it. There's no doubt that a review would be controversial. The minister has said there will not be a review in this mandate, another broken commitment to Yukoners. The minister has also said he is meeting with these groups and with CYFN. What is the government contemplating if it's not a public review of the Liquor Act?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to see that the leader of the Liberal Party is quite supportive of our recycling programs, because she's recycling her questions. She's asking the same questions. You can really tell when the opposition is drying up for questions, because they're right down to the Liquor Corporation, so you know we're at the end of the session.
Mr. Speaker, I told the members what we're doing. We're not going to be doing a review of the Liquor Act. We're using the different departments to look at building healthier communities, looking at things like FAS and trying to do a number of things with the communities, and we will continue to do that, and Yukon Housing will play a role in that.
Ms. Duncan: This is an important issue to Yukoners. The Liquor Board has held a number of meetings, as the minister has mentioned - meetings in Dawson, Watson Lake and Teslin. What happened to the feedback? It's never been released, it's never been publicly discussed in this Legislature, we haven't seen it tabled. Has the report just gone on to the shelf? Is the government going to do anything with the feedback the Liquor Board received from its public meetings?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What direction I did give to the Liquor Corporation and its board of directors was to have their meetings in the communities. They have done one road show down to Watson Lake and back, and they are going to be doing another up the Klondike Highway, and meet with communities and get their input. So, we haven't gathered that information.
The board of directors hasn't gone to all the communities thus far. They do have plans, though, to go up on the Klondike Highway to Carmacks, Pelly, up to Dawson, and up to Mayo, and get input from community members then.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in a radio interview last fall, the minister said, in response to a question I had asked on the same subject, "I don't think it's a government issue when you look at community healing." Well, I disagree with the minister on that point. Repeatedly - repeatedly - Yukoners point to alcohol as the number-one issue plaguing our communities. It's up to the government to show some leadership, including respectful consultation, not referring to it as a road show. One way it can do that is by getting started on a review of the Liquor Act.
Now, the minister still hasn't answered the question. What does the minister intend to do with the feedback from communities? How's the minister going to respond, if these communities say they want a full-scale review of the Liquor Act? How does the minister intend to respond to them?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The leader of the Liberal Party obviously knows very little about community healing and what should take place in communities. She should know that it starts with an individual and grows out. Government can help in building healthier communities, and that's what we're doing, even through the Liquor Corporation - gathering information back when they do go into the communities. We will compile that information. The board of directors could make recommendations to government on what they think should take place.
Question re: Coroner position, vacancy
Mr. Phillips: My question is once again to the Minister of Justice and the NDP's apolitical hiring practice for filling Public Service Commission jobs, such as the Yukon coroner's position.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon coroner's position is a very non-political position, which seems today, as we have learned, to have strong overtones in political interference from the Government Leader and the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister, since she's had time to review the position - because I asked the question yesterday - if she can give us a time of when the apolitical, non-interference type of interview will take place. When are they hoping to fill the job of the new coroner?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, once again, the member opposite is making ridiculous allegations. He's being extremely scummy in his approach.
The member asked whether I knew when the resignation date of the incumbent and the chief coroner's position was coming about. I knew that the incumbent is leaving. I didn't know the effective date of the resignation, and nor should I.
There are hundreds of employees in the department. I don't know what days they give notice for, or when the ads are going in to fill those. Those positions are filled through the Public Service Commission.
The ministers do not become involved in the hiring process, and I cannot tell the member what date the ads are going in the paper. I know that the department will ensure that there is continuity and that the position is advertised so that they can hire someone and fill the vacancy as needed.
Mr. Phillips: I suppose that it's just a coincidence that an individual who appears to be doing a similar job in the United States has met with the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office and met with the Government Leader. It's just coincidental. It's coincidental like other coincidences that have happened with this government from time to time. Surprisingly, these people end up with senior civil servants' jobs in the government.
What I'm concerned about here, Mr. Speaker, is that there are all kinds of Yukoners who, I believe, can qualify for this particular job, and I want assurances from this minister that before we advertise in the rest of Canada or the United States, we advertise in the Yukon first and try to fill this position as a Yukon local hire position.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, according to what the member's interpretation of events is, I guess I'd better be very sure that I don't speak with any teachers this summer who may be looking for employment, or any citizens or constituents, or residents of the Yukon who might have the ill fortune of looking for a job with the government and then be accused of political interference if they get a job for the government because I've said hello to them.
The member should get a grip. Mr. Speaker, the vacancy in the coroner's office, and vacancies within the Department of Justice or the Department of Education or any of the departments that are represented by ministers in this House will be filled according to the Public Service Commission regulations, according to the Public Service Act. The ads will be posted in newspapers.
We have in fact increased local hire over the record of the previous government and there will not be political interference with hiring in the public service. This position - as in other positions within the public service - will be filled according to the regulations in place.
Mr. Phillips: That's a novel policy change for this government, Mr. Speaker. They filled all kinds of senior civil service positions in the past - the land claims negotiator, others, Mr. Speaker, the senior land claims negotiator - who was hand-picked - and then they had a mock interview, and a mock job search, Mr. Speaker, for somebody whom they'd already selected.
I'm concerned, Mr. Speaker - and the minister didn't answer my question. There are Yukoners who are qualified for this job. I want assurances from this minister that they will make every effort to make this a local hire. Mr. Speaker, they did a lot of work on the local hire policy, but they already seem to be interviewing people from the United States for jobs like this.
I want the minister to give us assurances that this position will be a local hire, advertised here in the Yukon first. If we can't find a suitable candidate, then in Canada, and we won't advertise in the United States for this particular position.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member is living in a fantasy world. He has completely manufactured his own version of events, which are completely inaccurate. We have not been interviewing people from the United States, nor will we interview people.
Mr. Speaker, the member has no proof. The procedures of the Public Service Commission are to support local hire. The ads go in newspapers in the Yukon. I'd like the member to put on the record in this House some proof for his allegations because he is attempting to damage the reputation of citizens and of ourselves.
I've answered the question. If the members opposite would stop their heckling, I've said the Public Service Commission procedures will be followed. We do support local hire. We've increased local hire over the record of the previous administration and we'll continue to do that by following the procedures in place.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House dissolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Renewable Resources - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with the Department of Renewable Resources. Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I'd just have a couple of questions left for the minister in general debate. I'd like to begin by following up on an issue I raised in Question Period and raised with the Alaskan delegation when they were here.
I raised the issue of a lot of concern to my constituents and many Yukoners about the fees charged to Yukoners for fishing licences in Alaska. As the minister knows, we heard back from the Alaskans. Senator Randy Phillips, in particular, has followed up on this issue and has an amendment to attach to a bill.
The amendment basically says that residents of the Yukon Territory may receive a non-resident annual sport fishing licence for the fee charged to residents, and a resident of the Yukon Territory may receive a non-resident king salmon tag for the fee charged to residents of Alaska.
So, the senator took our lobbying efforts to heart and followed up on them. I know the minister and I both very much appreciate that, as do many Yukoners.
My last conversation with Senator Phillips was a bit of a lesson in American politics - as to how this amendment would go through.
He also asked me to provide him, in support of his efforts in getting this through, with a definition of a Yukon resident.
Now, this is something that the Yukon hire commission has wrestled with, and there have been many different definitions bandied about for what is a Yukon resident.
I wonder if the minister, who certainly has a quick definition at his fingertips for both Yukon fishing licences and Yukon hunting licences, could undertake, with his officials, to forward to Senator Phillips a definition that would work, so to speak, that he could use in his lobbying efforts to have this amendment go through the State Senate.
Could the minister undertake to provide the senator with that information?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Our department has been in contact with the Alaska delegation. Most recently, we did send off a letter. In the letter, there wasn't a definition of a Yukon resident, but we can do that. What they were trying to do, though, with this amendment, was try to find the appropriate bill to attach it to, and this would go through in the fall.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I see by the minister's response that he got the same lesson in American politics that I did - that this amendment has to be attached to a bill, and they are hopeful that it will happen soon. But I'd like to follow up with the minister and exchange correspondence with the senator on that.
With regard to staffing in the Department of Renewable Resources, there are a number of conservation officers throughout the Yukon, and it's my understanding that some of these conservation officers are female. And in light of Gender Equity Week, which was last week, and gender equity awareness, I'd like to draw to the minister's attention that it has come to my attention that, unfortunately, our female conservation officers have a tendency to be left with solely the tasks of issuing permits and office work, so to speak, that we have no female conservation officers in the field. Does the minister have an explanation for this disparity and lack of gender awareness in the department?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't believe that is true. We haven't gotten that back. I know that our women conservation officers are out in the field doing basically the same duties as do the men. One example that could be used is our conservation officer in Old Crow, who does all the river trips and so on, the same as what the men were doing.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I'm pleased to hear from the minister that, indeed, our female conservation officers are out in the field. That is not the representation that I had received. So, perhaps the minister could just do an assessment on that and provide me with a written response.
With regard to the overall direction of the department and the staffing, the department has, in the last year, or since the mandate of this government, focused a lot of their efforts with regard to protected areas strategies, devolution and land claims. I'm concerned that some of the other areas, wildlife management and biology, don't have the necessary resources. The staffing hasn't particularly increased in this department and yet, the tasks that the department is taking on are fairly large. Can the minister reassure me that indeed we are not solely focussing our efforts on those two government initiatives to the extent that the others are suffering?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the department has been working a lot with the renewable resource councils in the communities to look at addressing wildlife issues, and so on, but the devolution, of course, plays a big role here once we devolve the federal positions into the Yukon.
What we're doing in our department is trying to restructure and look at how the restructuring is going to look once these employees come over. It's a huge, huge job at this point and there is not much time left to finish that off.
We have been working on job descriptions with DIAND and Renewable Resources to look at all the positions that are going to be coming over to Renewable Resources. Once they do come over, of course, they're going to change a lot. They could change a lot on how our structure is developed and put together.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister: once devolution has occurred - and I understand there's on-the-ground work to be done now, in terms of classifying employees, and working within looking at what responsibilities would be transferred and so on - is there a plan in place, once devolution has occurred, to do some kind of an examination of the ways of work and the tasks, or a task force, if you will, or some kind of a think tank as to how the department will look and function after devolution? Is there a plan to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we are already doing that in the department. We're doing the restructuring, and there are other responsibilities, of course, the Yukon doesn't have yet that are going to be included in the department - some big ones, like forestry.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has said the department's already doing that, in advance of devolution, so to speak, and a perfect example is forestry. So is the minister saying that there's some concentrated work being done now in this area in advance of the devolution? I see officials nodding their heads. Is that what the minister's confirming?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that is taking place. We started working on this whole issue approximately six months ago or so. We cannot be caught without doing this work. We feel it's really important. We feel strongly that devolution is going to happen, and the department that's going to be most impacted by devolution, of course, is Renewable Resources.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister could follow up. I'd be interested if there's any kind of discussion papers, or anything that's available, with respect to how the department intends to do their ways of work. If there's any additional information that the minister could provide on how the department is preparing for devolution, I'd appreciate receiving it.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, what we're doing right now, the work is internal, and it's an ongoing process. So, there isn't anything to bring out except, I guess, some of the work that we have done. But, like I said, we are working with DIAND, and we're doing job descriptions, and we're compiling that together right now.
Maybe a bit further on down the road, we would have something on paper that we can give to the opposition.
Mr. Ostashek: I have a couple more questions in general debate before we get into line-by-line debate.
Yesterday or the day before, in general debate, the Liberal member talked about the Chisana and Kluane caribou herds. The minister indicated that the herds were being studied, and that the herds were going down in numbers. I want to get a better understanding from the minister on the Kluane caribou herd, because that was part of the Aishihik caribou recovery program.
Is the minister saying now that there's been no recovery in the Kluane herd?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: One herd, we think, could be in trouble, but we don't know the real status of the Kluane herd. We know there's a bit of an overlap there and we just want to be able to look a little more carefully at this, to try and make sure the numbers are up and put a management plan in place.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister said one of the herds is in trouble. Which herd does he believe is in trouble?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's not the Kluane herd. It's the Chisana herd that I've been talking about.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, that's why I'm asking the questions, because the minister was saying yesterday - I thought his answers related to the Kluane herd. But, as the minister is aware, I have intimate knowledge of the herds in that area. I've lived there for some 25 years and was involved in game surveys as well as being an outfitter in the area. Unless something has happened in the last few years, there's very little overlap between the Kluane herd and the Chisana herd, so I'm not exactly sure what the minister is trying to relay to the House.
What are they studying in respect to the overlapping area? There is an overlap between the Kluane herd and the Aishihik herd. There could be an overlap between the herd at Edith Creek and the Kluane herd, but the Chisana herd is quite a distance from there, so I'm not exactly certain what the minister is trying to relate to the House.
Could he elaborate on it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I was referring to the Kluane herd and the overlap with the Aishihik herd, and that's where the comment came from.
Mr. Ostashek: That makes more sense to me. Is the minister saying now that the Kluane herd is not in trouble, that there has been an increase in population as a result of the Aishihik program?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We're not sure about that. We've heard some concerns about it, and that's why we're taking this action.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister says that he's heard some concerns. Could he tell me where those concerns have come from?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The concerns are coming from our biologists who are working in that area.
Mr. Ostashek: I'll leave that for now.
I want to turn to a different topic for just a few minutes. Mr. Chair, it's come to my attention that some of the chicken eggs produced in the Yukon have been found to have a very high estrogen content, and it is so high, in fact, that it is having an impact on young women. Is the minister aware of this, and is his department doing anything about it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it hasn't been brought to my attention.
Mr. Ostashek: Does the minister's department inspect eggs that are produced in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that Partridge Creek is the one place that has egg inspections. Those eggs are sold in stores throughout the Yukon, and that's the only place that I know of.
Mr. Ostashek: Are the eggs inspected by the agricultural branch? We are getting into meat inspections. Are we into egg inspections, or are we going to be getting into egg inspections?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, we don't have plans at this point. The only organization that has been putting into the stores is through the Partridge Creek Farm.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I understand that - I'm not even certain that they're the only producer that sells locally grown eggs through the stores, but are the eggs produced at Partridge Farms inspected then? Let me put it to the minister that way.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe they are, but it's not through our department.
Mr. Ostashek: Whose department would it be through, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I don't know the answer to that. I'll have to get back to the member.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'd appreciate if the member did get back to me, because I thought that agricultural products inspections were under the minister's department, which is responsible for agriculture in the Yukon. So I would appreciate hearing from the minister as to whose department is responsible for inspections, if his department is not.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't know if he asked me a question or not, but if he's asking for more information on the inspection itself, I can get back to the member.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the minister said that they weren't responsible for the inspection of eggs. I know that his department - or at least I thought his department - was responsible for the inspection of locally grown meat that was going to be sold. Is the job of inspections enforcement spread over various departments or is the agricultural branch responsible for it? That's the answer that I'm looking for.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I told the member I would go and find out where the inspection takes place. I don't believe it's in the Renewable Resources department's jurisdiction, from what I know. It may come under a federal inspection.
Chair: Seeing no indication of further general debate, Committee will proceed to page 11-6, Corporate Services.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
On General Management
General Management in the amount of $206,000 agreed to
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,312,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Corporate Services in the amount of $1,518,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Chair: Is there any general debate on Policy and Planning?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have just a comment. The percentage changes in the figures between a director and policy analyst - is this just a change in personnel and just a change in position or is there anything more to it than that in this section?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that what we've provided to the members opposite in our briefing book includes a number of breakdowns. Does the member still have that in front of her here? It explains it in there.
Director in the amount of $286,000 agreed to
On Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis in the amount of $336,000 agreed to
On Planning and Resource Policy
Planning and Resource Policy in the amount of $167,000 agreed to
On GIS/Remote Sensing
GIS/Remote Sensing in the amount of $268,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the stats?
Policy and Planning in the amount of $1,057,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
On Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister
Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister in the amount of $180,000 agreed to
On Environmental Protection and Assessment
Environmental Protection and Assessment in the amount of $1,011,000 agreed to
On Parks and Protected Areas
Parks and Protected Areas in the amount of $2,310,000 agreed to
On Field Services
Field Services in the amount of $2,438,000 agreed to
On Fish and Wildlife
Fish and Wildlife in the amount of $4,043,000 agreed to
Mr. Ostashek: Could the minister explain - I know it's not a lot, but what is the drop in agriculture?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's basically the impact of the collective agreement.
Mr. Ostashek: It's a decrease, is it not - 1999-2000, $598,000; 1998-99, $606,000. How could it be the impact of the collective agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There was an increase of $12,000, and that was basically the impact of the collective agreement. There are internally identified funds for agriculture and grazing lease policies, and the decrease included in the 1998-99 forecast.
Agriculture in the amount of $598,000 agreed to
Resource Management in the amount of $10,580,000 agreed to
On Land Claims
On Land Claims Administration
Land Claims Administration in the amount of $261,000 agreed to
On Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA)
Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) in the amount of $718,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Activities
Prior Years' Activities in the amount of nil agreed to
Land Claims in the amount of $979,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources in the amount of $14,134,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Operational Equipment
Operational Equipment in the amount of $116,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $84,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
On GIS - User Application Development
GIS - User Application Development in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Land Use Planning Initiatives
Land Use Planning Initiatives in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On State of the Environment Reporting
State of the Environment Reporting in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Kluane Land Use Plan
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to ask a question about the Kluane land use plan. I understand that a supplementary is also going to be coming in for the Kluane land use plan. We were told at the technical briefing that there was $10,000 in the budget and there was supposed to be some more money coming?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that's a revote.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, just for the record, as the minister knows, there was a very controversial meeting in Haines Junction on the Kluane land use plan, and people there thought the department was going to do quite a bit more work on it before they went ahead with it. Are we in fact going ahead with implementing the Kluane land use plan in the Haines Junction area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We did respond to the red group with a letter recently, saying that we would be talking a bit more with people there and listening to the concerns they have to say, so it's bumped back a bit from what we would do. We'll start working again with the concerns that have been raised.
Kluane Land Use Plan in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Policy and Planning in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
On Lands and Facilities
On Capital Maintenance Upgrades
Capital Maintenance Upgrades in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Facility Additions and Improvements
Facility Additions and Improvements in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Protected Areas
On Park System Plan
Park System Plan in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessment
Resource Assessment in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Environmental Protection and Assessment
On Special Waste Collection
Special Waste Collection in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Global Warming/Climate Change Analysis
Global Warming/Climate Change Analysis in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Territorial Campgrounds and Day Use Areas
On Capital Works - Campground Facilities
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I know the minister's ordered a press release that they're going to change the permit system for campgrounds, now that they're going to - I guess you buy a permit ahead of time.
There's going to be 140 sales agents and retailers. Are these the general retail stores and that kind of thing throughout the territory - and sports stores and that kind of thing, Canadian Tire? Is that the plan to do that there?
What isn't clear in the press release is what kind of monitoring will take place with respect to the permits - to ensure people have the permits, and have bought the permits. Will the person doing the monitoring have a pocketful of permits, so when they go around they can actually sell someone a permit when they're there? How's that going to work?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that's correct. We'll have increased personnel in the campgrounds, and they will be able to sell permits in the campgrounds. I think one good thing about the permit system, though, is that if you're there and it's late and there's nobody to buy a permit from, these permits could be bought from another person who has maybe two or three.
As long as the piece goes into the box, and they have - there are three pieces to the permit; one goes in the box, one goes on the windshield. And of course, the person who's selling them - whether they're stores that sell hunting or fishing licences, or agents - they keep a little strip, so that we can keep tabs on how many permits are sold. Also, anybody who sells permits for us would get a dollar for each permit sold. So it could be through our territorial agents in the communities, through the stores, wherever they sell fishing licences.
Mr. Phillips: Did we implement this change in time to make adjustments to anything in, say, the Milepost magazine, or Tourism North, or the Yukon visitor guide, so that individuals who are already planning a trip up here know now that we have a seasonal permit, or a one or two-day permit, as opposed to the old "put your money in the box, one night at a time"?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, we didn't make it in time for that. Part of what we're going to do is signage, and so on, to make people more aware of what system is in place now, and also to advertise it locally through businesses. Of course, they would be telling customers what type of system is in place now. I think it's a lot easier for those who are travelling, knowing that they are able to get either the seasonal one - which is stuck right on your windshield - or the ones you buy just from the stores.
There are two different colours - one is orange and one is yellow. It's basically a difference of resident versus non-resident. It's just so we can keep track of it.
Mr. Phillips: I think that the advertising campaign is key to the success of this endeavour. I know the other one worked and didn't work, but we had to find some other alternative for collecting the fees.
One area I might suggest to the minister - and I know they may be going to do this - is advertising in the local newspaper. We found, in the past, that the visitors read the papers - bought the local paper as they were coming through, usually, and if we placed some prominent ads there - and of course, at all the RV parks and in the campgrounds themselves, I would imagine we're going to put some kind of a poster up, or something to let people know.
Now, the minister said someone would have permits with them when they went through the campground. Are they planning to have someone go through each campground every night, and check people for these permits? What happens if we find an individual who stops four or five times in four or five different campgrounds in the territory, and never does get a permit? Is there any kind of policing associated with this, or is it just basically, hopefully, that people will comply with the new changes?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I said that we would increase our presence in the campground. I don't know if they'll be going there every night, but they're going to be there a lot more often than they have been in the past. We'll see how well, first of all, this is going to be able to make sure that the campers do have permits and are able to get them. In the evening, that is done through our parks officers and our conservation officers.
Capital Works - Campground Facilities in the amount of $325,000 agreed to
On Self Registration System
Self Registration System in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Outdoor Recreation Sites and Corridors
On Outdoor Recreation System Plan
Outdoor Recreation System Plan in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Heritage Rivers
On Yukon River (30 mile section)
Yukon River (30 mile section) in the amount of 25,000 agreed to
On Bonnet Plume River
Bonnet Plume River in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Tatshenshini River
Tatshenshini River in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Special Projects
On Wildlife Viewing
Mr. Phillips: On the wildlife viewing project, Mr. Chair, there were some plans a few years ago with respect to the Whitehorse fishway and doing some enhancement on the fishway.
I visited a couple of exhibits in the south. There is one in Seattle and one Vancouver, and what they have is a salmon viewing area where you can actually get down at water level and below the water level and see the salmon entering the fish ladder. There may be an opportunity to do this at our fish ladder in Whitehorse.
Are there any plans in the future to do any kind of an expansion of the exhibit at the fish ladder that would not only be something that would be attractive when the salmon are here, but there are all kinds of other species of Yukon fish that use that ladder through the summer and would probably increase and enhance the visitation at that time. Are there any plans to do that in the future or look at something like that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll have to check on that. I know there was some discussion about having a viewing area in that area. Once we have more discussions with regard to the fish ladder, we can bring that up again.
Wildlife Viewing in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Fish and Wildlife Management Planning
Fish and Wildlife Management Planning in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Porcupine Caribou International Lobby
Porcupine Caribou International Lobby in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery
Mr. Phillips: Could the minister - and he doesn't have to do it on his feet now - provide me with a list of possible lakes that we plan to stock this summer, if we're going to stock any, and with what species of fish? I don't need it right now, but could the minister just send that to me either by mail or legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I can do that and give it to the Liberal caucus, too.
Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Resource Management in the amount of $1,224,000 agreed to
On Land Claims
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Land Claims in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources in the amount of $1,549,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources agreed to
Chair: Committee will proceed to the Department of Tourism.
Department of Tourism
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Chair: Five minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is now dealing with the Department of Tourism. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed it is my pleasure to present the 1999-2000 operation and maintenance and capital budget estimates for the Department of Tourism. It's one of the brightest spots on the Yukon's economic landscape, and has been - the strong performance of the tourism sector. This budget will provide the necessary support to ensure that our tourism base continues to thrive. The budget includes a three-percent increase to O&M and an increase of 11 percent to overall capital funding.
Some of the highlights of this budget include $750,000 for the tourism marketing fund to support ideas and activities that will help tourism operators to pursue new opportunities, an additional $200,000 in tourism marketing, $175,000 in the new Yukon film location incentive fund, and $315,000 for the first comprehensive visitor exit survey since 1994. We have funding for a territory-wide consultation on a new Yukon tourism strategy for 2000 and beyond, and we have $900,000 over two years for the millennium fund.
The overall budget for the marketing branch has increased by three percent from the 1998-1999 forecast level, and the branch's successful efforts in targeted markets in Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand are core to our ongoing need to remain competitive in the world market.
This budget contains an additional $50,000 for our European marketing efforts, $50,000 for the developing market in the United Kingdom, and $100,000 for additional marketing in the United States and Canada.
I will now take your questions, and elaborate on specific activities within both budgets. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions in general debate for the minister today. Mr. Chair, there have been a lot of changes in the last few months in the Department of Tourism, and there are some concerns out there about the direction we're going now, and the staffing at the department.
We had, just a few short months ago, probably what was considered in this country the best crackerjack team of marketing people working in the tourism industry and, as the minister knows, we've had some significant changes. The director of marketing has left, we had a change in the new director of marketing, we have acting people in positions now. We have a deputy minister who is ill, and has had to step aside for a short period of time, and we have a lot of people who, in their own right, are very qualified, but we've had to shift a lot of people around from different positions.
And it's happening at a key time in marketing.
I just wonder if the minister feels that we need, at this time, any additional resources. I know the next eight to 10 weeks are key in putting together our European campaigns, and I know individuals in the department, because of the changes, are, to say the least, taxed with respect to their workload at the present time. Has the minister given any consideration to bringing in other individuals for short-term work to get us through this what I hope is just a minor glitch in the area of a full staffing complement? Is the minister looking at anything like that, or is the minister just trying to get through with the existing staff?
I know we are short staffed at the present time. Is the minister trying to do that, or is the minister trying to find some other people to help us out on a contract basis for a short period of time to get us over this?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the kudos to the department from the critic of the official opposition. A short while ago, we had a team of professionals. I'm still pleased to say that we do have many of those professionals still within the department. Some are not doing the job that they were originally hired to do, but they're still fulfilling the very challenging and professional positions within the marketing department. So I certainly accept, on behalf of the department, the kudos toward the department.
Historically, yes, it is very much the intention of this government to be able to continue with that professional marketing, to have a very professional marketing team available.
We do have inquiries out now for the director of marketing. We have advertised first Yukon-wide, and now we have looked to go territorial-wide. We expect to be filling that position, I would say, sometime this spring.
Is there a lapse at this point in time? As I was in Germany and the United Kingdom earlier on in this session, I had a chance, not so much to speak about it within the United Kingdom market because, as the member knows, we're just entering into that market, but certainly, as I talked to the folks at the ITB within the continental European market, there was concern that there might not be the emphasis on a European marketing as there had been in the past, or the connections that we have had with the European marketers in the past.
I assured them that what we were going through here is certainly just a hiccup. It is going to be smoothed out and we're going to continue with the very fine people in a very good direction that we've been going on.
There is a lapse and I have chatted with the department now about looking at different options that might be able to bring us through the interim lapse. So, yes, we are looking at various options that would keep up the high quality of marketing that we have.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, that's my concern. I have all the confidence in the world in the individuals who are still over in the department and who are, in a lot of cases, in acting positions. They're taking over because of a recent chain of events.
We're going to be saving some dollars in salaries, of course, because we don't have people in some of these positions. What I was wondering is this: do we have the ability to take those dollars and hire some people to do some contract work for us, for example, to liaise in Europe or to work in other markets? Because I think it's important that we don't lose the momentum and it's important that the people in Europe and in other markets see our faces continually.
I know the people over there are working extremely hard to try and meet all of the expectations, but I know from experience that even when we had a full complement of individuals, they were taxed to their limit and some were working beyond their limit. We now have less than a full complement of individuals over there and I'm concerned about the burn-out level of those who are left.
We can ill-afford, at this time, to lose anyone else from the marketing branch because we have some people who are all assigned key markets and have been working for years on their contacts and the individuals they work with, and we just could not afford to have anyone else leave the department. Burn out will cause that, so I'm just suggesting to the minister that we might not be able to wait until late spring to find some people to do some other chores. The minister might have to look at some other ways to find some individuals now who could help us out, on maybe just a specific project, but at least take the workload off some of the individuals who have been reassigned. That's what I'm looking for.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we have put $200,000 extra into the budget, as I read out, for marketing, of which $50,000 is for European marketing efforts. Certainly, I do not want the momentum to lapse. I know that we do have folks in acting positions within the Tourism department, and there is very much a danger of burn out, but certainly we are looking at immediate short-term solutions that might come up. We've been chatting with the acting deputy minister and this weekend, of course, in Skagway, is going to be the Tourism Industry Association's annual meeting so I'm going to be chatting with some of the key players there. I think the suggestion the member is coming with certainly has a lot of merit.
Mr. Phillips: I have to say, Mr. Chair, that I have been rather nervous in the last six months about the events that have taken place with respect to tourism and what's happening in our marketplace, and I'll talk about some of those later, but I did feel some sense of relief yesterday when I received a press release from Parallel Strategies. I see they've acquired the services of Miles Prodan.
I think it's extremely important at this time to have individuals who know the Yukon product as well as Mr. Prodan does to be helping us out with marketing the Yukon. And I met this morning with Rich and Miles in my office for a few brief moments and expressed my views to them, and I'm prepared to put on the record that I want the very best and knowledgeable people that we can acquire working on developing Yukon product, especially with respect to our agency, and I think it was a good move at this time to bring Miles Prodan, who has a great deal of experience in the Yukon, lived here for a few years and understands the product, and I think he'll do us well in the future. So, I'm pleased with that. It gives me some comfort.
Mr. Chair, I want to touch on another issue that I think has some fairly serious ramifications to the Yukon and the Yukon product, and that is the recent article in one of the local papers about Rocky Mountain Campers, and some of the changes at the top of Rocky Mountain Campers and some of the initiatives that are happening there.
I believe that Rocky Mountain Campers, along with several other RV suppliers, are tied in very much with our European flights, the people that fly/drive - come over here and arrive and pick up a camper here and travel around the territory - and this is the Condor Air or Canadian Airlines or anyone else who brings these people in. They're tied in with that.
I know there have been some fairly serious problems with Rocky Mountain Campers, and I'm just wondering if that's going to have any effect on the Condor Air service. Are we going to be able to supply the product this summer? Is Rocky Mountain going to be able to operate in a fashion that the product will be supplied and that we won't have customers who have booked a Yukon product and won't be able to obtain units?
And it could create a concern of having some harm done to our reputation in the marketplace overall, and I just want the minister to give me some assurances that the department and the minister have some kind of a contingency plan in place, in light of the recent changes and announcements that have been made and to ensure that we can meet our commitments with respect to delivering the product to the marketplace in this upcoming tourist season.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that was a rather disturbing article in one of the local newspapers yesterday. Very disturbing. I can further update if you so wish. I've been told now that the company is in bankruptcy, at this point in time. We haven't been formally notified of that, but that's certainly what's coming out of the headquarters, so I know that we'll be formally notified about it, and so we're very aware of the situation.
I, too, see this as something that could very much detrimentally hurt, not only this season, but could really affect our reputation in the future. It very much can.
So it is a very, very serious situation for us locally. I'd also like to say that it's not just a local situation, because of the situation of Rocky Mountain Campers Incorporated; they have offices in Halifax and Toronto, Calgary, I know, Whitehorse, and there might even be another one in the prairie provinces.
So certainly it's a national problem. I've worked with the department since yesterday afternoon on it. We've been preparing a contingency plan; we've certainly been very much proactive on this situation. And I can give you an update as to what it is right now, and I will.
The RV industry at this point in time is looking for options that will take up the shortage of product; so not only does the Rocky Mountain Campers have this effect on us, and know that it's going to have a very detrimental effect on the Canadian tourism industry nationally, and it specifically will affect us up here - the industry knows that. So what is happening now is the major players in the industry are coming together on a national basis, and they're looking to provide the product that is not going to be supplied through Rocky Mountain Campers, to the Yukon Territory, so that we will have product in the Yukon Territory.
So, they're looking, at this point, in trying to doing that. All of the industry players are coming together to ensure that the hole that has been vacated - and it could be up to 100 units, or anywhere from 60 to 110 units that have left a hole in the Yukon Territory. They're looking to fill that void. They're scrambling right now as I speak. I will be able to further update both members at the TIA conference this weekend because I will not have an answer as to the solution from them until tomorrow, until I find out what happens.
I can say, though, that the territorial government is certainly going to be very willing to assist where we can. So, we're looking to find ways and to find options to work our way through this so that it will not have any effect on Condor. I'm working with the department right now to talk on a personal basis to many of the operators to assure them, but I can assure the members of this House, at this point, that our people in Europe and our operators here in the Yukon Territory are being notified and we're assuring them that we're going to be able to work through this situation.
It is a very serious situation but certainly, I'm very much interested and very happy that the industry itself will fill the void of the product that one company can't.
I can also say that we've made the CTC aware of the situation, and the CTC is looking to find ways that they might be able to help assist us in the Yukon and nationally, across the board, for this very - I guess I can say - very bad situation that we're in.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'll let the Liberal member come in here just after this one question. I don't have a problem with that.
Mr. Chair, one of the concerns that I have is that the minister says we're talking to national businesses or other businesses out there that are willing to help out. Are we also talking to the two or three local companies operating in the RV business here in the territory - and have for some years. Many of these companies, as the minister well knows, probably have bookings already because they have a limited number of units and may not have a lot of units at their disposal.
So, for the most part, we may have to utilize units from larger companies that have a larger inventory. Are we making efforts, or trying to make efforts, with the local companies to ensure that that would be covered, as well, so that the local companies wouldn't be left out of this? I can see us receiving lots of criticism if a big conglomerate from outside the territory came in here, and we had some units in the territory that weren't be utilized and were here ready to be utilized.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the member can rest assured that we are doing it on a local basis, as well. We do have - well, names aren't appropriate - but we do have local operators, and the local operators are being contacted as to the nature of the problem, and as to maybe a solution, and they will be definitely a part of the solution.
Ms. Duncan: I've been following up on this issue, and had an opportunity to speak with some local business people with regard to this. My understanding of the figures is really concerning that, of the spaces that were booked for this summer by this company - which has, very unfortunately, experienced financial difficulties - fully half of them are in the Yukon, and that we, in the Yukon, were unlikely to get the units needed to service these people.
Now, the minister has said that the department and officials have been in contact with CTC - the Canadian Tourism Commission - and have been in contact with other operators, some local and some based down south. My concern is that, as everyone knows, it's the squeaky wheel and the one standing at the table that's going to get the service, and I'm concerned that there are a limited number of units in this country. We've got these people booked to come and to enjoy our beautiful Yukon this summer, and we need to be able to do this. We cannot suffer a black eye.
I'm concerned that we can't just be on the telephone lobbying this, but we have to be there saying, look, any spare units have to go to the Yukon; they have to be there. We also have to be working in conjunction, as both members have said, with the local companies.
Now, this matter is very urgent and it's very appropriate that the minister and officials have been briefed. I'd like some reassurances from the minister that we're truly taking a proactive stance. If it means a trip to southern Canada to meet in the boardrooms with the owners of companies and to argue that these units need to go to the Yukon as opposed to Halifax or Vancouver, then so be it. I'm sure that the other member and I would be standing in line to sign the minister's travel warrant, or somebody's travel warrant, to get them outside, to be there arguing for the Yukon.
I'd like the minister's assurances that we are going to be following up on that. I have had it confirmed that we're looking at 14,000 RV days. That's 160 RVs, not the 110 said by the minister. How are we going to replace them? It's not as if we can go down the street and say to the next operator, like they can in some of the other centres, "Can you loan me five RVs?" We're still relatively isolated, unfortunately, in the circumstance.
I also know that Yukoners and Yukon business people are very resourceful and they'll find ways, and the minister has pledged his assistance. I'd like, if the minister is prepared to give us some more information at this time, to urge him to be there at the table if that would help - and I have a suspicion it might - and to be doing what we can.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. Well, not to argue with the Liberal leader certainly, but I've been assured that 110 units does transfer into 14,000 nights, so it's not a matter of numbers at this point in time with the opposition here. I certainly hear the urgency within both of the critics, and I certainly hear the togetherness with government so that we might be able to solve this problem. I very much appreciate the assistance that I am receiving, and certainly, as I have said, as a government, we will assist where we can. You've got the very latest news that I have now from me. I will be informed tomorrow at some point in time during the day. They know where I am so they will be getting in touch with me, and certainly, the solutions to this problem are something that I will definitely seek advice on from both the member from the Yukon Party and the member from the Liberal Party. I'll seek your advice and your support, and I will explain to you how we are going to be going about it.
So, definitely, I will be keeping you as part of the loop, and whatever it takes to make it work is what our government's commitment is. So, I'm saying that where we can, we will. Absolutely.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the minister's response and his commitment to working with all members of this House on behalf of Yukon tourism. My question: what's the game plan? Now, I realize that yes, this is very immediate news. It's very late-breaking and that we're still not even apprised of all the details as to the media conference that took place this afternoon. I have not yet seen the media release, and I suspect the minister has not yet either.
The department and officials may have prepared a game plan though, and I'm wondering if the minister can share any of that with us - what that might involve, if it's a meeting with industry on Monday, just how the minister intends to deal with this. I'd just appreciate it if he could share any of the game plan details with us.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At this time, we've informed the CTC. The CTC is very aware of the situation that we're in. We've been notified that there is a problem, and we're going to continue to work toward a solution with the industry on the problem.
Right now, I think it's a time, if I can say it, that we must remain calm and very proactive with the problem that we have before us. I will keep the members informed as to the latest-breaking news when it comes. I expect that it will be coming tomorrow and, at that point in time, we'll be making decisions based on how do we fill the void.
I'm certainly hoping that the industry-led target, in consideration and affiliation with the CTC, will suffice, and I do think that it will be. Right now, it's in their hands. The CTC is working with the industry. All players have been notified. They're assured that we're going to work with them, and those are the facts, and that is the game plan at this point in time. As I said, certainly the government will be assisting where we can.
Ms. Duncan: Just a final question on this subject - I just want to assure the minister that I'm not pushing any panic buttons.
The question that I have -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Chair. I'd like for you to call the Speaker back into the Chair. I'm going to complain about the offhanded comments you made to me, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. Appeals of this nature should be related to a decision of the Chair. In this case, there was no decision from the Chair and therefore there is no point of order.
Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just had one final question on this specific subject. The minister had reassured members of the House that the department and the Canadian Tourist Commission were working diligently on the situation. I just had a final question. I didn't hear the minister give a commitment that he would meet on Monday morning with industry - industry being those involved in the RV rental business - either by conference phone or in person.
I wonder if I could have the minister's reassurance and commitment that he'll do that. I understand they won't be available for the weekend at TIA and I wonder if the minister could commit to doing that on Monday?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, before I ask my question of the minister, I just want to put on the record that, when I wasn't recognized by yourself, you turned to me and said, "Why don't you put - ?"
Chair: Order please. Order please. Clearly, there are rules in place to deal with decisions of the Chair. It is not the role of members to comment while asking a question in Committee of the Whole on a ruling of the Chair. There are formal procedures in place to deal with that, and I would ask members to keep their remarks focused on the debate, which is currently general debate in the Department of Tourism.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, maybe the Chair could lay out the procedures for filing a complaint so we can file a complaint when the Chair, off the record, says -
Chair: Order please. I will call the member to order again. Order please.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I ask the Chair: what are the rules for complaining to the Speaker? That's the question I have.
Chair: I would ask the member to consult with the table officers. It's not the place of the Chair to provide such information.
Is there further general debate on the Department of Tourism?
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll do that.
I want to get back to the issue I was talking about before that I let the Liberal leader come in on a question, and she then decided to try and occupy all the question time. So, I'm going to come back now and get back to the debate as we normally have it, Mr. Chair.
One of the issues that I'm concerned about here with respect to this issue is the overall credibility of the Yukon tourism product in the marketplace. I want to encourage the minister, in the strongest terms, to do whatever he has to do to ensure that there is some product available for these people who have booked to come to the Yukon for this tourism season.
I think the timing is absolutely critical, Mr. Chair, because I believe in about two and a half weeks the first aircraft is arriving in Whitehorse but, as well, I believe that many of those passengers who are coming from Europe were supposed to be picking up their units either in Vancouver or Calgary.
And they were going to the units that were going to be brought up here, and, I believe, about 90 to 100 units were going to be brought up, so I know that the minister has got about two and a half to three weeks to kind of pull all this together and ensure that these people can make it here.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister if he feels, at this time, that we're going to be able to meet the deadline, or are we going to have to, in any way, postpone or cancel some of the bookings that have been made for the beginning of the season? Is it going to take longer than two or three weeks to get this sorted out, or does the minister feel comfortable that we can make those arrangements that are necessary to accommodate the people who are coming in the first wave, so to speak, which is, I think, about the middle of May?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To answer comments from both of the critics of the department, certainly we'll assist where we can. Yes, I agree; timing is of the essence right now. Timing is super critical at this time. This couldn't have come at a worse time, and I guess there are no good times for a disaster, but certainly, we, the government and the department - well, we're one and the same - are going to be working with very much due diligence. I don't want to see the postponement of any flights in the future. It just won't affect this tourism season, as I said. It will certainly affect the reputation that we have come to enjoy as a world-class destination.
My Government Leader was chatting with different people around Canada, and they were absolutely surprised that we had non-stop flights from Europe to the Yukon Territory. So, other people in the country are maybe just a wee bit jealous of what we have, but certainly with the direction that we've been going, I want to keep the momentum there. I will absolutely assure people that I will do everything that is within my ministerial powers to make this work so that we don't have a lack of product.
Right now, I can't really say much more, other than the fact that it's in the process. The first step is there. We are working with a consortium of RV dealers that have come together from across Canada to pick up the slack for all jurisdictions, and certainly I'm going to be lobbying very, very hard and aggressively for the Yukon to suffer, absolutely, no lack of product.
For the information of the House, certainly, the member is absolutely correct: Condor Air is due to arrive on May 19 here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, has the department been in touch with Condor Air, which is the major carrier, and have they given them some comfort that in fact a contingency plan is well underway and that there is no need to fear that there may be a lack of product and need for cancellation?
I know it's not only Condor Air, because I believe it's more than likely a large European tour wholesaler who actually probably has sold these packages, and it would be them who would be very concerned as well.
So I just wonder what kinds of discussions have taken place with the major wholesalers and Condor Air to give them assurances that we are doing our level best to ensure that the product promised will be the product delivered this summer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, thank you. Absolutely. As soon as we found this out yesterday afternoon - you'll have noticed yesterday during debate that I was in and out of the House quite a bit - that is exactly what we are doing. We were giving instruction to contact every one of our wholesalers - Michael Merkentropp, T.U.I. - everybody, all of the prominent ones, and the ones that work under their umbrella - which has also included Condor Air. So everybody's been notified, everybody's been told that we're going to be working with much energy to fix the void, and certainly I have no more information than that, other than that we've notified everybody, we've talked to them, we've assured them that we're going to do everything to assist where we can, and those are words that we will certainly live up to.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if I could get a commitment from the minister that - the minister said that he would speak to me and the Liberal critic tomorrow at the TIA convention, if he hears anything further - we could be kept abreast of developments in this particular case, I think it's extremely important, and as things develop, if the minister could involve us in that, I can assure the minister that from the Yukon Party's perspective, you have all the support in the world for initiatives you may undertake.
We may want to scrutinize them, in that I'd like to have a look at where we're going with them, but I think the bottom line here is to ensure that the product promised - as I said - is the product delivered, and that the people can come here this summer and enjoy the Yukon experience.
Another area that I think is of some concern is the area of our permanent carrier, Canadian Airlines. There has been a lot of talk recently, and a lot of articles written in the last week or two, about the financial well-being of Canadian Airlines. They had a $150-million loss in the first quarter and, for the past six months, their loss has almost been $300 million. In an article today in the Globe and Mail, it talks about them being almost cash poor.
There have been some discussions and some announcements that have been made about that Canadian has been trying for some time to come up with a strategy that might convince potential investors to come up with some cash, and it has reportedly had talks with Air Canada about possible international route swaps, perhaps an outright sale of some routes and also setting up a discount airline.
So, what I would like to know from the minister is, have we had any discussions with Canadian Airlines with respect to the problems they're going through right now with regard to how it could, or may, affect the Yukon service?
I know that the announcements from Canadian have been talking about looking at all routes and examining where they're going with all routes, and I just wonder if we have made representation to them, because they have been a carrier that has been here for quite some time, and they're a much-needed regularly scheduled airline that comes in and out of Whitehorse.
Any loss of their flights or schedules or capacity would be something that would have a dramatic effect again on us, and is certainly something that, after this latest blow in the last few days, would add anguish to the business people in the territory who are concerned about how well the tourism season is going to shape up.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, Canadian Airlines is very, very important to the economy of the Yukon Territory and, as a government, we certainly recognize that. I know that the member is well aware of the marketing initiatives that we take with them.
I'm very much desirous, if I can say it in that way, of meeting with the vice-president in Vancouver. We're scheduling a meeting, I do believe, for May 7. I have a meeting scheduled with the vice-president and we're going to sit down and chat about all those types of issues: what can we do to work together, what can we do to maybe - not to even allude to the fact that there's poor service, but how to improve the services of air access with Canadian to the Yukon Territory, whether it's other international flights or more local flights and product development of that sort.
So, certainly, I'm going to be meeting with them and, again, the suggestion is a very good and honourable suggestion.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I have to reiterate, it's essential that we certainly maintain our regularly scheduled carrier in the territory so that Yukoners are serviced year-round, as we have been so well in the past.
Mr. Chair, one area that I wanted to talk to the minister about is that he talked about $50,000 for our European marketing program. The minister mentioned in his opening remarks that he had had some discussions with people in Europe and they were concerned about recent changes in our senior management at the Tourism department and where we were going with our marketing in the future. I've been hearing rumblings from Europe. Concerns have been expressed by some in the industry that they see the Yukon as having raised a large profile a few years ago, and we had X amount of dollars then. I think we were putting almost $250,000 into that marketplace, in partnerships with some of the airlines over there.
Now we have possibly two or three airlines going to be flying out of Europe this year: I think Canadian Airlines, in partnership with British Airways and Condor and possibly, in the future, Canada 3000 with links. The minister says he's got $50,000 more, but I think he spent a quarter of a million dollars last year with one airline and now we have three, so we're sort of taking a pie and dividing it up in smaller pieces.
I'm just wondering if the minister has any intention of increasing this very important portion of the marketing budget with respect to Europe, because we see enormous benefits from our European travellers who seem, more than any others - other than Canadians - to make the Yukon a destination and spend a lot more time here than anyone else. Have we planned to spend any more funds this year in Europe, other than the $50,000 the minister mentioned?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well certainly, Mr. Chair, let me assure the House that any airline that we entice to the Yukon Territory through our negotiation - if I could say at this point, it's not so much through negotiation, but the airlines are certainly seeing entrepreneurial opportunity here in the Yukon Territory at this point. They see us becoming a world-class destination. So certainly, any involvement that we have with airlines, we will be bringing dollars to the table to ensure that we do a good bang-up job, whether it's marketing through wholesalers or marketing through the airline itself or all the different ways that we can continue to market.
I have a meeting coming up. As the member of the Yukon Party is very well aware, being the former Minister of Tourism, Rendezvous Canada is so very important to the focus from Canada here in our Canadian marketplace. I have meetings with our European operators, both in the United Kingdom and from Germany.
Yes, we have put $50,000 more into the budget, but that's over and above, so that's $250,000 more over and above. I can assure the members that we will not just be going out without resources. If and when we do make deals with airlines, there will be resources behind those operational deals.
Mr. Phillips: There were some pronouncements made earlier in the year about Condor, and the minister made some statements that Condor seats were selling very well. Could the minister give us an update now? How well are they selling? We're getting much closer now. I know, initially, many of the tour wholesalers block seats and then if they can't sell them, they release them closer to the date of departure. I wonder if we have a better handle now on the number of seats that Condor is actually hoping to fill on the Europe-to-Whitehorse run. Maybe the minister could give us some of those figures.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As far as we know, Mr. Chair, certainly as it's been evolving through, the latest information the department has is that Condor is sold out. There have been no - what's the word - no reneging on the block sales. Condor's very, very pleased with their sales results so far, and there have been no reneging - if that's the right word. The wholesalers have not reneged on the block seat sales on it. The latest information I have is that they're 100-percent sold out, and I will keep the House apprised as to the nature, though, as it gets closer.
Mr. Phillips: Well, that's an update from before. I believe before they were sold out from sometime in July and August. Now the minister is saying the flights from May to September are completely, 100-percent sold out. I'd like to ask the minister if all of those passengers are getting off in Whitehorse, or what percentage does he believe are getting off in Whitehorse? I know it's a through flight to Anchorage, with a stop in Whitehorse, so there could technically be some passengers who would actually be buying a ticket and going on to Anchorage.
Maybe the minister could tell us what kind of a ratio we're looking at.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, as I have met with the senior vice-president of marketing - I believe it was - of Condor Air at the ITB, he had said that he had never seen a destination take off like this before. Certainly at that point in time, he expected that there would be a minimum of 60 percent of the people that would get off here in the Yukon, and he said again that that was phenomenal. He had never had that happen.
Now, there is a certain ratio within the tourism industry that they use to monitor their successes, and I just don't have that off the top of my head at this point in time, but certainly he assured me that from, I think, June through August - or it might have been May through August - that they are 100-percent sold out, and they were looking to be well sold out in their shoulder seasons there. I will provide the member with the latest information I have, but as far as I know, they were shooting for and targeting for 100 percent of their sales for that, and the highest level that they have ever seen with, I believe, approximately a 60 percent drop-off here in Whitehorse.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I thought the minister had brought new information to the table, but what he's saying now is that he's just reiterating the old information. I believe it was July to August that we were sold out, and they were hoping to sell out the shoulders. They were selling well, but they weren't sold out at the time, and at that time we were given the 60-percent level. The minister said a few moments ago that Condor was 100 percent sold out. That means to me that right from the first flight in May to the last flight in September, and so I need clarification from the minister of those numbers. He doesn't have to do it now. He could come back with those numbers on Monday, if that's possible, and just let me know how we're doing with that, because it would be interesting to see.
I know that tour companies, about this time of year, are now confirming or cancelling their reservations, based on their sales activities over the winter months, and that's another area I want to move into.
Has the minister heard anything from people in the industry - hotels and tour businesses in the industry - of whether or not there have been some cancellations and that the year isn't shaping up as well as he thought, or is it shaping up? The minister predicted an increase this year, and I'm just wondering if the minister still feels that we're going to see an increase in tourism in this year.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is the projection, based on the direction that we're going. We're looking at a minimal increase next year. So we are looking at an increase, yes. Oh, yes, and the other part was have the operators - we have not been notified of any cancellations, but certainly I will apprise the House as it becomes appropriate. I don't expect that there will be, but again, it's a situation we're in. But so far, no, there have been no cancellations.
Mr. Phillips: I have to tell the minister I'm hearing some different noises now from the industry - that there have been some hotels that were blocked earlier, that are not selling as well as they thought they were going to be. So I'll be interested to follow that up as we go along, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, the minister ran a program in southern Canada - some ads, I think, on Global Television, and some other areas. I see the minister there getting tuned up, and the minister could save us a lot of agony if he didn't sing the answer, because I know how much he would like to. And I know the ads are quite good, and I've heard some people in the Yukon actually, and some people I've talked to outside who have had an opportunity to hear the ads, and see the ads, and they're quite impressed with them.
I'd just like to ask the minister what kind of a response we have to our Web site to tie it in with a promotion we've done with anyone in the south? I don't know if we did a Canada 3000 promotion tied to these ads. What did we do that tied or is tying the ads with, "Come to the Yukon? Here's how you get there" kind of thing? And what kind of a response are we getting?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I remember the first time I answered this question. It gives me great pleasure to take the opportunity to answer this question again.
The response certainly has been overwhelming. It's been a very positive response. It's very much, as the member is aware, part of a three-year program that we've been building, and it's certainly building an awareness base in the most lucrative market within Canada.
We do have the 1-800 number. I don't have the statistics on me at this point in time but I will provide the number of hits on the 1-800 and on the Web site for the member opposite. Certainly, it's been very much a wonderful program and a wonderful commercial. I know that, when it was first aired, many folks were phoning to the VRC and asking about canoe rentals and hiking excursions and what types of services we have.
So, it certainly seems, at this point in time, to be a very bang-up idea that we're going to continue to follow through with as part of the three-year program.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, how does the program work? We run the ad, and I guess at the bottom of the ad there's a 1-800 number. I suppose the 1-800 number is not monitored here. It's more than likely monitored in a 1-800 centre. Is that the distribution centre for the visitor guide? Is that what people would ask for, or would they get our Web site? How exactly does it work?
And are we running any other kinds of promotions? For example, did we work with Canada 3000 or Canadian and wrap some kind of a "Come to the Yukon this summer" promotion around the ads so that people would maybe open up their local newspaper in Kitchener and, after seeing the ad, see a trip to the Yukon with a one-week stay or whatever? Did we do any of that kind of partnering?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The program that we're talking about is certainly one that's going to be able to build up the awareness base and keep it in the forefront of people's minds in Canada, or wherever they've been exposed. We've cut a deal with Canadian Airlines that any flight over three hours - I believe it is - is showing the commercial on the Yukon. It was really interesting to hear from our agency, as the president of the agency happened to be on one of the flights and it came on, and he said, unsolicited, that people who were sitting around him started talking about the impact that the commercial had on them. He said it was just - it made him very happy. I guess it made him glow all over, is what it did, because his successes are our successes, and vice versa.
So now, as we continue on with Canada 3000 and Canadian, and other areas, and Condor - indeed, all of our partners, including the opportunity with Era - is to look at the joint cooperative marketing image that we could have and do on an individual basis with them. They are all different types of promotions that we do with them, because they have different services or provide different services to us in the Yukon Territory.
The department is right now, at this point in time, negotiating those arrangements with them. Coming out of those types of arrangements, of course, would be the eventual media print ad. I think it was the question of the members, so that somebody in Kitchener, I think - or wherever it is in Ontario - they would have the ability to look at the print ads on that. We also look at - as a part of this - doing the media fams, so that we can again get the media up here, very much aware of what we have, and to take it back.
I guess I can say that Jeffrey Roy, from England, an international travel writer, won a very prestigious prize from Spotlight in Canada in Britain this year, and it was based on a Yukon product. He again is going to be coming to the north and tromping around the north here, looking at all the wonderful product that we have here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Phillips: Well, that's good; that's great. I mean, I think that's money well-spent on the familiarization tours, as I reiterated to the minister before. When I was in New Zealand this winter sitting on a sidewalk café, having a morning coffee, I picked up the local Saturday morning paper and there in the travel section was a whole page on Dawson City and the Yukon and how wonderful it was. As I said to the minister, the only problem I found with the whole article is it talked about skunks being in the Yukon, and I was wondering who they were referring to. Certainly, there aren't any four-legged ones in the Yukon.
The article itself was a good article and, as I said before, as I was reading the article, the gentleman who owned the little Italian café came out - there you are, an Italian café in New Zealand - and saw us reading the newspaper and tapped us on the shoulder and said, "You know, you should go there. I was there last year and I'm going back in a year or two. It's a wonderful place to visit." And I said, "Well, that's where we come from." So, we had quite a discussion about where he was in the Yukon and what he did and he said how lucky we were to live there. He was thinking about selling his business in New Zealand and coming to the Yukon and opening up a little Italian sidewalk café in the Yukon. So obviously, he was struck by the spell of the Yukon when he was here.
The minister said that we did a set of television ads and now we're talking about some print ads tying in with the campaign. Usually, you run those fairly close together so people get an opportunity to almost listen to the ad at night and the next morning in the Saturday travel section pick up the paper and see how to get here. Are we doing that or are we running them over a longer period time? Maybe the minister could provide for us a schedule of how we're combining the print and television media or the radio media with respect to these ads.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can get the details to the member as to how they run, but the impact is certainly to run concurrently. Absolutely.
The whole awareness program that we have focused here though - I'll go back to that - is a three-year plan that we have, and things must run concurrently, and I will get full details and the workplan to the member opposite and also to the Liberal member, if she so desires.
I am very pleased to hear about the member's experiences in New Zealand, because it certainly shows that the work that we've done as a territorial government since we've started the tourism awareness campaign for the Yukon is paying off. And it's really encouraging, I think, to everybody that's listening, which is probably not too many people other than government people, but to hear of someone coming back and maybe being desirous of selling their business in New Zealand and opening a business here shows that we are on the right track and that we should continue to focus on keeping us on the right track.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, while I'm on the topic of New Zealand and this individual, I have to tell the minister that if he wants to look at a country that has really made best efforts and done an outstanding job with respect to a hiking trail system, New Zealand is probably tops, bar none - anywhere from five-minute hikes to five-week hikes through New Zealand and through the most incredible landscape you have ever seen in your life. Well-marked trails, well-maintained, well-identified. The flora is well-identified. What I did miss though, I can tell the minister, is the wildlife.
New Zealand has very little wildlife, other than introduced species. The introduced species virtually wiped out most of the indigenous species in New Zealand, and so I found myself - although the country was similar in beauty to the territory -missing the odd moose standing in the pond by the side of the road, or the odd sheep standing on the hill, because they're not there in New Zealand.
I think we can offer the same kind of trail experience - outdoor experience - but with the flora and the fauna - and we do have - the Trans Canada Trail is something I know a lot of people are working on - a huge opportunity in the future for the kind of the baby-boomer generation, and even the younger people, who are taking these kinds of holidays where they go for hikes for one, two, three, four, five days sometimes. This is something that we have to certainly look at emphasizing in the future, because our future is in the beauty of this country. Other people want to see it and we have to afford them the opportunity to get into the areas to see it.
One way of controlling that is to have fairly controlled trails, as New Zealand does, where people can access some of the most beautiful spots; it's controlled; it was neat and clean, and it was - I mean, "tramping", as they call it in New Zealand, is probably the number-one activity.
It was an interesting experience to go there and see what they've done with respect to their country. Their country is kind of similar in scenery to the Yukon. Of course, we've got bigger glaciers and we've got higher mountains. Their area is more tropical than we have, but we have the wildlife - birds and mammals - which New Zealand doesn't seem to have a lot of, because of being an island and having introduced species which wiped out many of the indigenous species over the years.
It certainly was a good experience, to go there and see how they have made the best out of their trail systems. And many of the trails, the minister would appreciate, were trails from the aborigines, people who were on the island thousands of years ago, and they'd taken advantage of them, and the Maori people had gone out and developed the trails and created quite a system of interpretation of the cultural values. I don't know if I told this to the minister, Mr. Chair, but there was one day when it was raining and we were in the capital city of Wellington looking for something to do, and I went to the visitor centre and ran into a couple who knew somebody in Whitehorse. They saw my Whitehorse shirt and came over and said, "Do you know my brother and sister-in-law in Whitehorse?" And, of course, I did. They are in my riding. They said, "Well, if you've got some time here today on this rainy day you should go to Te Papa."
Te Papa is a cultural museum that was built in Wellington. As the minister knows, the Beringia Centre cost $3.5 million. Te Papa cost $300 million, and it was absolutely mind-boggling to see what they'd done with their cultural history, from the Maori to the present day, in the most interesting and interactive exhibits you will ever see in your life. If the minister ever gets to New Zealand, it's a must-see. We've done similar things in Beringia, but if you can just multiply that by 10 times or 100 times, that's what you have at Te Papa. It would cover an area roughly from this building here to the White Pass depot and is about nine or 10 stories high.
It's right on the waterfront in New Zealand, and it's unbelievable. It was probably one of the best days we spent in New Zealand, walking around with this interactive exhibit.
It does let you appreciate what one can do with modern technology, pointing out past history. I know we've done similar things with interactive computers in the visitors centre and some stuff in Beringia, and it really is the future of tomorrow.
I can tell the minister that, although the minister might not like the numbers at Beringia, Te Papa had achieved its estimated - I think they estimated that they would have about a million and a half people go through it the first year, and they had about three and a half million go through it in the first four months. So they were overwhelmed by the response.
It's interesting to note, which I have to add in here, that if you talk to the cab driver or the bus driver in Wellington about Te Papa, they tell you that they don't like it, but he says all the tourists do. Yet the day we went there - it was a Sunday - it was absolutely jammed with thousands of kids from the schools who were going through this interactive educational-type exhibit. So it not only was a tourism exhibit, but it was also a great exhibit for the children as an educational tool.
I know that things like Beringia, although it's on a much smaller scale, can be utilized in the future the same way.
Mr. Chair, while I'm on Beringia, I will ask the minister a couple of questions about that facility. My main concern is that, as a priority, it will diminish, and the government - I know the minister has spoken highly of Beringia, but some of his colleagues have called it a mistake and said it wasn't worth doing. My concern is, what is the future for this facility? Is the government abandoning it? Are we going to transfer it over? What kind of capital arrangements are going to be made in the future for maintenance and for expansion, and for that kind of thing?
Is there anything in the works for that kind of planning?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: First of all, let me say, Mr. Chair, that no, the government has not abandoned Beringia - not at all. We do want to see it and to make it work, and we're looking at that. That is exactly the reason why we're looking at the community-based management model, so that we might be able to make it work.
As we sit and we go through the process with the YHMA and MacBride, the member knows that the YHMA is more or less the umbrella of the heritage folk in town here and, of course, we have our department with our paleontologists and all our academic people - I guess if I could say it in that manner - who do provide input and support for the Beringia Centre, whether it's through advice or whatever. That won't change. We'll still have that type of support for the Beringia Centre.
As we go through the process with the prospective operators of the community-based management model, things that - and we're going to be very upfront and very open with the would-be managers, if I can deem it in that way. We're going to be looking at the operation and maintenance dollars that are required to run it. We're going to be having to look at capital dollars for the future with an incremental approach or process, I guess, to make it work.
We are going to continue to look at ways to support it through marketing efforts. There will still definitely be linkages with the department because, certainly, it's something that exists here in the Yukon Territory at this point. So, it's incumbent upon us to attempt to make it work and, certainly, that is my expectation.
So, I'm not going to go into a negotiating mode, which is a kind of roll-up-your-sleeves-and-say, "Okay, this is what we're doing and this is how we're going to cut, cut, cut." What we're going to do is go in there and say, "How can we best make it work? How can it be very representative of the community?" That's the process that we're in at this point, as the member knows, because I believe he was talking to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission about the process.
Well, of course it has to include the players at large and the unions. You have to initiate discussion with the contractors who are in there. So, the whole process is going to be an honourable, upfront process that is going to be focussed on how we can make it work even better with and through a community-based management model.
Mr. Phillips: Is the minister looking at a reduction in the O&M for Beringia? I mean, what was the rationale for moving it over to this community-based model? The minister has said that it wasn't meeting his expectations in revenue, so is the minister looking at moving it over, reducing the O&M, and having the private sector, I suppose you'd call them, or the non-profit organizations, increasing the fee to see Beringia? How are we going to change something like that around?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, that is the aspiration, if we can ever save on O&M dollars, we will. But that's not really - pardon me, excuse me, Mr. Chair.
That's not necessarily the intent, Mr. Chair. The intent is, how can we make it work on a community-based model? So we're going to be totally upfront. I believe I assured the Liberal leader that we would get the information to them, and definitely I will share the information.
Actually, if we crunched the numbers in my budget here, they're all right here anyway. Those are going to be the basis of the numbers that we used, and we're going to be sitting down and chatting with them about how we can best make it work.
Is there going to be cost savings? Certainly we would like to see cost savings occur, but certainly that is not the overall intent. The overall intent is, how can we make it work on a community-based management model?
And if we look at it in that light - and I ask the House for its support for this endeavour, because I think that it could turn out to be even more wonderful of what Beringia represents if we look at the expansion of it, I guess - now, when I say expansion, it doesn't mean that we're going to go out and put in a whole bunch of capital dollars to expand it now. No. But there's so much more to our wonderful, beautiful cultural mosaic here, of which Beringia is definitely a part.
We know that ancient history is certainly one of the focuses that we have to do, and there is certainly more to ancient history in Beringia. So, as we sit and we talk about these types of initiatives and how we can make it work through a community-based management model, those types of initiatives will come into play in it, and it can only get better at that point in time. It can only get better - more interaction with the community at large. And that is definitely a desire that we have.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Deputy Chair: I'll now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any more general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Quite a bit more general debate, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, when we left at the break, we were talking about the O&M of the Beringia Centre, and I asked the minister what the reason was for transferring over the management to MacBride. The minister said, "Our hope is to reduce the O&M." I wonder if I could get into that a little further with the minister. I'm trying to figure out where the minister would reduce the O&M.
Is the minister considering a reduction in the number of employees or a reduction in the wages for the employees? How would we reduce the O&M on that side of it?
I guess we could maybe close down the centre in the winter. I know this winter an employee of the Government of the Yukon was up at the centre for the winter and worked out of the centre. The heat was on and the individual was there and worked out of the centre, and actually kept the centre open for convention business and special visits by people, including school children, who came through the centre on a regular basis.
I guess the other option is to not have anyone there from October till May, or September till May, and drain the pipes and shut the building down, and save some O&M costs. But that has other associated costs with it, as many of those types of buildings are not designed to be shut down for the winter months. I guess we could burn less fuel, turn the thermostat down, or turn the lights down, or whatever.
But how does the minister see us saving money with the Beringia Centre, with respect to the changes in management?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, it was not the intent of the conversation before the break to say that that was the entire focus. That's certainly not the entire focus. It is not even the primary focus to save O&M. Certainly I think the primary focus is how to make the Beringia Centre work. If there are O&M reductions, well, certainly they would be welcome, but that is not the primary focus of the Beringia Centre going over to community-based management.
We do want to make it work; we feel that we can do it through community-based management, which will incorporate, maybe, some new directions that folks have within the community who want to make it work, and we do believe in the heritage concept of tourism within the Yukon, of which Beringia is definitely a part.
We'll continue to fund the Beringia Centre, but we'll continue to look at managing a different model.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, when the Beringia Centre concept was developed, there had been a visitor exit survey done. There were discussions that had taken place with the major players and the major tourism companies - Holland America, Princess and some of the major bus companies. I know the Government Leader and I met with several of the major players and one of the concerns that was expressed in the visitor exit survey as well as from these individuals was that there needs to be more attractions in the City of Whitehorse to encourage us to make it more of a destination and to stay a little longer, as opposed to travelling on to Alaska. That was one of the reasons for the development of the Beringia Centre. In fact, we were told by the major players at the time that if we developed such a centre - and we gave them just the conceptual design - they would consider spending more time in the City of Whitehorse.
As the minister knows, many of them arrive at six or seven o'clock at night, or late in the evening, and then take off very early the next morning. Other than the hotel rooms and maybe a breakfast and maybe late-night shopping for the odd few and possibly the Frantic Follies, most of them travel on out of Whitehorse without spending a lot of that good American cash.
We had discussions with Holland America and Princess with respect to providing more attractions in the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon in general and making the Yukon more of a destination, and that resulted in the development of the Beringia idea and concept.
I'd like to ask the minister, in the last two and a half years, has he followed through? I know that part of the business plan that was developed for Beringia at the time - the minister said it had fairly large expectations, but the expectations were based on continued work and discussions with Holland America and Princess, because the only way that I think Beringia Centre or other Yukon attractions are going to see significant increases in visitation is if Holland America or Princess, or some of the other major tour operators that are running bus tours through the territory, spend more time here, because otherwise, we're just going to increase by the one or two or three percent a year, and it's going to be a slow, gradual increase, no matter how we look at it. I mean, whether the MacBride manages Beringia or whether the government does, if we don't attract some of the major players, the visitors are not going to spend as much time here as we'd like.
So, did the minister in the two and a half years that he has been the minister meet with Holland America, Princess and the major tour wholesalers? How many times did he meet with them and encourage them that they should spend more time in the Yukon, and specifically more time in Whitehorse, and use the Beringia Centre and other attractions in Whitehorse as the lure?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have not personally met with Holland America, and such tour operators, on the specific issue of Beringia, but we have met with the bus line companies, and the department, as a matter of daily business - or yearly business - is working with them to get them to come and stop in to the Beringia Centre. For a while they did; then they dropped right off.
We're still trying to work with them and to find reasons as to why they didn't live up to some of the commitment that they'd made historically, which they backed off from, I guess, in the modern sense - well, right now, they have backed off.
So we are continuing. Part of our work is to continue to work with them and to work on the community-based management model so that we might, incrementally, as I've said, put capital-type dollars to work for the Beringia Centre on an incremental basis to make it work as a community-based model. That is the level of commitment that this government has toward it, and will continue to have.
Mr. Phillips: My concern is that the minister has said he's never met with the major players. Well, I think it was essential that the minister should have met with the major players. What we have now is something that I see that concerns me a little bit, and that is that, as the minister knows, there is a large First Nations cultural centre being developed in Alaska. I believe it's in Anchorage - the new centre that they're developing there. They obviously have the support of the major tour operators. Holland America and Princess have both contributed significantly - I think to the tune of $300,000 - to the exhibits in this new centre.
I think there's room to partner with Holland America and Princess here with respect to some of our attractions in the Yukon, and I would have hoped that the minister would have made a stronger effort in the last two and a half years to ensure that he got into their offices or invited the CEOs of these two companies into his office to talk about coming and seeing exhibits such as this and including the Yukon as a special package.
I know that Dawson City worked on that with Holland America and Princess, and now they have more visitors than they've ever had before as a result of efforts they made with respect to the gold rush and marketing, and I think we could have done the same thing. I'm disappointed that the minister didn't make it a high priority to meet with Holland America and Princess and draw them in to spend more time in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
I wonder why the minister didn't do that. Did he not feel it was important to try and encourage this? Something that the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government and business people in Whitehorse have been urging the government to do for a long time is to encourage people to spend an extra night in Whitehorse, to spend more time in Whitehorse to allow them to shop and do and see things.
We're going to have to start on that sometime, because we're now talking about developing our waterfront, we're talking about new attractions in the City of Whitehorse, new things happening, and I'm just wondering why the minister didn't meet these people in the past and would he give consideration to sitting down with the CEOs or the key people of these companies and encourage them as strongly as he can that the Yukon is a great product and they should spend more time here, rather than, in some cases, just having their clients spend one day. It would be nice if we could get a day and a half or two days out of them. Then I think we'd see a marked increase in visitation to all of our museums and all of our attractions in the City of Whitehorse and throughout the Yukon. I mean, Dawson's seen that kind of spinoff, with the extra day that some of them are spending there.
So I'd like to ask the minister what his thoughts are on the idea of sitting down and having some serious discussions with the chief executive officers or the key people who make the decisions about which tours stop where.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, let me categorically correct the member. I did not say "I did not"; I said I did not have specific meetings with CEOs regarding the Beringia. That is exactly what I said, that the Beringia Centre was not the main topic at any of those meetings. Now, the department and I have, from time to time, met with Holland America, because we certainly do want them to support the Beringia Centre. Right now, the trip characteristics of both the busing tour companies is that they just generally don't support the Beringia visits, because there just isn't the timing now.
Now, the department is working to change that for the long-term and the short-term benefit. We're looking to have that change.
Now, we started off by speaking about the Beringia Centre, and then we went over to - well, Yukon being a great product in general, and we spoke about Dawson City having a great product. The Whitehorse waterfront - certainly that's why we're very desirous of having the folks on the front moved off it, so that we can develop the land.
Those are all, certainly, singularly different from the Beringia Centre. Dawson City has its own unique brand of tourism opportunity. The Yukon - I agree with the member - is a great product. Wherever you go in the Yukon Territory it's just a great product. The Whitehorse waterfront has the potential to be a great product.
We have put together at the Cabinet level a committee that will look at identifying where we're going, how best we can implement and who will we implement these types of identified attractions with, so we are a government that is very focused on developing attractions, generally, in the Yukon Territory, to have the tour bus companies, indeed, stay over a bit longer and to have the travelling public stay over longer in the Yukon Territory.
To get back to the Beringia Centre, as I've said, we're going to be sitting down, through the community-based management model, and we're going to be looking at how best we can make it work and how best we can ingratiate and re-invigorate the Beringia Centre through the community management model concept. I did say that what's on the table is certainly O&M dollars and incremental capital dollar expenditures - marketing dollar type of expenditures.
So, we do want to make it work, and to say that we don't is certainly not a truth, because we do want to make it work. The way we're going to go about it is to make it focus on the community management-based model.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, you know, I'll be frank with the minister. I think he's going to have to make a little stronger efforts, then, to meet with the major tourism players, like Holland America and Princess and encourage them to consider the Yukon as a destination product.
Now, I'm hearing rumblings in the marketplace that some of the Alaska tours are not as attractive as they used to be, partly because of overcrowding in Denali and some other places, and there is an opportunity here to really say, look, we've got scenery that's just as nice and, in my view, in many cases, nicer, more beautiful. We've got First Nations culture that is as rich, if not richer. And all kinds of scenery that I believe is second to none.
So, I think that the time is ripe now for the minister to be sitting down with these individuals and putting together a proposal to say, look, here are some Yukon options and here's what we'd like to see you do in the Yukon. Maybe we can, rather than be sold as a by-product of Alaska, be sold as a main product of the Yukon.
And I know it has been a problem that we've faced all along, because we're selling primarily to Americans, and many of them want to come and see their last frontier but, I mean, I think there's a huge market in western Canada and central Canada for Canadians, as well, to see the Yukon, and I think Holland America and Princess might want to look at that somewhere down the road - and other tour companies as well. So, I encourage the minister to do that, and I don't think he has done quite enough yet, and I think he should concentrate on that a little more, in light of the rumblings that we're hearing from Alaska about the need for different products and the search for different products that people are doing now.
Mr. Chair, the minister said something that twigged me a few moments ago. He said that they have a Cabinet committee identifying attractions. What did the minister mean by that? Is there a Cabinet committee in the Cabinet of the Government of the Yukon that's identifying attractions? Because that's what he said they've got.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, certainly we have a very aggressive government that is very desirous of moving into the future, and so we have put together a Cabinet committee that would identify - no, not necessarily attractions, but certainly the economy. That's where our Economy 2000 initiatives come out. So, it's a part of our overall community strategy, the Economy 2000, and that's what that is.
The member spoke about being more than just a by-product on a truck stop or, you know, to stop for another piece of apple pie along the way at a truck stop to Alaska. Certainly, that is exactly what we're doing, and we're going to do that through the tourism strategy. That's why we brought the tourism strategy into focus, and we're going to be talking and consulting with the people, because we know that it has to be done with and for the people of the Yukon Territory. And as we go through and identify the entrepreneurial opportunity, then that entrepreneurial opportunity will be picked up by the Yukon public.
I certainly do agree with the Member for Riverdale North about the scenery and the timing being right and what we have to offer here - a rich cultural heritage of First Nations, a rich cultural heritage of many different nationalities that come to make up the community of the Yukon, the mosaic that we have of the community.
We do have the opportunity, and that is exactly why we're going out and talking to the public. At the same time, we're looking at every avenue and every opportunity to improve the tourism figures and numbers and attractions here, and we're doing it in a very thoughtful, methodical manner.
We, too, do realize that the rubber-tire market from the United States and, indeed, Canada - well, we say "outside" up here, so, from outside of the Yukon Territory is very, very important. The rubber-tire market is definitely our breadbasket here in the Yukon Territory. That is why we are allocating extra resources toward these very, very important marketplaces for us. So, it's not just an international marketplace; it's the local marketplace. As the leader of the third party said, all of those come into play when we go to focus on how we can make the Yukon better.
It's very important, too, that we take the time to do it right and, at the same time, move, because the timing is right. That is exactly what is happening at this point in time.
We can learn from - I guess if you call it mistakes, then that's what you'd call it; not necessarily the mistakes - the experiences of other jurisdictions and we can look at the experiences of those other jurisdictions and try not, in some cases, to imitate the mistakes. In other situations, where they have successes, we can work cooperatively with them to imitate some of those successes.
But, again, we're doing this for our unique Yukon community, because nowhere else in the world do we have the unique country of the Yukon.
So, I reiterate that the rubber-tire market from the United States, the rubber-tire market from the rest of Canada - we're putting resources to it. We're going out and talking about tourism strategies. We've identified Cabinet committees that we are working with to look at improving and diversifying the economy of the Yukon Territory. And I do know that we will get there.
Now, how are we going to do it? We're going to do it in a highly professional manner, because that is what is needed, I think, to compete in the world. Our competition is not simply Alaska and their product, the Northwest Territories and their product or, to the south of us, British Columbia, but our competition is the global marketplace. In order to entice and to lure and to bring the tourists here to spend their dollars in our country, we have to keep it high end. I know the member knows what I speak of, and I know that the Liberal leader knows what I speak of when I say high end. It's got to be a high-end product, with the buy-in of the greater Yukon community, so that we can continue to grow and enjoy the prosperity that we have experienced to date.
Mr. Phillips: I asked the minister about the Cabinet committee and identifying attractions, and that's clearly what he said in the House. Now, he just said it's the strategy 2000, or the 2000 strategy that they have going. Is there no committee identifying attractions, or are they actually identifying attractions? I mean, I don't understand what the minister said. They either are identifying them or they're not identifying them. Who's on this committee?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been taken wrong here. The committee is comprised of members of the Cabinet, which any good government will do. I would assume that the previous administration of the Government of the Yukon had this type of initiative. If they didn't, then I would say it's much to their chagrin. This is how we come up with ideas, is by coming together as a group of Cabinet players and key government officials of the different departments, because we have different - well, we know that we have different departments in government; we know that we have some very talented people in government, so we come together in think-tank situations. Again, I reiterate that that's where our budgets and our Economy 2000 comes from; it comes from those types of committees where they brainstorm with the talent that we have.
Mr. Phillips: Does the minister have a list of attractions that he and his Cabinet colleagues have come up with that we can look at, so we can see what their thinking is, and what their brainstorming has developed - maybe a copy of the brainstorming attractions will be an interesting thing to look at. We could see whether or not, you know, they've identified certain things that should be done in the territory and we could get an idea of what their thoughts are.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, there's nothing at this time for the member. As it evolves through the budgetary process it will certainly become identified.
Mr. Phillips: So what the minister's saying then is that he and his Cabinet colleagues have done a lot of brainstorming about identifying attractions and haven't been able to find any? Is that what the minister's saying, that they haven't been able to identify anything? The brainstorming so far has been a failure?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, that is not at all what I said, Mr. Chair. Certainly, Mr. Chair, those are the member's own words. Certainly I think that there might be a bit of an embarrassment there, because they did not have these types of committees in the previous administration.
But certainly this is a proactive administration. We're looking to diversify the economy. We're getting away from the unrealistic boom-and-bust cycles that have been historically a part of the Yukon economy, and we're going through this exercise so that we might be able to diversify the economy.
The living proof, I think, is contained within the budget that we are debating right now, because it is certainly a meaningful budget. It reflects on all sectors of the Yukon economy and, indeed, it does focus even moreso on tourism than ever before in the past, so that we might be able to move forward with this wonderful field of tourism and the vision that we have to - and the consultations that we're going out to talk with people to see, in part, through the consultation, what they have. So, no, it's very much a success, because I do believe that as you go through the budget process that if the official opposition comes to see the light, they'll see the good things in this budget - the capital works, the different initiatives, the tax incentives, the tax break type of issues that we have here - come from those types of committees, and are reflected in our budget now.
So I do, indeed, expect to have support from the opposition parties for this meaningful endeavour that we've gone through on.
Mr. Phillips: I'm not trying to be argumentative with the minister, but I'm just taking the minister's words. He said there was a Cabinet committee identifying attractions. Then, the minister told us, Mr. Chair, that they'd been brainstorming for quite some time. And then, the minister said that he can't give me a list of attractions. So, I'm just wondering why we haven't been successful.
How long have the minister and all his Cabinet colleagues been brainstorming and not come up with anything? Has it been just a couple of weeks or has this been going on now for about a year, where this Cabinet committee, on identifying attractions, hasn't been able to get anything, get any ideas? Does the minister have a target date for actually coming up with an idea, like the first one, and is there going to be some kind of an announcement so the general public can see what all this brainstorming initiative has amounted to?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, the Member for Riverdale North is certainly twisting words. At this point, Mr. Chair, we are going to continue on with the good work that we have done in identifying good governing opportunities. We're going to continue to build schools; we're going to continue to build roads; we're going to continue to put money into initiatives for youth; to put money into resources into initiatives for the elderly. These are the type of issues that come out of the Cabinet committees that we have.
Certainly, I can say that I'm very proud to be a part of those Cabinet committees because, as we move through it, I think the success is laid out within the budget process before you, and you'll see, Mr. Chair, as we go through the budget process - and we've gone through a lot of at this point - that we've got partnerships with industry. We've done things with the Yukon mineral exploration tax credits, Yukon mining incentive programs, mineral resources, the first oil and gas leases. We're working on developing the development assessment legislation. In partnerships, we're doing trade and investment funds. We've put money toward extending the airport. We've done such things as improve air access. We're working to improve fire safety for communities.
We're going to be looking to build a new 74-bed continuing care facility, new health centres, schools, new recreation centres. We've doubled the rural roads programming. All these new initiatives came out of the committee. So, is it a success? You betcha it's a success. It's very much a success, because it is what we have reflected in the budget before us.
Mr. Phillips: That was an interesting speech, Mr. Chair, but it was sort of a Community and Transportation Services speech.
The minister says I'm trying to put words in his mouth. I'm not putting words in his mouth. In fact, we'll probably be back here on Monday talking about this, and I'll be able to read the minister's words from Hansard back to him. The minister said that they have a Cabinet committee identifying attractions, and then the minister said that they had been brainstorming. And then the minister said that they didn't have a list of any attractions that they've identified.
Now, either the minister has been brainstorming and has a list of attractions, or they haven't come up with anything or can't think of anything, or they haven't had any meetings to talk about it. I mean, the minister can't rise in the House and tell us that they have a Cabinet committee identifying attractions. How do they identify the attractions?
I looked at the budget, Mr. Chair, and I was looking at the budget for attractions, and there are no new attractions in this budget. There are no new attractions in the budget. And so they have this Cabinet committee brainstorming on attractions, and the minister says this is their agenda and it's in front of us right here and we should look at the budget. Well, I looked in the budget, and there are no attractions.
So, what I want to know from the minister: is there a problem in the brainstorming sessions where we can't come up with ideas, or does the minister need some more suggestions from others in the general public? Or how are we going to prompt the other members of Cabinet to start making a list? Or maybe we don't have a secretary in the meetings, and we're not writing this stuff down.
Maybe that's why there's no list. I'm just trying to determine from the minister why we've spent two and a half years brainstorming with the Cabinet members and we don't have any ideas.
Maybe the minister can tell me why we don't have a list of attractions after two and a half years of brainstorming.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you indeed, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to respond to the colourful comments from the Member - the comedian, I guess I should say - from Riverdale North. Certainly, there could be a future for the member. There could be an opportunity for the member to enjoy himself on a comedy show, although I do believe that, in most communities, it would be shut off.
I'd like to take the member back to deep in the jungle, I guess, because he had to be deep in a jungle by himself somewhere because, surely, the previous administration would not have looked - maybe that is the problem; maybe that's absolutely the problem; maybe the previous Government Leader of the administration of the Yukon Party believed in the figures that were presented to them for their one big baby, their one big attraction, the one that was going to pay for all the capital costs, the one that was going to pay for the O&M costs. There must have been deep-felt belief.
Now, I used to think that maybe it was just a singular satellite, sort of floating around out there in Riverdale North at times, and every once in awhile it went, "Poof. There's an idea. I've got it. I believe it's Beringia. And, you know, to make it work we're going to have to spend all these dollars of that - I've got to put figures together, but, God, if I put it into a business plan it wouldn't work. So, I'd better not put it into a business plan. But you know what I think? I do know that, if we have 65,000 visitors in the first year and we have 85,000 visitors in the second years and, my God, if we have 125,000 in the third year, well, if you total that up with your math - Yukon Party math - you're going to come out with a successful attraction."
Now, through the wisdom of the New Democrat Party previously, which was the official opposition at the time, they more than attempted to say: slow down, be thoughtful, use process, talk to people. For God's sake, shouldn't we be talking to the heritage community at large if we're going to spend this kind of capital infrastructure that is going to have this type of O&M implications? Should we not be looking at this?
Well, I guess we should, but gee, if I put it into a business plan, no, no, no, no, no, it's going to take away my little satellite here. In actual fact, he shouldn't have been in a satellite; he should have surrounded himself with the Milky Way, or wherever he does, with his other colleagues, one of whom is sitting in the House with him today. So, obviously it didn't quite work for them.
Now, what this government has done is go out and we said we have to identify site attractions and we have to look at a new way of governing - maybe one that the people of the Yukon hadn't seen for four years - because it involved consultation; it's called talking with people, which certainly evolved into a better way of doing governance.
What happened? Suddenly, schools started to appear across the landscape of the Yukon Territory. Suddenly a vision started to be portrayed for the people of the Yukon Territory, because we're all growing older - maybe some a little sooner than others. You know, we do have people wanting to stay here, so what did we do? We thought youth; we have to have a focus on youth, and we must look to educating our youth, so we did. We started to build some good facilities in the Yukon Territory and around the territory, so that we could have good educational facilities for our youth.
Then we thought, well, you know -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Deputy Chair: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Deputy Chair. We're discussing the Tourism budget. The minister should try and stick to the Tourism budget.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: I see no point of order. Please continue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. So as we looked at this vision that we had - and it was not a vision to get re-elected - because we said, if we do the right things, the people are going to see that. So was it our primary focus? No. Our primary focus was to serve for the benefit of the people of the Yukon Territory. So we did. We went out and we looked at all sorts of wonderful things - schools, continuing care facilities for our seniors, fixing up houses for our seniors and other people.
Mr. Chair, we've also - and I think this is where it really hurts the previous member, Mr. Chair - is that, when the previous administration's expenditures came to Tourism, were they done in a consultative manner, or were they done through the CAP projects - centennial anniversaries programs - that said, "You can do this in this community, that in that community, you can do that in that community over there, and you can do this in that community, but no, you cannot have marketing dollars on these types of things, and you've got to live within your budget." Is that the way to do meaningful consultation or tourism infrastructure development in the Yukon Territory? Absolutely not.
So this government, having to pick up from the mistakes - the corrections of the previous Yukon Party - being a methodical and thoughtful government, as we move forward into the new millennium thought, well, geez, we've got to get away from the boom-and-bust cycle, we've got to get away from the resource extraction cycle, because it is too dependent on world metal prices et cetera. So we thought, guess we better look at all these different things. Because there's certainly more than just highway construction, or building construction; there are all these other wonderful things that I've spoken about.
So we decided that, you know, if we're going to do good work, then we've got to extend the airport, and we looked at that, and we did a wonderful job. Now I think that the only thing really getting in the way with that wonderful job is the ego of the critic on the other side, saying these different things. Because, "Oh my God, if they had a committee that actually got together, they would have identified some of these, but we didn't have a committee, so what we have to do is we have to beat the tar out of the other people", because that's just the nature of, I guess, the game - in the previous administration's minds.
Now that is not at all what our focus is, and it will not be what our focus is.
Our focus is to continue to work with the Yukon people and my particular job is certainly within Community and Transportation Services and within Tourism. So, what did we do? We took a gamble. People believed in us. The CTC believed in us. We went out and aggressively pursued an airline direct flight to the Yukon Territory.
And you know what? It happened. It absolutely happened, and not only did we believe in ourselves, but the Canadian Tourism Commission believed in us and put $250,000 toward us so that we might improve air access. Was it beneficial? Well, talk to the hoteliers. Talk to the people that sell retail.
I'll never forget the interview that was done with one of the local folks on Main Street that sells sportswear and hunting equipment and those types of things, and he said that there was a direct impact on his business when the Air Transat flight landed - a direct impact. Where was that done from? It was done from a gamble, of course, because we know when to take risks, because we know what we're going to do. But those thoughts come from Cabinet committees, not in isolation, floating around, because I don't think that the member who spends his summers in his new log home out there really has many thoughts for these types of things. He had a very focused initiative - that is what it would be - toward tourism.
Now, another thing that we have here is the tourism marketing fund, because was there a lapse? Was there a lapse? Yes, there was. We knew that we needed more product. We knew that we needed product that was identified.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I appreciate it when the Member for Porter Creek North cautions the Page who was just sitting there humbly and just smiling and enjoying herself to be quiet - and he says to be quiet. He should be listening to the pearly words of wisdom that are dripping from my lips, because I do believe he can learn something.
So, back to the process, let me continue to share with you, the wonderful things that we are doing within Tourism. We've put together the tourism marketing fund. Why have we done the tourism marketing fund? To create new and exciting products. We've also created the tourism marketing fund so that they might be able to market that product. You know, is that a good thing? Well, certainly, as I look at the north side going south - or is the south side going north - I know that it's a wonderful thing because they can't adhere to what we're saying. They can't adhere to the initiatives that this government has gone forth with.
Now, as I've travelled and we've opened up new markets for the Yukon Territory and looked at the United Kingdom - why did we look at the United Kingdom? Because of advice from the department that goes through the committees of Cabinet. It goes to the Cabinet itself and we say, "You betcha." If there are 800,000 people coming from the United Kingdom to Canada annually - and they're a very minute share - and this is the largest overseas market that Canada enjoys, should not it be incumbent upon the Government of Yukon to try to get a slice of the pie? Absolutely. We've got a "Bingo" in the back. Yes, I do agree with the member.
What else have we done? We have put together many, many initiatives.
Even within C&TS, and we absolutely know that the people have to have safe journeys, and we know that we want to get them into rural Yukon for the benefit of rural members and their businesses, so what do we do? We put more money into the rural roads project.
Now, we have over $1 million in that fund that's helping rural Yukon and, in essence, helping tourism, because it's bringing these great, big Winnebagos, and it's getting them into rural Yukon, so they can spend money in rural Yukon.
We put in over a million dollars, and do you know what the previous administration had in their budget? Fifty thousand dollars. Is that their belief in making rural Yukon attractive to tourism? Absolutely, yes. That was what they thought they were doing. Why? Because, "I have a vision, and it's called Beringia, and I know it's going to pay for itself in three years. Not only is it going to pay for the O&M costs, it is going to pay for the capital."
Well, I don't know what's been in that member's pipe, but he must have been smoking it pretty heavily that day, because that's exactly what it was; it was a pipe dream.
Boy oh boy oh boy. I can just rise to the occasion because we started out as a thoughtful, methodical government. We consult with people, talk with people. We spend time to do it right. We're going out and we're going to meet the promises and the challenges. Do you know what happened? We had an 11-percent increase, the best doggoned increase we've ever had, and it's due, mainly in part, to the wisdom of this government and working with very true professionals within the Tourism department.
That's how you get increases, Mr. Chair. That's how you get increases - by listening and talking to people.
Now, what have we done in the tourism budget? Well, the capital budget's up 11 percent. The O&M is up three percent. That's our commitment to tourism.
Have we put additional money toward marketing? You betcha we have, another $200,000 for gosh sake. Should we simply just sit back on our laurels and say that's good enough and we've got successes? No, no, no, no, no. We just don't sit back on those things. Maybe that was the mistake of the previous party, because they thought, "We have our Beringia attraction here, and I guess we can just go into the new world and that's it." What a shocker for them.
So, of course, it's up to me, as the Minister of Tourism, to find new and innovative ways that we might be able to make the things that we inherited work, and that's exactly what we're going to do. We're going to continue with that and, through the fine work that we do through Cabinet, through the department, through the Cabinet committees, we're going to continue to implement some of those wonderful thoughts, because, Mr. Chair, that is truly what they are.
Did we stop there, Mr. Chair? No. We knew there was opportunity in film incentives, so what did we do? We went out and put 175,000 smackeroos into a film incentive program, and $900,000 into the millennium fund.
And all of these are good-news projects for Yukon so that they might be able to increase their capacity, increase their dollars and move on forth into the new millennium.
Mr. Chair, that's exactly what we're doing, and that's exactly what we're going to continue to do. We're going to continue to follow process that involves people, that involves caucus, that involves the good people that we have working for us that have the best for the Yukon people at heart. We're going to continue to do that.
I guess I'm being encouraged by my House leader to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to move that you report progress. Unfortunately, it's going to stop the pearly words of wisdom, but certainly, if the Member for Riverdale North wishes to partake in more of this this weekend, I would be glad and more than willing to share it with him at that time.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Deputy Chair, 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 the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.