Monday, April 22, 2002 ó 1:00 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.
In recognition of the Queenís Golden Jubilee
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of all members of this House and on behalf of the Government of the Yukon to join with other members of the nation and the Commonwealth in extending congratulations to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Her Majestyís accession to the throne.
Over the past 50 years, Her Majesty has been present for many of Canadaís most historic moments, and her Majestyís devotion to duty stands as a fine tribute to a sovereign who has inspired the respect and affection of generations of Canadians.
Her Majestyís Golden Jubilee year is a time to look toward to the future, as well as reflect upon the great changes that have taken place in our nation during Her Majestyís remarkable reign. It is time to recognize and commemorate all that has been achieved by Canadians over the course of the last 50 years.
The occasion of Her Majesty the Queenís Golden Jubilee is a truly historic event, and it will be celebrated throughout the Commonwealth. A royal proclamation has been issued, inviting Canadians to join in the Golden Jubilee year celebrations.
Her Majesty has stressed that the Golden Jubilee should be a time of community activities and goodwill that will celebrate our accomplishments and our traditions.
The events planned in the Yukon will provide numerous opportunities for people to volunteer and participate through community service, and celebrate their great respect and admiration for Her Majesty the Queen.
Long live the Queen.
In recognition of Earth Day
Mr. McRobb: It is an honour to rise in tribute to Earth Day. Today, more than six million Canadians, along with citizens in hundreds of other countries, are celebrating the importance of our planetís natural systems. I would like to recognize all Yukoners, especially schoolchildren, who are participating in Earth Day. This is a time to acknowledge the dedication and hard work that Yukoners involved in environmental organizations in this territory contribute every day.
While pressures on the natural world are great, businesses, communities and individuals can take simple actions and make meaningful contributions to protecting and conserving our environment. Through our basic actions, we can all help improve the quality of our air, water and soil, whether it is planting a tree, making intelligent consumer choices like choosing an energy-efficient appliance, switching the lights off, insulating a water heater to decrease the energy needed to heat it, participating in the cleanup of a local creek, or walking and biking instead of driving.
Every year, government agencies and non-government organizations develop themes for Earth Day.
The Earth Day network theme this year is "Protect our home" and asks us to learn more about some of the most critical environmental factors such as biodiversity, water, forests and energy.
First launched in 1970 as an environmental awareness event in the United States, Earth Day influenced the U.S. Congress to pass clean air and water acts and to establish the environmental protection agency to research and monitor environmental issues and enforce environmental laws.
In many countries, Earth Day brought pressure on heads of state to take part in the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to address issues such as climate change and the worldwide loss of species.
The international community adopted an unprecedented global plan of action for sustainable development, but the best strategies are only as good as their implementation. Ten years later, better implementation will be attempted by adopting concrete steps in identifying quantifiable targets for the goals set out in Rio.
In August 2002, tens of thousands of participants will come together at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to consider how to move the world onto a sustainable path.
In addition to governments, there will be active participation by representatives from business and industry, children and youth, farmers, indigenous people, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, scientific and technological communities, women, workers and trade unions. Although this event is of critical importance to the future of our planet, only a handful of leaders have publicly committed to attend. International efforts are failing to keep pace with the magnitude of challenges to natural systems and human society. Environmental degradation is outpacing any successes toward slowing it. The summit offers a chance for the global community to forge agreements to protect essential natural systems, while ensuring that peopleís basic survival needs are met.
Solutions to improve the ailing state of the worldís environment need political will. I encourage all members to empower and help Yukoners to positive action and achieve local solutions to improving peopleís lives and conserving our natural resources in a world that is growing in population with ever increasing demands for food, water, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I also rise to remind all members that today is the 32nd year that Earth Day is noted and acknowledged. The theme of this yearís Earth Day, "Protect our planet", fits very nicely into the role of the Yukon Department of Environment and its new focus and direction that arose as a result of renewal. Much of that new focus and direction is to manage and protect Yukonís natural environment in a sustainable, comprehensive and integrated manner, in order to maintain and enhance the quality of Yukonís environment for present and future generations.
April is a very busy month in the Department of Environment, Mr. Speaker. The new hunting rules are coming into place because of our changes to the Wildlife Act, and weíve been busy in the schools, and the students in the schools, as a matter of fact, today are making every attempt to have a garbage-free lunch.
National Wildlife Week activities and a multitude of public education and information activities are being conducted by the department, as well as participating in the Celebration of Swans at MíClintock Bay.
April is also called Yukon Biodiversity Awareness Month, and this ties in with many of our activities, including our work to develop a network of protected areas in the Yukon so that we can maintain and protect this territoryís biodiversity.
Biodiversity is all of the Earthís plants and animals, ecosystems and genes. It includes the tallest trees, the smallest insect and the most delicate Arctic tundra ecosystem. Biodiversity is what allows the Earth and all its creatures to adapt and survive. In places far and wide, humans are squeezing out their other forms of life, sometimes causing extinction of entire species.
We have the power to change our course, Mr. Speaker. Each of us can act to protect our biodiversity and help create a sustainable future for our life on Earth by thinking globally and acting locally.
I would like to share with you some of the biodiversity information that has been assembled to inform and educate the Yukon public about our biodiversity, a project that has been airing on our radio stations for the past week. The Yukon has four species of amphibians, 27 species of fish, 62 of mammals, 214 different birds, 1,100 types of plants and well over 5,000 insect species. They all play an important role in Yukonís natural environment.
You may not have known that the Yukonís north coast is the year-round home for two types of seals: the ringed seal and the bearded seal. Many people do not know that Yukon is also home to the woodchuck, or the groundhog. Though they may be more commonly found east of the Canol Road, the first Yukon groundhog recorded by modern science in the Yukon was found near Dawson City just before the Klondike Gold Rush. Many people cannot imagine that there are frogs, toads and salamanders, as well, in the Yukon. Theyíre here and they can be found from Old Crow to Watson Lake and many points in between.
Swan Haven, Marsh Lake, is an excellent place to see the concept of biodiversity in action. It has the ideal combination of geographical location that makes up the Pacific flyway, the warming of the open lake waters for resting, the shallow depth and the nutrients that come down the MíClintock River for the swans to feed on the plentiful supply of edible plants under the waters. All these factors make Swan Haven a world-class biodiversity location. There are over 200 threatened and endangered wildlife species in Canada, but weíre lucky here in the territory. We only have a few species, like the peregrine falcon and the wood bison, and they seem to be doing much better than down south. The Yukon is home to a number of species of concern elsewhere, like the grizzly bear and wolverines. They are very healthy populations here in the territory.
Species at risk are an important component of biodiversity, and we in the Yukon should be proud of our role in taking care of species that are in trouble elsewhere. We should also be proud of our efforts to bring in a made-in-Yukon species-at-risk legislation, and I will have more to report on that in the weeks ahead as we move to bring in the new legislation at the fall sitting in this House.
Mr. Jenkins: I too rise today to pay tribute to the 32nd anniversary of International Earth Day.
Earth Day has succeeded in its purpose of making the world community more aware of environmental issues since its inception in 1970. We here in the Yukon have been particularly blessed with an abundance of natural resources in a pristine and beautiful land. Because our economy is based on the development of these natural resources, Yukoners are facing a particular challenge of achieving a proper balance between responsible resource development and the need to protect our environment.
Gone are the days of the Klondike Gold Rush when miners and developers could extract the gold from the ground without giving any thought to the environmental damage they may be creating. Now the pendulum has swung the other way. Currently in Yukon, there is no balance between economic development and environmental protection.
Over the past week, I have received six letters from all of the industry leaders in the Yukon, complaining about this very issue. The proper balance between economic issues and environmental issues must soon be found, or the Yukon simply will not have an economy. The territory will have a pristine environment, but there will be fewer and fewer Yukoners left in the territory to enjoy it. It appears that what is being created is a series of interlocking parks that will benefit only the wealthy, Gore-Tex society from the south.
I believe it is fitting on Earth Day for all members of this House to re-dedicate themselves to achieving this proper balance between responsible resource development and environmental protection. Mr. Speaker, we are making progress on many fronts.
For example, consider fossil fuel consumption and its resulting pollution. The Cato Institute recently reported that, since the first Earth Day in 1970, energy consumption has risen 41 percent, most of it from fossil fuels but, during that same period, sulphur dioxide emissions have dropped by some 39 percent, volatile organic compounds by 42 percent, carbon monoxide emissions have dropped by 28 percent, and large particle matter emissions by 75 percent. If the environmental alarmists are right, why arenít we running out of food, minerals or oils? Itís interesting.
The world is actually going through a depopulation, in many countries. The threat of escalating birth rates is not the issue.
The birth rates are not keeping pace with the death rates in many countries, and the UN report of 2000 states 44 percent of the worldís population now lives in countries where the birth rate was below the death rate. So we have a whole series of things that have to be addressed.
Iíve heard the Minister of Environment speak out in his capacity as the minister responsible for Tourism, stating at the TIA convention this weekend that he will listen to the tourism industry about its concerns.
Iím asking the Minister of Environment to extend that same courtesy to the six resource sector industries that have sent letters to all members of this House to listen to their concerns about achieving the proper balance between the economic situation here and the environment. Iím asking the minister to act on these initiatives immediately.
Thank you very much.
In recognition of National Volunteer Week
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise today to pay tribute to Yukon volunteers on the occasion of National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week is a time set aside each April to honour the people who donate their time and energy to their fellow citizens. This designated week is meant to raise awareness of the vital contribution volunteers make to our communities.
This yearís theme is that experience matters. It focuses on the fundamental exchange of volunteering. That is the giving and receiving of skills and experience.
Volunteers bring remarkable experience to our organizations and communities, especially older adults who have life and work experiences coupled with the wisdom and savvy of age. They have a lifetime of knowledge and skills to share as they move from the workplace to retirement.
For many newly retired people, volunteering helps make the transition a positive experience by helping them to create and maintain new relationships, use their valuable skills, give back to their communities and mentor others.
Most of us have been touched in some way by volunteers. They are an essential component of healthy communities. Volunteer work has an impact on virtually every aspect of society, including health and safety, education, social services, youth, culture, sports, recreation, the arts and the environment. We know that time is a precious commodity.
On behalf of the Yukon Legislature, thank you to all volunteers for donating their time so freely and for making our Yukon communities better places to live.
Mr. Keenan: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition. This week is National Volunteer Week in Canada and the Yukon, and we have a strong history of volunteerism here. Volunteers in Canada and in our community do a wide range of activities. They read to shut-ins, they deliver meals, they sit on volunteer boards for groups that protect the environment, they run daycares, fight poverty, they support women, and lobby on behalf of those with disabilities. Volunteers sit on school council and in classrooms, they cook and they sew, they ski, and they keep the books and they keep the minutes. They are involved in political parties, in church groups, in non-profit organizations, in service clubs and lobby groups. Volunteers organize fundraisers, from barbecues to dances to bake sales and garbage cleanups.
Volunteers are people who are willing to devote time to help others and their communities. And as government has examined their option for downsizing, they have expected the volunteer community to pick up the growing gaps and, as a result, we have seen an increase in food banks and soup kitchens, and churches, now more than ever, are expected to provide charity when government support has been eroded.
Volunteers make a vital contribution to Canadian and Yukon society, and this week is our opportunity to let them know that we recognize and value the work that they do.
In closing, as the minister has said, the theme is "experience matters", and if the government is going to continue to wield a heavy club and be able to sue volunteers, we soon will not have any volunteerism or any experience in volunteerism communities.
Mr. Jenkins: I also rise to pay tribute to National Volunteer Week. Volunteers make this country work. The Yukon has been particularly blessed in this regard when it comes to organizing major sporting events, holding charity events for the less fortunate, running cultural events. Many events that we too often take for granted only exist because of the tremendous efforts of volunteers in our society. Volunteer boards of directors are a mainstay, and I would like to thank all volunteers here in the Yukon for their tremendous efforts.
The government itself cannot operate efficiently without volunteers. And, Mr. Speaker, if youíd permit a personal observation, I believe that, under our current minority government situation, perhaps the Premier herself should consider turning over the reins of the government to a volunteer organization, which I am convinced would do a much better job of running the affairs of our territory than our present government.
Further, a little personal advice to the Minister of Education on volunteers: volunteers would be much more willing to come forward and serve if the government didnít sue them.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Iíll proceed to introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return. On April 18, the Member for Klondike asked a question ó at Hansard, page 3249 ó respecting statistics. Attached are the requested statistics.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the 2001 Yukon Judicial Compensation Commission Report for Government of Yukon and Territorial Court of Yukon.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling an open letter document from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce to its members regarding the Workersí Compensation position.
Speaker: Are there any further 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?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognize that
(1) the Yukon government has written consultation guidelines that have been in print for five years and can be found on the government Web site; and
(2) the umbrella final agreement also defines exactly what "consultation" means and the YTG guidelines were written with that in mind; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to use these consultation guidelines in communicating with Yukoners on changes in legislation and future direction of this government.
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) community organizations must often use liquor and beer sales at tournaments, concerts, festivals and other events to defray the cost of the event being held; and
(2) the sale of alcohol at these events may be counterproductive to the spirit or audience of the event; and
THAT this House urges the government to take action by creating funding criteria within Project Yukon to assist community groups who wish to break the cycle of dependency on alcohol sales and present healthier, more family-oriented events for all of us.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Liberal government has exhibited a pattern of finger-pointing and laying blame when leaks or suspicions of leaks arise, including:
(1) a criminal investigation in January of employees, related to an ill-conceived health care cut;
(2) attempting to assign rather than to assume blame in regard to the recent public release of an e-mail; and
(3) starting an investigation on the flimsiest of grounds into leaks at the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board staff and board level; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal government to
(1) stop pointing fingers and get on with the important business of this House; and
(2) immediately keep its campaign promise to introduce whistle-blower legislation, ensuring that there is a defined process in place ensuring volunteers and employees are not unfairly scrutinized by this government.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Letters to the editor forwarded from Internet Web site
Mrs. Peter: Last week, the Premier carefully avoided a direct answer to my question about when she first became aware of the offensive e-mail the former minister responsible for the Status of Women sent to her Cabinet colleagues and political staff on March 16. I hope she will be more direct when I ask her about her governmentís relationship to an Internet Web site called "Mensactivitism.org".
My question for the Premier is this: has anyone in the political offices upstairs forwarded any letters from this Web site to local media and, if so, what has the Premier done to stop this inappropriate behaviour?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rose on my feet and repeatedly indicated that I first saw the e-mail on the Friday when the minister offered me her resignation. That date was Friday, April 12.
With respect to e-mails, I received a number of e-mails in response to this news story, and those e-mails were all responded to with the same response, regardless of what they said. That response was, "Thank you for your interest in the Yukon and for sending us an e-mail. The following is a statement I have issued. Media have asked me, "May I forward your e-mail?" Some people responded, some didnít. From there it was ó Iíve read some of the e-mails; I didnít read all of them. That is how all e-mails have been responded to.
With respect to the specific question of an e-mail from a specific group, Iíll go back and check and see if we have received such.
Mrs. Peter: This Web site carries messages that can best be described as hate mail. This government should not be endorsing this kind of material by passing it on to the Yukon media.
Now a local newspaper has reported that a minister, or someone in her office, went so far as to send a note thanking the authors of some of these messages for their kind words. This is completely unacceptable behaviour. This is not just a one-time mistake, itís part of a pattern.
The minister clearly does not have the necessary judgement to continue in her job.
Will the Premier end her double standard in this matter and ask the Member for Riverdale South to resign her remaining Cabinet portfolio?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, all e-mails were responded to in the same fashion. All e-mails, whether they were supportive of the minister or whether they were not, were just simply all responded to in the same way.
The people who write should receive a response, and that is what has happened. The minister immediately offered an apology, resigned and stepped aside from dealing with the Status of Women responsibilities. The matter has been dealt with.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, in the past, other Cabinet ministers have stepped down for showing poor judgement. The Minister of Health and Social Services deals with community organizations, such as Kausheeís Place, that provide services to women. It is important for this government to restore the trust with these organizations, which has been seriously damaged by the minister. Once again, for the sake of restoring trust, will the Premier now ask the minister to do the honourable thing and step down?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this government has just signed a three-year funding agreement with Kausheeís Place. Under a Yukon Liberal government, we increased funding to every womenís shelter in the Yukon Territory, something that has not happened for a very, very long time. Our government respects and values the work that women do at all womenís shelters.
Mr. Speaker, we come every day to this Legislature prepared to debate Yukon issues, and every day the member opposite brings more personal attacks.
I have resigned as the minister responsible for the Status of Women. I have apologized to the Yukon people a number of times, and I will not resign as the Minister of Health, and I will run in the next election.
Question re: Womenís Directorate
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is wrong. The previous government had increased funding to NGOs, and that is a fact.
Every December male MLAs in this House wear a white ribbon to support the campaign to end violence against women. Our solidarity with the women on these issues is completely at odds with the kind of hateful message on the menís activism Web site and other sites that are linked to it. The actions of one of the Premierís colleagues had brought this negative and hurtful dialogue to the surface, and the Premier owes Yukoners an explanation.
So, for the record will the Premier make it clear that her government does not condone this type of gender-based hate mongering in any way?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We in the government offices have not forwarded from Web sites. We have, with permission, provided copies of correspondence ó good and bad. We have provided it. That is all this government has done, and one has only to look at this side of the House and not only does one see the support for women and equality and a keen attention to gender-based policies in this government. All of us have worked alongside members opposite on the point that the member has raised ó in the December commemoration. And we have stood in this House many, many times, and reminded members that much work needs to be done in this area, particularly ending violence against women.
Mr. Fairclough: The government has an opportunity to show that support in answering my next couple of questions.
Mr. Speaker, this whole sorry episode demonstrates exactly why public education on womenís issues is so important, yet this Premier has been cutting funding for public education in the Womenís Directorate by some 63 percent.
So, will the Premier admit now that this decision was wrong and restore the Womenís Directorate funding in full so that it can carry out its role in public education and administration of programs to prevent family violence?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member is incorrect in his statements about the budget. I am more than happy to debate the Executive Council Office budget, including Womenís Directorate, with the member opposite, as the Minister of Justice also will be happy to debate the budget line items with respect to some of these initiatives.
The fact is that the one-time funding for the A Cappella North study was completed last year. Thatís the difference. One only has to go back to look under the NDP budget and one will see that this government has increased the funding and the initiatives in this area and we are continuing to raise awareness of all of these issues.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, this government has been trying to pretend that there has been no change in the Womenís Directorate, but the people in the Yukon are not buying that.
This renewal experiment to downgrade the Womenís Directorate is just plain wrong. The need for the services that the Womenís Directorate provides is as clear as ever.
So, once again, in showing support to the women, Mr. Speaker, will the Premier make a commitment right now to restore the Womenís Directorate to the status it had prior to April 1 of this year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have to take issue with a number of comments made by the member opposite. The fact is, renewal has been an area that Government of Yukon employees have appreciated and have worked on with the Government of Yukon. Eight hundred employees of both this government and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have spoken with us about renewal, specifically with respect to the Womenís Directorate.
This government has not lost focus or lost sight of the needs within our community and the desire to work toward greater equality in our society. We are the only Cabinet in the country thatís half women. We are very aware of these issues, and very aware of every single policy that comes before us, and the impact upon women.
Mr. Speaker, the Womenís Directorate will continue to serve the people of the Yukon very, very well.
Question re: Environmental and economic issues
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today to go to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Currently thereís a major debate going on in the Yukon about the need to achieve a proper balance between economic and environmental issues. Throughout the debate, the minister has sat on the sidelines. He has remained silent. He has failed to speak out in support of the forest industry while the DIAND ministerís forest envoy investigates forestry issues. He has failed to speak out in support of the placer mining industry, and the Yukon placer authorization is now in mediation.
Why has the minister failed to speak out on the lack of a proper balance between economic and environmental issues here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I would just to clarify a couple other things that the Member for Klondike mentioned in his preamble.
The forestry issue and the report by the DIAND ministerís forest envoy, Mr. George Tough ó myself and my officials have been involved all along the way with that. The record that this government has on the placer mining industry was shown in this House two weeks ago with the letters of support we received from the Klondike Placer Miners Association. I continue to work very hard with the Minister of Environment on making sure that there is a proper balance achieved between the economy and the environment when it comes to the establishment of protected areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would encourage the minister to go back and read his briefing notes a little bit more thoroughly, because really nothing could be further from reality and he has been sitting by idly doing nothing.
Over the past several days I received six letters from the Yukon Agricultural Association, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Yukon Forest Industry Association, the Yukon Prospectors Association and the Yukon Contractors Association ó all complaining about the current lack of balance between economic and environmental issues here in the Yukon.
We in this House all know where the Minister of Environment stands on key issues. He wants to create more parks. Does the Minister of Environment speak for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on this issue? Is it all one-sided in this Liberal government ó all environmental? Where is the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We on this side of the House have received those letters from the various industry stakeholder groups as well. Iíve met recently with a number of key officials from those various groups. I am working very hard with the Minister of Environment to ensure that there is a proper balance when these areas of interest are created, and I will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to ask the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources if he believes that the comprehensive resource assessment for 12 new parks here in the Yukon can be conducted by April of 2003, because if he does, Mr. Speaker, Iíve got some old mining stock Iíd like to sell to him.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that are very important when weíre doing the research for establishing protected areas. Resource assessments are very important as we move toward the final boundaries. Itís important to note that the areas of interest are established. The final park boundaries will be established later. There are a number of scientific things that I think are very important when we determine where the protected areas are going to be in the remaining ecoregions.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: The hon. Premier on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, although the introduction of visitors has passed, could I introduce two people who have joined us in the gallery? There are two individuals from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade who have visited us. They are part of a delegation that visits the Yukon annually. They are trade officers who are then posted anywhere in the world, and I would like to thank them for joining us today. Please join me in welcoming them to the gallery and to the Yukon Legislature.
Question re: Liquor Corporation regulations
Mr. McRobb: A few days ago, we learned that someone from the Yukon Liquor Corporation had agreed to open up the warehouse on a statutory holiday because a Whitehorse recreation facility had run short of alcohol. When local media asked about this unusual event, they were told the matter is under review. Can the minister tell us if she is satisfied that the Yukon Liquor Corporation regulations were followed in this instance?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The decision by the Yukon Liquor Corporation to open the warehouse in response to the request from the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre was not in contradiction of any legislation or policy.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, whereís the consistency here? Iím sure the organizers of the events in question were pleased with the service they received, but this situation raises a number of serious questions.
Off-sale outlets recently had their hours cut back without consultation. The minister responsible at that time said the bar hours were long enough. In fact, she asked, "If you had been drinking, for example, for five or six hours, why do you need more?"
Has the minister heard from the owners of retail outlets since the story broke Friday about the Mount McIntyre facility receiving a special Good Friday service?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Speaker, I have not.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, again I hope the review on this matter is a thorough one and not just a whitewash. There canít be one set of rules for some people and some events and another set of rules for others. We need consistency and that should apply across the board.
Will the minister agree to table the results of the review in this House once itís completed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member has said that we are reviewing this and we are indeed.
Iíll be establishing policy to ensure consistency and fairness to all, and I see no problem with providing the member opposite with that information when it is available.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, briefings by
Mr. McLarnon: Last week I made a comment in this House, stating that I received daily briefings on the maximum wage legislation currently sitting on the Order Paper. Questions rose the next day prompting the minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to commit to an investigation at the staff and board level at Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to determine the source of that briefing.
Today I tabled a fax that identified the source of my briefings, the source being concerned business people and chambers of commerce members who feel, once again, that they have been left out of the process by this allegedly business-friendly government.
My question for the minister: has she responded to the letter sent to her by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce explaining her lack of consultation and unilateral change in direction?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have spoken to the president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce at length about this issue. There have been some very serious allegations made ó very serious. I have undertaken an investigation of those allegations. You would think that the member opposite would be quite happy to clear the air on this issue, much as he was happy to clear the air on the Beringia issue. Every day I stood and defended the Member for Whitehorse Centre on that issue.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The official opposition House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: In the context of expediting the publicís business in this House, I would urge the Liberal members opposite to forgo this internal fight between the independent Liberals in this House. This is not the place for that, and it is certainly lowering the publicís perception of this Assembly. It is high time the members opposite start acting like a government.
Speaker: Government House leader on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The Member for Watson Lake is winging it on that kind of point of order. If the Member for Riverdale South is guilty of anything, it is simply that she has used the term "you" but once. The member has a right to respond to the question from the Member for Whitehorse Centre without violating the rules of Question Period in this Legislature, and she has done exactly that.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair finds that itís merely a dispute between members and not a point of order, and asks for the Member for Whitehorse Centre to continue with the first supplementary.
Mr. McLarnon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly wonít respond to any of the low blows flying from the other side.
The letter informs the Chamber membership that the minister had made a commitment to study the cost and impacts of this legislation, and then table legislation in the fall when the actuarial work was done, to assess the full impact of this legislation. The next week, the minister changed her mind, consultation stopped, a deal seemed to have been made without the knowledge of the people who actually pay into the fund, and a cloud of protection and secrecy now envelops the process.
A fair and transparent process has to exist for the WCB to operate. This was envisioned over 100 years ago in the Meredith Principles, which are the foundation of every WCB in the country.
My question: when will the minister start following the clearly defined consultation process for the WCB and consult with stakeholders on the intent and the impact of this legislation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: That process is going on as we speak. The actuarial work should take up to four weeks. The other issue, which is the real issue, is that there have been some very serious allegations made, and that there will be an investigation. Mr. Speaker, that investigation will continue over the next few weeks, and I have agreed to table the results of that investigation in this Legislature.
Mr. McLarnon: When we see a source ó Iíve never been asked about my source. Now Iíve revealed my source and the government is still going to spend money on an investigation.
My final question is for the Premier. In most governments, the Management Board secretariat evaluates the cost of legislation on government coffers. In a government that continually cries poverty, one would think that this evaluation would take even a higher precedence. The speed of this change in direction, the absence of any cost implications to the taxpayer and the lack of any previous actuarial work suggests that Management Board either did not receive a submission or had precious little to work with.
My final question is to the Premier: is this lack of research a sign of things to come from this government, or is it a valid explanation of why the governmentís finances have been so woeful over the last two years?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Some very serious allegations have been made by members of the public. There will continue to be an investigation. I will be tabling results of that investigation, as requested, in May. The preliminary figures are available. What we are doing now is what we said we would do ó to get the final detail on those figures so that everybody has a very good idea of what the final cost is going to be, not only to the Yukon government, which is the largest employer in the Yukon, but to other employers as well.
Question re: Lottery Commission, staff positions
Mr. McRobb: I have another question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Administrative functions for the Yukon Lottery Commission now come under the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Is the minister aware that the staff positions in the Lottery Commission are not paid for by tax revenues but by lotteries revenue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, finally a clear answer from this minister, Mr. Speaker. Now, letís take this to the second step. The Lottery Commission pays its own employee wages. It has a separate board. It has an act that specifies the board must give consent for any changes in administrative relationships. Iíve asked the minister this before. Since sheís being so clear and frank in responses, Iíd like to ask it again: why did she proceed with a significant change in the administrative relationships without seeking the approval of the Yukon Lottery Commission Board?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The staff of the Yukon Lottery Commission are Yukon government employees. As such, they must comply with the various regulations that all government employees must. There is no change in the way the public purchases lottery tickets. Thereís no change in the way groups are able to apply for funding. The amount of funding available to groups has not changed. The department that the staff used to report to ceased to exist. They are now reporting in a different place, and there is very little change in the function of the staff. Itís a different reporting relationship. That is all, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, so much for armís-length relationships, Mr. Speaker. This government is politicizing our corporations. This change is not happening in isolation. This government is changing the Womenís Directorate. It is changing the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation. It tried to change the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. These changes are not about improving service to the public. They are about reducing public influence and centralizing power in the corner suite upstairs, Mr. Speaker, right in this very building.
Will the minister stand down on proposed changes to the Yukon Lottery Commission role until the impact of those changes has been independently assessed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the umpteenth time, there is no change in the role of the Yukon Lottery Commission Board. They are doing exactly the same work they were before. The only change was minor administrative changes in the way their staff reports. That is the only change.
Question re: Old Crow airport terminal
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Infrastructure. When the Liberals came into power two years ago, they promised to implement the NDP budget. That budget included a commitment to a new building in Old Crow, a new airport terminal.
Will the minister confirm that building this community priority is still in his departmentís long-term plans?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have stood on my feet a number of times in this House, in last session and in this session, and have mentioned to members in this House that budgeting is about choices and that we have to make very difficult choices. The Minister of Community Services alluded to some of those difficult choices last week with respect to the Mayo recreation centre. So, as much as I can say with regard to the Old Crow airport is it will be another difficult choice, and we will assess projects on a priority basis.
Mrs. Peter: My community of Old Crow identified the construction of a new airport facility as a priority years ago. The present facility is too small and too overcrowded. Given the current difficult economic situation in the Yukon, will the minister move this project forward so that the construction can begin this summer?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The design work for the new Old Crow air terminal building is complete. Construction of the facility will be scheduled in accordance with the availability of capital resources, and weíll make those determinations at the time when we do our capital budget planning in the fall.
Mrs. Peter: This project is in the long-term plan, and itís not on the radar screen for this Liberal government. I would like to remind the minister that the existing airport facility in Old Crow is very overcrowded right now. The construction of a new facility was identified as a priority years ago. Work should have begun by now. Iíd like to follow up with the Minister of Finance.
Will the Finance minister recognize the importance of this project for my community, and will she bring forward a supplementary budget to begin construction of this project this summer?
Hon. Mr. Kent: In the long-term capital plan, the foundation construction is scheduled for 2003-04, and the building construction is planned for 2004-05, but weíll have to make those determinations when we get closer to the capital budget period and when the planning is done at that time.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 56: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 56, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 56, entitled Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2), be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 56, entitled Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2), be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this bill will see our tax on cigarettes increase by four cents per cigarette as of June 1 this year. Taxes on cigars and loose tobacco will also rise in similar proportion.
No government likes to increase taxes. I think we will all agree, however, that this is one increase that is justified and warranted by the circumstances.
The use of tobacco is a major cause of, or contributor to, a host of health problems, many of which lead to premature death or disablement. Every government in Canada, and indeed the world, is struggling with this problem and the stress itís placing upon health care systems. In recent weeks, we have seen several provincial governments introduce significant increases in their tobacco taxes. They have done so in an effort to deal with this growing problem and raise the funds necessary to cope with escalating health care costs caused, at least in part, by the use of tobacco.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd just like to briefly mention, if I could, the tobacco tax rate across the country. In the Maritime provinces, the taxes per cigarette in their 2002 budgets are: in Newfoundland, itís 13.5 cents per cigarette; in P.E.I., itís 11.45 cents; New Brunswick has the lowest of the four Maritime provinces, at 0.07 and Nova Scotia is at 10.5 cents per cigarette. The taxes on cigarettes in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, likely the provinces most affected by any potential smuggling issues ó and this is prior to their budgets, Mr. Speaker ó were at four cents in Ontario, almost 10, or 9.6, in Manitoba, and 16 in Saskatchewan. As we start to move across to the west, one sees a marked increase in the cigarette taxes, and these are taxes per cigarette.
In Saskatchewan and Alberta, it is 16 cents per cigarette; British Columbia is 15 cents and the Northwest Territories ó and Iíll return to this in a moment ó is at 16.6 cents. Nunavut is at 12.6 cents, and the Yukon, even with this increase, is at 13.2 cents per cigarette. So we are, even with this marked increase, still lower than many of our counterparts.
Governments have done so, as I have said, in an effort to deal with the growing problem of cigarette and tobacco use and to raise the funds to assist in dealing with the escalating cost of health care that is due in part to tobacco use.
We in the Yukon have not escaped the rapid rise in health care costs. Members of the Assembly have seen the budget of our Department of Health and Social Services grow rapidly over the years. The longest serving members have been here since 1996, and we have seen substantial increases in those five and a half short years. This year alone the health care budget, again, grows by more than $6.7 million ó an increase of over five percent.
Not all of the growth is related to health care. A significant portion is though, and tobacco has been a major contributor to that growth.
The rate change we are introducing in this bill will accomplish two purposes. Firstly, it will discourage consumption. There are no Yukon-specific statistics available to measure the relationship between the price of tobacco products and demand. However, a price increase canít help but have some impact upon demand, especially in the case of younger people who may be tempted to experiment with tobacco.
In the end, if only one person quits or does not take up the habit, the initiative will have been worthwhile.
The second purpose that is accomplished by this bill will be an increase in our revenue base. We estimate this tax measure will yield approximately $2.25 million per year to the consolidated revenue fund. This money will be used to finance the programs, including health care, that this government carries out for the benefit of all our citizens.
Mr. Speaker, today there is a news story in the media about the price of smoking going up in the Northwest Territories. As I said earlier in my remarks, when I compared the prices across the country, this was prior to this increase. Whatís happening in the Northwest Territories is they are increasing their tobacco tax by $.75 per package, starting April 22, starting today. So our increase, which amounts to $1 per package, is going into effect on June 1. There, again, the reason the Northwest Territories has cited for introducing this increase is to prevent and discourage young people from picking up this habit. They also note that, in the Northwest Territories, there are more young smokers than anywhere else in the country. There are 34 percent of teenagers lighting up in the Northwest Territories. Clearly, we need to reduce that number in the Yukon.
This initiative that I have introduced amending the tobacco tax is important for the health of Yukoners, and itís important for the ability of the government to carry out its duty to provide first-rate services to Yukon taxpayers.
Many members have spoken about and in support for this initiative in their responses to the budget. I hope we can expect that continued support, as the merits of this bill have been made clear, and I look forward to such support in the passage of this act.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll be short in my response to the Premierís introduction of this act.
Mr. Speaker, we saw an increase to cigarettes this time last year, when there was an introduction of the budget, and at that time, the same rationale was given to us in the House and to the general public that increasing the cost of cigarettes would deter our young people from smoking. I would like to see what information we have on that and how effective that was. I would like to see that information tabled in the House, if the government has it. If so, I can see where they might be going with this bill.
What Yukoners are seeing, though, is that we donít have any information on this ó about the increases from last year. What they see is an increase last year in the price of cigarettes and an increase this year, and probably another increase next year. I would hope that the Premier can tell the general public where itís going to end because, right now, itís a steady increase out there in tax increases. This is but one area.
Mr. Speaker, the main purpose of the increase to the cigarette tax was to keep our young people from smoking ó a stop-smoking program. Obviously Iím hoping that the Premierís not saying that this is for an increase in revenues through taxation. And I would also like to know how much work and how much of this money ó the increase in revenue ó is going to go back into a campaign to get our young people off smoking. We certainly agree with that approach. We would like to see our young people as healthy as we possibly can.
There are many ways to do it, and we havenít really seen a plan that came out of this Liberal government, but I am sure the Minister of Health and the Premier have something to offer. So, I look forward to hearing that.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member who last spoke asked about our proposed public education plan for stopping smoking, and I can give him details on that plan.
First of all, we are developing a multimedia public education campaign that will link smokers to stop-smoking resources. It is based on the stages-of-change model that targets smokers at different stages of readiness to stop smoking. Research has shown that smokers at different stages are receptive to different kinds of messages and interventions. The campaign will include radio and print advertisements and Web-based information and resources.
Stop-smoking materials will also be mailed out to individuals who do not have access to the Internet. The full campaign is scheduled to roll out in the fall of this year. In the meantime, we are working to implement an initial small-scale campaign during the month of May in preparation for World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2002. This will lay the groundwork and set the tone for the larger campaign in the fall. At this time we would also like to launch the Web site and distribute the posters, which will be printed from the winning submissions in the school tobacco contest held last year.
We are planning educational activities for health and counselling professionals to provide them with knowledge and skills to assist smokers in adopting and achieving the goal of stopping smoking. The focus will be on how providers can introduce brief stop-smoking interventions in the services they are already providing.
In working with the schools, we plan to work with the Department of Education to support teachers, counsellors and school officials in providing smoke-free environments and students. These three components are based on the direction we received from our caucus meeting in February.
We are looking for opportunities to collaborate with the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C./Yukon regional and Health Canada on tobacco reduction and control strategies and activities. The staff and policy in health promotion participate in national and federal/provincial/territorial forums that are most relevant to the priorities in the Yukon.
The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that if you increase the price of tobacco, if you increase the price of cigarettes and what it costs a child to buy cigarettes, they wonít start, and that makes it all worthwhile.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in general agreement with what is being proposed here in the House today, but I do have some concerns about where this government is coming from.
Mr. Speaker, weíre advised that the increase in the cost of cigarettes will reduce smoking among our youth, but from what I have seen over the last number of years, that certainly does not appear to be the case. In fact, the contrary is very much in evidence.
Iíd like the minister, when she stands back up on her feet, to provide some hard information that that is indeed what is transpiring, because it certainly does not appear to be the case north of 60, specifically in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
If we just back up a few years to the anti-smoking initiative and all of the campaigns, they were all federally lead and federally funded and they basically got out of it. It appears what we are experiencing now is another downloading of federal responsibility to the local level, to the government here in Yukon or the provincial governments, Mr. Speaker. Iíd like the Premier to comment on that area because that is very much the case.
If you look at the stop-smoking initiatives, theyíre kind of interesting. In fact, one of the most sought-after souvenirs from Canada by a number of U.S. smokers are Canadian cigarette packages with their graphic illustrations on them. They tend to take them home and show them about.
Whether that reduces smoking, I do not know. It tends to be more of a joke with quite a number of people.
There are other areas I would like to give some thought to. The Member for Whitehorse Centre will be proposing an amendment to this act and Iíd like to hear what he has to say on it. Iím only hopeful that when this new tax comes into effect, the implementation will be at the wholesale level and that we wonít have a dog-and-pony show running around the Yukon looking at the end retailers when their inventories are probably at an all-time low.
Seeing that weíre going to raise so much more from cigarette tax, isnít it about time that the Premier and her government address the issue of all these taxes on containers and made the deposit equal to the refund? No one has a quarrel with a tax or refund charge on Tetra Paks or juice containers of any sort, but itís about time that the tax and the charge equals the refund, especially on these food items. If theyíre going to raise the tax in some of these other areas, why canít they balance the playing field by lowering it in some of the areas that we all have to pay for? Because you can go down to the grocery store and pick up a container of orange juice and itís in the same kind of a milk carton ó a wax cardboard box ó as the milk is, and we pay a charge on that box and we pay a recycling charge also. Why should that be the case?
And when was that implemented? Itís kind of interesting that this government is bound and determined to raise user fees in all categories.
So, while in general I do not have a quarrel with the increase in tobacco tax, I certainly have a quarrel with some of the other areas where this government is raising taxes, and if theyíre going to be implementing a tax and a surcharge on all of these food containers, then let the deposit equal the refund. That should be the exercise in that area, Mr. Speaker.
The Premier in opposition spoke very eloquently on this issue of the school Tetra Pak tax. Mind you, itís probably the last time I heard the Premier speak eloquently on any subject, but we wonít go there.
So Iím looking forward to some common sense being applied across the board with these Liberal government initiatives, and the minister doesnít have to e-mail me any correspondence or anything of that nature. In fact, I understand there is going to be a bill coming before this House in which the Liberal government is going to be banning the use of e-mail in the government circles.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Iím generally in favour of this bill. This is a good bill. I know the price considerations werenít a consideration when I started smoking, but that was after high school. I was outside the danger group and idiotically took up the habit that I cannot kick now. What I have seen are numbers that do support reduction of smoking in younger children with price hikes, and I support that part.
The thing that Iím going to be proposing an amendment about in the Committee of the Whole is with regard to our seniors. Our senior citizens never had the benefit of education about tobacco and the related illnesses until much later, until the hooks of addiction got in there. If you believe addiction theories ó and there are a number of them, but they are now singling out and pointing at the ideas of pleasure centres, the ability of nicotine and the active ingredients to hit these pleasure centres.
The longer they are addicted and the more and more dead those pleasure centres become, the more you need the addiction to wake them up. You also are in a situation as a senior citizen ó not only are you heavily addicted to a product that you had no education on, youíre on a fixed income for the majority of it. I have many senior citizens in my riding who are on fixed incomes, and a dollar raise on a pack of smokes where they have a pack-a-day habit means $7 a week, which is $28 a month, and that means over $300 a year in a tax raise on a fixed income that has no way to adjust. These people are addicted. These people are, in many cases, told by their doctors that, if they quit smoking, itís just as bad as continuing at their age because of the reductionís impact on their health at their age.
So, what Iím asking the government to do through an amendment is recognize that we have senior citizens on fixed incomes in this society and that we, at the retail level, ask for ID and not assess the tax for those people ó that seniors over 65 be exempt from this tax. This raise in the tobacco tax has not been targeted at stopping these people from smoking. There is no prevention aspect to this raise. For those people taking their money out of their pocket, it is the equivalent of a straight tax grab.
So, what Iím asking for and what I will be asking for in Committee, is to bring forward an amendment exempting senior citizens from this tax raise. They are the people who can least afford the tax raise and they are the people who are, in many cases, dependent on cigarettes and will have health issues if they quit. We should look at and be compassionate to the senior citizens in our society. Even if the government wants to raise ó if this is a method to raise more revenue and is just being clouded in a prevention aspect, then raise the price of cigarettes even more to accommodate the lost revenues from our senior citizens.
We are truly trying to stop youth from smoking. If this is not an initiative just to bring in more tax dollars to this government, but if it is to stop youth from smoking, then what I would ask is that this exemption, when it is being brought forward, be considered on compassionate grounds for senior citizens who can ill afford to take another hit on government taxes.
Mr. Roberts: This is where I am going to disagree with my partner, my colleague. If we are going to have compassion, then we must show compassion for the right things. When you know right across the world that smoking is not good for you, I donít know how one can say that it is good for you somewhere. I am sorry, I donít buy it; I never will buy it and it is going to be a hard sell to get me to support that kind of an amendment.
First of all, I donít know how it would work anyway. I mean the cost for seniors right now, if I remember from the days when I was in the Health ministry, is almost triple what health costs are for me at my age. As we know, the older we get, the higher our costs are. So to say that they should be exempt because they have got this evil habit, I am sorry, I just canít. I mean, I am very compassionate toward seniors. I appreciate what they have contributed, what they have done for our nation, for our country, but I just donít buy that we have to give them a break when it comes to a habit like smoking.
I would like to think that I had a part to do with this tax increase and I think I did. As a matter of fact, as Iíve said earlier, I wanted it to be double what it is now ó thatís how compassionate I am. I am compassionate to the degree that I want people to think about what they are doing to their bodies. There are very few individuals ó Iíve seen the odd one or two individuals who can smoke till theyíre 90 and not have any ill effects. But they are very rare, those kinds of people.
Most people I know who have smoked have either succumbed to it or have grave illnesses that they sometimes never recover from. Most of my relatives ó my father, my mother, all these people ó smoked very heavily and they paid the price for it.
I think the cost of cigarettes does make a difference. There is no doubt about it. My colleague from Dawson said that heíd like to see the results. Well, I think right across the nation there are results everywhere that point out that cost does make a difference. If teens have to pay a hefty price for a pack of cigarettes versus having no money in their pocket, theyíll obviously decide that maybe this is a habit we should kick.
We know for a fact that the smoking rate of teenagers in B.C. is probably one of the best in the nation. Anywhere from 18 to 20 percent of their youth smoke. For us in the Yukon, itís around 30 to 35 percent who smoke. We are very much like the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. As I said earlier, when I went to Nunavut a month ago, you see they have a real major smoking problem there. One of the reasons they have a major smoking problem is because they have such a low tax on it. I believe that if you have to pay more, you will think about what youíre doing.
Iím very appreciative of the minister coming forward with this multimedia presentation. I think it has to be very effective and I think it has to be connected. I think people have to see that the tax is also going to help them to stop smoking. I think weíve got to be real active about this because we know that some people have grave difficulty in doing this.
We also need smoke-free entrances. We need smoke-free buildings. We know that weíre not there yet. I know that the Speaker himself has brought this up many times ó about our smoke-free entrances. On one hand, I feel sorry for those people who have to smoke by the entrances, but on the other hand, I donít, especially if I have to walk through it, because I am inhaling that smoke as well.
I think we have to be much tougher on ourselves before we can really try to be as tough as we are trying to be with our youth. Itís not just the youth who we need to play the heavy hand with; itís ourselves, because we sometimes donít think that other people are being affected by our smoking. My wife smoked for 35 years. As a nurse, she quit because she realized that this was her problem and it was something that she had to do. So it can be done, and there are other things that you have to replace it with.
I believe, as the Premier has stated in her opening address, if you stop one teen from smoking with this price hike, we will have done something very worthwhile. I know itís going to be painful for a lot of the smokers out there, but unfortunately thatís the price you pay, because the health system is paying for it in big terms. Of course, we know that the highest incidence of cancer in our nation is from smoke, whether itís smoke we ingest or wood smoke, whatever we have in our environment or if we live in polluted areas in major cities. These are all areas that are creating huge increases in the cancer rate.
So why would we not make sure that our youth are getting a very clear message? Why would we not make sure that our elders, our seniors, are also getting the message? Some people say you canít teach old dogs new tricks ó I think you can. If it takes their pockets to teach them, then thatís whatís going to have to happen, Mr. Speaker.
I think itís very much trying to be transparent, trying to be open, trying to be honest with our population. We cannot afford health care costs without us doing more preventive types of activities. Thatís why I support active living; thatís why I support anti-smoking campaigns. And I believe we have to do far more in the alcohol and drug area than we are doing now. This is where, I think, in the long run, we will all benefit. So I will support this tax increase, and I will support another tax increase whenever it comes, even if itís triple what it is now, because there is a very clear message that we as legislators give to the public when we say that this is wrong for you, itís bad for you. Itís not trying to legislate your health habits; itís trying to tell you youíre killing yourself if you donít do something about it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There were a number of questions asked and some points raised that I would like to respond to in closing second reading debate.
First of all, in response to the leader of the official opposition, there are no Yukon-specific statistics on smoking. The information that supports the argument that there is a measurement of the relationship between the price of tobacco products and demand, I will endeavour to find the substantive information that supports that argument ó other than the support of members in this House ó and will provide it to the member opposite.
With respect to the amount of money that is being raised that is involved in this issue, I would like to restate again for the record that, in this year alone, there is an additional $6.7 million in costs in health care. Yukoners pay no medicare premiums, no costs for medical travel, and our tobacco tax, even with this increase, is still among the lowest in the country. The $2.25 million raised in revenue can only help to offset these increased costs.
We believe, and I believe members of this House on the whole support the argument, that this will reduce consumption. Again, I will forward the information to the member opposite.
The difficulty I have with the amendment proposed by the Member for Whitehorse Centre is the impossibility of administering such an amendment. How would one possibly administer this? It also would open up such issues as smuggling and other situations.
The other point is that one can hardly stand on the floor of this House and argue for the employment standards and wage issue, in saying, "You know what? We have to end the discrimination against those under 17 and ensure that minimum wage applies to all," and then, on the other hand, turn around and ask that we discriminate in favour of our seniors. It canít work both ways, clearly. We need to be fair to everyone, and those are the principles of taxation ó itís across the board.
The suggestion, while it may be honourably intentioned, Mr. Speaker, is clearly not within the realm of the possible. Itís unfortunate ó I understand the motivation. However, I also have to agree with the Member for Porter Creek North that it is possible to quit in your 70s and on, and it does make a difference to health. I point to my mother, who gave up cigarettes, and two other members of my family who have not given up their rather infamous cigars.
Itís very difficult. I know that this raising of the tobacco tax is very difficult not just for members of my family, but members of my riding, who asked me about this from the very first time I knocked on their door, introducing myself, seeking the nomination for Porter Creek South, to every year when I go back to their door.
Theyíre quite unhappy and clearly addicted to tobacco. However, the greater good and the societal issue is to deal with tobacco tax and tobacco consumption. And again, looking at the rates throughout the country, the members opposite should be reminded that the tobacco tax increase that we have proposed does not take effect until June 1, 2002, whereas the Northwest Territoriesí significant increase, while not quite as much as the Member for Porter Creek North is suggesting but is still a significant increase, takes effect today. So again, looking at the tobacco tax rate increase comparison throughout the country, Yukon at 13 cents is still significantly lower than Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and is in keeping with Newfoundland. And we donít have, fortunately, the smuggling issues that are being faced by Quebec and Ontario, and I note that others and the American states are also looking at trying to wrestle with this particular issue.
Now, the Member for Klondike bootlegged into this debate discussions around taxes and recycling taxes. The member is quite right that I argued in this House long and hard against the introduction of taxes on Tetra Pak. And this government has consulted with the public with regard to introducing the Tetra Pak tax and was soundly advised by Yukoners of all walks of life not to go there. So, while we have duly considered the arguments that not only I have made and others made in opposition and that the Member for Klondike continues to make, Yukoners have advised against them, and we have accepted that advice as we are obligated to do under the beverage container regulations.
So that is the situation in response to that, and it can only encourage us more ó as this is Earth Day ó to reduce, reuse and recycle.
I thank the members opposite for their support for the amendments to the Tobacco Tax Act, and, again, simply put, it will discourage demand and it will increase financial resources available to sustain the governmentís many programs, including those to stop smoking.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank members for their support.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 56 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Mr. McLarnon: Good afternoon everybody.
I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:45 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Yukon Liquor Corporation ó continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Yukon Liquor Corporation?
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to start off on a pleasant note this afternoon and relate to all the members a recent experience that I had.
Yesterday afternoon at about this time I was in Haines Junction enjoying the 90th birthday party of a well-respected elder in the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation community. Elder Annie Nicholas has lived 90 years, which is a very long time, Mr. Chair. It happens to be twice as long as I have been around, and I believe itís certainly a lot longer than any of the other members here.
Anyway, the atmosphere at that gathering was very good. It was calm and peaceful, much like this Legislature is, Mr. Chair.
There was laughter, singing, good traditional food, presents being opened, many friends and family. Anyway, as I was eating my piece of cake ó and, really, Mr. Chair, it was only one piece ó I couldnít help but think of the hundreds of public service workers who are also eating cake these days ó renewal cake, that is, Mr. Chair. Or, as more people recognize it, "removal" cake.
You will recall the Liberal government policy in search of good news and soft landings for those receiving pink slips that a little cake party should be hosted for them. So, Mr. Chair, it seems the policy of this government is "let them eat cake" in hope of a good-news story. In terms of the corporations, itís clear there are a few cakes going around, primarily to deputy ministers who are being removed because the armís-length relationships between the political arm of government and the corporations is being politicized. We see evidence of politicization in this budget.
This is certainly an issue to us on this side, Mr. Chair. It will be one weíll be pursuing in this sitting of the Legislature and, no doubt, beyond.
Going back to where we left off on Thursday, there was discussion around the Liberal decision to relocate the liquor store. And there were a few surprising developments during that discussion. You will recall how the Liberal government admitted that there were no traffic studies done before the announcement was made. You will similarly recall how there was no pedestrian study or consultation with the community. This was a unilateral decision.
There are many issues relating to this decision that were covered on Thursday, and some of them have to do with traffic in the area and pedestrians in the area. Certainly the possibility that the flashing street light at the bottom of the Two Mile Hill near Industrial Road could be activated as a result is a matter that could concern many Yukoners, and the minister did not deny that. The minister seemed a little caught off guard with the question, and that is indicative of how little this matter was discussed in the Liberal ranks before it was announced, and that goes back to the Liberal policy of eating cake in search of good news. Perhaps this decision was a little hasty in the making in search of a good-news story and not properly thought out.
Questions have been raised about how tourists will find the liquor store. I was amazed to hear the minister stand up and suggest that tourists hardly place finding a liquor store near the top of their priorities. Well, that is not true.
When tourists land in Whitehorse after a long, sometimes dusty ride up the Alaska Highway, they want to kick up their heels and relax a little bit, and they are in search of liquor stores. How many Yukoners have been approached while doing their grocery shopping by tourists who ask them for directions to the liquor store? This is a common occurrence in the summer. Another aspect is that tourists commonly say they thought they could buy liquor in the grocery stores. So itís very common to see tourists in search of a liquor store in grocery outlets, asking the question, "Where is your liquor store?"
Well, it will be an interesting situation because the tourist season is almost upon us. There is very little information available to our tourists to help them find the store. Even though the relocation doesnít take place for a year, many of these tourists should be aware as soon as possible about this move.
So when the minister responds I would like her to indicate what type of an information process the Liberals envision, especially in regard to informing our tourists about this change of location.
I would also like her to explain how the views of the community will be taken into consideration and how some of the concerns that have already been identified, including the ones I have mentioned already regarding traffic and pedestrian issues, will be handled.
There is also the issue of cost of this move. Apparently the cost is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 million for this move. There are other issues as well. I donít wish to review them all at this time. But certainly Yukoners are looking for more of an explanation from this government in regard to the issues that are outstanding, many of them Iíve just covered.
I will now give the minister an opportunity to respond to some of these.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will repeat for the member opposite that moving the liquor store was not a unilateral decision. The Liquor Act review saw a number of comments supporting that move. The views and concerns of the community were addressed in many, many ways in the Liquor Act review.
With regard to renewal, I would point out that it was employees themselves who suggested getting together for cake and coffee. That was one of many suggestions public servants had and itís unfortunate that the Member for Kluane continues to mock them.
As for layoffs, I believe there has been a total of four layoffs in renewal, not the hundreds and hundreds that the members opposite would have liked to have seen.
The traffic flow requirements are part of the planning and design process for the relocation of the Whitehorse liquor store, and that information is being gathered now.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that answer, Mr. Chair, but I would like to question why this government has decided to cherry-pick from some of the returns in the Liquor Act review consultation process while ignoring many of the others. How did it decide that this particular item should be acted upon and so soon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít believe we are doing what the Member for Kluane suggests. The work continues on a new Liquor Act and this is merely one of the recommendations that we are starting work toward in the earlier stages.
Mr. McRobb: This Liberal government is doing exactly as I suggested in my previous question, because the minister said so in her response. When asked where this came from, she indicated it was suggested during the Liquor Act review. Now she denies that itís connected to the review, and sheís doing so for political purposes, because I asked what about all the other suggestions that came up in the review of the Liquor Act, and why they werenít being implemented, and what the priorities are.
So, Iíd like to ask the minister again, why do they choose to act on some of the suggestions that have come up in the Liquor Act review but not on others?
Chair: Order please. Just to remind members to respect the Standing Orders when it comes to reference to false or unavowed motives. Unless motives can be proven ó something like the reason for doing it was for political purposes ó it is out of order. In future, watch that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of recommendations from the Liquor Act review. Obviously they canít all be implemented simultaneously. Moving the Whitehorse liquor store is one that is non-legislative in nature, and the planning takes considerable time. As such, it was felt that perhaps work could be started on that one earlier than some of them.
Mr. McRobb: That answer just doesnít wash. Iím sorry, but it doesnít wash. This minister should know that any consultation process, to be valid and fair and open, must come to a conclusion first before acting upon anything. Otherwise, the minister and the government will find themselves in the Legislature defending why they cherry-picked from a review.
And thatís exactly what has happened here, Mr. Chair. This government heard some feedback from some people that the liquor store should be moved. Well, they also heard dozens of other suggestions that arenít being followed up on. So what this government is doing is the old political shell game of convenient consultation, where they kick off a process, they ballyhoo it first in here and then countless ads in the newspapers saying, "This Liberal government is open and accountable, we want to hear from you." And they go out there and collect all this input. Meanwhile, they meet in the backroom in the corner suite upstairs, and theyíre looking through it for specific mention of items they want implemented, and then they cherry-pick those out and run them through the mill, and the decision is a go before the whole process has come to an end. Thatís not fair, open or accountable government, and itís not fair to everybody who participated in the process.
This government should understand that ó that itís very disrespectful of people who contribute to government consultation processes to pre-empt the final results of processes. Why should people go and offer their opinions if they know them to be inconsistent with the governmentís agenda and what the government wants to do? Why should they bother going? So you see, itís obvious thereís a problem there, and itís incumbent upon any responsible government to avoid such problematic situations. And the first thing any responsible government should want to do is to ensure that its consultation processes are fair, open and accountable.
And clearly that is not happening here, despite the never-ending rhetoric from this Liberal government that ballyhoos how open and accountable it is. Well, we know in fact that the results indicate that the situation is quite different.
Anyway, weíll just wait to see how this situation unfolds. I know the minister is either unwilling or not capable of providing any relevant information that would explain this, and instead sticks to the message box and reads the briefing notes. And certainly we are not looking for that type of response today.
So, I want to turn to the whole concept of announcing something before it is properly thought out, such as this governmentís decision to move the liquor store. How can any responsible government know in fact that is a good move until a number of the areas of concern have been analyzed and thought out, which clearly did not happen. Traffic issues, pedestrian issues, social issues, tourist issues, signage issues and so on and so forth werenít even considered before the government made its decision.
And this reminds me of how this Liberal government has changed its mind on some of its announcements in the recent past, on issues like the arts funding and restructuring of the arts branch. Remember, Mr. Chair, how there was an announcement made, followed by public fury and some exchanges in this Legislature, and then the government backed down. It decided that it didnít want to follow through with all of that after all.
Now, why did that happen, Mr. Chair? Itís because these decisions werenít properly discussed and werenít properly analyzed, and the government went off half-cocked and made a hasty decision. Then it found out it wasnít a good decision, and had to change the decision.
There are other examples, too, Mr. Chair. The list is too long to recite here this afternoon, but another one was on the matter of providing support for Air North. The governmentís position was. "Level playing field, hands off, government shouldnít get involved in business," and they left Air North on its own. It wasnít until the public revolted that the government finally came around and assisted the company and did what was right for the Yukon.
Another one is the secret agenda that was revealed to cut the childrenís dental program. Remember that, Mr. Chair? Yes, you do. Thatís when the Cabinet document was leaked to the media about how many cuts to social and health services in this territory were coming because the Liberal government had to cut its costs.
Well, why did this government even have to go there, Mr. Chair? We know itís sitting on the biggest surplus of money in the history of Yukon governments since the beginning. This government is hoarding money, so to pick on the children of this territory and cut their dental programs is really despicable.
But what did the Health minister do? She stood up and explained that she didnít order this; it came from the department. Well, Mr. Chair, please allow me a few seconds to address this because people really want to know how these things work.
The first thing people should know is that Cabinet documents donít evolve on their own and make their way through to Cabinet. The sponsoring ministry requests Cabinet documents to be prepared, then they make their way to Cabinet.
Another option would be that the department brings to the attention of the minister that a Cabinet document should be prepared, and the minister has the option of saying yea or nay and, of course, amending and making changes.
So which one was it? Did the minister say, "Yea, that sounds like a good way to reduce the governmentís costs, picking on the childrenís dental program," or did the minister give directions in the first place?
Well, we may never know, Mr. Chair, but what we do know is the decision was reversed, and it was reversed for good reason after this issue saw the light of day, after it emerged from the corner suite upstairs into Yukonersí newspapers and they became aware of just how far this government was going to go in order to build that election war chest we all expect in the fall and next year. Once the controversy hit, the Liberals changed their minds about cutting the childrenís dental program.
So, there are a few examples. Will moving the liquor store to the industrial area be another one? Well, it could be, Mr. Chair; it could be. Or maybe the Liberals are getting tired of changing their minds and theyíll all get into their defensive huddle ó sometimes referred to as the group hug ó and lock their horns and just stick with the decision, in which case Yukoners will suffer if, in fact, the concerns that have been identified are legitimate.
What about other options for the move? You see, one of the advantages to open and honest public consultation is letting the public know what it is that government is dealing with and hearing back from them. Thatís fair. What if thereís a better idea out there than the one this Liberal government announced? What if thereís a better way to do it? This government campaigned on doing it better. Is making hasty, irrational decisions and usurping public process doing it better? I hardly think so, Mr. Chair.
This is an indication that the government is tired of listening to Yukoners and it wants to do things its own way. The ministers want to make their jobs easier. Just say yea or nay and get on with the business, then go home and watch themselves on TV at night.
Perhaps if this Liberal government didnít waste so much of its energy on all the in-fighting we can see, it would have more patience and energy to deal with the publicís issues. It would have more opportunity to hear from Yukoners on decisions that affect them. But instead, weíre seeing a government collapse around its net, and the pucks are coming in, and the team members are collapsed around the net. Theyíre not out there, all over the ice surface, dealing with other sectors, as they should be, but are collapsed around the net. The group hug is in front of the net, and youíre not going to win any games that way, Mr. Chair.
Itís not being open, accountable or interactive.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Premier just said, "Go, Detroit, go," I think I heard her say.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, itís not surprising. Itís not surprising at all.
So, time will tell how this works out, and the government obviously decided that it wasnít going to do things right or do things better, and it chose instead to take the hasty route and weíll just have to see how this plays out, Mr. Chair, and see how the Liquor Act review plays out, because there are several issues in the act that we will want to deal with.
I want to turn to the accountability plan for the corporation, because thereís an item here that stands out, particularly after recent events. And that is on page 17A-7, goal No. 2 says, "Being available to provide services at the convenience/preference of the customer while balancing the need to protect the public from the harmful effects of overservice." Thatís a goal of the Yukon Liquor Corporation ó being available to provide services at the convenience and preference of the customer.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party raises an interesting point. For delivery after-hours, do you dial 1-800-PAM-B? Is that what Yukoners are going to do to get service after-hours, Mr. Chair?
I donít know, but if thatís the case then we should spell out clearly just what this means, because it sounds like very inequivocal language that confuses the balance, rather than clarifying it. Does it mean after-hours service? Does it mean extended service on long weekends?
Hereís an example for you, Mr. Chair. What if thereís a Russian delegation maybe on a trade tour and they want to go out to Haines Junction because we all know thatís the most beautiful community in the Yukon, nestled under the St. Elias Mountains, and we all know the other attractions in the area. And letís say theyíre having dinner at the Raven Hotel, which is one of Canadaís top 150 restaurants, I might add, Mr. Chair. As a matter of fact, for the members opposite, opening night is May 4 this year and for any of you who care to join me, Iím booked in at 7 p.m.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Premier says sheís buying so weíll see you all there.
Anyway, back to this example: letís say there was a Russian trade delegation and itís a long weekend and they run out of Russian vodka in the restaurant. Theyíd run out. For some reason, they didnít plan ahead, which is very inconsistent with the professional manner in which they plan the activities at the establishment, but letís say they were like government and it happened. What does the government suggest, Mr. Chair? Can the proprietors of the establishment phone up the person they know ó the member in the community they know ó who runs the liquor store, and say, "Look, I hear you people deliver when weíre dealing with important matters. Can you bring over some Russian vodka?"
Well, what is the regulation then? Is it yes, and say, "Yes, there was a precedent established at the Mount McIntyre Centre during the curling bonspiel; weíll be right there in five minutes. How many would you like?" Or will it be, "No, because we do not do that. We donít have an overtime policy" or whatever. "We just donít do that. That would be contrary to regulations. That would be breaking the law." Which way is it, Mr. Chair?
Well, "yes", "no", or "not sure"? The Liberals are all checking the latter box. But we could have an international crisis on our hands if such a circumstance unfolded.
So this government is really confusing matters like this. You know, private businesses out there want to know if they can get the same special deals that some of the government functions can get. People want to know if there really is a level playing field, if this government really is business-friendly, if this Liberal government really is doing things better, and all that other election rhetoric that really isnít worth much now. Even after only two years, we see how hollow those promises really were.
So Iíd like to ask the minister if she would mind expanding on just how the policy to deliver ó in some cases, after-hours ó would work with private sector businesses.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane is having his little bit of fun. Iím sure the proprietors of the Raven wouldnít be pleased to hear their business being dragged through the Legislature in this manner.
As the member is well aware, the past-president of the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre found, on Good Friday, that they had a problem and he worked to correct that problem.
The Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre is not, by the way, a private business, neither is it a government operation as the member was alluding.
The events unfolded, as the member is well aware, and the order was picked up by Mount McIntyre. It was not delivered. The general manager of Mount McIntyre has written, expressing their gratitude and commending the Yukon Liquor Corporation for their customer service. Yes, this was an event that was outside the norm. I understand that it has happened in the past with regard to non-profit activities.
I have said that we are reviewing this and will be establishing a policy to ensure consistency and fairness to all.
I also note with interest that the Member for Kluane has made his position quite clear. He is not in favour of moving the Whitehorse liquor store. If he has further questions about the Yukon Liquor Corporationís O&M budget or the accountability plan, I would be pleased to answer them.
Mr. McRobb: With all due respect, I can barely make out what the minister is saying. She is either too far away from the microphone or maybe the volume isnít high enough. It is just not getting across to this side.
I heard some mumbo jumbo there about how the proprietors of the Raven wouldnít appreciate their good name being dragged through the mud. The only person who did that was the minister in that reference. When I spoke of the Raven, it was in the highest possible terms. I see other members shaking their heads, nodding in agreement, except for the minister opposite. So, once again it shows that maybe itís the minister who needs to get more in touch with what is going on.
Now, there are lots of issues to go after in the Liquor Corporation. The Yukon Lottery Commission, of course, is a part of that. And the Lottery Commission has been in the news recently because of the controversies due to this governmentís "removal" process and the number of changes that has been made contrary to the act.
Itís obvious the government isnít following its own legal instrument and, once again, it seems to have two sets of rules: one for the public and everybody else, and the other for itself.
So, this is another instance, Mr. Chair, where government policy and action is inconsistent with what Yukoners have been assured.
Anyway, I think what Iíll do is pass this to the leader of the third party, who I know has questions to ask. I may come back to this later.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to explore with the minister where weíre heading overall with respect to the new set-up and reporting that is going to be changing within the Yukon government.
We look on the fiscal side of the equation, and the O&M for the Liquor Corporation is $1. Then we look on the management side of the corporation, and weíre taking a president of a corporation and basically turning that individual into a manager who is going to run a number of stores. Thatís it.
So, on the management side, thereís a considerable amount of change in the offing for the Liquor Corporation but, on the management side of it, what weíre seeing is the Liquor Corporation becoming just an agency, another department, of the Government of Yukon. I do have concerns with that, Mr. Chair. I do have concerns with this whole change.
I do have concerns with this whole change in the management and accountability that is taking place. What it means, Mr. Chair, is that the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation instructs his or her deputy minister, and that DM just goes over and tells the president of the Liquor Corporation that this is the way itís going to be done.
When one spends some time going through the accountability plan, one wonders whatís going to be happening. If you look at the accountability plan for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the overview says, "As an agent for Service Yukon, the corporation provides access for the public to various government-related services at facilities in the community liquor store outside of Whitehorse. These services include driver licences, vehicle registrations, fishing licences, payments of property taxes, payment of court fines." Iím focusing specifically on the territorial agent component. But then you turn the page to the primary responsibilities and it says: "The primary responsibilities of the corporation are to: purchase, distribute and resell beverage alcohol; ensure that individuals and businesses comply with the Liquor Act; and assist the Yukon Lottery Commission in managing public lotteries and maximizing the profits thereof."
Well, in my opinion, the Yukon Lottery Commission was doing one fine job in managing the affairs of the lotteries and maximizing the benefits to the public. I canít see any change, other than burying the lotteries in an agency of the government that is going to become just another department. And when you dovetail the Department of Community Services to the Yukon Liquor Corporation ó when you look in the Department of Community Services, it says, "Through the Minister of Community Services, the department will form relationships with the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Liquor Corporation in order to foster the development of a strong government presence in Yukon communities."
Basically, theyíre referring to territorial agents. I would make that assumption, although itís not spelled out in black and white.
My question to the minister, Mr. Deputy Chair, is why isnít the position of territorial agents spelled out in black and white in the duties and responsibilities of the Liquor Corporation? Is there a move afoot to move it or change it? Whatís happening?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are territorial agents in several communities where the function of the territorial agent is carried on, co-located with the offices of the Yukon Liquor Corporation. There are territorial representatives in several communities. Most of them, I believe, are employees of the Yukon Housing Corporation, and they carry on some of the responsibilities the same as a territorial agent would.
Community Services has employees in many Yukon communities, Yukon Housing has employees in many Yukon communities, and the Yukon Liquor Corporation has employees in some Yukon communities. We are finding ways so that these employees can work more efficiently and serve Yukoners better. There is no hidden agenda, as the member is suggesting, in changing the role of the territorial agent or moving territorial agents. There may be changes to their role in the future. There may be changes to the role of territorial representatives in the future. There may be changes to the role of Community Services employees in the communities, who now include librarians, but those decisions have not yet been made. We are putting together Service Yukon to better serve all Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Chair, I do have some concerns because, right now, one function of government thatís working well in rural Yukon is the function of the territorial agents and the delivery of the responsibilities they have through the respective liquor stores.
Itís working, and the Premier probably was told on one or two occasions that some individuals didnít like going to the liquor store to pick up a driverís licence or a Yukon health care card. I donít know if that has precipitated this rearrangement of the deck chairs on the SS Liberal Titanic or what it has done but, at the end of the day, one has to question the need for the exercise. If it works, donít fix it, because it ainít broke.
You currently have a very cost-effective way of delivering these services in rural Yukon through territorial agents, and their location is well-known and well-understood. The biggest complaint I hear, Mr. Deputy Chair, is that, in rural Yukon, you canít do anything on a Monday because, by and large, liquor stores in rural Yukon are closed on a Monday, but theyíre open on a Saturday. You canít buy a driverís licence in Whitehorse on Saturday, but you can in rural Yukon. You canít go and get a driverís test in Whitehorse on Saturday to get your driverís licence, but you can in rural Yukon.
Iím of the opinion that this dovetailing of what currently exists to where the government is heading has not been thoroughly thought through, given that weíre taking a Crown corporation, changing the management structure and the reporting structure, and, on the fiscal side, weíre leaving a dollar in the O&M budget.
Now, if the minister wants to change it over to a rank-and-file department, letís see the total budget for the Liquor Corporation, the Development Corporation, the Energy Corporation and the Housing Corporation brought to the floor of this House and debated, because that appears to be where this government is heading.
Why wonít the minister do that, Mr. Chair? Why is everything hidden and why do we have to pry out all the information from all these Crown corporations?
Furthermore, if you look at the Crown corporations, the Liquor Corporation isnít the most guilty. Theyíre usually one of the most compliant with respect to posting on the Web site the contracts they award. But other corporations do not do that, specifically the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation.
Now, there has to be a consistent application of rules across all of these entities. By changing the management, accounting and reporting structure and making the president basically just the manager of a liquor store ó why canít we change the fiscal accounting and bring the total budget for the Liquor Corporation ó for all these other Crown corporations ó to the floor of this Legislature? Whatís the problem with that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Since this is the Yukon Liquor Corporation O&M debate, Iíll speak to that, and the Member for Klondike can ask the other ministers responsible when their departments are up.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation Board of Directors continues to function at armís length from the government and will continue to do so. The present arrangement, as the member himself has said, is working well, so the basic structure of the Yukon Liquor Corporation is unchanged; the only change is the governance at the top.
Mr. Jenkins: In case the minister has failed to recognize, the government has always been on the top. All that happens at the end of the fiscal year is that the Liquor Corporation sends a cheque over to the general revenue fund, because they make money.
There ainít nothing wrong with that. In fact, if they canít make money selling liquor here in the Yukon Territory, there is something dramatically wrong. So itís a one-stop monopoly that the minister has and oversees. But what is the game plan and how do the territorial agents fit into the accountability plan of the Liquor Corporation in rural Yukon, and why isnít it more clearly defined in the accountability plan? Why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike is asking if the role of the territorial agent is going to change. He has seemed quite concerned about that.
The role of the territorial agent may, in the future, expand. Territorial representatives in other communities may take on roles more like that of a territorial agent. Change isnít always a bad thing. The Member for Klondike seems to fear it. We value the work of the territorial agents very much, and the work of the territorial representatives and the work of the people in the community libraries and the work of all the Community Services employees. They all have a role in providing service to the public and we want to make sure that service is as good as it can be.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would encourage the minister to go back and take a course in basic management and management structure, and perhaps gain an understanding of reporting systems, the primary responsibilities and objectives. Nowhere in the primary responsibilities of the Liquor Corporation is it identified that they are responsible for the services of the territorial agent. Nowhere, Mr. Chair.
Itís just bootlegged in after the fact, and nowhere is it considered to be a primary responsibility. Mr. Chair, itís viewed in rural Yukon as being more than just a primary responsibility because the minister might be surprised that there are many, many Yukoners who go to the liquor store for the services of a territorial agent who never, ever purchase liquor.
So, again, why isnít the issue of a territorial agent identified as having the primary responsibility for the Yukon Liquor Corporation in many areas of rural Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike is making it very clear that he opposes any change in the role of the territorial agent. Service Yukon, which operates under the Department of Community Services, will be the prime service agent in all Yukon communities. The territorial agents will be a part of that system. Now, their role may or may not change. We are still putting together exactly how things are going to work, both in Whitehorse and in the rural communities. The member seems very concerned that the role of the territorial agent is going to change. It may or may not, Mr. Chair. It may expand. The member seems mostly concerned that the territorial agents are going to be moved out of the liquor stores. No such decisions have been made.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I look at what is transpiring in Whitehorse and the amount of money that is being committed for a service centre, for moving a liquor store and all these initiatives that are taking place under this Yukon Liberal governmentís watch, and I see how the issue of territorial agents in rural Yukon is being addressed in all of the accountability plans that are put forward, I have grave concerns.
Because you really donít know what youíre doing in Whitehorse; you donít know what youíre doing in trying to get from A to B. And Iím speaking as a government, because the initiative for these undertakings came right from the top, or probably from the de facto premier ó I donít know ó who is probably one of three today, Mr. Deputy Chair.
I look upon the level of service thatís being provided in rural Yukon and the cost itís being provided at, and itís a hand-in-glove arrangement. The minister carefully alluded to the fact that it may or may not be provided in this manner in the future, and I would suggest to the minister that the government is taking a serious and hard look at changing the role of territorial agents in rural Yukon to the same model as Service Canada has. It begs the question: at what improvement in service and at what cost?
Those are the two factors you have to address that are not being addressed. Yes, the business community of Whitehorse, in response to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said it would be ideal to have all government services in one service centre, and it would be, but at what cost, and what is going to be the benefit?
Iíd encourage the minister to follow up with a briefing from her officials and dovetail the accountability statement and overview and plan from the Department of Community Services with the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Iíd encourage her to undertake that review and see if the minister can conclude anything different from what any astute individual looking at this would conclude. The territorial agent is being downplayed, not specifically mentioned for rural Yukon and might be swept out the door.
A number of initiatives have taken place under this governmentís watch that may or may not prove to be beneficial. And, unlike the Member for Kluane, I have no quarrel with a policy being put in place that allows the senior managers in the liquor stores in various areas to open them up to provide a service to the Yukon public or licensees when they have run out or after-hours. There isnít anything wrong with that.
Letís recognize that the government runs a monopoly. If we were in Alberta, we could phone Ralphís Liquor Store or Johnís Liquor Store or anyone elseís. In B.C., I would suggest that the privatization of liquor stores is well underway. In the Yukon, it hasnít even been mentioned. So the Yukon is blessed with the additional role of servicing the needs of licence holders and organizations of these staged events, and if they run out after-hours, hey ó or on weekends or holidays ó there isnít anything wrong. If you run out of milk and youíre in the restaurant business, no matter what hour of the day or night it is, you phone your grocery store owner or manager ó and you might get him out of bed ó or you phone your wholesaler in Whitehorse after-hours and they respond to the challenge and they do something. Either that or we, under the previous minister I guess we could have set up ó it used to be a 1-800-SUE-E line for ó now itís a 1-800-PAM-B line for liquor after hours.
But why is it that the Government of Yukon has decided to try and restrict off-sales whereas all the other jurisdictions in Canada are going the other way? B.C. is making changes to their laws to have places open until 4:00 a.m. Weíre still at 2:00 a.m. It used to be that you could buy beer off-sales 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and gradually that was restricted, restricted, restricted. Can the minister point to any research or documentation that proves that this change to the act is going to be beneficial overall for Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes. The RCMP, the Department of Justice, the public at large in their response to the Liquor Act review ó the public asked for it, the RCMP asked for it, and we made the change as requested.
Now, harking back to the memberís previous question, the Service Yukon concept is alive and well in rural Yukon. Government services are consolidated in one or two places in the smaller communities, and that is a model that is helping us in designing the service centre for Whitehorse. The member is attempting to alarm the public by suggesting that we are doing away with territorial agents. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister should qualify that ó doing away with territorial agents located in liquor stores in rural Yukon. There is the area that the minister is avoiding. What is being looked at and the change that appears to be imminent is that territorial agents will be removed from liquor stores or being associated with liquor stores in rural Yukon.
The minister was careful to select her choice of words, and let the record reflect that accordingly.
Mr. Chair, new liquor store ó I suspect we will probably see that this fall. The ballpark figure is $2 million. What preliminary investigation and research is being undertaken, and what about off-site levies? Whatís happening there? I donít know, but maybe the minister is aware of off-site levies. Her officials can brief her, or we can take a five-minute recess so the minister can get briefed on these.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member, in referring to off-site levies, has my official puzzled as well. Perhaps heíd care to be a little more specific.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Chair, Iíd encourage the minister to go back to her department to construct this and see what off-site levies refer to and bring back a legislative return on it.
Itís obvious that the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, previously responsible for Community and Transportation Services, has not been made aware of what off-site levies are and what they surround and what they cost.
Itís a major issue and a major concern to any municipal government dealing with infrastructure that is built as is being suggested here.
Perhaps the minister can ask the Premier about the off-site levies for Wal-Mart and that area. The same thing applies to that area, Mr. Chair ó the new area that the liquor store is going to go into.
I donít have any quarrel. The minister has indicated that the question has baffled her and her officials, so she can bring back a legislative return advising what the off-site levies are going to be, what theyíre going to amount to and what is being done in this regard with the City of Whitehorse.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Whitehorse liquor store relocation is an expansion of the existing warehouse. Iíll be pleased to check to see if off-site levies will apply in this case and get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Oh boy ó there was a suggestion that we adjourn. Letís get the minister briefed, Mr. Chair.
The general public is going to have to access the area that is currently being used as a warehouse. There is access for, for instance, the bus to pull out and stop in that area. There is potential for another set of traffic lights. There is the potential for a sidewalk. I donít know if itís going to require an upgrading of the water main or an extension of the water main or sewer service from the City of Whitehorse. Usually in all these cases the proponent pays the cost. So, while the building might only cost $2 million, the cost to the City of Whitehorse to service it is indeed an additional cost.
There are things like the power supply. Yukon Electrical is going to say, "Fine, for a building that size, weíll pay the first so many kVs of demand. After that, this is what itís going to cost you, and if you want an underground service line to that area, this is what you have to pay up front." They are what is normally referred to in a project of this magnitude as "off-site levies" or "off-site charges". I want to know what background and where we are at in negotiating and coming to understand what these off-site levy costs would be for this initiative. Or are we just going to fill in the ditch on the side and expect people to walk in the bottom of it or something? What are we going to do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: These things are all going to be determined as part of the detailed plan that is currently being developed. I have said this to the Member for Kluane, and I say it to the Member for Klondike. These things are being worked on.
Mr. Jenkins: How much is being budgeted for this detailed plan of off-site levy? What are we looking at cost-wise? What are we going to incur?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít have an estimate of the specific cost of that part of the project. Iím not sure itís possible to break it out at this point, but I will ask officials.
Mr. Jenkins: We donít even have an order-of-magnitude cost. Because really, what you do at the outset is say you have so many square metres. Then you know your cost per square metre for that kind of building is going to be X cost, and then you have various classes of estimates, which Iím sure should have been the ministerís first question to her officials, "Whatís this going to cost; how does it break down?"
But no, the exercise is not to look after the public purse and see if the goals that have been spelled out by the Liberals can be justified with the costs we are going to incur. Itís just damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. Itís amazing that a government can be elected to power and understand so little about the business aspects of these kinds of undertakings, especially the minister.
So, for the record Iíd like to know fully what amount has been budgeted in this O&M budget? I didnít see any in the last capital budget for the liquor store move, but it is obvious we are incurring expenses as we go along. Where is that money currently coming from? Is it buried somewhere in the O&M, or is it coming from the Liquor Corporation directly? Where is the money for this ongoing investigation and study?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iíll be glad to get the Member for Klondike a detailed answer to that question. There have been no direct costs yet, but the planning is ongoing. It may take some time to get the answer. He would no doubt like the answer tomorrow, but I can guarantee it wonít be tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, virtually all initiatives of government have a budget associated with them. Save and except Health and Social Services ó that the minister recently announced a drug and alcohol strategy. Money is going to have to come back in a supplementary this fall, I assume. But then again I donít know. But there have been a number of announcements of a political nature for which no money has been associated.
The minister indicated in the House just a few minutes ago that theyíre underway and are in the planning process. I want to know where the money for the planning process is budgeted. Is it in the Yukon Liquor Corporation or is it somewhere else? If itís somewhere else, where is it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are no costs specifically reflected in the current budget, but the planning and design process is now underway. I do not expect those costs to be significant.
Mr. Jenkins: If the planning exercise for this new initiative is currently underway, and no money has been identified anywhere in the budget for this planning exercise, and itís probably going to have to come back in the fall by way of a supplementary, it would suggest to me that thereís quite a bit of fat in the O&M budget that the Minister of Finance presented in the House here.
Where will we see these funds identified for this planning exercise thatís currently underway? Where would they be located in the budget, whether it comes back in a supplementary next fall, or whether it be capitalized? Where would we see it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that I will get the member a detailed answer to this question, and I will.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, at least the minister is very forthright. She stood up and said, "I donít know; Iíll get the member a detailed answer."
The Member for Kluane explored in some detail with the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation the issue surrounding location of the liquor store.
I would encourage the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation to look at other areas. You could probably look at a second liquor store in Whitehorse because, Mr. Chair, a lot of visitors who come to town have a serious problem locating a liquor store. Itís one of the major questions. I would encourage the minister responsible for the liquor store to talk to those in the visitor industry. Youíd probably see a move afoot for a number of RV parks to have a restaurant and an off-sale licence, because liquor stores are very hard to find in Whitehorse. I havenít been around the Yukon for a heck of a long time but this will be the fourth time I have seen the liquor store move in the short period of time that I have been here. It used to be on Second Avenue over where the fire hall is now; it used to be over where the video store is; now itís down in the mall, and now again weíre going to move it farther out.
What about the people who have to walk from downtown, who donít have a vehicle and have to walk to the liquor store? Basically, youíre forcing them to buy off-sales at a licensed establishment with a 30 percent up-charge. Is that what the ministerís intentions are, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Then why not maintain a liquor store in downtown Whitehorse? Whatís the problem?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike is also making clear his opposition to the relocation of the Whitehorse liquor store. There were a number of recommendations and comments supporting a move, asking for a move, that were heard during the recent Liquor Act review. Mr. Chair, it doesnít matter where the liquor store is located; somebody is always going to have to walk or take the bus.
Moving the liquor store to the Quartz Road site will centralize liquor-related services and, at the same time, we will be consolidating many health services in the old location. Those health services are currently scattered around the city. Both these initiatives are consistent with the one-stop-shopping approach to service delivery, which is a major goal of renewal.
Mr. Jenkins: So, for the record, could the minister advise the House, after consolidating the liquor retail outlet with the liquor warehouse, how much of a saving is the Liquor Corporation going to realize?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The annual rental costs at the current location are just under $200,000 a year. So, over the long haul, this move will save the taxpayer money and make Whitehorse liquor operations more efficient.
Mr. Jenkins: Now thereís a bunch of bafflegab if Iíve ever realized a minister coming forth. The bottom line is that, in order to realize that $200,000 a year savings, youíve got to spend about $2 million constructing a new outlet, and we really donít have an understanding of what the off-site levies are going to be. Hasnít anyone there briefed the minister on the questions that she needs to ask before she responds in the manner she has responded? Weíre going to save $200,000 in annual rental costs ó and Iíll bet you thatís triple net.
The other area that is not even being recognized is the fact that other departments of government will incur a lot of the expense realized with the operation of the outlet where it will be located, such as the grant-in-lieu to the City of Whitehorse ó that wonít be in the rent paid.
Currently, itís in the rental base that the Liquor Corporation is being charged, but the way the internal accounting works for the Liquor Corporation, itís kind of interesting. So many of the costs will be spread across to other departments, and currently weíre renting ó we have a long-term lease ó from which there must be some benefits from an accounting standpoint, because even all the major banks are getting rid of their buildings and leasing them back. Itís a bookkeeping exercise, granted, and it relates to the bottom line and the taxing, but still we spend $2-million-plus to save $200,000. Oh, boy. Iíd encourage the Minister of Finance to give this minister a thorough and comprehensive briefing ó well, on how to waste money is being amply displayed here. But has the thought or concept of a second liquor store in Whitehorse been explored? Has it even been discussed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A lot of things have been discussed. A second liquor store in Whitehorse is one of them but, at this point, we are proceeding with the relocation of the current liquor store. We will finish up with the Liquor Act review ó the next phase of that ó and move on to the final drafting of the Liquor Act, which will be introduced in the fall.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, when does the lease on the current premises expire?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can get that date for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: What Iím looking at is: will there be any lease cost to buy out or any costs associated with the discontinuation of the lease, or are we tied in for a certain period of time? The only one who seems to know is the Minister of Finance. Perhaps she can stand up and respond.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: While Iím on my feet responding to the member opposite, I would encourage the Member for Klondike to listen, perhaps, to the tapes afterward. Iím sure Hansard would make them available, because the tone of voice and the language used by the member is not conducive to debate. Itís unfortunate that the member chooses to act this way.
For the record, the lease is going to be continued by the Government of Yukon, as has been outlined to the public several times. Health will be moving into that building, and it is adequate for the size of the health services provided. It is far more accessible, especially for the elderly, as well as young children. It will represent a saving, as the minister has stood on her feet and indicated to the member opposite. It represents a saving to the Liquor Corporation in not having to lease that space.
The suggestion, and what we are planning and working toward, is an expansion of the existing liquor warehouse. Issues such as traffic, off-site levy fees, sewer and water connections, and electrical power connections have all been studied. It has been suggested before. Those costs are being prepared for the minister, and any work being done right now is internal only, so there is no additional cost. The cost of the office moves has been provided in a detailed legislative return to this House, if the member opposite would care to read it. That amount is $374,000, and that entails the office moves, and it is an estimate only.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, while we have the Minister of Finance on her feet responding to questions, I would encourage her to keep and stay tuned because obviously there is more of an understanding at the Premierís level than there is at the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporationís level.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This is an example of what I have been referring to. For the member to belittle other members who have tried to provide an answer to the member opposite is wrong. It is not conducive to debate, and Mr. Chair, I would ask that you call the member to order on it. It is not appropriate to make personal attacks when asking a question.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order. It is just a dispute between members. I said I would encourage the Premier, the Minister of Finance, to stay tuned because it is obvious she has the answers.
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite said that she knows more than her other minister. That is belittling to the other member. It is a form of verbal abuse that must end.
Chair: The Chair will recess for five minutes to take this under advisement. We will take a five-minute break to allow the House to simmer down a bit.
Chair: The Chair has come up with a ruling on this point of order.
The demeanour and tone of the debate in the House is something that is beyond the control of the Chair. It is up to the individual members of this House to control it.
The Orders and Standing Orders that are determined by this House and the traditions of this House allow some degree of personal opinion as to the performance of members in their duties. Where that line is drawn is up to members, beyond actually breaking the established and standardized rules of this House.
The Chair will counsel members and, being consistent with the Speakerís ruling in the previous session, members will police themselves as far as tone and demeanour. It is the responsibility of each and every member of this House to do that.
The Chair will intervene when rules clearly have been broken. As to tone and demeanour, the Chair will not intervene.
Mr. Jenkins: My suggestion to the Minister of Finance was to remain in the House and respond to questions because itís obvious that the Minister of Finance is much more aware and knowledgeable than the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, whose budget weíre debating.
Now, Iím sure there isnít anything wrong with that kind of a statement and I respect and understand your ruling, but weíre here asking legitimate, bona fide questions and expect answers. Itís obvious that this move of the liquor store has not been thoroughly thought through by this government. What is thrown out in the public domain is that weíre going to save $200,000-odd a year in rental costs for the Liquor Corporation. Well, we might save it for the Liquor Corporation, but weíre going to incur that expense for another department or another series of departments. The part of the equation that is not being addressed is how many leases on other space are going to be allowed to lapse or are not going to be renewed.
When you look at the whole community of Whitehorse and you look at the Government of Yukonís initiative to pull a lot of government organizations and structures out of the downtown core, it may very well have a very serious negative impact on the downtown core of Whitehorse.
Mr. Chair, the minister might want to look at community planning, because Whitehorse has one of the best main streets of any community of its size in Canada.
Yes, its boundaries make it one of the largest communities in Canada, but the proximity to services in the downtown core is very, very beneficial to residents not only of Whitehorse but all Yukon. Weíre seeing a shift in government to outside the core. Why? It sounds like itís being dictated from the corner office, nothing else, because it appears that the only area that knows anything about these moves or what theyíre going to cost is the corner office.
Now, Mr. Chair, Iíd like to go back to the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, who clearly indicated along with the Premier, the Minister of Finance, that costs are currently being incurred to study this move and to cost out this move. I want to know from either of these ministers where these costs are allocated and in what budget of what department.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as the member can go back and review in media releases and, I also believe, in Hansard, this is not a decrease in the lease space by this government. This government is not pulling out of the downtown core, contrary to what the member opposite is suggesting. There is nothing, as the member has used the term, "dictated" from the corner office. That is completely erroneous, Mr. Chair. The change in the liquor store ó to move to the liquor warehouse was (a) a suggestion that came from people, long held, and has received widespread support from Yukoners, (b) it was announced in the context of other changes, as well, with renewal.
The cost of the office moves which, in the Executive Council Office, are borne under renewal, is $374,000 and that is estimated. That is exactly the same answer I gave the member before. The costs for improvements to the liquor store warehouse in order to renovate and in order to accommodate the liquor store will be provided in a legislative return to the member opposite. The minister has already committed to that.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís almost as hard to swallow as the cost of renewal, which was around $800,000, and they have only spent a portion of that. We know that the internal cost to government, never mind the turmoil, is way, way beyond the numbers that have been identified by the Minister of Finance.
Letís explore with the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation some of the other areas surrounding the Liquor Corporation that there is probably a better handle on. Currently beer is purchased directly from the respective beer manufacturers, whether it be keg or bottle. Virtually all liquor purchases and wine are purchased from the B.C. Liquor Corporation. And, when you look at B.C. Liquor Corporation costs, they are higher than Alberta liquor. Why arenít we buying from Alberta instead of B.C.?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the answer is freight.
Mr. Jenkins: When we look at freight, and we look at it coming up by water, I agree with the minister, but when we look at it being trucked, it is more expensive to truck from Vancouver to Whitehorse than Edmonton to Whitehorse, so that doesnít wash. And everything doesnít come up on the water to Skagway and overland to Whitehorse.
A lot of it comes in, trucked directly. So, while freight for beer that is purchased directly from the breweries in Vancouver and local breweries ó thatís a very good point and a very good reason but when you look at the overall situation ó and Iím referring to the wine and Iím referring to the hard liquor and liqueurs ó it would appear to be less costly to ship out of Edmonton via truck than Vancouver. Is that not the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím told we have a very good rate for freight and, if we were going through Alberta, there would be many more suppliers to deal with. Only a small percentage of the wine and the spirits, I understand, come from Alberta. The rest come from B.C.
Mr. Jenkins: And is the minister aware of the difference in cost of the wine and spirits between B.C. and Alberta?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member wants a breakdown of the costs for each jurisdiction, Iíll be happy to get that for him.
Mr. Jenkins: There we go again, Mr. Chair. Iím aware that itís less expensive to buy wine and spirits wholesale in Alberta than the wholesale rate the Government of Yukon is paying to the B.C. Liquor Corporation. The freight, especially when it has to be trucked, is cheaper from Edmonton to Yukon than it is from Vancouver to Yukon. The same does not hold true for water. Water freight is the least expensive way to go to Skagway, and they have the best method, but why isnít Alberta being used more often than it currently is?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís my understanding that we donít truck anything from B.C. Any liquor purchased in B.C., it is my understanding, comes up by water to Skagway. Now, the member is shaking his head so obviously, once again, he knows best.
Iím told that we have a better percentage through B.C. than we would through Alberta. If the member wants a breakdown for the two jurisdictions, Iíll be happy to get it for him.
Mr. Jenkins: I could send it over, Mr. Chair, but liquor costs are based on what you purchase and the volume you purchase. We purchase very little from Alberta vis-à-vis British Columbia, but it would appear to be somewhat less expensive for the spirits and wine coming out of Alberta. Thatís my understanding of it.
Letís explore with the minister some of the issues surrounding storage and storage facilities provided by the Liquor Corporation. Why isnít refrigerated storage provided in rural Yukon for kegs at the liquor stores?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are regular weekly shipments to the rural stores. There is not a large amount of storage in the rural liquor stores. Itís my understanding that those are the reasons.
Mr. Jenkins: How it works, Mr. Chair, for the ministerís enlightenment, is that licensees place an order at a certain time of the week and delivery of the kegs comes later in that same week, unless thereís a statutory holiday in there. The issue is that no keg beer is kept on hand at the rural liquor stores because there is no refrigerated storage. Why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís my understanding that the cost of refrigerated storage is prohibitive. I can get him more details if he likes. Thatís an operational detail that Iím not usually involved in.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in rural Yukon, itís mentioned to me quite frequently by licensees. The fact that there is no refrigerated storage ó it comes in usually on the truck the evening before, it sits and is held hopefully at refrigerated temperatures overnight, and itís off-loaded in the morning, and youíre advised that your order is there and then you pick it up somewhat later in the day. But all that time after itís off-loaded from the van, it sits in a heated area. The product is not kept under refrigeration ó and weíre talking about a product that has a very low shelf life; itís perishable. A lot of times youíll even pick up a keg, and youíll take it, put it on tap and itíll be spoiled.
The licensees ó itís mostly the smaller licensees who have concerns in this regard. They do not have the volume to justify keeping extra kegs on hand. They are somewhat lacking in storage, and they have to rely on turning the product over. But when they reach an impasse, like a keg that is spoiled, they can come around to other licensees and see if there is a spare, but that kind of procedure is not allowed by the Liquor Corporation, although thereís a way that you move one back to the warehouse and it goes out to the other licensee. Itís a can of worms; itís something that is tolerated. But the problem would be solved if the Liquor Corporation put in refrigerated storage for kegs. Why wonít the Liquor Corporation put in refrigerated storage for kegs in rural Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I hear the memberís concern. It has been a matter of cost. Itís something the Liquor Corporation has been aware of for many years, and itís something I can ask them to review, but Iím not certain they can make any changes as instantly as the member would like.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me get this right. Here we have a minister standing on the floor of the House who can make an instant change to build a new $2-million liquor store in Whitehorse and rural Yukon. We have a minister who can commit to all sorts of additional costs associated with that construction ó bang. We have a minister who can change the regulations so that off-sales are terminated at midnight instead of the hour that the licensee has extended on his or her licence. But we do not have a minister who can put refrigeration in rural Yukon liquor stores to store kegs. Did I hear that correctly, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I said I understand the memberís concern. I could ask the Liquor Corporation to review this concern and see if it would be cost-effective considering the small number of kegs we are dealing with. When I have toured rural liquor stores, the managers have pointed out that there is no refrigerated storage, so itís not something that the Liquor Corporation itself isnít aware of.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís one of those issues that doesnít get any press, doesnít get any fanfare but, when you are providing a service to the public and you only have one source of obtaining that product, and they have a monopoly that they themselves regulate, it would be best if they could at least treat the product in the same manner that the food industry has to. I mean, if you walk into any licensee, if a health inspector walks into any licensee, even the liquor inspector himself, one of the first things he or she checks is the temperature in your cooler. And it is specifically checked because of the kegs. If it is bottled product, they donít really care. The only reason they care about the temperature in your cooler is because of the storage of kegs.
And on the other hand, kegs come into rural liquor stores, off-loaded from the trucks in the morning, usually first thing, sometimes before the liquor store is even open, sit on pallets in a heated area, sometimes super-heated areas in the summer.
I will give the Liquor Corporation credit where credit is due. Of all the government buildings in Dawson, the liquor store is the only office space and retail space that is air conditioned. The nursing station needs air conditioning ó it is not air conditioned. The doctorsí office needs air conditioning ó itís not air conditioned. Health and Social Services, their offices need air conditioning. They canít even get the correct amount of air exchange over there. But the Liquor Corporation has excellent facilities, by and large, in rural Yukon. They are all air conditioned.
Now, Iím talking from a licenseeís standpoint. If we were to pick up the kegs and leave them sitting out for as long as the Liquor Corporation sometimes leaves the kegs sitting out in a heated area, weíd have the wrath of the health inspector and the liquor inspector descend upon us. Thereís a double standard here, Mr. Chair, in that that same standard for preserving the product doesnít apply to the Liquor Corporation in rural Yukon. Why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím disappointed to hear the "double-standard" phrase again. I have said we will review this concern, and we will do so, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, what Iím looking for is a commitment from the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation to treat the product as it must be treated, to keep it refrigerated when itís on hand in a rural liquor store. Will the minister undertake to do so, or is she going to circumvent health regulations and liquor regulations for the storage of full kegs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The commitment I can make is one to review the concern, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let me get this right again. The minister can make a commitment to move a liquor store, spend $2 million on a new liquor store, commit probably the City of Whitehorse for sidewalks down in that area, a pullout for the bus so that people can find their way down to the new liquor store location, and probably another bus or a coach to get the people down there and back, but canít commit to refrigerating a product inside rural liquor stores that is highly perishable.
Iím very, very disappointed in that.
While the minister is looking at her responsibilities, from a health and safety standpoint, of the kegs, it would be best serving the cause of licensees if adequate refrigerated storage was provided in rural Yukon for kegs, for at least a standby amount. Because the lead time on ordering and anticipating in winter is once a week; in summer, itís twice a week. But you never know whatís going to happen. There are quite a number of brands of keg beer that a lot of licensees carry, and storage is a problem. The only one that is not fulfilling its role in this whole equation in rural Yukon is this minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation.
So I would encourage the minister to go back and fulfill her responsibilities and ensure that the kegs are safely stored at the appropriate temperature for all the time theyíre in their care and control.
I have a number of other areas that Iíd like to explore with the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, which has a $1 forecast and a zero-percent change from the budget of last year, but can spend millions and millions of dollars and commit to undertakings outside of the House, not restructure the financial organization of the corporation, but restructure the management of the corporation and the reporting of it. I believe they go hand in hand.
I am disappointed to see this being undertaken by this corporation under the guise of renewal and then these accountability plans. Iíd urge the minister to go back and look at the accountability plan for the Department of Community Services and the Yukon Liquor Corporation and to dovetail them together and share with us where weíre headed, specifically with territorial agents, because it looks like theyíre going to be pulled totally out of the equation, not be associated with rural Yukon liquor stores, and probably weíre going to hear some announcement about service centres. But the last to hear about it will probably be rural Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The time being 4:30, the House will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Weíll continue with general debate of the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Mr. Fentie: I just have a couple of brief questions Iíd like to explore with the minister. One of them is a riding-specific issue. It came to mind when I was informed about the situation at the curling bonspiel here in Whitehorse and the bonspiel running out of beverages and the capacity for the department to go into the departmentís liquor store and replenish the beverage supply at the bonspiel.
In a rural community like I come from ó at hockey tournaments, bonspiels and these types of things, itís not an uncommon practice, with a huge influx of people into the community for a hockey tournament, for instance ó itís very difficult for the volunteers who put these types of things together to gauge how many cases of beer they should have, how many bottles of spirits and wine, and so forth.
My question to the minister is, given what has happened with the bonspiel here in Whitehorse, is this now something we can also do in communities, with our community liquor store should we run into the same situation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already mentioned that we are reviewing this and will be establishing policy to ensure consistency and fairness to all. What the member is asking will be covered in the policy that I have referred to.
Mr. Fentie: What, then, will happen if the policy contradicts this particular action that was taken by the department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already said that what happened was not a usual occurrence, that this apparently has happened in the past in at least one other community with regard to non-profit activities. Obviously there is a need for a policy. I donít expect that the policy will be retroactive.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that. I think we can leave that alone then. It is obvious that she is going to go to work on this particular issue.
In a second matter, in regard to a liquor store move, can the minister provide any information, not in detail but simply a cursory overview, about the impetus for the minister and her colleagues to make that particular decision? I ask this because I am interested to know if there are any other options available to the department regarding the move of the liquor store ó understanding what can happen now in that particular space that the liquor store will be vacating. I canít see putting in the Health Services in their entirety there as a bad thing. But what other options, if any, were available to the minister before the final decision was made to make the move to the warehouse?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím not sure I understand where the member is going. Is he saying, "Did we have other options of places to move?"
Thatís what heís asking.
Consolidating services in the warehouse is, to my mind, the most obvious place to move the liquor store to gain long-term efficiencies and savings and centralize everything in one location to make it easier for employees, et cetera.
Mr. Fentie: Well, those are certainly pros in terms of making a decision in light of the move to the warehouse. Were there any cons toward making that decision?
Let me give you an example. A storefront display ó the overall aesthetics of a store is conducive to customer service, so on and so forth. That in my mind would be a con in a warehouse unless there were some massive renovations that were going to take place to reinstate that type of storefront aesthetic, pleasing to the eye, good customer service availability. What is going to happen at the warehouse itself to make whatever portion of it into a store?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The intent is not to be selling liquor in a warehouse. It will have a storefront atmosphere. The design, obviously, isnít completed yet, or I would share it with the member. The plan is to do some renovations and have a pleasant atmosphere in which to sell the liquor.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, it occurs to me that that would be a pretty serious issue, in terms of cost, before a decision to make a move was made. So does the minister have a cost of what the renovations would be in making the move? I guess that would be the total cost ó the cost of the move, the renovations, setting it up, and all those things that go with it. Does the minister have a dollar value on what those costs would be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Not specifically, Mr. Chair. The Member for Kluane was tossing about the figure of $2 million the other day, and that would be the absolute top end. I wouldnít expect that it would be that expensive for the whole move and the renovation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, then, another question in regard to the same line of cost.
You have here a warehouse that has heavy-duty truck traffic regularly going into and out of it. It is quite difficult, in the turmoil of a parking lot where people are rushing into a store for last-minute items, and where tourists are tugging 25-foot trailers and campers, which they canít see to back up with ó it becomes quite a chaotic scene. If anyone has been at the parking lot at the existing site in the other mall, the Qwanlin Mall parking lot, Iím sure they have experienced ó during the summertime especially ó some of the traffic jams that can take place.
Then in the midst of all that, over at the warehouse here, we are going to be adding trucks that are bringing in ó not just single-unit trailers, but they are combination-unit trailers. In other words, they have a swivel, or a joint, in two spots, which becomes even more difficult to back up and manoeuvre around a flotilla of tourist traffic.
Can the minister explain if there will be any renovations at the warehouse level to address the traffic issue thatís most certainly going to arise?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The preliminary idea in the discussions that I have heard is to have the public access to the liquor store on the other side of the building from where the warehouse traffic currently exists. Traffic is one of the reasons thereís a need to move because it is a problem at the current location when there is a lot of activity there, and thereís a very awkward path around the building off Ogilvie Street, which is causing some difficulties. So ample parking is one of the requirements and itís my understanding that the public access is on the other side of the building from the warehouse traffic.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that.
My final question is in regard to the Liquor Act review and my understanding that this particular move is an issue that came out of that review.
So, my question to the minister would be: why are we pre-empting the Liquor Act review and the findings and recommendations in that review before the minister has brought amendments to the Liquor Act to the House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, the framework for the new Liquor Act will be released by the government later this spring and Yukoners, of course, will have an opportunity to comment.
Recommendations out of the Liquor Act that were non-legislative included the recommendation to move the liquor store. Thatís not a legislative thing as were some of the other recommendations like increasing fines, et cetera.
Mr. Fentie: Well, can I ask the minister, just to give us a little teaser here: are there any recommendations in the Liquor Act review that will be coming forward in the form of amendments to the Liquor Act that would, for instance, allow the private sector ó stores and those types of outlets ó to sell liquor?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is asking for a teaser, and I am not prepared to discuss what is going to be in the new Liquor Act until we release the framework for it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, then obviously my next question is going to be: what if the Liquor Act amendments are such that there will be the distribution of beer and spirits at grocery stores? And then the question that would follow that is: why then are we making this big move at this juncture until we find out exactly what that is going to look like?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If that were to be the suggestion in the new Liquor Act, then there would be less concern, obviously, over the relocation of the store. But the present store is moving from its location, and it will be at the liquor warehouse. Perhaps weíll need a very, very tiny store.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister is certainly, I think, being forthright in her answers here, and I intend not to pursue the matter any further, and I thank the minister for her participation in the debate.
Mr. McLarnon: I just want to bring some positive notes to the debate today, and the reason why is because there have been some excellent moves by this government as far as the Liquor Board, and one of the excellent moves by this government was ensuring that the minister responsible for it had a full view and a full understanding of the issues of liquor control and also the impacts of liquor on lives in the territory. One of the best ministers on that side ó and I do want to make sure that she receives the support when the support is required.
Today, for example, the support that Iíll offer to the government is on the move of the liquor store. There have been questions in the House regarding this move ó the consultations, the background to it. Iíll add from the personal point of view that I heavily consulted my riding ó which the liquor store is located in ó and I heavily consulted the businesses in the area of that riding. The response I got was that the liquor store should be moved, that it was affecting the lifestyles and business opportunities for people living near it and businesses located by it. This was, again, sounded out in the press afterward. For the residents of downtown Whitehorse, this move was one that should have happened years ago. There were four changes since ó as the Member for Klondike referred to it, four changes as long as he has been in the Yukon Territory. Itís the same for me ó four changes. All the previous changes, though, were to relocate it in the downtown core where people lived and where businesses were. I do support this government for finally realizing that there are impacts to having a liquor store in the neighbourhood, and that wonít reflect in huge consultation, and that wonít reflect in numbers, but it certainly does reflect in the sentiments of my constituents. I had a large part in lobbying for this move.
I support the minister in making the decision to allow this move, because it was certainly a thorn in the side for my constituents, and I applaud the government for making this move in time.
Also, I want to make sure my position is clear in applauding the Yukon Liquor Corporation for taking the steps to ensure that ó through accounting or through areas where they might not have had inventory, and for taking the steps to assist non-profits and businesses ó they did everything possible to make sure liquor was available at functions. Itís this kind of customer service the rest of the government should show. Itís above and beyond the call of duty, and it did help in the past ó and it did help in this particular situation ó by allowing non-profits and community groups to service not only the clients who were at the function they were attending, but also to ensure that the community group ó in this case, the organization ó was able to maximize the potential financial benefits of hosting that event. Itís exemplary and a good move for the Liquor Corporation.
I hope that this is put into policy so we can ensure that it applies equally, across the board, to every group, one way or another. I applaud the minister for taking that step and initiative, and I hope that the positive aspects of going above and beyond to help community groups and businesses achieve the profit margins they need, to make sure that they are on a level, is reflected in the new process and the new regulations, because I do applaud the Liquor Corporation. Yes, they were not governed by rules. Yes, there are probably some other standards that reflect on the retail sale of liquor, but the fact that a government body, armís length as it is, has taken the move to help private sector organizations when they needed help, is to be commended.
So I compliment again the Liquor Corporation for making that decision. Controversy in the paper and statements attributed to people, when they are in the paper, certainly can be out of context. On this issue, to make my position perfectly clear, Iím taking this time right now to ensure that the Liquor Corporation responds to businesses and user groups in the same way they have in the past, especially over the last weekend.
There are a couple of things I have to ask the minister right now, and one of these is to do with the accountability plan. In the accountability plan, I noticed the core purposes of the Liquor Corporation, and one of things I noticed that wasnít in there is addressing social responsibility in drinking. Itís not a core value, nor should it be, to tell you the truth. Itís really hard to take advice on not drinking from a person who is selling you the alcohol. The goal of the corporation is to maximize profits and give the highest return and investment possible back to the Yukon government. Itís certainly hard to take advice from somebody who is trying to sell you the alcohol and then telling you to stop at the same time.
But the government does have a secretariat that they have established and that does have, as its sole purpose, to treat and deal with social responsibility, and thatís the alcohol and drug secretariat. This is the area Iíd like to be able to investigate right now.
Can the minister tell me, through the legislation, if this House can give direction, through a motion, asking that the $80,000 set aside for social responsibility advertising be still an expenditure of the Liquor Corporation, but that the advice and the direction be on the alcohol and drug secretariatís advice and direction? I believe that, if we really want to have a coordinated alcohol and drug strategy, all the fingers and all the areas of the alcohol and drug secretariat can coordinate and can deliver programs, and thatís the best way to do business here. Just as Yukoners are expecting a one-window approach to the services they receive from the government, it would make sense that we offer a one-window approach on how we are dealing with our alcohol and drug problem in this society.
So, the question I have is more on the intricacies of the act and asking the minister if she would, or if it can be allowed, to present a motion directing that the $80,000 assigned for social responsibility be still garnered through the Liquor Corporation, as their responsibility to stop, or at least counsel people on the effects of overdrinking, but direction and guidance on the spending of that money be on the advice of the alcohol and drug secretariat.
Is that something that the legislation allows? Iíll ask the minister that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Off the top of my head, I donít have an answer to the legislative part of that. There are a number of very good initiatives that that social responsibility money has funded in the past, and I would hate to see, for example, the Watson Lake students ó the students against drinking and driving ó suddenly not funded because the funding was no longer under the control of the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Those students do a fantastic job in working up their message and presenting it to students around the territory.
There are a number of specific projects that the Yukon Liquor Corporation is very proud to sponsor in this regard. I would hate to see, in one sense, that initiative taken away from them and just hand the money over to another group to do that. The Yukon Liquor Corporation takes its responsibility very seriously, and the member has pointed out that, although there isnít a specific core purpose, there is a goal in the performance measurements ó "Being available to provide services at the convenience/preference of the customer while balancing the need to protect the public from the harmful effects of overservice."
And there is another goal, goal 4 ó "To promote and ensure that beverage alcohol is sold and served in a legal and socially responsible manner". And there are a number of things in performance measures, et cetera, that demonstrate the Yukon Liquor Corporationís commitment to the type of thing that the member is asking about.
The alcohol and drug secretariat is already linked to the Yukon Liquor Corporation, and there is consultation on a number of issues. At this point, we are contemplating some partnerships with the alcohol and drug secretariat, and we will continue to do so when possible.
I hope that answers the memberís question.
Mr. McLarnon: I guess my problem ó and itís a philosophical problem that sort of starts and stops with the Liquor Corporation ó is the aspect of renewal. We certainly understood that there may be a possibility of moving the territorial agents into locations like libraries, other community areas, so that a person who is going to get a driverís licence doesnít have to go through the liquor store to be able to do that. I understand the concept of that because, for some people in this territory, the contact with alcohol is next to deadly. There are some people who have a drinking problem to the point that any association with alcohol brings up bad memories, first of all, and bad incidents in their lives, and, at the same time, the temptation to go in again. And that is very real for a lot of people in the territory, and I can understand the governmentís compassion in trying to separate those services out.
Our problem again, though, comes back to the philosophy of the Liquor Corporation. Iíd like to read goal 3 of the accountability plan, and this is where it doesnít jibe with social responsibility: to optimize the net proceeds the government realizes in the sale and control of beverage alcohol. So, we have a very good core purpose for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. I want the Yukon Liquor Corporation to make as much money for this government as they can from the sale of alcohol so that we can put that money into the treatment of alcohol and other related problems. So, I completely understand, and thatís a good core purpose.
Going through the accountability, though, of the corporation, you have to ask yourself ó and this is what these plans are for ó what arenít their core purposes? What is not important to them? Thatís how you evaluate whether your departmentís going to do well or is going to pay attention or if your program is properly being carried out. And this is where we get to the rub.
How can you have the distributor of alcohol that wishes to maximize its profits for the government and, on the other hand, introduce programs that would reduce, if properly implemented, sales and profits to the government? Itís two purposes in the same head.
So I guess Iím asking for advice from the minister as to whether a substantive motion from this House would be able to allocate the money for alcohol and drug services to use as part of the coordinated program to attack the problem of addiction in this territory. We donít need a whole bunch of programs doing different things or the same thing all over the place. Itís a one-window approach to the attack on alcohol and substance abuse in this territory. Iíll give the minister some time because this is a legislative question, and even after I read the act, I didnít know what role the House has in the form of a motion. I know ministers can give direction and we may make a motion asking the minister to do this, but we are asking that alcohol and drug services be heavily consulted over that $80,000 to ensure that we have a coordinated action plan against alcohol and drug abuse in this territory.
I understand the minister saying there are excellent programs. Iíve gone to the show produced by the SADD students in Watson Lake, and I would imagine that would be part of any alcohol and drug strategy in the territory. So I donít feel that that program offered by the students of Watson Lake is under any threat by allowing alcohol and drug services to recommend or administer it, but what we would have is, again, more resources for the people who are charged in this territory with attacking the alcohol and drug substance abuse problem. That is, in my mind, the alcohol and drug secretariat ó completely opposed to the function that the Yukon Liquor Corporation has, which is to get as much booze down our throats at the best price we can to ensure that the government coffers are filled suitably with the profits. That is, again ó Iíve paraphrased it, but I have only paraphrased goal 3, which is to maximize profits on liquor sales.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The way the member paraphrased that makes me cringe. I would point out the mission statement: "The Yukon Liquor Corporation controls the purchase and sale of all beverage alcohol products to balance the need: to maintain the health and safety of Yukoners; to provide alcohol products to those who desire it; and to provide a reliable source of revenue for the Yukon government." And, the first note under that, "to balance the need to maintain the health and safety of Yukoners". Above all, the Yukon Liquor Corporation promotes responsible drinking, not as the member has stated it, which I wonít repeat.
The social responsibility budget has doubled this year, from $40,000 to $80,000. It is expected that a lot of that money ó probably the whole increase ó would be spent in consultation with the alcohol and drug secretariat.
Mr. McLarnon: I guess what I am looking for is just the formalization of that process to ensure that we do have the links. The links are described here, and I just need to see a solid link to make sure that the alcohol and drug secretariat does have input into decisions made by the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Now, I do want to talk about this social responsibility fund just a little bit before I make any recommendations to have this fund, or before we go into the areas about who can advise on this fund or what should happen. The question I have is, has the Yukon Liquor Corporation taken advantage of any of the brewery- and distillery-produced campaigns and partnerships to ensure that we can leverage money? I was wondering, out of this $80,000, does this leverage money from producers of alcohol to ensure that we actually are spending more? Because, if that is the case, and the Liquor Corporation can do that through an armís-length corporation, I would hate to touch it, but I just need to know: does this money leverage so that we get contributions from producers and distillers as well?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, we do take advantage of those campaigns the member is talking about for advertising, posters, radio, et cetera. We do that wherever possible.
Mr. McLarnon: We wonít delay proceedings in this House to get this answer, but I was wondering if the minister could send me, by way of answer later down the road, the amount of leverage, the dollar value of that leverage? This is how our tourism industry measures leverage on its advertising program, and I certainly understand the benefits, if we can do that. It would make me fear less the fact that we have the pusher describing the best way to drink. Thatís essentially where we have cross-philosophies here. The Yukon Liquor Corporation has a definite purpose, and the way I interpret the mission statement, it still can balance the need to maintain the health and safety of Yukoners through its inspection services, through all the regulatory services that it does, because they do their jobs in bars. We donít have many bar riots any more. Gone are the days of the Kopper King bar brawl every Friday night that used to happen, and Iím thankful for that. Iíve certainly lost a couple teeth as a result of those places. So I am thankful that the Yukon Liquor Corporation has taken its role seriously, and I believe that the Yukon is better as a result of it.
There are issues, though, about this money. Weíre obviously looking for funds to help the Yukon alcohol and drug secretariat do its job. I do believe the money being spent here would probably be best coordinated through the alcohol and drug secretariat. I want to ensure from this minister that the link that we see here in the accountability plan be formalized with the alcohol and drug secretariat by this time next year so that we can see the link and we can follow the path for advice that they have. Thatís one of the things that Iíll be holding this government accountable for in their accountability plans.
I understand that right now this is our first chance for plans and that theyíll change next year, so Iím not going to grill this minister too much about that.
I guess the last area of questioning I have on the Yukon Liquor Corporation is about U-brew policy and areas of taxation on U-brews. I was wondering if the minister could give us a brief overview on any change in direction that the Yukon Liquor Corporation has taken on U-brew policies, or is this something we can expect in the Liquor Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, this is something you can expect in the Liquor Act.
As for the linkages the member was asking about, I can get him that information, and I look forward to discussing the accountability plan and the relationship with alcohol and drug services with him at a later time.
Chair: Is there any further discussion?
Mr. Fairclough: I have a couple of questions. One of them is in your accountability plan on 17A-2, under the second-to-last bullet. How did that end up being in there? Is it something we might have seen as a result of the review of the Liquor Act ó when we speak of neighbourhood pubs, private stores and this type of thing? Iím just wondering. Itís not normally something that falls under the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Just let me be clear. The member is asking for the second-to-last bullet under the overview, or the second-to-last bullet at the bottom of the page?
Mr. Fairclough: Itís the overview. Itís about halfway down the page.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Okay, so that bullet, to be clear, states that the organization must deal with the following challenges, one of them being requests for additional private sector opportunities ó neighbourhood pubs and private stores. Thatís what the member is asking about, and the question was why thatís in there. Because there were questions and requests during the Liquor Act review.
Mr. Fairclough: I didnít think that we had and were implementing this Liquor Act. Itís still out there in the public. It hasnít been brought forward to the floor here. Is this as a result of the review, or is this a political need or want of this Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To be clear, this says that the organization must deal with the following challenges: implementing changes for the new Liquor Act and regulations, educating and providing assistance to licensees about the licence application process, on and on and on. Requests for additional private sector opportunities ó neighbourhood pubs, private stores ó is one of the challenges weíre dealing with. Itís not something that is happening; itís just describing the environment weíre in.
Mr. Fairclough: All Iím doing is trying to get it straight from where itís coming from right now. The member says itís just dealing with neighbourhood pubs.
Are we getting a large number of people coming forward and requesting licences for neighbourhood pubs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been some interest in neighbourhood pubs. At the moment you canít legally obtain a licence for a neighbourhood pub because itís not permitted under the Liquor Act.
Mr. Fairclough: I was just wondering where this was coming from, because the question was asked in regard to the Liquor Act, and of course that will not come forward to the floor of this Legislature until such time as it is introduced to the Legislature.
Neighbourhood pubs were very much a part of the review of the Liquor Act and thatís where Iím coming from. Itís already incorporated in the accountability plan, so itís like government is taking it upon themselves to include this before we even come forward with a revised Liquor Act. Thatís where I was coming from.
I have one more thing in regard to this. The Liquor Corporation in the recent past has been given, I guess, a direction to ensure that the act is enforced. Is there still that commitment? Are our inspectors and so on still out in full force as they have been in the past to ensure that the Liquor Act is enforced?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, of course, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that hasnít always been the case and thatís why I have asked the question.
In regard to alcohol and drugs, the now Minister of Health, when in opposition, talked about the revenues raised from the Liquor Corporation on the sales of liquor going toward alcohol and drug abuse and to combat this disease we have here in the Yukon Territory. Is it still the position of the Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím not sure I understood the question, but the revenues from the Liquor Corporation currently go into the general revenue fund. The government then makes decisions on allocating a portion of that money to Health and Social Services or, specifically, the alcohol and drug secretariat.
Mr. Fairclough: Yes, thatís the normal procedure, and I understand that. But when the Liberals were on this side of the House, they were advocating that the dollars earned and generated by the sale of alcohol should go toward the alcohol and drug secretariat, and this is not the case. Is that what the ministerís saying, sheís following the old procedure that it does go into general revenues? Itís not something this Liberal government wants to do at this point ó take the revenues and throw them straight into combatting alcohol and drug abuse?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been no change in practice up to this point. Governments can always make decisions on allocating however much money they want to a specific thing. That was one of the reasons we undertook the Liquor Act review, and the plan is to be drafting new legislation over the summer, so weíll be introducing it during the fall 2002 session of the Legislature.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Being no further general debate, weíll proceed line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate for the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is with pleasure, Mr. Chair, that I table for debate in this Legislature the operation and maintenance budget for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Iím also pleased to table in this Legislature, for the first time, the Yukon Housing Corporationís annual accountability plan.
As we all know, creating and tabling our accountability plans is one way of holding government more accountable to the Yukon people, in terms of investing our limited resources. The accountability plan and the O&M budget contain strategic links to the overall priorities of the Yukon government.
The accountability plan identifies two primary areas of responsibility for the corporation. The first primary area of responsibility is to assist people to meet their housing needs. The corporation does this through programs, such as social housing, staff housing, mortgage financing and home repair.
The second primary area of responsibility is to help the housing marketplace work better by furthering the self-sufficiency of communities, industries and people to meet their housing needs. Under this area of responsibility, the corporation offers programs such as industry and community partnering, joint venture financing, rental suite loans, commercial rental rehabilitation loans, market analysis, industry education and community education.
Mr. Chair, this O&M budget will enable the Yukon Housing Corporation to continue to offer a full line of proven housing programs that many Yukoners rely on. These programs not only help Yukoners meet their housing needs, they also support the Yukon economy by creating jobs and investment in the Yukon.
This budget shows our commitment to seniors. This budget will invest an additional $120,000 in the seniors housing management fund. This contribution, along with the $100,000 approved in the capital budget last fall, will increase the fund to over $800,000 this fiscal year. I think, in fact, itíll be close to $850,000. This year, the Yukon Housing Corporation plans to offer an expanded seniors home and yard maintenance program.
You may note that thereís an additional $15,000 contained in this budget. This money will support the expansion of the seniors home and yard maintenance program to Yukon communities.
The funding under this program is made available to community groups that are interested in providing seniors home and yard maintenance program. The corporation will issue an invitation to communities to submit proposals to provide this type of program to seniors in their communities.
This budget allows for the continued support of staff housing for Yukon government employees who work and provide government programs and services in Yukon communities. It will also support the provision of social housing to individuals, families and seniors who are in need. It provides training courses to industry members and the public.
As stated earlier, the budget before you will have practical implications for Yukoners and the Yukon economy. This budget creates jobs as clients access the corporationís loan programs. There is direct economic benefit to Yukon contractors, tradespeople, architects and suppliers.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to present to the Yukon Legislature the Yukon Housing Corporationís 2002-03 accountability plan and O&M budget, and I look forward to constructive discussion of it.
Mr. Keenan: Firstly I would like to thank the staff of the Housing Corporation for the work that they have done on behalf of all Yukoners. It is much appreciated.
As the minister is aware, I was over to the Housing Corporation a couple of days ago talking to the president, I believe, regarding a report on Yukon First Nation housing conference. But that is not really what I want to talk about at this point in time.
Can the minister tell me what the renewal costs associated with the corporation are?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No cost for renewal in the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan: No costs. Was this another volunteer effort case by some of the employees?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There were some staff who contributed some time to it, but no capital cost, no specific dollar cost.
Mr. Keenan: I wasnít speaking about capital costs here, I was asking how the minister tracked the time that the employees spent on a volunteer basis?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The small amount of time that employees spent working on renewal issues was not specifically tracked.
Mr. Keenan: So the minister is standing on the floor of this House, on her feet, and telling me that yes, the employees did it; no, there is no cost; back to yes, there is a cost but itís so insignificant that it doesnít matter. To this side of the House, it certainly does matter. It matters whether ó I see the minister shaking her head and saying no, it doesnít, but Iím here to beg to differ. I do believe it does. We should not be asking employees to do volunteer work. Itís a form of intimidation ó if you were to ask me, it would be a form of intimidation.
Now I see the minister standing there and being very exasperated, putting both hands to the mouth and saying these things, but I want to ask ó Iíve got a bottom line, Iíve got the right. Not only does this right be a right, it also transfers into a responsibility.
The minister has already put her foot in her mouth by saying yes and no. Can the minister please tell me how many employees were involved, what the linkage to the rest of the government was from the corporation, and give me a breakdown of that? Can the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can certainly endeavour to get for the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes some information on specific work that a couple of employees may have done with regard to renewal.
I point out that it was not volunteer work. People do all sorts of jobs, all sorts of projects, during their normal course of work in connection with their normal duties. There was no specific cost allocation for renewal in the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan: The minister and I are going to differ on this because if an FTE is putting energy into renewal, that energy, to me, translates into a cost. So, I would ask the minister to please ó the minister is asking the person to her right right now if that is correct. The minister should be able to stand on the floor of this House and speak to those issues because volunteerism ó Iím glad employees were not asked to be volunteers. Employees should be paid for the work they do. What I would like to know is the breakdown of that. How many people were involved within?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The total was two people, and I will find out exactly how many hours they devoted to renewal issues. It was fairly small.
Mr. Keenan: The minister has spoken a little more precisely now, I do believe. Weíre talking about the energy thatís transferred to an FTE. It does have a cost. I thank the minister for recognizing that, even if it is only two ó a couple may have, not volunteer, so we do know that there is a cost associated with it.
When does the minister expect to get that back to me?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would expect within the week.
Mr. Keenan: Does the minister expect that weíll be in this debate for that long?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: How long we spend in the debate is entirely up to the members opposite.
Mr. Keenan: I hate for things to get cheeky at this time of the afternoon ó or the evening. Certainly, thatís not my preference, because I will ask the questions, and the minister will provide the answers. If the minister cannot do that, then unfortunately the minister is putting the onus on the people within the department.
So, I would like to ask the minister once more: when does the minister expect to have that, and can the minister expedite it a little quicker than what she has alluded to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can try to ó as the member says ó expedite it, but the member appreciates that it will not be me who is going through employeesí time records.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thatís absolutely correct, and Iím just absolutely appalled that this minister would stand on her feet and try to divert her lack of knowledge to this side of the House. This minister should be able to stand on her feet in this House and be able to speak about these kinds of issues. These have been the issues since the session began. We have led with that question every time. Let me put the rest of the ministers on notice that that will be one of the first questions asked. I would also like to point out again that it is from the ministerís lack of knowledge that the department must get into that type of work. I donít believe itís going to be all that hard to find.
Maybe thereís something within the ministerís knowledge here. The minister said that this budget creates jobs. Whatís the breakdown of the jobs that will come from this budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We donít normally calculate how many jobs may happen as a result of our budget, and we havenít done so in this case.
Mr. Keenan: I beg to differ with the minister but, yes, that is just an absolute part of the Management Board process ó or it was when there was leadership on that side of the House ó it certainly was. As a government, we looked at being able to touch the buttons with a limited amount of money where we might be able to generate jobs.
Obviously, this government is not doing that. This government has thrown out motherhood statements, looking to hope that we can just baffle the rest of the people in the Yukon Territory. I would ask the minister again, now that she has been briefed a little bit, how many jobs? The minister stands on the floor of this House, says that itís going to create jobs. Well, how many jobs is it going to create, and in what sectors?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The construction industry and the renovation industry are where programs of Yukon Housing create jobs. This is not a capital budget. If the memberís asking how many people work for the Yukon Housing Corporation, I can say 50, and there are five vacancies at the moment ó but heís wanting to know exactly how many people will have jobs as a result of the money in this budget. Thatís a figure I canít give him.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, is that an admission by the minister now, at this point in time, that she was wrong in her statement and in her introduction? Could I ask the minister that? Was the minister wrong now in saying that this budget is going to create jobs? The minister said, no, itís not a capital budget, so itís not. Can the minister please clarify that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This operation and maintenance budget supports the delivery of the programs that were identified in the capital budget last fall. In the construction industry and the renovation industry, jobs are therefore created. I cannot identify to the member how many jobs. We typically identify FTEs created as a result of the capital budget. We do not do so with the operation and maintenance budget.
Mr. Keenan: So the minister is admitting that sheís wrong in her statement. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: That was certainly very self-explanatory I take it, Mr. Chair ó that abrupt no.
If we just go back to not even eight minutes ago when this debate started, and the minister stood on the floor of this House and she said ó and I could probably quote verbatim ó that it creates jobs. Thatís what it does; this budget creates jobs. That was a bold statement. That wasnít alluding to an O&M budget assisting the capital budget, which is only partially correct. Because some of the issues that are within the O&M budget do work and reflect in the economy like a capital budget.
So the minister said it did, and now the minister is saying, "Oh, no, by golly, maybe it didnít." Have I summed that up correctly?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To repeat, I said this O&M budget will enable the Yukon Housing Corporation to continue to offer a full line of proven housing programs that many Yukoners rely on. These programs not only help Yukoners meet their housing needs, they also support the Yukon economy by creating jobs and investment in the Yukon ó the programs create jobs. Then I said this budget creates jobs as clients access the corporationís loan programs.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I guess weíll just have to beg to differ on that.
Can the minister please tell me ó since there is a new minister here, there has been some reflection of disgruntlement, I guess I could say, with that government on that side. The minister that used to head the Yukon Housing Corporation now sits on the opposition side over here. I wasnít so terribly pleased with that ministerís answer, I guess. Iím still willing to give this current minister the wherewithal ó we will see in the next couple of days here how this minister does in this debate.
But can this minister please stand on her feet and just explain this ministerís vision of how this minister is going to reinvigorate this corporation and make it accessible to all Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Housing Corporation, I believe, is full of energized people. I donít believe they need reinvigorating. They are very eager to do their jobs, and our programs, we believe, are accessible.
Mr. Keenan: This member is a master of spin, I can see that. It is becoming very apparent, and very clear, right now on the floor of this House. I did not say that the corporation needed invigorating or anything, that the people needed it. I asked the minister if the minister had a vision and how that vision is different from a previous colleague, or is it any different? Because I was not pleased with the previous minister, and that is what needs reinvigoration. So, please listen and answer the question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is my opinion that the Yukon Housing Corporation offers a number of excellent programs and services to Yukoners. They are innovators. In many ways, Yukon Housing is a leader in the country, and I support and will continue to support their efforts in this regard.
Mr. Keenan: Well, we are still not getting any answers to the questions that I am asking. I asked if the minister had a vision, and what this minister did is sort of allude to the fact that I am beating up on employees in the corporation. That is totally far from the fact. That is so far over to the right ó which, of course, this government likes to be most of the time ó that I wonít even ask that question again. But I did take deep pleasure, deep pleasure in hearing the minister talk about some of the successes that this corporation has had under the tutelage of proper leadership.
Proper leadership and proper programming will allow not only our corporation to go out and boast about what they have done, but it will actually create jobs around the world, and that has been proven. I guess thatís what Iím asking this minister. Is this minister supportive of bringing any new initiatives forth so that we would be able to share our expertise with the rest of the world? Just a simple question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím not sure about sharing them with the rest of the world, but certainly sharing them with Yukoners and being leaders in Canada, where we can be. The vision for the Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair, is that the quality of life in the Yukon is enhanced by the availability of choices for safe, affordable housing that meets the needs of Yukoners. Thatís what weíre about.
Mr. Keenan: That answers the vision question. Can the minister please tell me if the minister is looking at any new programs that would be a vehicle so that we could take that expertise and share it with the rest of the world, Canada, or whatever the ministerís vision might be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is nothing specifically new in that regard in the next 12 months. Weíre working here at home, right now.
Mr. Keenan: So there are no vehicles; weíre just going to coast on the previous successes that this corporation has gone with and, maybe next year, we will try to look and see if thereís another vehicle or something that is out there. Weíre just going to sit on the successes of the jobs that we have created now.
Again, it comes back to job creation and, again, I ask the minister, then, if the minister is going to speak in that language, can the minister please tell me how many jobs are created and through which vehicle specifically within this program?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Keenan: Iím still waiting for an answer, but obviously weíre not going to get an answer there, because itís outside of the box of the ministerís thinking. Maybe I can try and come back within the box.
The minister spoke about five vacancies. Can the minister tell me where those five vacancies are and how long they have been vacant, and what they are due to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can get the member that information as, off the top of my head, Iím not sure that all of them will be remembered.
Mr. Keenan: When may I expect that information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would expect tomorrow.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to ask the minister: what are the ministerial travel costs associated with this department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: They will be travel costs within the territory, visiting the various communities, and there is potentially one ministerial conference, perhaps one other trip, and the details of those arenít worked out, and whether I will be able to attend depends on scheduling of other things in the territory.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, the ministerial travel in a minority government ó the ministers certainly look at it differently, donít they? Iím glad to see this minister is doing that.
Could I ask the minister: when the minister goes on a conference or whatever to wherever it may be outside the territory, who normally accompanies the minister on these types of trips politically?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: When I as a minister travel, somebody from the affected department normally goes with me.
Mr. Keenan: Thatís not the question, Mr. Chair. Iíd ask the minister to answer the question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I was under the impression that I had. Perhaps the member could repeat the question.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly I could for the memberís benefit. I would like to ask the minister ó political people. Itís political. It has nothing to do with any of the corporation folks.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the case of travel relating to the Yukon Housing Corporation, no political people would accompany me.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thatís certainly refreshing. The last time I asked that question in the House, I think we had a whole travel budget pretty well blown in one little jaunt. Iím certainly pleased to see that this minister is taking a different approach. It certainly warms my heart that maybe a little sense has been worked through, now that we have a bit of time now ó two and a half months of government.
The minister spoke quite eloquently ó always does when weíre in a box ó about the issues affecting people, touching people, reaching out and helping them with their housing needs. How are we doing it? Well, the quality of life in the Yukon is enhanced by the availability of choice for safe, affordable housing that meets the needs of Yukoners.
Now, after I have talked here for a minute or so ó and Iím sure the minister has been briefed ó can the minister please describe just who all of those Yukoners might be who are available to be touched by this program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member clearly wants to be asking questions about lending on First Nation lands. If thatís the case, he should just ask the question.
Mr. Keenan: So, does this minister believe that this mission statement, or these values, truly reflects what the department is trying to do and that it reflects all of the need? Or is there a need for a change in the mission statement, the values or the vision to reflect what is happening?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Government of Canada has jurisdictional responsibility to provide housing programs to Yukon First Nations. The member opposite doesnít like that, but that is the fact, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: This is, again, I think, about the fourth time that Iíve heard ó in this case, it has been alluded to ó about the fiduciary obligation of the federal Government of Canada, I guess through DIAND, for First Nations people ó status First Nations people. Now, thatís appalling, Mr. Chair, thatís absolutely appalling in my mind because, not only have land claims been brought about for development purposes ó in this case, to stop development, which was quite successful ó and now, 30 years later, folks are moving along, working, I think, what you would call a "together" type of attitude, recognizing that we might have different jurisdictions, or some of things like as such, but are definitely working together for the benefit of community life.
Is this minister telling me that this minister is not willing to look at programs that would reach out to all, regardless of the fiduciary obligation? Now, the minister previously wore the hat of a sports minister and stood on the floor of this House, spoke about a First Nation, saying, "No, I will not do that because somebody else has a fiduciary obligation." Is that a template on that side of the House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair. When I realized I was wrong in speaking about sports and First Nations, I got up in this House and apologized.
When it comes to housing programs, the Yukon government does not have jurisdictional authority to deliver direct housing programs and services to Yukon First Nation citizens on settlement lands. Neither Canada nor Yukon First Nations have asked the Yukon government to assume Canadaís responsibility in this area of jurisdiction.
Now, it should be clearly noted that all Yukon Housing Corporation programming is available to First Nation persons living on titled land, just as it is to all other citizens of the Yukon. As I said, the Government of Canada has jurisdictional responsibility to provide housing programs to Yukon First Nations. Canada acknowledges this responsibility and provides a number of housing programs and direct financial transfers to Yukon First Nation governments for housing-related programming on their settlement lands.
The Yukon Housing Corporation, it should be noted, does work extensively with First Nation governments in a number of training-related areas that support the First Nations to develop the technologies, skills, management and delivery capacity to effectively provide housing services to their citizens on settlement lands. For example, last fall the Yukon Housing Corporation partnered with CMHC to sponsor a First Nation housing conference, which was very well-attended and, to all accounts, very successful. And during the week of April 8 to 12, 2002, a number of the self-governing Yukon First Nations sent delegates to attend a training workshop in Whitehorse sponsored by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Historically, housing programs for Yukon First Nations have been a responsibility of Canada. Canada has provided and will continue to provide funding to Yukon First Nations to assist them in managing their housing needs.
The Yukon First Nations with settled land claims agreements have the option to take over the jurisdictional responsibility for housing on settlement lands from the Canadian government. Under the Yukon First Nation self-government agreement, a First Nation has the power to enact laws in relation to the provision of programs and services to their citizens, and to take full responsibility for the delivery of programs and services on their settlement lands and to their citizens.
Through the negotiation of program and service transfer agreements, Yukon First Nations can negotiate with Canada for the full assumption of responsibility by the First Nation for the management, administration and delivery of any program or service ó that is, housing programs and services.
Again, Mr. Chair, I want to make it perfectly clear that all Yukon Housing Corporation programming is available to First Nation persons living on titled land, just as it is to all other citizens of the Yukon. This does not prevent the Yukon Housing Corporation from continuing to work with Yukon First Nations to facilitate capacity development and training in housing-related matters. Over the last two years, the corporation has worked with several First Nations to complete a number of projects, and I could talk to the member about those projects in detail.
But, Mr. Chair, there is a mandate from the federal government to provide housing programs and services to Yukon First Nations. The Yukon government does not have such a mandate. The member is shaking his head, but this is a fact, Mr. Chair. The Yukon government does not have such a mandate. In the unlikely event that Yukon First Nations would support the program transfer of Canadaís responsibility for housing on settlement lands to the Yukon government, thereís a technical roadblock in that the Yukonís home repair and home ownership programs require Yukon Housing Corporation to place security on the homeownersí property title. The property title must be registered in the land titles office.
Yukon First Nations are setting up their own First Nations land registry system to register title to their settlement lands. Therefore, in the case of Yukon First Nations settlement lands, the Yukon government has no legal mechanism to secure mortgages against settlement land, unless that settlement land is registered in the land titles office.
Once again, Mr. Chair, all Yukon Housing Corporation programming is available to First Nation people living on titled land, just as it is to all other citizens of the Yukon. If there is to be devolution of Canadaís responsibility of providing housing programs and services to Yukon First Nations, it will likely be directly to the self-governing Yukon First Nations, and not to the Yukon government.
Seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 22, 2002:
Yukon Judicial Compensation Commission (2001): Report and recommendations of the Commission (dated April 12, 2002) (McLachlan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 22, 2002:
Statistics in O&M Estimates, 2002-03 by department (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3249
The following document was filed April 22, 2002:
Spousal benefits, reinstatement of; and maximum wage rate/restoration of indexing: Memo (dated April 15, 2002) from the Executive Director of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce to members of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce (McLarnon)