Tuesday, April 30, 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 Jane Steele
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members of this House, I would like to pay tribute to Jane Steele, an administrative officer in the Legislative Assembly Office. Today is Janeís last day of work as she leaves us to face the next of lifeís great challenges ó retirement.
Jane began her career in Yukon on April 24, 1974, as a clerk-typist in the Department of Social Welfare. Jane moved to the Legislative Assembly Office in February of 1975.
At that time, the Legislative Assembly Office and the Executive Council Office were combined, with the Clerk of the Assembly also being the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office. In July of 1979, Jane was appointed as the departmental administrator in the Legislative Assembly Office, and she has served us in that position since then.
Although she may not be a prominent public figure, Jane has always ranked highly with all members of this House. Some of that esteem, of course, goes with the territory. After all, she did have control of our pay, expenses and our caucus budgets. All teasing aside, it was Janeís professionalism, unfailing civility, courtesy and friendly, gentle approach that brought her the respect of members and of fellow employees.
I know that I speak on behalf of all members, past and present, when I say to Jane, thank you for your many years of loyal service to this House, to Yukoners, and very best wishes from all of us in your retirement.
Thank you, Jane.
In recognition of Yukon Writers Festival
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise on behalf of the Legislature to mark the opening day of the Yukon Writers Festival. The festival is called "Live Words" and features five live writers for five lively days.
Iíd like to take this opportunity to thank the various partners who have collaborated over the years to ensure this eventís ongoing success.
This spring, as has been the case for many years, a variety of events have been organized to showcase the work of Yukon and Canadian writers. This yearís festival is a joint production of three Yukon government departments plus national and local arts organizations and local businesses.
The festival celebrates Canadian writing and the joy of reading. It is part of our ongoing commitment to promote Canadian writers and their work to the Yukon public.
As minister responsible for public libraries, itís my pleasure to invite all Yukoners to attend a free reading and reception sponsored by Yukon Public Libraries and held at Whitehorse Public Library. It takes place tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 1, at 7:00 p.m. This event features readings from the five visiting writers: Richard Van Camp, Caroline Adderson, Catherine Bush, Sally Clark and Lawrence Jeffrey.
Other events during the Yukon Writers Festival include the 24th annual young authors conference for high school students from Whitehorse and the communities, and writing workshops for aspiring playwrights and fiction writers.
A poetry slam at the Backwater Lounge this Friday evening will include readings by finalists of the recent Yukon Writers Conference Writing Competition.
The grand finale of the festival will be the literary cabaret at the Backwater Lounge this Saturday evening. At this event, the visiting writers will collaborate with local musicians for an evening of words and music.
As part of the festival, Public Libraries is also sponsoring community readings by Caroline Adderson on May 6 in Haines Junction and May 7 in Carcross. Past community events have been very well-received and have inspired people to read and to write. We believe that these community visits play a vital role in the appreciation of Canadian literature and in the development of the local writing community.
The past year has been an exciting one for the local writing community. Major achievements include the publication of The Exile House by Yukon poet Erling Friis-Baastad, Forever Jake by Barb Dunlop, and Urban Coyote, a collection of short fiction by nine Yukon writers. Out of Service, a literary magazine of arts and ideas, and a Yukon poetry "chapbook" are also successful publications that promote Yukon writing.
One of the productions at Nakai Theatre this season was The Plum Tree, written by Yukon playwright Mitch Miyagawa. I understand that this play will be produced at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in June of this year.
In addition to these achievements, the Yukon writers conference in February brought together well over 100 writers, both published and aspiring, together with publishers and other interested people to benefit from the expertise of nationally known writers and editors.
The Yukon is blessed with so many talented people and so many people interested in reading and in writing. Live Words, the Yukon Writers Festival, is an exciting week that brings Yukon people together with visiting authors. I encourage Yukoners to participate in this yearís Yukon Writers Festival.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Jane Steele
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, since there has been a statement at House leaders' meeting that we were also allowed to rise to tribute Jane Steele, I am rising to tribute Jane today, as well. There was a mistake in the order.
Mr. Speaker, the reason Iím standing is a very personal tribute to Jane Steele, and the reason Iím standing is because Jane Steele is one of the people who brought me into politics. I was a page in this Legislature when I was a very young man. Jane Steele worked here. Jane and the Table Clerks at the time were really our only contact with government in the day-to-day operations. As impressionable 12- and 13-year-olds, we came into a world foreign to us; we came into a world that was a mystery to us and that had no relevance to what we were doing at 12 and 13.
Jane and Patrick Michael, also a Clerk of the House, made this place relevant to us, made this place human to us, made us understand the role of this Legislature and made us understand that good people work here. They encouraged many of my colleagues to understand politics more fully and, Jane, thank you for that. I am proud to stand in this House today and say ó Jane, at a very impressionable age, you made a difference, and I attribute that to you. Iím sure that there are many pages and House staff who also would be able to attribute that to you in the rest of your life.
Thank you, Jane, for serving our House so well.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return ó on April 18, 2002, the Member for Klondike asked an oral question with respect to expenditures for the Faro mine site. I also have another legislative return ó on April 18, 2002, the Member for Klondike asked an oral question with respect to the Faro mine site abandonment.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions to be introduced?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the state of the economy is the number one concern of Yukon people;
(2) the Yukon Liberal government has a responsibility to demonstrate leadership in getting the economy moving in a positive direction;
(3) the Yukon Liberal government has repeatedly declined the opportunity to show leadership in this Legislature by considering and debating constructive ideas to improve the economy; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to bring forward for debate, at the earliest possible opportunity, an economic action plan that will involve all members of this House, as well as representatives of First Nations and municipal governments, business and labour, in identifying and implementing short-term, medium-term and long-term steps to create jobs and improve the economic climate of the territory.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Liberal government proposed a process to review Yukonís electoral boundaries, which was duly passed by this House;
(2) the commission established to review electoral boundaries included representation from all three registered political parties, and heard submissions from a wide variety of Yukon people;
(3) as a the result of concerns raised by many communities about its initial recommendations, the commission applied itself with diligence to the task of writing the final report that addressed most of those concerns;
(4) it is in the best interests of Yukon people to have the territoryís electoral boundaries clearly established, in order to avoid the potential of court challenges should the next election take place under the existing boundaries; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to bring the Electoral District Boundaries Act, 2002 forward for Committee debate and passage at the earliest opportunity so that the Elections Office can begin preparing for the next general election under the new electoral boundaries, without delay.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House supports the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture representing Yukon and Yukonersí interests at the Rendezvous Canada event in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the dates of May 17 to May 22, 2002;
THAT this House, in a demonstration of that support, will stand adjourned from its rising on Thursday, May 16, 2002, until 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, 2002; and
THAT this House recognizes that this action will result in the completion date of the 2002 spring sitting, established pursuant to Standing Order 75, being moved from Tuesday, May 28, 2002 to Thursday, May 30, 2002.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the tourism industry has been and continues to be one of the mainstays of the Yukon economy and currently is Yukonís number one industry;
(2) incorporating the Department of Tourism under government renewal into the new Department of Business, Tourism and Culture does not give tourism the recognition it deserves; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to
(a) re-establish the Department of Tourism as it was structured prior to government renewal; and
(b) re-establish the former trade and investment branch of the previous Department of Economic Development within a new department, named the Department of Business, Energy, Mines and Resources, which will provide services to non-tourism-related businesses.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Government of the Yukon should be a leader in office efficiency and productivity;
(2) as the largest user of paper in the Yukon Territory, the government should take steps to reduce office supply consumption by 20 percent over the next year;
(3) this can simply be done by applying technology properly, using equipment properly to reduce expenses, using best practices from industry and other governments;
(4) the government should seek advice from our local industry expertise as to how best to increase productivity; and
(5) it would encourage this efficiency if expenditures were cut by 20 percent in every departmental line item that contains office expenses.
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are completely preventable if parents do not drink during pregnancy;
(2) the Yukon government has in place some excellent programs to prevent and support FAS/FAE families, including the Child Development Centre and the healthy family initiatives;
(3) the Prairie North Pacific FAS/FAE conference is being held in Whitehorse from May 9 to 11 for the first time in northern history; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to ensure that, after the conference, regularly scheduled meetings be established with all the partners to continue to build top-quality programs for prevention and for those afflicted with FAS and FAE.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School rebuild
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday the Minister of Education confirmed that the government has finally recognized that rebuilding the Grey Mountain Primary School doesnít make sense at this time. This means that the $500,000 currently in the capital budget for Grey Mountain must be reallocated. Many schools need capital funds for items such as textbooks, science and art supplies, musical instruments and walls between the boiler room and the rest of the school to reduce toxic fumes.
What process in the minister going to follow to allow school councils to identify their priorities for this money?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: To clarify for the member opposite, what I said in Question Period was that there was no support in the opposition benches for a new Grey Mountain Primary School. I will be meeting with the Grey Mountain School Council, and I look forward to hearing their comments on this issue and I will be seeking their advice and input.
Mrs. Peter: The decision to build a Grey Mountain Primary School was a political decision and the enrolment numbers do not warrant that decision.
Yesterday the minister also said that the high school programs may be reorganized because of declining enrolment numbers. Would the minister be more specific and tell us what programs are being considered for reorganization and elimination?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The member opposite and I obviously have a different recollection of yesterdayís Question Period. There have been no announcements. I will be meeting with the Grey Mountain School Council and I am looking forward to hearing their input, and I am looking forward to the third question.
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday I asked the minister about layoffs. The minister said the staffing formula would be unchanged. But under the formula, fewer students means fewer teachers yet several schools around the territory whose enrolment is actually increasing have been told they are losing their staff. At this point, can the minister tell us which schools are losing their staff and what the reduction in staffing for next year will be?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The concept of maintaining a formula for staffing and following that formula is that you end up with the same ratios. The member opposite keeps referring to changes in staffing. We have a very good education system. We have some of the lowest student-teacher ratios in the country and we are going to be doing our best to ensure that the outcomes from education are improving all the time.
Question re: Community justice review
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Justice. Last session I asked the minister about the community justice review that was being undertaken by that department. Has the framework for this community justice review been developed yet, and who is developing it?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The answer for the member is that the framework has not yet been completed and aboriginal justice members of the Department of Justice are working on crafting the framework.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, once the framework has been developed, the plan was to evaluate the cost effectiveness of community justice programs and identify community needs.
What process is being used to determine these things?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The process that will be used is one that will involve members of the nine aboriginal groups with whom we have community justice agreements, and they will all be sounded out for their feelings on the process. I would also like to add further, for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, that one of the things that has helped us immensely in the initial planning of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has been the involvement, for example, of the Kwanlin Dun Elders Committee ó they have helped immensely on the community-type justice on that issue.
Mrs. Peter: The community justice review could examine a wide range of programs and initiatives that might vary from one community to another.
What mandate has the person conducting this review been given to involve communities and stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: For a more complete, detailed answer that the member is looking for as to the mandate, I will have to get back to the member on the specifics. The question she has asked is very specific to the particular study thatís being undertaken by the department and, at risk of bespeaking myself, I would ask if I could provide the member with an answer tomorrow.
Question re: Tourism, promotion of
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question to the Premier. Thereís an old saying that a camel is actually a horse designed by a committee. I never thought Iíd live to see the day where weíd see these camels make their return to the Yukon, but now we have several of them wandering around within the Government of Yukon as a consequence of this Liberal government renewal.
Now, one of these aberrations is the new Department of Business, Tourism and Culture. At the TIAY annual general meeting held recently in Dawson City, the new department was referred to as "the Department of Blah Blah, Tourism and Blah Blah". Obviously representatives of our tourism industry are not happy with what they rightly perceive as a slight to their important industry.
In view of the fact that tourism is now the Yukonís number one industry, can the Premier explain why she has reduced the importance of tourism in her version of government renewal?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I was listening to what the members of TIAY had to say at their convention in Dawson. They were specifically talking with respect to their industry and the marketing aspects.
We have over $7 million allocated to tourism marketing alon, independent of any other marketing. So we are continuing and maintaining a focus on tourism within the Yukon and weíll continue to do that.
We have not diminished at all the tourism marketing dollars.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, the question was dealing with government renewal initiated by the Premier, and I guess she couldnít answer it so she got the minister responsible in part for tourism to now respond.
The business community that is engaged in non-tourism related business cannot be pleased with this new structure either, in view of the fact that services for their businesses have been split up between two departments, and consequently those services are being reduced.
Can the Premier explain why the corporate services portion of the previous Department of Economic Development was included within the new Department of Energy, Mines and Resources while the former trade and investment branch has effectively disappeared into the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture? Is the trade and investment branch no longer important, and why werenít all the services for non-tourism businesses included within one department?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do welcome the question from the Member for Klondike. Unfortunately, the Member for Klondike has no concept of teamwork, obviously.
We do work as a team on this side of the House, and so I am being responsible for Business, Tourism and Culture by answering the respective questions. This government has committed that we would not reduce the amount of money allocated toward tourism, and we have not done that. Trade and investment was also included within a branch of Business, Tourism and Culture, because it is a neat fit. It works together. These two agencies, between marketing and trade and investment, it is imperative that there be a tight communication that we are strategic in where we market our dollars, and where we indicate trade and investment expenditures as well. So, it is very neatly fitted together within the new department.
Mr. Jenkins: I urge the minister who stood up as the fall person on this question for the Premier to look behind him and see how much his team is shrinking. Iíd ask the Premier to re-establish the Department of Tourism as it was prior to renewal. And will she also agree to re-establish the former trade and investment branch within a new department, called the Department of Business, Energy, Mines and Resources? Will she do that? Make some sense out of the renewal process, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I think another fact that the member is obviously refusing to accept is that the consultation was extended through government employees and their input into how they would like to see renewal proceed, and it was at their direct input that the new departments were formed. It was based on what they had to say, and we respect what our government employees have to say. The consultations were extensive. We listened to what the public had to say. We listened to what business had to say. And we found that this was the best fit, the most manageable fit for the new Department of Business, Tourism and Culture.
Question re: Liquor store move
Mr. McRobb: Well, we know the Liberals listen only when it suits them.
My question today is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Recently the Liberal government announced the move of the Whitehorse liquor store to the liquor warehouse in Marwell, which will cost at least $2 million. Several public concerns have been raised about the consequences of that move, including increased traffic flow on Quartz and Industrial roads, pedestrian safety and parking lot congestion from cars, trucks and motorhomes. Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us why this decision was made and announced before the government assessed these traffic flow concerns?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, as I have told the Member for Kluane before, the move of the Whitehorse liquor store is still in the planning stages. Neither the final design nor the final costs to move the store have been determined. It was the right thing to do to announce the move when we did. The planning is ongoing. Traffic flow requirements are obviously part of the planning, and we are looking into those now.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, thatís a different answer now. We were told this was a done deal. If the minister now is backing out on this decision, I would ask her to be clear in responding to that question.
Now, studying such matters after the decision has been announced appears to be a trademark of this Liberal government, leading to reversals on announcements, such as no support for Air North, no childrenís dental program, library hours, YPAS target dates, the Education Act, building a new Grey Mountain Primary School ó on and on the list goes, Mr. Speaker. Moving the only liquor store to right beside the four-way stop on Industrial Road will worsen traffic congestion at that intersection, especially with wandering motorhomes on the loose. Thatís only part of the story.
Will the minister acknowledge this might lead to activating the stop lights at the intersection of Industrial Road and Two Mile Hill?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, letís see. The member has just insulted the visitors to the territory. He is fear-mongering. As I have said, the traffic flow requirements are being looked at now, and I am wondering just where the member is going with this. I am wondering, should they form the next government, in the unlikely event, are they going to reverse all the renewal decisions?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I donít think thereís any doubt we will be the next government and, as far as reversing decisions goes, this Liberal government is doing a fine job on its own. I have already identified a long list of those.
Now, how does the minister plan to cope with all the concerns that are likely to arise from the activation of those lights? Thereís a serious safety issue in stopping traffic at the foot of a steep grade, especially under slippery conditions. For uphill traffic, Mr. Speaker, there are similar issues with starting part-way up a steep grade under icy conditions.
Will the minister commit to a full study of the consequences of moving the liquor store, including public consultation, before proceeding with this plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the move of the Whitehorse liquor store is consistent with a number of recommendations and comments that were heard during the recent Liquor Act review. The Member for Kluane keeps insisting that the traffic lights on Two Mile Hill are being activated. Mr. Speaker, the only person who is saying that is the Member for Kluane. That is certainly not a suggestion that is coming from this side of the House.
Question re: Yukon protected areas strategy, moratorium on
Mr. Jim: I have to laugh at the governmentís concept of teamwork. If one doesnít go according to their concept of teamwork, one ends up tumbling out of their doors and over to this side of the House ó and thatís the rest of that story.
My question today is for the Minister of Environment. Last Wednesday the minister announced to the Yukon public that the Yukon protected areas strategy was being put on hold indefinitely, and I quote: "Having all four claims proceeding to ratification at the same time will stretch the resources available. First Nations, in particular, will not have the time nor the internal structures needed to dedicate to the YPAS process."
Yesterday the Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief, in a radio interview said that ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Jim: Yes, Mr. Speaker ó most definitely the Yukon First Nations are not all to blame for any delay in the implementation of the protected areas strategy. Will this minister now admit that there are other reasons for the governmentís decision to defer the identification of any more areas of interest under YPAS, other than attempting to put the onus on those First Nations that have initialled land claim agreements? The Grand Chief certainly doesnít appear to see it that way.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do welcome the question from the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. It is very interesting, and I did listen with great interest to what the Grand Chief had to say in his interview. It was rather unfortunate that the interviewer had suggested that I was blaming the four nations that were moving forward toward ratification by initialling a memorandum of understanding. That was not the case, Mr. Speaker. It was out of respect, because we understand fully, as do the members on the opposite side of the House, the degree of work thatís required in moving from initialling a memorandum of understanding toward ratification of agreements. It takes a lot of energy; it takes a lot of commitment; it takes a lot of work.
The member from Teslin is saying that itís a spin. Au contraire, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that weíre respecting the process. It takes a lot of energy within government to also support First Nations moving toward that ratification and we wish them all the luck in the world.
Mr. Jim: The minister should have understood that before doing 12. To date this Liberal government has backed out of the YPAS process, blaming others when it should have blamed itself. This government has been quoted as saying that they may have to re-evaluate their commitment to Grey Mountain Primary School, blaming others when it should have been themselves. Where no extra money was available for the alcohol and drug secretariat, there is now reason to believe that it may in fact be forthcoming.
Will the minister now admit the real reason for the governmentís reversal on these issues is because they are now realizing that they are governing in a minority situation and have to listen to and react to concerns from all stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again I thank the member for the question, but obviously he is in a dream world. No, we are respecting the degree of work that is required. Minister Kent and I have had numerous letters from First Nations, from renewable resource councils, from communities and from industry, asking that we respect their concerns and that we slow down the process. That is exactly what we have done. Despite what the member opposite says, we are listening to the public, all the time.
As a matter of fact, I would like to table a letter that I received from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in territory chief with respect to his request that we slow down, and this is just one of many.
So we are listening to the public and we are acting on what the public is advising us. We are listening to Yukoners all the time, every day.
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, putting words in other peopleís mouths is not respect, nor is standing in some kaleidoscopic box that they look out through all the time, the dream world that this government manages to have.
Mr. Speaker, every day in this House, itís beginning to dawn on this Liberal government the realization that a minority government can work to the advantage of all Yukoners. However, this government insists on attaching the blame for their change of directions on YPAS, on Grey Mountain Primary School, on the alcohol and drug secretariat, on others ó Council of Yukon First Nations, the opposition MLAs, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Mr. Speaker, it was with a cheap political motive that this minister attempted to shift the blame for the deferment of YPAS over to Yukon First Nations. Will he now stand before this House and apologize to them?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I do take exception to the comment that the member just made, casting aspersions on what I may have suggested. That wasnít the case at all, Mr. Speaker. I am listening to what Yukoners have to say. I am respecting the First Nationsí wishes and desires on this. We work on a government-to-government basis, and we respect what they have to say. I know that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini doesnít understand fully the processes that are required in moving from signing, initialling a memorandum of understanding, moving to ratification. Itís a long and difficult process. We want to respect those nations that are moving toward that process.
Mr. Speaker, there are four First Nations, effective March 31, moving from signing their memoranda of understanding to creating self-government agreements, and we wish them all the luck, and we will provide all the support we can in moving toward that end, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Forest management improvements
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier.
Mr. Speaker, we all know devolution is important and the Premier should be given credit where credit is due. There was a devolution agreement negotiated and the Premier said they negotiated it when, in fact, there was very little change to that agreement. We know itís important; we want to take control of our resources and we need to be prepared.
So, Iíd like to ask the Premier to explain exactly what new policy work her government has undertaken to improve forest management in the territory for April 1, 2003.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite suggests that devolution was complete before this government took office. In fact, it was not, and there was still substantial negotiation work that was done and completed by this government. The member has only to look at the devolution transfer agreement to see the signature on it, and it was this government, not the previous government, that signed it and completed it.
With respect to forestry, as the member opposite knows, until April l1, 2003 forestry remains in the control, if you will, of the Government of Canada, with input from the Government of Yukon. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources as well as the Minister of Environment have had input on forestry issues and are working with Minister Nault on that. Minister Nault is awaiting right now the report from Mr. Tough, and it is expected, I understand, very shortly.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I didnít say it was completed. There was very little change that the Liberal government has taken forward to the federal government. That was what I said. And since this Liberal government appears to think, on their part anyway, that they are the ones who negotiated this agreement, then maybe the Premier can tell us what new negotiations took place ó for example, for an environmental cleanup?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the environmental cleanup chapter was concluded under our watch, as were the negotiation of sick leave and transfer of sick leave benefits completed under our watch, as well as the forestry provisions.
There were four key outstanding issues that remained when we took office. Weíve concluded those, and we signed the devolution transfer agreement. It was completed under this government. Yes, I will agree with the member opposite that substantial work was done, not only by the previous government but in the government before that. There has been substantial work done over a number of years. Nonetheless, it was concluded under this government.
Mr. Fairclough: It is exactly what we thought, that this Liberal government is bringing nothing new forward and is not planning and preparing government the way it should be preparing right now. Itís less than a year away before we take over these responsibilities, and yet this Liberal government is not doing anything for policy development in any areas. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the one they can look at is what the New Democrats did in the previous years. In oil and gas, itís the same thing. Itís the New Democrats who developed those policies. Yet this Liberal government is doing nothing.
I would like to ask the Premier, then, whether or not she is doing anything in policy development direction to the departments to reduce red tape after devolution takes place.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have spent hours and hours in this House answering questions about renewal of government. Renewal of government is very important policy work in preparation for devolution. So, how that member can stand up and say weíve done nothing with respect to preparing for devolution is ó to borrow a phrase from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes ó ludicrous, to say the least. We have worked incredibly hard in preparation for devolution ó renewal being the main thrust of that.
With respect to forestry, page 8A-6 of the accountability plans in the budget 2002-03 speaks in great detail to the forestry policy work being done by this government.
Question re: Forest management improvements
Mr. Fentie: Well, Iím forced to enter the debate on that one. The Premier has just said that her government is doing all kinds of policy work. Let me ask the Premier this question. Why, then, if all that policy work was being done in this territory, did Minister Nault have to appoint an envoy ó a special envoy ó to come to this territory to try to solve the mess that this Premier and her government have created in forestry? Can the Premier answer that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development still has responsibility for Yukonís forestry resources, just as they did when the member opposite was trying to persuade the Government of Canada to deal with the mess that the Government of Canada created.
The Government of Canada has to clean this up and deal with it before they hand it over. Thatís what Mr. Tough is doing.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, the problem is this Liberal government did not represent and protect Yukonersí interests in forestry, and Yukoners had to take matters into their own hands and demand that Minister Nault do something about this. And Minister Nault has been clear ó we must solve this problem pre-devolution. The minister doesnít want to hand the mess over to this government. The question is very simple. Why is this government not doing the hard policy work on forestry as they were elected to do, and represent and protect Yukonersí interests? We have gone backwards two years in this area of policy development under this governmentís leadership. I would say thereís something wrong here. The Premier, I think, should correct the record.
The reason the envoy has been appointed is because the Yukon government, this Liberal government, did not do their work. Will the Premier correct the record?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, if the Member for Watson Lake will refer to page 8A-6 of the accountability plans that the Premier mentioned in one of her previous answers, he will see under goal 3.3 a number of initiatives that the government is planning on carrying out over the next year, including developing a forest policy framework, work on a forest industry strategy, as well as policy work to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation.
So we are going to be undertaking a number of initiatives in the next year leading into devolution to deal with the resources that we will manage post-devolution ó mining and forestry.
Mr. Fentie: The answer reflects the problem. The forest policy framework work was done. The strategy was done. The next step was to develop the legislation. Two years ago that work should have started. The federal government saw clearly that this Liberal government was not holding up their end and had to bring in a special envoy to deal with the public issues here in the territory. This government remains silent on those issues, while this territory lost not only jobs but investment in the forest sector. There has been nothing done here. Why then why did this government not pursue markets in Alaska, markets in Japan, deep-sea access to get our product to market? Why hasnít any of that work been done? This is all a bunch of political rhetoric and devolution is in trouble. Devolution is in trouble because of this governmentís inaction and the federal government is very sceptical about this governmentís ability to manage our affairs.
Will the Premier now take another look at this mess and do something about one area for sure ó forest policy work?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Member for Watson Lake referred to some policy work done when he was the forest commissioner. We want to encourage buy-in by all Yukoners. It is my understanding that when that work was done it didnít have the buy-in of the First Nations. So what we have committed to do over the next year is work with stakeholders, work with industry, work with DIAND, work with First Nations to ensure new timber tenures are negotiated and awarded. We are going to undertake the policy work to prepare for forestry legislation.
We appreciate the fact that the federal government does not want to turn over the management of forests in the mess that they currently are. And we appreciate the work that Mr. Tough is doing and we look forward to his report.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent re waiving notice re Motion No. 243
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: On behalf of an all-party agreement reached this morning between House leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to call, at this time, the motion respecting an extended adjournment of the House, for which I gave oral notice during the daily routine.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to call the motion respecting an extended adjournment of the House at this time?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion No. 243
Speaker: It is moved by the government House leader
THAT this House supports the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, representing Yukonís and Yukonersí interest at the Rendezvous Canada event in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the dates of May 17 to May 22, 2002;
THAT this House, in a demonstration of that support, will stand adjourned from its rising on Thursday, May 16, 2002, until 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, 2002; and
THAT this House recognizes that this action will result in the completion date of the 2002 spring sitting established pursuant to Standing Order 75, being moved from Tuesday, May 28, 2002, to Thursday, May 30, 2002.
Motion No. 243 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
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:05 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Yukon Housing Corporation ó continued
Chair: We will continue with debate on Yukon Housing Corporation. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate on the Yukon Housing Corporation, or the new department of government called the Yukon Housing Corporation, we were exploring a number of issues with the minister responsible and not getting too far on any of these initiatives. The one that comes to the forefront and hasnít been addressed and needs immediate attention is a consistent pet policy across all of Yukon Housing Corporation. We have yet to see any movement. There is a pet policy for staff housing, but there has to be a consistent application of a pet policy across social housing.
Mr. Chair, studies demonstrate the importance of pets in the lives of seniors, and weíve yet to see any movement on the part of this government with respect to pets and seniors and a policy in that regard.
We went on to explore with the minister the issues surrounding quality staff housing in rural Yukon, where this minister is responsible for ensuring that there is quality staff housing available. When you look at attracting, recruiting and retaining professionals of all categories, whether they be school teachers, principals, whether they be nurse practitioners, doctors, one of the first areas you must look at is the accommodations, and they are not up to acceptable standards. The minister has advised that their staff housing is being constructed to new standards. This is in their preamble and the statement on Yukon Housing Corporation, and the bottom line is, when you explore what these new standards are, there are no standards as far as square footage, but they have adopted the R-2000 standards, which are some 20 years old. There is going to be fuel oil heat, and there is going to be a dishwasher. Well, this is great, but I encourage the minister to look at where the RCMP have gone with their staff housing.
In my community, the current standards are way in excess of what Yukon Housing would even consider providing to professionals. Iíd encourage the minister to look at housing units of about 1,500 square feet, plus some storage area, whether it be a full basement or whether it be another major room ó at least three bedrooms and at least one-and-a-half bathrooms.
If you start looking at the professionals weíre hoping to attract to the Yukon, you get a husband and wife team and a couple of children, and you get up in the morning ó well, whatís the husband supposed to do? Go out to the outhouse with the dog? Thereís a problem that hasnít been identified and addressed by this government, Mr. Speaker. Theyíre still expecting professionals to occupy substandard housing in rural Yukon.
Then we look at encouraging employees in rural Yukon to get into their own property and buy their own home. With the deplorable state of the economy and with really no housing market in rural Yukon to speak of, thereís the issue of the employee buyback scheme, which is currently maxed out at $68,000.
I asked the minister to see where you could buy a home for $68,000. What is needed is at least a doubling of that number so that it actually encourages professionals employed by the Government of Yukon to buy their own homes, move in, stay. And thereís a little bit of a fallback if, when they retire or move up the ladder or transfer, thereís an opportunity to at least sell their home and get their money out of it. An employee in their own home, Mr. Chair, probably has more of a vested interest in remaining in that community than the employee who is there short term in substandard staff housing.
So these are areas I encourage the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation to look at and address, because itís one of the major tools. You only have to talk to the Department of Health or the Department of Education, and youíll find out that both of these departments are having difficulties with the housing inventory in rural Yukon. A lot of the policies are not conducive to attracting and retaining professionals.
Then we look at some of the initiatives that this minister was very much opposed to when in opposition, but now the status quo is being maintained. And I cite the Mountainview development, which hopefully can be put on track, because the intended purpose for this subdivision was admirable. It was going to cater to a certain market, but the uncertainty surrounding how old the mobile home was that was going to be your next-door neighbour led to zero uptake on this initiative. So itís an area that I encourage the minister to look at and do something with. It seems that the minister must learn that the cart cannot pull the horse. Sheís going to have to level the playing surface and get the horse to pull the cart, and Iím sure thatís something this whole Liberal government is going to have to learn very soon, Mr. Chair.
Another high-cost initiative, especially if you want to look at my community, is the water and sewer system. The minister responsible for towns and trucks, as the old department was looked upon, made some arrangement with elected officials in the municipality and suggested, as it was brought to me, that they charge more to Yukon Housing for the provision of water and sewer services, and somehow they did. And, rightly so, the Housing Corporation took it upon themselves to say, "Hey, this isnít fair. Weíll pay the same as anyone else." So that whole issue is before the courts now. The minister wonít come out for or against. She wonít even sit down with the parties affected and resolve the issue. She just hangs her hat and says, "I canít say anything; it is before the courts." But before it gets before the courts, perhaps a suggestion to the minister is that she sit down with all the parties and come to some agreement. Because when it gets before the courts, the only ones that are going to benefit are going to be the lawyers, and ultimately the taxpayer or the ratepayer is going to pay. Yukon Housing should be treated the same as any other entity as far as their rates.
Now, there are programs available where the rates are looked at across the board as somewhat higher and owner-occupied homes are provided with a grant. That kind of situation has been tested before the courts, and it has worked to the advantage of communities in actually encouraging owner-occupancy. Perhaps some sort of suggestion to the community in this area might be important.
There is a whole department of the Government of Yukon called Yukon Housing Corporation where, under this new government reorganization, the tentacles go right from the corner office, from the Premierís office, to the head of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Weíre seeing that come into effect across all of these supposedly armís-length entities ó Yukon Housing Corporation, Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. The only one the Liberal government canít get their tentacles into is the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board because their act stipulates that their president is selected and appointed by a different method than all of these other corporations.
But I would encourage the government to have a second look at where theyíre heading on this initiative and how tightly they're putting the reins of government over these Crown corporations. Because on one hand, there is a benefit from having these armís-length corporations. On the other hand, if you want to make them a department of government, thatís a political decision, Mr. Chair, and itís a political decision that this government has taken the first step on.
Other than political control and political interference, Iíd like to know what the benefits are going to be to Yukoners to seeing these major changes come into effect.
No one has clearly outlined what the benefits are going to be. Oh, yes, we have an accountability statement, and we have three or four pages or more of primary responsibility, all the outlines of everything; we have a tremendous amount of verbiage, Mr. Chair, but are we achieving what the mandate is for the Housing Corporation and what it hopes to achieve? I suggest to the minister not.
With that, Mr. Chair, Iíll see if we can get some responses from this minister before we leave this department of Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Nicely timed by the Member for Klondike. First of all, Mr. Chair, as I have said several times before and will continue to repeat, the Yukon Housing Corporation is a corporation. It is not a government department. It is armís length. The pet policy was not something we discussed yesterday. I went through this with the Member for Klondike at some length last week, I believe, and had told him, at that time, that the board anticipates having a new pet policy in place for social housing by early summer of this year. And we talked at length yesterday about the staff housing. We have been through that, and the member fails to recognize that the R-2000 standard has been updated regularly.
Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions for the minister of housing.
In my riding, I have a diverse number of groups ó people who have worked with the government, First Nations, people who live in trailers. In my riding, I have three mobile home parks, and weíre trying to work on a fourth one as well.
In these mobile home parks, the mission statement or the corporate objectives is to try to provide availability of quality, affordable housing, which reduces the stress of Yukon families. What Iím interested in is the safety of the children within the mobile home parks. Iím asking if the minister can work in partnership with the City of Whitehorse and the stakeholders to establish a plan that creates a safe, sound mobile home environment for the childrenís sake?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would remind the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, who is the former minister responsible for housing, that the plan for Mountainview Place was just to address that, the safety of older mobile homes. I would like to remind the member about that, in case he has forgotten. The original plan was done in discussion with the City of Whitehorse because of perceived problems with safety in some of the older mobile homes. So that has been looked at, and Mountainview Place was the initial answer to that cry for help.
Mr. Jim: Can we at least try to provide a playground or something for the children, or pave the roads in these parks? Is there something that we can do from Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would remind the Member for McIntyre-Takhini that those mobile home parks are privately owned. They are not the responsibility of the Yukon government nor of the Yukon Housing Corporation. They are privately owned.
Mr. Jim: Itís also the responsibility of government to provide a safe environment for children. I also think that we can be doing a little bit more rather than relying on other peopleís predicaments or situations.
Iím asking that this government maybe sit with the City of Whitehorse and the stakeholders ó whether theyíre privately owned or not ó to see if we can come up with a plan that creates a safe and sound environment for our childrenís sake.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the benefit of the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, there already is a mobile home park enhancement program in place in the Yukon Housing Corporation to assist mobile home park owners to upgrade the infrastructure and living conditions in privately owned mobile home parks. So there are loans already available for this purpose, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jim: I have no more questions for the minister of housing. Weíre not going to get any answers or any participation.
Mr. Keenan: I concur with the Member for McIntyre-Takhini and Iím ready to clear the department.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Yukon Housing Corporation?
We will proceed then with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Expenditures
Mr. Roberts: I move that the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be amended in Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation, by reducing the line item Administration on page 16B-3 in the O&M Estimates by $52,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Roberts that the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be amended in Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation, by reducing the line item Administration on page 16B-3 in the O&M Estimates by $52,000; and
THAT the clauses and schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
I believe that we are in the right line as the other one is more of an explanation and this is the actual vote on gross expenditures. I will seek clarification from other sources. We will take a one-minute break to ensure this.
Chair: That is proper then. We are in activities and administration. This is the proper place for it. The amendment stands. Mr. Roberts, do you wish to speak on the amendment?
Mr. Roberts: Iíd like to make a few comments. I think itís very straightforward. One of the issues I think, for myself and for many of us who have worked with government for the last number ó two or three ó generations, has been the fact that government always seems to have extra pots of money.
No matter how hard a government works or how hard the politicians work to encourage administration not to pad their budgets, they do it, regardless.
Iíve heard this over and over, Mr. Chair. This is an attempt at trying to find real money for programs that are now not being funded. For example, the alcohol and drug secretariat ó we have not seen the money. Where is the money? This is a favourite expression of one of the ministers across the floor: "Show me the money."
Also the whole issue around children in care, the Anglin report, the report thatís due shortly from the Child Welfare League of Canada ó some major initiatives, some major costs. This is not about taking money out of departments and putting it there for a rainy day. Weíre not setting up extra dollars here so that we can call an election. We want money for programs. This is what Yukoners voted us here for, Mr. Chair. They want us to deal with the issues. They want us to respond to the issues, and unfortunately in a lot of these areas it takes a lot of dollars.
Iím currently reading the First Nation review of the services for children in care of the Yukon territorial governmentís Department of Health and Social Services. This is a summary of the First Nation issues identified in focus group discussions. What I see in here is a reflection of changing how we deliver programs, particularly with First Nation governments.
I believe, Mr. Chair, if the government of the day canít find the dollars for these programs, then I guess weíll have to do that. This is not about cutting FTEs. I heard that yesterday ó people waving their hands in the air. This means layoffs. No, it means buying less paper. It means buying fewer computers that I gather have been bought for many people in the last year. Brand new computers.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Roberts: Iím sorry, I didnít get one ó the Member for Kluane asked me if I got one. We have an old one and it works very well.
So, Mr. Chair, this is a real attempt at working with the government. This is not a negative approach, not a negative way of trying to build. Itís looking for ways of coming forward with dollars that we can spend on programs that are much needed in the territory.
I know the members opposite want the same as I do, as all of us on this side want. But I donít see it in the budget, I donít see any reflection of some of these needs, and I know weíre waiting for reports. Well, weíre going to wait for the next two years for the reports, and then we may say weíll be into an election and then, oh well, maybe weíll do something, weíll promise something like drug and alcohol programming. Weíll promise programs like drug and alcohol thatís up on the board in the Cabinet office but weíll put no money toward it. I have not heard, Mr. Chair, where the money is for that particular program.
This is a very serious issue in our communities. Itís a very serious issue with our First Nation communities. They want to see programming more than we have had in the past ó not just the traditional programming that we have had, Mr. Chair.
So, hopefully, the government will see this as a positive motion and will see it as something we can all work toward. If I hear once again that itís going to be laying off people, then I guess we have the wrong priorities, Mr. Chair, because thatís called fear-mongering. It has nothing to do with laying off people. Itís talking about how we do a better job with paper that we buy with thousands and thousands of dollars.
Even before this all happened, I heard one of the DMs tell me, Mr. Chair, "Well, if you need this, Iíll get it for you." This is just in the past four months. In other words, they have a little slush fund, and maybe itís more than a little in some departments.
The time is to take these slush funds, and I know we kept looking for one in Education, but we never did find it. Obviously, it was spent very quickly.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Roberts: Well, thatís another story, Mr. Chair, how that money suddenly came forward, but I guess there are little pots there.
So, Mr. Chair, could we really see this as a positive initiative, moving ahead, trying to build what Yukoners put us here for?
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I always wish to make very informed decisions on behalf of the people whom I elect ó or who elect me, and, of course, Iím a part of electing them, too. Of course, my votes only come to folks on this side of the House.
But surely I can see where the Member for Porter Creek North is coming from. He has identified other problems that are out there in the community that have not been addressed at this point in time. The Member for Porter Creek North is looking at it as a positive. I cannot make a decision unless itís an informed decision. We're looking to take $52,000, and it has been proposed by the Member for Porter Creek North that it would come out of administration. And would that be under the estimates, the $5,294,000? Would that be correct? And then I have a further question if that is correct.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair, thatís correct.
Mr. Keenan: Maybe it would be very helpful for me, here, to make a decision, if the minister could please inform me what the $5,294,000 is in its entirety?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that $5,294,000 includes meetings and honoraria for the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation. It includes program promotion to tell Yukoners about the various programs the Yukon Housing Corporation does. It includes travel and transportation. It includes communications. It includes office expenses, a figure of $259,000 which, as I mentioned yesterday, includes rent for the Yukon Housing offices in the communities, utilities, the taxes for the main office at 410 Jarvis Street and, in addition, it includes maintenance, which is a large part of this, as well as office equipment and supplies.
As well, there is computer services, professional fees, some lending program costs ó which is the administrative cost for all lending programs ó some transfer payments, and personnel, which is the largest part of that figure. That is just under $4 million, Mr. Chair ó $3,857,000.
Now, the suggestion from the Member for Porter Creek North that Yukon government employees deliberately pad the budget is one that I absolutely cannot accept. In the case of the Yukon Housing Corporation, it is the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation that deals with the dollars theyíre given, and they do that in a responsible manner.
The board of Yukon Housing may find that they canít operate with ó I can only call it ó reckless slashing and, if this is true, the Member for Porter Creek North ó he says he doesnít want to hear about jobs, but he could be forcing Yukon Housing to lay off staff. $50,000 is close to the salary of the average government employee.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. Keenan, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, Iím doing my very best to keep up with the situation thatís going on, but when I hear terms ó and Iíve been called to order in the House on these terms of speech. And Iím sorry that right now I have to look for it here, but the term "reckless slashing" has very major connotations to it.
So, Iíd ask for a ruling on that to see if thatís acceptable language.
Chair: The Speaker has asked that we point out where we can ó the Standing Order. In the Committee of the Whole, weíre far more informal, but that does actually ó if there has been abuse or insult taken, including sexist or violent language, that is not to be used in the House, and weíve used other examples, like "kill the bill". So that is actually out of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I apologize. I was perhaps suggesting that the Member for Porter Creek North did not do his homework, if that is acceptable language.
I am concerned what could happen with this kind of a cut when the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation deals with it ó because it is the board that sets the budget.
As I said, $50,000 is close to the salary of the average government employee. The member has said that heís not talking about jobs. Perhaps the Member for Porter Creek North would prefer that Yukon Housing Corporation cut social housing or claw back plans to improve staff housing but, regardless of what cuts would result from this proposed amendment, it will adversely affect Yukoners.
A large percentage of the money spent by the Yukon government on office supplies and equipment supports local businesses. These purchases are made locally, and the effect will be felt throughout the business community. The board would take this cut and cut somewhere. It would likely not be the tools that people need to do their daily work.
I saw a commercial recently that was about a business that cut back on office supplies and they were all sharing one pencil. Needless to say, the work had ground to a halt.
I am concerned about the effect this proposed amendment would have on local business due to the purchase locally of office supplies and equipment.
I am suggesting that the Member for Porter Creek North did not do his homework. I hope this answers the question of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Just one further question to that, and we are certainly getting there. If the minister could please tell me the transfer payments of $259,000 ó the minister is speaking awfully quickly and Iíve got a slow ear, and slow hands too, so I might not be exactly correct in that. Could the minister please tell me what the $259,000 transfer payment would be for and to whom, and does it contain any FTEs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To be clear, Iíll just run through that again. Okay, the $259,000 was not transfer payments as the member had suggested. The transfer payments contributions are a total of $195,000.
Mr. Keenan: Maybe it would be very helpful if the minister could please point out to me in which one of the ó there has got to be at least 15 headings that the minister read out. Which ones contain FTEs or PYIs or whatever you want to call them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would be personnel, the $3,857,000.
Mr. Keenan: And to be clear, that is the only place it is contained within the contribution agreements? There are no FTEs to communities or anything like as such? So the facts that I have before me to make a decision on the floor of this House are that the FTEs come from the $3,857,000 personnel. Is that categorically correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The $3,857,000 is the staff of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Many of the corporationís programs and services support other jobs such as seniorsí home and yard maintenance and the maintenance in general of all the housing stock owned by the Yukon Housing Corporation and, as well, the money spent on office equipment and supplies support local office supply businesses. I hope that is clear for the member.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, Iím trying to get to the FTEs here. I understand that the impact on the economy comes from different ó just by the spending of this money. I understand that. I also understand that programs, like the eldersí yard and maintenance program, have an impact also. Whether the Liberal government likes it or not, decisions are going to be made on the floor of this House in this manner as I can see it. I need information so I can vote according to my conscience and my party philosophy. I need to know, without the spin on it, programs' impact on the economy, exactly where the FTEs fall within here. And the minister has answered that in the personnel I do believe. All others have impact. So there is not a 0.5 FTE contained within any of the other programs. I know the minister has that information. I have been told that they donít but I know itís broken down as a matter of course.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Let me be perfectly clear about something again. While the Legislature has the power to cut the budget of the Yukon Housing Corporation, it does not have the power to say how that cut will be implemented. That is the decision of the board of directors of the Yukon Housing Corporation. I want to be very, very clear about that.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have actually occupied a Cabinet chair on that side of the House longer than the minister has, so I do not need the minister talking down to me in any such manner. I am looking to work for the Yukon people here and thatís exactly what I have been hired for, and I do consider it a hiring. I do consider it a contract and I do consider it part of my job, so I do not need to be spoken down to at all.
Chair: Order please. We just want to ensure that we are not imputing falsehood or unavowed motives. Just to ensure that we return to a tone of debate that is constructive, I would ask members to just make sure that they understand that "talking down" is considered by one person to have happened and by the other person not, so it could be considered a false or unavowed motive.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I appreciate that, and we will make a decision. Iíd also like to point out that the percentage of change here is a three-percent change from last year. Also, I would ask for a five-minute recess, if I may, to be able to get together with my caucus at this point in time to have a discussion and a thoughtful approach to where weíre at here. And I will move that.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Keenan that we do take a five-minute recess.
Motion agreed to
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the House for the opportunity to break and meet with caucus. Certainly what weíre into here is the effect of a minority government. Unfortunately this minority government just became a minority government and certainly the attitude has changed. Itís unfortunate that this attitude hasnít been prevalent throughout their tenure. It just came. This fresh little wind has just come. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the official opposition cannot support the amendment as presented. We cannot do that. We very much support the work that the Yukon Housing Corporation does, and we very much hope that it will continue to do that good and fine work.
We also very much hope and desire that there will be open ears on that side of the House through the minister, through the president, through the deputy minister ó whomever ó to work with folks on this side of the House so that we might be able to build something that is here for the future, for all Yukoners.
To the mover of the amendment, I certainly understand where the mover of the amendment is coming from. I have shared the same concerns with the alcohol and drug secretariat. I am very, very tired of hearing from the Liberal government that this policy is going to be coming and this is going to that and this is going to do this, and yet theyíre nothing but motherhood statements, simply. Because they have no implementation plans or money, Management Board matters attach to them. Theyíre just simply motherhood statements.
So I certainly understand where the alliance is coming from, if I can say it in that manner ó the backbenchers here from the Liberal Party. I understand where theyíre coming from. I would ask that we find another avenue so that we do not have to go through this whole budget in this manner, because I do not believe this is doing justice to a budget process or to the people of the Yukon.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Amendment to Bill No. 9 negatived
Chair: Is there any further debate on the lines?
Administration in the amount of $5,294,000 agreed to
On Program Costs
Program Costs in the amount of $7,536,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $12,830,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Yukon Development Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate on Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: May I ask for two minutes until the minister has his officials?
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that we take a two-minute recess for officials to come in.
Motion agreed to
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Yukon Development Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I am pleased to introduce the accountability plan and the O&M budget for Yukon Development Corporation as contained in the Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03. The accountability plan sets out directions that are mandated by the government and the corporationís board of directors. For the first time, the Legislature is being presented with a plan for the Yukon Development Corporation outlining goals, specific objectives, implementation strategies and measures of performance. It is the foundation for accountability to all Yukoners. It forms the basis of an effective and productive working relationship between the government and the corporation. Coordinating with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the corporation has a leading role to play in providing citizen-centred energy solutions and in achieving sustainable energy development for the territory.
In support of government goals and priorities, using sound business practices, Yukon Development Corporation will focus on the following: facilitating stable and predictable long-term electricity rates; planning and developing electricity and related energy infrastructure; developing and implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and services; and introducing new technologies to facilitate cost-savings for households, commercial, industry and government sectors, working in collaboration with the private sector, federal and territorial government agencies, electrical utilities, conservation organizations, Yukon First Nations and municipalities.
Mr. Chair, members are familiar with the fact that the Yukon Development Corporation is normally appropriated $1 through the main estimates. This reflects the self-financing nature of the corporation and the fact that the board of directors is responsible for supervising the management of the corporation within the mandate prescribed by the Legislature under the Yukon Development Corporation Act.
There is also a capital line item for the one-time $3-million contribution from our government to extend the bill relief program known as rate stabilization fund, or RSF. This expenditure was presented to members last year and authorized by the Legislature through the First Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
For completeness, it is included in this restatement of the 2002-03 capital estimates. The $3-million contribution will be combined with funds remaining in the rate stabilization fund at March 31, 2002, and up to $7.8 million from Yukon Development Corporation over three years. The $12-million total will extend the rate stabilization fund to March 31, 2005. The rate stabilization fund will continue to subsidize electrical bills for basic levels of monthly consumption for residential, commercial and municipal customers.
Since our government assumed office, we have introduced many new energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives together with technical services and program outreach through the Energy Solutions Centre, and moved ahead with electrical infrastructure planning and construction.
This important work will continue in the year ahead. Strategic investments in energy programs, services and infrastructure provide multiple benefits. These include: significant energy cost-savings for households, business and governments; enhanced local energy expertise and capability; business activity to design and implement energy projects and building retrofits; regional economic diversification; as well as reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
We also lower utility generation costs and improve use of surplus hydro capacity, which helps to alleviate pressures to rate increases.
The benefits for Yukoners are real. The results are tangible and our success is being recognized across the country through national awards for the accomplishments of the Yukon government, Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation, as well as Yukon architects and energy innovators.
This government celebrates the fact that our ability to develop and deliver practical home-grown energy solutions is made possible by cooperation among public and private sectors, as well as the pooling of financial and technical resources and the continuing hard work of dedicated Yukoners.
It is our firm belief that these strategic investments will enable consumer bills to remain predictable and affordable both now and well into the future, and they will help to rebuild the Yukon economy and restore confidence in government.
This concludes my opening remarks, and Iím ready to field any questions from members opposite as we carry on with general debate on this department and into line-by-line.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the minister for that overview. I do have a number of questions in several areas with respect to this corporation and the governmentís handling of this corporation. Mr. Chair, I canít help but wonder, as I look over the strategic goals of the corporation set out by this government, what exactly is new within that framework.
For example, we have a section on rebuilding the Yukon economy. Within that framework, we have several corporation objectives, such as "facilitate stable and predictable long-term electricity rates" and energy cost-savings.
Thatís a motherhood-and-apple-pie statement that has been around for, well, since 1987 when the corporation was set up. I believe itís even indoctrinated in the Yukon Development Corporation mandate. Thereís another one ó "Support Yukon Energyís efforts to provide safe, reliable cost-effective power to Yukon homes, businesses and governments." Again, Mr. Chair, that wording is extremely familiar. I believe you can find that reflected in Yukon Development Corporationís mandate.
So what we really have within this government framework that the minister just ballyhooed is just a reorganization of what the corporation already set out as its goals, priorities and mandates ó a reorganization within this government framework to make it appear as if the Liberal government is actually doing something and giving new direction to this corporation.
Well, Mr. Chair, talk about a smoke-and-mirrors display here and trying to take credit for something the government never really did. If Iíve ever seen an illusion, this has to be it.
Another concern I have is how it appears there is some politicization happening with respect to the corporation and how it fits into the governmentís so-called priorities. The example I just read identified the government priority as rebuilding the Yukon economy. And I ask you, Mr. Chair, if that is a political statement, or is that a political statement? Weíre dealing with a corporation that, it has been said by the Liberals, should be at armís-length, and we clearly see a political government priority for which the corporation has reconfigured its priorities to fit into. So just off the top, there are some serious concerns about what is taking place with respect to this accountability plan the government has tabled within this budget.
Now, I know the minister is going to be able to answer all our questions accurately and with sufficient detail, because he has probably had about five or six days of briefings now while he was waiting for the conclusion of the debate on the previous corporation, Yukon Housing Corporation, which, by the way, Mr. Chair, usually lasts about half a day but was extended to about four or five days. So the minister should be fully briefed on his corporation.
I would like to start by asking the minister if he can identify for us any changes made to previous positions and undertakings stated by previous Liberal ministers of this corporation. This is a common question. I asked it to the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, of course, and I would like to ask the minister: are there any changes to what was stated previously?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to begin, Iíd like to do a quick outline for the Member for Kluane of some of the energy achievements of this government ó many of which were started by the previous minister, the Member for Porter Creek North, and have been continued by me since assuming responsibility for the Yukon Development Corporation in January of this year.
The Energy Solutions Centre officially opened in March 2001. Last year we began construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line ó a $22-million price tag that will provide short-term economic opportunities as well as important infrastructure through an important transportation corridor in the central Yukon.
As I mentioned in my overview, weíve extended the rate stabilization fund with an appropriation of $12 million. The fund is extended until March 31, 2005. Weíve received a number of national energy awards in the two years that weíve been in government for energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts by this government.
Off the top of my head, I canít think of any new directions that weíve taken since the former minister has no longer been in that capacity.
With that, Iíll invite more questions from the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Finally, after all that bluster about how the Liberal government is simply continuing all the NDP initiatives, we get to the answer to my question.
If the minister is prompted by any recollection of how his direction and positions on the issues differ from previous ministers, I would invite him to identify those differences for us in this Legislature because, as we know, Mr. Chair, this matter is of paramount importance if we, in opposition, must hold the government accountable for what it says and does.
One other area I would like to touch on before getting into specifics is how this government spins the messages to the public about these awards it has earned, specifically with respect to awards such as the ones on climate change and energy policies and so on. The minister never gives any credit where credit is due, and I want to be careful as well, Mr. Chair, because I do want to maintain my reputation of modesty and not remind everybody how it was the previous governmentís energy commission that developed policy that led to all of these awards. But I must say that I am constantly reminded ó and I have run into people on the street who are involved in the departments and corporations, and I am constantly reminded by them ó that it was the commissionís energy policy that led to those awards being earned and the policy being followed through on.
I know there is another dimension to this, Mr. Chair. These awards would not be possible without the hard work, dedication, experience and expertise of all the employees of the corporations and those elsewhere in government who have been working on these initiatives.
To be fair, I would expect the minister to be a little more generous when giving out the credit and taking all the credit himself for such things as these awards and the Energy Solutions Centre and so on. Another example is the commercial-scale wind turbine atop Haeckel Hill. That is the second turbine. We know that that was a direct result of the previous governmentís expenditure of a couple of million dollars back in September 1998. It is unfortunate that the installation was delayed until this Liberal government came in. We saw how this government handled the situation ó never giving any credit to the previous government at all. We have to ask ourselves, in this situation of a minority government and at a time when Yukoners are asking themselves what type of government they want in the territory ó we have to really try to be a little more humble and be a little more precise when it comes to giving credit where credit is due.
Having said that, I would like to move to the first area which deals with energy policy. Iíve noticed several references by this Liberal government to the term "our energy policy". I would like to ask the minister: does this government have an energy policy that it is using, and what is it?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to respond to some of the comments that were made by the Member for Kluane when he was last on his feet, if he just looks back at the Blues tomorrow and sees the opening remarks, heíll see that I did give credit to a number of individuals for the work that they have done in helping the Yukon achieve the awards: the Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation, Yukon architects and energy innovators. There are a number of hard-working, dedicated Yukoners who deserve a lot of support for the awards that we did receive and the national recognition that we get for energy efficiency.
I look back to a speech delivered by the Member for Porter Creek North last year, when he was the minister responsible, and if I can quote from that speech that he delivered, "I want to emphasize that these successes could not have been possible without the cooperation of our public and private sector energy partners, from the socio-economic agreements reached with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nations for the transmission line, to the Yukon Conservation Society acting as the delivery agent for the house calls energy efficiency program, to the memorandum of understanding reached with the Yukon zone of the B.C and Yukon Hotels Association and Tourism Industry Association of Yukon to the cooperation of Yukon Energy and the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. on the renewable power sales incentive program. This award is a reflection of collective efforts fused with innovation."
Mr. Chair, that was a speech delivered by the former minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation.
I believe it was last October when we were receiving an efficiency award, so this government does give credit where credit is due. We realize we have a number of partners in energy efficiency, and Iím sorry that we have hurt the Member for Kluaneís feelings by not including him on that list.
As far as energy policy goes, the responsibility for setting energy policy lies within the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and I would be happy to deal with that in further detail with the Member for Kluane when weíre discussing that department.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I can see the gloves are off with this minister. Itís not hard to tell that this minister has really developed his political skills following Warren Kinsellaís speech to the Liberal Party on how to manipulate public opinion. Itís very clear that Mr. Kinsellaís teachings are producing dividends for this minister.
I would like to point out to the minister that his version of the taking-credit issue was somewhat distorted from what I had said, and I wonder if he was even listening at the time. With respect to the issue of energy policy, once again, this Liberal government is not being open and accountable. Instead, it chooses to try to shuffle the opposition into other areas for answers to questions, and we all know how that works, Mr. Chair. Iíve stood up previously and elaborated a few times that, when the occasion does come, the government simply has another excuse about how it should have been discussed previously in another slot.
So, weíve learned from that experience. Iím going to have to make a case to this minister that we are dealing with the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. We see, within the framework of this so-called accountability plan tabled in this budget for this very department, less mention of governmentís energy policy and so on and so forth, yet the minister for some reason has decided to try to shuffle us out of this whole area.
The question I asked was very simple and itís one that Yukoners want to know. Iíll repeat it for the minister. What energy policy is this government using? What energy policy is it referring to when it says "our energy policy?" Can he tell us that, please?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I would invite the Member for Kluane to turn to page 8A-6 in the accountability plan that is, of course, under the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Under goal 3.4, heíll note that the objective stated there is to provide energy policy leadership and energy program coordination, including support of alternate energy programs.
There are four key strategies associated with that and, since we have yet to discuss the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Iíd be more than willing to discuss the energy policy initiatives with the Member for Kluane at that time.
There are a number of things that Yukon Development Corporation is undertaking to deliver the mandate and follow Yukon Energy policy principles. Included in that are to plan and support infrastructure developments that enable a reliable supply of cost-effective electrical power for Yukon consumers as well as sustainable economic development. Weíre also going to develop renewable alternatives and facilitate efficient use of energy, including, but not limited to, delivery of the green power, wind research and development of energy efficiency initiatives.
As you can see, there are quite a few links between the Yukon Development Corporation and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, so when the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is up for debate in the coming weeks I would certainly be more than willing to get into the policy discussions in broader detail with the Member for Kluane at that time.
Mr. McRobb: This is really embarrassing for this Liberal government. My reaction to what the minister said is simply, "So what?" The reference he directs me to in the budget for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on page 8A-6 is something Iím familiar with. I have read it more than a few times now. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, this government has directed me to that page on a previous occasion during this sitting. So why are they repeating these useless directions instead of answering a very simple question? Is that a sign of being open and accountable? I hardly think so.
Now, the examples the minister gave do not constitute an energy policy by any stretch of the imagination.
Mr. Chair, some of us recall how the lone Liberal member, formerly of Riverside prior to the 1996 election, went on and on and on repeatedly demanding a comprehensive energy policy from the government at the time. Itís amazing to see the shift in Liberal priorities since that time, as we saw the minister stand up and read a list of projects that heís now calling an energy policy. Well, I recall the previous Member for Riverside ó I would suppose he can also be referred to as this ministerís political predecessor in that riding ó repeatedly chastising the government for an energy policy and calling for the development of a comprehensive energy policy.
In 1996, the previous government recognized that need and developed the energy commission, which produced an energy policy ó a comprehensive energy policy at that. I want to zero in on this question. Does this government not recognize the comprehensive energy policy produced by the energy commission as the de facto energy policy, and if not, where is the replacement?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iíll again repeat for the Member for Kluane that it is the responsibility of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to provide energy policy leadership and energy program coordination, including support of alternate energy programs, as stated in our accountability plan goal 3.4. Included in that are the opportunities for us to review existing energy policies, undertake development of a comprehensive and integrated Yukon energy policy, as well as coordinating Yukon Energy programs in cooperation with the Yukon Development Corporation and other partners. Should the Member for Kluane wish to get into more detail about energy policy and those types of questions, I would be more than happy to do so in debate on the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McRobb: Well, good luck. This minister is simply reading from the budget book and is not answering the question.
Mr. Chair, this is a question of importance to Yukoners and it is a very simple question. If this government canít answer it, there is something terribly wrong here.
The Liberals have repeatedly said there must be an energy policy in place in the territory, and this minister is unable to identify what that policy is. We know that in the first sitting of this Legislature under this Liberal government, it was dealing with the report I previously identified as its de facto energy policy. As a matter of fact, I asked for an update on the implementation plan and was provided with a full update report on that plan.
But somewhere along the road, Mr. Chair, in the past year and a half, things seem to have changed drastically. Well, at what time did this so-called accountable Liberal government identify to Yukoners that things have changed?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As Iíll state again for the Member for Kluane, energy policy leadership and energy program coordination is the responsibility of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and I would be more than happy to discuss these issues and answer those questions when we are in general debate and/or line-by-line debates in that department, which I expect will come within the next couple of weeks.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the ministerís failure to answer this very simple question really demonstrates a clear lack of direction and responsibility from this government. The minister repeatedly tries to refer us to another department at another point in time. The minister must realize, when weíre dealing with the Yukon Development Corporation, which is the sole owner of the Yukon Energy Corporation, we are in fact dealing with departments or corporations that fall within the governmentís energy policy bailiwick and, therefore, this is a fair question. But the minister has refused to answer.
Well, Mr. Chair, the rules in this Legislature donít allow for us in opposition to force the government to respond appropriately or exactly to questions. We have to live with what we get, so Iíll recognize that. But Iíll put the minister on notice: I will be asking these questions in the other department. Iíll also put him on notice that it really is not very good of this government to take the approach he has done this afternoon. A simple answer to the question would have been the way to go.
It will affect the remainder of my questions, because not knowing what this governmentís energy policy is really puts a dark cloud over this part of the budget, and the minister should be aware of that. This is certainly a blemish on the ministerís record.
I want to put on record, Mr. Chair, that I will be asking the minister for another update on the implementation plan of the Cabinet Commission on Energyís final report. With this advance notice, I would hope that that update arrives before we get to the appropriate department.
I want to turn now to the governance relationship. When we referred to governance relationships with respect to the Energy Corporation and Development Corporation, of course weíre talking not only about the relationship between Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon government, but also Energy, Mines and Resources, which is another government department.
I would ask the minister to explain exactly what government model is being used that delineates what this relationship is.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just in response to some of the comments made by the Member for Kluane about the energy commission and the implementation of the energy policy, I would, in the spirit of cooperation, be more than willing to provide him with an update prior to debate on the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Turning to the corporate governance model, weíve linked the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to the Yukon Development Corporation in the manner of having a common minister for both. As well, the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources will serve double duty as the president of the Yukon Development Corporation.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources will be responsible for the policy directives related to energy and energy development, and the corporation will be responsible for the delivery of that policy.
One model that we did take a look at was the Yukon Liquor Corporation in doing that, and the corporate governance amendments that are before the House right now apply to the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the Yukon Housing Corporation, as well as the Yukon Development Corporation, where there will be common ministers.
I would hope that answers the Member for Kluaneís question.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís a partial answer to the question.
Clearly the government has its tentacles well integrated into these so-called "independent" corporations. I would like to ask the minister to elaborate, if he would, on the reporting lines between the entities identified in my previous question, especially with respect to positions such as the president, chair, chief executive officer, the board and deputy minister.
What are the reporting lines for those positions within the government?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I stated in my previous answer, Iím the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources. Linked to the Energy, Mines and Resources portfolio is the Yukon Development Corporation. The Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources also serves as the president of the Yukon Development Corporation. Weíve maintained a separate board for Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation, as well as ó of course there is a separate president for the Yukon Energy Corporation. The chair of the board also reports to me as well.
Hopefully that answers the questions of the Member for Kluane regarding the links between myself and the deputy minister and the corporations, under the new board governance.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, it doesnít fully answer the question. It answers part of the question. What Iím trying to achieve here is to get this government on record on how these reporting lines are established. The purpose in doing so is to clearly peg out where the avenues are for political direction and the reporting lines back to the government.
Perhaps, Mr. Chair, it would be best if the minister would undertake to return to me a written explanation that really does provide the detail Iím looking for because I just donít think itís going to happen in debate here this afternoon insofar as being satisfactory to this question.
Would the minister undertake to provide a legislative return perhaps that clearly delineates the positions for the departments and corporations that I have identified? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iíd be more than happy to provide that information for the Member for Kluane. Perhaps, prior to debate tomorrow or after debate this evening, we could discuss in detail, outside the Legislative Chamber, what he is looking for so that there isnít a further exchange of correspondence and we can cover it all off with one return.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair, and I do appreciate the cooperation demonstrated by the minister. I would also like to request the update on the CCE final report to be provided in the same format as the previous reply was.
I would also like the minister, when providing the positions and the reporting lines, to indicate which of those are government appointees.
I would like to ask the minister what possibilities exist within the governance relationship for government to pass on direction to the corporations. Can he identify what the possibilities are? For instance, can direction be provided through the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, who is also subbing as the president of the Yukon Development Corporation? Is that one such possibility? What are the others? Can the minister identify what they are for us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Under the Yukon Development Corporation Act, there is, of course, provision for direction by OIC. With the new reporting lines, itís very important that the work of government corporations be coordinated with the work of government departments. These will, of course, minimize overlaps and duplication, as well as conflicts between government and corporate activities. I think itís very, very important that we cooperate and work with the Yukon Development Corporation Board in working toward common goals for Yukoners that will improve energy efficiency and work toward the betterment of energy delivery and stable rates for Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go, more motherhood and apple pie but very little substance with respect to the question.
I am well aware that the order-in-council route is another one of the possibilities that exist for government to pass on direction, but what I am asking is, what are the other possibilities? Would the minister feel more comfortable in getting back to me with some material?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I failed to mention in my previous answer that there is a great deal of collaboration between the board and the department on developing the accountability plan as well for Yukon Development Corporation. It was of course approved by the board before it was put into the budget as an accountability plan.
As far as the deputy heads of the department and being presidents of the corporation, the presidents of the corporations are already appointed by the government and have a dual responsibility to the board and to the minister. The Corporate Governance Act does not change this aspect of the presidentís role. The act provides for protocol agreements to be made to explicitly resolve any perceived conflicts that may already exist.
So, Mr. Chair, if the Member for Kluane does want further detail than what I have provided here this afternoon, I would be more than willing to get that to him as well.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, I would like more detail. I would like a comprehensive response to my previous question. The minister can just nod to that and Iíll acknowledge. He did nod, Mr. Chair.
So, weíll move on. I would also like to know whether such direction is as transparent and accountable as this government would like Yukoners to believe.
The accountability plan indicates that such political direction will be open and accountable. I would like to ask the minister if any and all direction from the political arm of government that ends up directing the corporations will be clearly visible and open to the public and something the government could be held accountable for, or are there any means by which it can be concealed from public circumspection?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Certainly that is the premise behind us introducing accountability plans. Some of the things that we are trying to accomplish with the corporate governance is that we want to enable corporations to carry out government programs where they can be effective. But we also want to be sure that policy and programs developed by the corporations are closely coordinated with government policy and programs.
I think one of the most important things to do is to establish the long-term relationships between the corporations and the departments. With Yukon Development Corporation, of course, itís going to be very important that the corporations are going to be aligned with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, which is, as Iíve said here earlier today, responsible for energy policy.
As well, the protocol agreements between the minister, corporate board and president to ensure the close coordination between corporations and aligned government departments is very important coming out of the Corporate Governance Act.
So, as far as accountability goes, I would expect us to be very open and accountable and cooperate closely with the board as we work on energy policy development and the activities of the corporation.
Mr. McRobb: That did not answer the question, which asked the minister to identify any means that are not clearly open and identifiable by the public for which direction can be passed to the corporations. Could he take a second whack at that one, please?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The nature of government, of course, is to be very open and accountable, and thatís why we have developed the accountability plans and published them with the O&M mains, and we will continue to do so on a yearly basis so that, as you go through the accountability plan for YDC, for Energy, Mines and Resources, for Infrastructure and for any of the departments listed in the budget, we will be open and accountable for everything that is contained within those plans.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, weíre not getting an answer to a very simple question. Instead, the minister stands up and regurgitates this Lib-speak that does not address the question.
Once again, are there any means by which the government can pass direction to the corporations that are not clearly identifiable, open and accountable to the public?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, Iím not aware of any means whereby that could take place. We are open and accountable for everything.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to ask the minister what his views are on the armís-length relationship with respect to the corporations.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Of course, itís my responsibility to oversee the policy developments through the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and the armís-length board is responsible for delivering those policy directives. I think itís very important that we continue to maintain that type of relationship, keeping in mind that itís important to cooperate with one another and move forward so there is no duplication or overlap in program delivery or policy.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not asking about overlap in program delivery. I was trying to get on record the ministerís views on the supposed armís-length relationship between government and these corporations.
Obviously I have to explain this a bit more for the minister. Sometimes thereís a question about how long the governmentís arm really is. Does the government have a short arm or a long arm? What that means in tangible terms, Mr. Chair, is how independently do the corporations operate? If the government has a short arm, then obviously the corporations are abiding by common government directives. If the relationship has a long arm, then of course the corporation is more independent.
Now, weíve heard the upside of the armís-length relationship from the minister, but weíve heard nothing about the downside to the armís-length relationship, so Iíll just take a few seconds to set that out.
Mr. Chair, the downside of a short-arm relationship between the political level of government and the so-called independent corporations may result in political undertakings being done by the corporation, such as we see in this accountability plan framework that Iíve identified the concern with previously today. It may also result in priorities that are politically motivated. It may also result in an expenditure of funds that is politically motivated, and the list goes on and on, Mr. Chair.
I think the minister must get the idea. So I recall his predecessor from the Riverside riding going on about this same matter in previous legislatures, Mr. Chair. So I would expect the former memberís understudy to be well versed about the memberís concerns.
So this is not a foreign subject to this minister, yet weíre failing to get a substantial answer from him. I would like to know again what the ministerís views are on this armís-length relationship, and just how long this Liberal governmentís arm is.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, itís the intent of this government to enable the boards to fulfill their legislative mandates and to operate at armís-length in areas where that is essential to the mandate. Some of the provisions of the governance legislation that we have introduced are, of course, long-term relationships between the corporation and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the corporate presidents. As I mentioned before, the deputy minister of the aligned department will be the president of the corresponding corporation ó in this case, the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources will be the president of Yukon Development Corporation.
As far as Cabinet directives go, there will be a formal public mechanism to provide clear direction, to which government corporations must comply. And, of course, I want to mention the protocol agreements again between the minister, the corporate board and president to ensure that there is close coordination between corporations and to align government departments. Again, Mr. Chair, in this case it would be the Yukon Development Corporation and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
We also want corporations to be able to work very closely with government departments so that we are not unnecessarily duplicating operational support resources ó I think that is a very important point to make as we move through the new Corporate Governance Act ó and we also want to achieve transparency. The accountability regimes must be simple, clear and consistent between the affected corporations of Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Housing Corporation and Yukon Liquor Corporation. I think it is important that we maintain the armís-length relationship with the board but also cooperate on scales where we can ensure that duplication doesnít occur between efforts that we are trying to achieve.
Mr. McRobb: We are getting motherhood statements again that can apply in both a short-arm and a long-arm relationship between the political level of government and the so-called independent corporations.
The minister speaks about the need for great cohesion between what the corporations and the government departments are doing. Well, this is nothing new. This is something that previous governments have all identified as a concern and took appropriate actions to achieve cohesion between the entities.
The ministerís response was not all that helpful. Iíll try to deal with him later when reviewing the energy policy matter, Mr. Chair, in the interest of moving along this afternoon.
But I have one more question with respect to being armís-length. I would like to ask the minister if he sees a problem with respect to being armís-length and having the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources also act as president of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With respect to the question raised by the Member for Kluane about possible conflicts between the deputy minister being the president of Yukon Development Corporation as well as the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, department and corporation responsibilities, as I mentioned before, should not and do not conflict with one another because both serve the same public and the same government. Any improvement in cooperation and coordination will be of benefit to the public.
I certainly donít see any conflict-of-interest issues with the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources also serving double duty as the president of the corporation. So I think itís important to note that I agree that we should maintain the armís-length relationship between the corporation and government but there is also a degree of cooperation that must exist between the two to better serve the public good.
Mr. McRobb: I know this minister used to work at the fruit stand, but the more I listen to him ó Iím beginning to believe he fell off the turnip truck, because to have us believe there is no contradiction between the priorities of the Yukon Energy Corporation per se and the Yukon government is really fantasy. The corporation is in the business of churning a profit.
Now, Mr. Chair, I have participated, as the minister knows, in several hearings before the Yukon Utilities Board and can count the multiple instances where the corporation took positions that clearly were in favour of increased profits and increased revenues.
I ask, Mr. Chair, are those the same priorities of this Liberal government ó to increase profits and revenues on the backs of Yukoners?
Well, Mr. Chair, I donít think so. Not even I would agree to that contention. So this boils down to a clear contradiction and what could best be termed as a naive understanding of any similarities between the Yukon government and this particular corporation. But we will perhaps get back to this at a later date, because I think thereís a lot of fertile soil here for further questions for this minister on the position he has set out.
I would like to ask the minister, before moving off the governance area, who selected the new chair of the Energy and Development corporations? Was it the government or the YDC board itself?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Of course, the Yukon Development Corporation was one of the boards that we put forth for appointments in the all-party committee that was, unfortunately, unsuccessful. So, as far as the chair of the board for the Yukon Development Corporation goes, that appointment was made by caucus in Cabinet.
Mr. McRobb: So we have it on record that the selection of the new chair for the independent corporations was a Liberal political decision only, done by the minister and, well, maybe the corner suite upstairs. Weíre not quite sure; maybe some of the other Cabinet members shared in this decision. Perhaps weíll never know.
Mr. Chair, I note that the chair of the so-called independent boards has only seven monthsí experience served. I would like to ask the minister: is he confident that this chair has the necessary experience to do the job of chairing these fundamentally important corporations?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The person in question is a very well-respected member of the Yukon business community and the Yukon legal community, and I think he brings a multitude of characteristics and requirements to the position of chair of the Yukon Development Corporation Board, and Iím fully confident that heíll be able to carry on as a very effective chair of the Yukon Development Corporation. I think that we as Yukoners are very fortunate to have such an eminently qualified person in that position.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thank you for another serving of motherhood and apple pie, Mr. Chair. But I want to zero in on something in this Yukon government news release, no. 091, because it claims this appointment serves consumer interests. Can the minister explain how that is achieved?
Hon. Mr. Kent: My apologies, Mr. Chair, I didnít hear you recognize me. Of course, as the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation who is responsible for delivering the energy programs or policies to Yukoners, I think it is very much in the interest of Yukoners and Yukon consumers that we have an extremely qualified chair in that position. The gentleman in question, as I mentioned in my previous answer, is eminently qualified, and I am quite confident that he will do a fine job of serving as chair of the Yukon Development Corporation which, as Iíve just mentioned, is responsible for delivering energy efficiency programs and those types of initiatives to Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we are certainly getting ó nobody will leave this Chamber hungry today. We see the press release outlining this personís experience, and the press release says he practises in the areas of corporate law, securities, mining, business purchase and sales, commercial real estate and secured financing. Yet the Liberal press release wants the public to believe that this chair will protect consumer interests. I am asking the minister where in this personís resume is there any experience with respect to consumer interests?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The gentleman in question ó I unfortunately donít have a copy of the press release in front of me, but the person in question is, as Iíve mentioned, eminently qualified to serve as the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation. Of course, I believe it was either this past summer, or possibly the summer of 2000, when we invited members opposite to sit on an all-party committee with the responsibility of appointments to boards and committees. They chose not to do so, so we made the appointment to the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, and itís the responsibility of the Yukon Development Corporation that consumer interests are protected. And Iím sure that the new chair will carry that out in a very effective and responsible way, and weíre quite fortunate and proud to have that gentleman serving as the chair of Yukon Development Corporation.
Mr. McRobb: Weíre not getting down to the crux of the question. I think itís understandable why. There is no answer from this Liberal government. In fact, probably the closest answer is what they outlined at the beginning of this afternoon. This Liberal government is becoming very well versed in the Warren Kinsella approach to public opinion.
We see words now being integrated into press releases and so on ó something commonly referred in other jurisdictions as "Lib-speak". What weíre seeing are terms arising, like "consumer interest" and so on, in the public messaging. I think weíve hit the nail on the head about where this government has learned it, and what weíre seeing are the results of that education. But is that good government? Is that what Yukoners expected from a government that promised to do things better, that promised to be open and accountable, and so on?
Well, perhaps we might find out soon enough what the public thinks about this government.
Mr. Chair, I believe I witnessed an accident in the hallway between the Health minister and the Premier. Itís just another indication of how this Liberal ship of fools is on a collision course and is gathering water ó
Chair: Order please.
That is not only casting aspersions ó there are so many rules broken by that in the Standing Orders that I will ask immediate withdrawal.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. McRobb: I apologize, Mr. Chair, and immediately withdraw that term.
In the interest of moving on, I want to turn to the area of accountability, because we see structured within this budget the accountability plan for this department ó one in which the minister proudly stands up and ballyhoos.
Now, the Premier committed to this House to introduce legislation to amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act. Where is that legislation?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The amendments to the act are reflected in the Corporate Governance Act. They are a specific part of that act.
Mr. McRobb: That doesnít cut it, Mr. Chair. The Premier specifically referred to introducing legislation to amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act. Obviously itís not here. Furthermore, the minister undertook to introduce this legislation by last fall. Now, I would like to know why that wasnít done and why this legislation wasnít introduced as told to this House.
Hon. Mr. Kent: In the ministerial statement delivered by the Premier in November of 2000, she stated that the amendments to the Yukon Development Corporation Act would be brought forward during this term in office. So I believe that weíre ahead of schedule in that regard. The amendments, of course, are reflected in the Corporate Governance Act that is currently before this House.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go again, Mr. Chair. The Liberal government has promised one thing in this House, yet we see something else completely different happening. We see all kinds of opportunities where this government takes a message to the public of what it is doing. Yet when the course changes in the corner suite upstairs, where is the correction message to the public? In this case, we would have expected something in this Legislature, at least, to the effect that government would not be bringing in legislation to amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act by the fall of 2001, and perhaps something that that undertaking has somehow transformed into this nebulous accountability plan that was introduced half a year later. Well, did that happen, Mr. Chair? Clearly, the answer is no, it did not happen. Again, this is a blemish on the accountability of this Liberal government.
Now, the Premier stated that all policy directives would be tabled in this House. I would like to ask the minister has that promise been honoured?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, perhaps I can go through some of the issues surrounding the Corporate Governance Act and how that will change the Yukon Development Corporation Act, as of course the Corporate Governance Act is before the Legislature in its current sitting.
This act will establish long-term relationships between specified departments and corporations. It will provide a mechanism whereby government can provide direction to boards in an explicit and transparent manner. It will provide additional clarity and consistency between corporations regarding the employment of officers and staff and, of course, it applies not only to the Yukon Development Corporation but also to the Yukon Liquor Corporation and Yukon Housing Corporation.
With respect to the Member for Kluaneís final question, to the best of my knowledge, I donít believe that that has been tabled. I will look into it further and undertake to do so in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: Itís disappointing the minister is unable to respond to that question at this opportunity, Mr. Chair, because I would have preferred the opportunity to follow up on it immediately. Instead, the minister has bought himself lots of time now to come back with his response to that question.
I would like to know: have any policy directions to the corporations been given in the past one-and-a-half years since this undertaking? Perhaps the minister can fold that into whatever response he plans to provide to us.
The Premier also told the House that a letter of understanding to address the issue of interim direction would be developed and signed off with the board of directors for YDC and tabled in this House. Sincerely, I would like to know if that happened and, if it did, could the minister provide me with a copy of that LOU?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Kluane is making reference to ó I believe it was a November ministerial statement when I referenced that letter of understanding. My understanding is that no, that did not occur and that the subsequent transfer of responsibilities to a different minister, and then the development of the accountability and renewal statements and their application of the protocols ó in the governance legislation, we make reference to protocols and the requirement for tabling those in the House. My understanding is that the intent has been followed in the development of the accountability and the work that has been done with the corporation, but the specific letter has not been.
Mr. McRobb: I canít believe that. Again, it replicates my previous response that it is darn necessary for this government to indicate when it changes its mind upstairs on undertakings that are provided to this House. Otherwise, how are we led? How are we led in this House, if we cannot believe what the Premier has told us the government will do?
The Premier said these corporations were transferred to a different minister. Well, that doesnít cut it either. She is still the Premier. As Premier, she is the head of Cabinet, and the minister responsible was a member of Cabinet. So if the Premier made an undertaking ó I know how it works ó there would have been all kinds of requirements for the successive minister to follow through on those undertakings. Where was the message to correct the record? There was none. I will challenge the Premier to prove me wrong.
Was there a correction to the record on this? Well, we donít know of any. This is rather serious because it goes back to how the Liberal government said it would operate. It goes back to the approach the Liberals, since the last campaign, have wanted to build with the public perception about how it operates ó being accountable and open.
When they stand up and say something that they will do in no unclear terms, no mistake about it ó "We will do this," the Premier said. Then later on in following up, we discovered it was not done. In fact there was a decision not to do it.
Well, how does this government believe we in opposition should operate if we have to deal with a moving target all the time? Thatís very difficult. Itís like trying to nail Jello to the wall. Itís getting very difficult to hold this Liberal government accountable.
The spin ó we hear about accountability from this government ó is very ironic. The gap between reality and perception has never been larger.
I want to move on to another area and that is the rate stabilization fund. I would like to ask the minister, when this government continued the successful program established by the previous government in response to a recommendation developed by the Cabinet Commission on Energy ó and that announcement was made in September 1998, has this government made any changes to this program?
Hon. Mr. Kent: This government, in October of last year ó I believe it was October of last year ó when I was the Minister of Economic Development, along with the former minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, announced that we had extended the rate stabilization fund by three years to March of 2005 through an investment of some $12 million.
Just stepping back a second, Mr. Chair, to some of the Member for Kluaneís previous statements about accountability, I think that to this governmentís credit ó and to the credit of my Cabinet and caucus colleagues and to the credit of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who worked very hard on these accountability plans ó they are an extremely useful tool, and they will be a new measure of accountability for Yukon governments, not only now but in the years to come. I think that these are going to provide very useful measures against government performance in the years to come, and Iím proud to be a part of the government that introduced them.
So, just again, touching on what the Member for Kluaneís question was about the rate stabilization fund, we announced an extension of the fund by three years to 2005 through a $12-million investment in that fund.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, the House will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. McRobb: I did want to respond to the preceding as strongly resembling that of an unpaid political announcement brought to you by the taxpayers of the territory.
I would like to ask the minister a little bit more about how this rate stabilization program is funded, because I seem to have heard the figure of $3 million from the government, which is only a small part of the total cost.
Can the minister indicate how much of the program funding that was announced is from the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The $12 million that I alluded to in the previous answer will be paid out from the following areas: there was $1.2 million remaining from the old program; $3 million came from the Yukon governmentís accumulated surplus, and $7.8 million came from Yukon Development Corporation.
Mr. McRobb: That sounds right, Mr. Chair.
Now, the point I would like to make is the difference between how this Liberal program is funded compared to how the previous NDP program was funded. The previous program was funded entirely from government revenues. In other words, the previous Yukon government found the money within its budget to pay for 100 percent of its program ó no ifs, ands or buts about it.
What the Liberal government did was to pay only a quarter of the program ó shame on them, Mr. Chair. Now, was this picked up in the media? No, unfortunately it wasnít. So, many Yukoners can count on us to deliver the message for the first time, even though it comes several months after the decision that was much ballyhooed by the Liberal government for being the largest program ever funded from government.
Well, did that happen? Is that an accurate description of the program? The answer is no.
The Liberal government paid only one-quarter of the program costs. Who paid the rest? Well, it is surprising that nearly half of what the Liberal government paid was paid by the previous NDP government. I refer you to the $1.2 million from the old program identified by the minister. That was left over from the previous program. It helped to pay for the Liberal $12-million rate relief program. So when you look at it, Mr. Chair, the NDP put $1.2 million into this governmentís $12-million RSF and the Liberals put in $3 million. Yet, how was it spun to the public? Obviously, Mr. Kinsella made his presence known before his actual arrival in the territory for his speaking at the Liberal annual general meeting, because the spin here is really quite extraordinary. Now the majority of the funds, the $7.8 million out of the $12 million ó is derived from the Yukon Development Corporation pockets.
That money is nearly 100 percent derived from the ratepayersí pockets. So here we have an example, Mr. Chair, of how the Liberal government used the ratepayersí own money to pay for this big political program that the Liberal government took all the credit for. Again, is that fair? Is that telling it like it is ó and all these other questions? Of course not. Thereís a huge spin put on this, Mr. Chair, and the numbers that Iíve just reviewed, and the allocations of those funds, I believe, tell it like it really is.
Now, I asked the minister originally if he would identify any changes made to the RSF, and we did not receive an unqualified response. So I would like to ask the minister if he would table the working papers that provide the detail on how the rate stabilization fund operates. For further clarification, Mr. Chair, this information would include the formulas by customer class, and so on, in the whole context of rates and everything else.
Mr. Chair, I will undertake, on my own initiative, to research the comparison between the Liberal model and the previous NDP model to find any differences. And I will report back to the House if there are any.
Now, Mr. Chair, Iíd like to ask the minister if he would provide for us the working papers that would satisfy my request.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Is the Member for Kluane referring to the order-in-council that ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kent: Okay, heís explaining to me that he requires the detailed formulas. Iíll have the officials endeavour to put that together for the Member for Kluane.
Again, to reiterate where dollars are coming from for the $12-million extension to the rate stabilization fund: $1.2 million remaining, $3 million from the Yukon governmentís accumulated surplus ó both of those, of course, are Yukon taxpayersí funds ó and $7.8 million from the Yukon Development Corporation, which, of course also belongs to Yukon taxpayersí funds. So it is Yukon taxpayers who are paying for the rate stabilization fund and receiving the benefit in trying to bring some consistency to their electrical bills. So I think itís very important that the Member for Kluane class the dollar amounts from two separate organizations ó being the ratepayers and taxpayers ó but essentially theyíre the same people. This does provide consistency to the electrical bills over the long term, and itís a very important initiative that needed to be continued.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what a stretch, and I would like to perhaps approach this smoke-and-mirrors display in what I feel would be the best way to cut through it, and that is to ask the minister what portion, in percentage terms, of the Yukon Development Corporation revenue is derived from the territoryís ratepayers? What percentage of its revenue comes from that source?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I can get that information for the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously the minister is embarrassed to stand up and say a figure like 95 percent, which is probably very close to the figure, because he would be embarrassed to reveal such information so close to his previous answer that made it look like the Yukon Development Corporation money was taxpayersí money. The truth is that it only becomes taxpayersí money after itís transferred into the coffers of the Yukon Development Corporation.
But as I stated before, it is derived from the territoryís ratepayers. Once again, this program is mostly funded by the ratepayers themselves.
Now, in listening to the ministerís review again of the funding, I was prompted to also realize that, because $3 million of the $12 million was accrued from the Yukon government accumulated surplus, that in fact some of that money is from the previous NDP government, because we know this Liberal government inherited a huge surplus. I believe the Auditor General himself verified that surplus was $64 million.
So, Mr. Chair, Iím left wondering, really, how much of this $12 million came from the Liberal government itself, because most of the $3 million could have easily been fitted into the $64 million NDP surplus that was left at the time of the election, and $1.2 million came from leftovers in the NDP program, and $7.8 million came from the ratepayers themselves. So, really, one could make a very good argument that none of that $12 million actually came from this Liberal government. Yet, compare that to the public messaging associated with the renewal of this program into phase 2 ó compare that. Just look at the press release. I wonít stand here and read it, even though Iím sure I would enjoy reading it, because itís chock full of public messages Iím sure the minister would find embarrassing, but itís not my goal to stand here and embarrass the minister. My goal is to hold this government accountable and try to stake out as much ground as possible in this corporation.
I would like to ask the minister if he would also table an accounting of the costs of this program since it began. For his further clarification, Iím looking for how much money was spent on an annual basis to support the rate stabilization program. Iíd also like to have that broken down by customer class. In other words, how much of that expenditure went toward residential rate stabilization, how much went toward commercial and industrial, and so on.
Would the minister indulge this request?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Of course, I could respond to the initial comments made by the Member for Kluane but, in order to keep the level of debate at the relatively high level we have been enjoying this afternoon, I wonít go there at this time.
Regarding the facts and figures that the Member for Kluane wants with respect to the accounting of the rate stabilization fund, I will have my officials prepare that information for me, and I will table it in this House at the earliest possible time.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that cooperation. I would also like to ask him if he would provide a forecast of what this program is expected to cost in the future. How far in the future? I know itís common to have a five-year plan. Perhaps the minister can table a five-year plan for the costs of the program. Or, I suppose, perhaps a more relevant figure would be to the expiration date of the program ó it would be more appropriate. Can the minister table for us the projected costs on an annual basis by customer class?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes, I can get those figures for the Member for Kluane. I should mention though that, subject to some of the questions raised by him earlier, before the break, the new program has been slightly modified from its predecessor, in that it will be managed within a $12-million cap, and new rate increases arrived at through the normal regulatory process will not be subsidized. However, the current level of bill protection will continue for residential, commercial and municipal consumers. So, the cost will not exceed $12 million between when the program was reintroduced ó when the extension was announced ó and the March 31, 2005, deadline.
Mr. McRobb: Wow. I donít know where to proceed from here. I would like to ask the minister if he would just review what he just said, because I tried to pay particular attention and was unable to follow. I think part of the reason why is that we must appreciate the difference between use of the terms "bills" and "rates". For everybodyís benefit, rates, of course, are what are approved by the independent regulator ó the Yukon Utilities Board. Bills are what the customers are presented with in the end, and the difference, of course, could include any adjustments, such as the rate stabilization fund and any other factors.
So I would ask the minister to repeat that part about how this new program will be qualified with respect to rates and bills.
Hon. Mr. Kent: The RSF is designed to smooth out the impact of any and all adjustments made to charges currently paid by electrical ratepayers, subject to a $12-million cap over three years, which I mentioned in my previous answer. RSF benefits to ratepayers will be adjusted when rates and charges go up or down to ensure that ratepayers will continue to pay no more than the maximum of nine percent above January 1997 bills for basic levels of use. That is, of course, subject to the funding cap of $12 million.
Mr. McRobb: All right. That benchmark sounds awfully familiar. Is that the same benchmark used in the program established by the previous government? I see the minister nodding. That is okay for my use, Mr. Chair. I would presume what he means by the adjusting amount of the benefit ó that again would depend on what the new rates are. For instance, if the new rates are decreased, then the amount of the subsidy would of course be decreased proportionately.
Because weíre going back to that historic benchmark of January 1997, and conversely, if rates are increased, the subsidy ó is the minister saying that the subsidy would be increased or is it held at that previous benchmark? Would the subsidy be increased? Then, of course, what would have to give in the equation is the total cost of the program, which might explain why the $12-million funding is only a cap. Is that what he means?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just for clarification from the Member for Kluane ó and he can do so by nodding ó is he referring to the percentage that I spoke about ó the nine percent?
I see him nodding "yes." That percentage will remain at nine throughout the extension of the rate stabilization fund.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Iím not sure if I got a commitment from the minister to come back with the projected program costs by customer class ó I see him nodding. Thatís fine. Obviously it would be impossible for that projection to be based on any rates other than what are in place now. So, at current rates it would also be acceptable.
Now, when weíre talking about subsidy programs, that brings up a number of issues. One of them has to deal with the amount of the gap between bills and rates. We know that the corporation has identified strategies to close the gap between those two. Can the minister undertake to provide us with a comprehensive update on what strategies are being applied to tackle that situation?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I will refer the Member for Kluane back to the accountability plan, page 15A-4, goal 1.3, in which the key strategy there is to "lead efforts to achieve long-term stable and predictable electrical rates and contribute to measures that Ďclose the gapí between bills and cost-based rates through strategic investments, incentives, and innovation."
Some of the long-term solutions that weíre undertaking to close the gap I will list here for the Member for Kluane: residential and commercial energy efficiency and cost-saving programs. For example, there are about 1,600 households that have benefited from an average of $215 savings each year through the house calls program. Of course, in March of 2001, we opened the new Energy Solutions Centre to provide technical services and coordinate delivery of territorial and federal energy programs. Thereís the electrical infrastructure developments, which will lower the long-term costs of energy supply. This includes the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. Weíve also increased the use of renewable energy to reduce the fluctuations in electrical rates caused by changes in international prices for fossil fuels. And weíre encouraging the utilities to hold the line on cost. These are a sample of some of the initiatives that weíre doing to close the gap and bring more long-term, stable solutions to the Yukonís electrical rate initiatives that we have here in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for standing up and reading a list of some of those initiatives; however, it would probably expedite this afternoonís proceedings if he would just table a complete list and that would allow us to move on. If he would just nod to that effect, we would move on ó and that is acknowledged, Mr. Chair.
Iíd like to turn to the area of rates. Can the minister indicate when the corporation is expected to seek the next rate hearing before its regulator, the Yukon Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Kent: That is a decision of Yukon Energy, which of course is an armís-length corporation, but my understanding is that they have no current plans to seek a hearing with the Yukon Utilities Board about rates.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate when the last GRA took place?
Hon. Mr. Kent: In 1996-97.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister may have provided what the test years of the application were. What Iím looking for is when the hearing took place. Can he give us the month and year when that happened?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, off the top of my head ó Iím not familiar with that so, rather than provide inaccurate information to the House, I can find out, unless of course the Member for Kluane is familiar with that date. Then he could possibly just provide it for the House. I have a feeling that he may be familiar with that date.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think the ministerís previous answer indicates that it was probably about six years ago. That seems like an incredibly long period of time. Historically, the corporation would apply for rates every two years. Now, all of that changed as a result of the policy development under the energy commission, which pronounced that government would like to see extended test periods for ó I believe it was up to five years. This had benefits, presumably, to ratepayers and the corporation, in that the hearings would occur far less regularly ó once every five years, as opposed to once every two years.
So, following up on this, we see there probably hasnít been a GRA for about six years, which is more than the five years set out, and there isnít one on the near-term horizon. By the way, Mr. Chair, these hearings are very important, not only for setting rates, which could include rate decreases, but they are also important opportunities to hold the corporation accountable. Without these opportunities to scrutinize the corporationís budgets, really, itís a stretch to believe that theyíre being held accountable. Itís very comparable to the Government of Yukon bringing a budget before the Legislature every six or seven years. We can all imagine what that would do to accountability.
So, I would like to ask the minister, once again, about this matter of the next general rate application. If he doesnít have any concerns about it being such a long period between these opportunities, and if he would undertake to do something about it, when might we expect the next GRA to occur?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As far as applications for rate increases, it is up to the utilities to file and, as Iíve said, or as the Member for Kluane stated, there hasnít been one for what he said was approximately six years. Our indications from Yukon Energy Corporation are that there wonít be one in the foreseeable future. Just getting back to what I said, it is up to the utilities to apply for rate increases. It is not my responsibility.
Mr. McRobb: I have two problems with that. Number one, the minister is only relating hearings to rate increases. I mentioned there are also opportunities for rate decreases, and I will get back to that in a minute.
In terms of the opportunities for the hearing, what if the board of directors feels that it is advantageous to go on indefinitely without being held accountable before its regulator? There is something else that twigs to mind on this, and that is the regulated rate of return. Because the corporation is profit driven and its profits are regulated by the board, letís be clear there is no strict rule prohibiting the corporation from over earning beyond whatever rate of return is deemed appropriate by the board. Situations like that have occurred, at the expense of the ratepayers, I might add. In the present situation, if the rates being charged are higher than they should be, then, of course, the corporation is raking in higher revenues than it should be and, presumably, is making higher profits than it should be.
Now, what would you expect the board of directors to do about this? Are they going to sound the alarm and say, "Hey, you know, weíre over-earning here, we should approach the YUB and set new rates"? Just what do you expect to happen?
Now, Yukoners donít know what the situation is until there is a hearing and full disclosure and accountability. That was an area I was going to go into a little later, but it seems timely to address it now.
I understand there is a need for a rate decrease. What is happening is Yukoners are being denied a rate decrease because of this stall tactic demonstrated by the Liberal government in taking no action to get the corporation before the regulator and set appropriate rates.
Now, the previous governmentís policy indicated that the time span without hearings can extend to as much as five years. We are past that mark already. So, now, this is a political issue because itís the responsibility of the Liberal government to set the pace and provide direction. But if what we believe is correct, and there has been no direction given to the corporation, then itís clear that the Liberal government is asleep at the switch. In the meantime, ratepayers could be overcharged.
Now, itís sort of a double whammy. In this scenario, not only are ratepayers overcharged, but the rate stabilization that comes back to them is mostly funded by themselves. In the meanwhile, the Liberal government is taking all this credit for all the political buzzwords of "stabilizing rates," "more affordability" and terms like "consumer interest" and so on.
And I think itís high time that we expose this game here in the Legislature because itís one more area where this government has escaped relatively scot-free until now. And it really sheds some light on a critical area that reveals what this government is all about.
Now, Iíve given the minister some time to think about his answer to the question about a rate decrease, and Iíll throw out a few other factors that would support the need for a rate decrease at this time: (1) the rate driver impact following the Anvil Range Mining Corporation closure and the issue of the bad debt has now passed, and the bad debt has now cleared; (2) weíre in a post-drought situation at our hydro reservoirs, and those were rate drivers in the preceding hearings; (3) weíre a sufficient enough time past the inauguration of the direct management initiative that we should be appreciating savings in not contracting out the management of the Energy Corporation. And, as elaborated previously, we have extended test periods now, which means fewer rate hearings and far less cost to the corporation for regulatory proceedings.
So, Mr. Chair, those are a few of the cost-lowering factors that persuade me to believe that rates should be down, and Iím not the only one. Iíve talked to some others who are very familiar with this area, and they also believe rates should be lower than what are currently charged.
Can the minister indicate whether the corporation will be applying for a rate decrease, and whatís the delay?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned in my previous answer, that is the decision of the utilities. Itís not the decision of government. If the utility feels they need a rate increase or a rate adjustment, theyíll put a submission in to the Yukon Utilities Board, which is a quasi-judicial board that sets electricity pricing.
So, as I mentioned before, itís the decision of the utilities, not the government, and Iím not going to go there.
Mr. McRobb: Well, whereís the leadership from this government, Mr. Chair? I feel I have sufficiently made the case for why the political level of government should take a look at this situation. Currently, if what I have outlined is accurate, as many experts believe, then ratepayers are being overcharged.
Also, there is the issue of the extended test periods. Mr. Chair, we had a ceiling on it of five years. Weíre beyond that ceiling now, and itís up to government to do something about this.
But, Mr. Chair, the minister refuses to do that, so weíll just accept that and move on.
Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister how much money these corporations have accumulated with respect to retained earnings and profits, et cetera. Can the minister give us a year-to-date figure for that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The year-end financial statements are still being finalized through the audit process, but the estimate of YDCís cash position for 2001 is approximately $9.5 million.
Mr. McRobb: Thanks for the partial answer, Mr. Chair. Obviously the minister doesnít want to reveal the full answer. Can he undertake to also provide that in writing? Iím not looking for year-end for one of the corporations. Iím looking for an accumulated total year to date. Also, please provide the breakdown per corporation. That would be appreciated. Can the minister nod to affirm this request? He wants to speak, Mr. Chair. Thatís fine.
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I indicated to the Member for Kluane in my previous answer, once the year-end financial statements are audited and finalized, Iíll be more than happy to provide that information for him, but the estimate for Yukon Development Corporationís cash position for 2001 is approximately $9.5 million.
Mr. McRobb: Iím willing to accept the unaudited amount. If it would help the minister, it doesnít have to be precise. A ballpark figure will do. Itís my experience that the unaudited amount is usually quite accurate, and itís far more recent. We know that if we rely on audited amounts, there is a heck of a lag there ó sometimes a year-long lag. In terms of what the total is at the current time, obviously that really weakens the accuracy of the response. Would the minister provide the unaudited total year to date for us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The estimate of the Yukon Development Corporationís cash position for the year 2001 is approximately $9.5 million. As soon as the year-end financial statements are finalized through the audit process, I would be more than willing to provide those not only for the member opposite but for all members of the Legislative Assembly. Of course, the final audited numbers will be different from the estimate but, as I said, the estimate for 2001 is approximately $9.5 million.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister identify how much of that $9.5 million is earmarked for certain expenditures such as the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, or is that a separate account? Can he clarify that for us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I donít have the exact figures, but a portion of the amount is used for infrastructure development such as what the Member for Kluane mentioned. I can endeavour to provide some more detailed figures for him, but I donít have them available to me at this time.
Mr. McRobb: Will the minister undertake to get back to us with some written information? I see him nodding to that effect.
I would also like to ask him: in terms of savings, can he identify what the corporation has realized with respect to the direct management initiative?
Just to add to that, this initiative has been in effect now for about four years. Previously it was contracted to Yukon Electrical for about three-quarters of a million dollars per year. Part of the whole idea was to achieve direct management by Yukon Energy Corporation itself for the primary purpose of reducing that cost. It was envisioned at the time that the savings would be considerable, especially after the initial start-up costs were phased out. I would like to receive more of an exact answer from the minister in that regard, and I would like to ask him if he would provide a written response.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Of course, that initiative has been undertaken by the Yukon Energy Corporation, so any public documents that they have that speak to savings from the direct management initiative, I would be more than happy to provide ó of course, providing they are public documents, since it is the Yukon Energy Corporation that we are speaking about here.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Hopefully the information provided will satisfy my request.
I would like to turn to areas of other policy. Last week, I asked the Premier about whether the government had a policy with respect to P3s, which are public/private partnerships. Can the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation indicate whether these corporations have a P3 policy, and do they currently have any P3s in use?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The issue of P3s is something that I know the Member for Riverdale South and the Premier spoke out to in their previous roles in opposition, and it is something that I am also quite interested in developing. We have to look at ways that we can take on such initiatives under our current formula.
Just recently, as the Premier, I believe, mentioned to the Member for Kluane a week or possibly two weeks ago, when we were in general debate on the budget, a Finance official did attend a conference in Vancouver very recently that was aimed at discussing P3s. Itís something that Iím very interested in exploring further, and we continue to do so to find a policy that works for P3s with ó for lack of a better word ó a Yukon stamp on it.
I will certainly take the memberís inquiries under advisement and assure him that we are continuing to work toward developing a model for P3s.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís interesting, Mr. Chair. The idea of a Yukon P3 seems attractive but, of course, we wonít know until taking a look at it, should we ever be given that opportunity. But this raises a question. The minister says "we", in terms of the corporation having a P3 policy. Will any P3s used by the corporation be consistent with P3s used by the government? Will it all be part of the government over-arching policy, or will the corporations be allowed to go out and develop their own, which may differ considerably from what the government uses?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I guess, to clarify for the Member for Kluane, when I said "we," I meant the Yukon government. Taking a look at the P3 models, weíre developing them. The Department of Finance has the lead on developing a model for P3s and, as part of the corporate governance issues that we dealt with earlier in debate, I expect a degree of cooperation between government and the corporation, so that we can find a model that works in the best interests of all Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Moving on, thereís the green power fund that was established by the previous government. Iím interested to know what has been happening with respect to this fund recently. Iíll accept a written reply. Can the minister undertake to provide me with an update of this program, as well as some statistics on applications received and those approved, perhaps on an annual basis, as well as a financial accounting for this fund? Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Our government continues to strongly support the research, development and installation of renewable energy sources through the green power initiative. And if the Member for Kluane wants some further detail as to what projects we have undertaken and what we are considering, I can provide that for him.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Chair, I made some specific requests about providing an update and accounting in a certain way. If the minister would just nod to that ó which he is doing ó we can move on.
I also want to ask about telecommuting. This is a question I asked of the former minister responsible for the Public Service Commission and it was part of the energy commissionís final recommendations. The previous minister undertook to get back to this House in December of 2000, but unfortunately Iím unable to find any reference where that did in fact occur. Can the minister responsible for YDC indicate whatís happening with respect to the telecommuting initiative?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, prior to debate tomorrow, Iíll look into that for the Member for Kluane and get back to him at that time with a response.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair.
I would like to know what the governmentís position is with respect to the true cost ó thereís that term again, "true cost" ó of electricity.
Iíll just give some background to this, Mr. Chair. In one of the previous newsletters for the now Minister of Health, she severely criticized the way the rates were structured in that the government class paid an unusually high amount for the cost of electricity.
But the situation is such that the government class over-paying provides a distinct advantage to the residential class and some of the other classes. This is a matter the Yukon Utilities Board has also provided some direction on.
But just to clarify this matter among the Liberals, Iíd like to ask the minister what his views are with respect to this true cost.
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned earlier, with respect to closing the gap on the true costs of electricity to what weíre paying, the government ó through the Yukon Development Corporation, as well as the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources policy planning ó is looking to lead efforts to achieve long-term, stable and predictable electrical rates and close the gap between bills and cost-based rates through investments, incentives and innovations, such as the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and, of course, the rate stabilization fund, as well as a number of energy efficiency measures that weíre investigating. So, weíre working hard to close the gap between the true cost and what ratepayers are paying.
Mr. McRobb: Iím sorry to say the ministerís response had nothing whatsoever to do with the question. The question related to the cost of service between the customer classes. The example I gave clearly identified the government class paying a higher rate than the residential class. This is not a situation of the previous discussion about the gap between bills and rates. This is an entirely different situation. Once again, Iíll ask what the governmentís position is with respect to the true cost of electricity.
Hon. Mr. Kent: My apologies to the Member for Kluane, and I thank him for clarifying his question. The customer classes are set by the Yukon Utilities Board, which, of course, as Iíve previously mentioned in the House, is a quasi-judicial board and it is something that government has no direct influence over.
In response to his question, it is the responsibility of the YUB to determine customer classes.
Mr. McRobb: Then I would just caution the Liberals to be maybe a little more careful about what they put into their newsletters if they are not willing to be responsible enough to address the issues when they come up at appropriate opportunities. It is something that we should all be aware of ó that we in this Legislature should not be critical of things that we have no control over. Clearly the minister, in his response, identified that we have no control over that. So we should be very careful when trying to pin something that we have no control over on another political party, such as the Health minister did a few years ago.
I would like to turn now to the renewable power sales incentive program, because I think this is an exciting program. Basically what it does is that it can offer electricity at cheaper prices under certain conditions to certain customers. I have not yet received any of the details of this program. So an undertaking to provide a written response can satisfy the questions that I ask. The minister is nodding.
I will just put on record what my questions are.
I would like to know when this program will be launched, how much it will cost to run the program, and how and when the program will be communicated to the public. If I could just stop there for a moment, I will give an example that proves that the public really does need to know about the existence of this program.
The last time I washed my vehicle, I was talking to an owner in the car wash about how they heat their water, and I discovered that this particular business was contemplating putting in a hot-water boiler system fuelled by heating fuel. After a couple more cycles of washing my vehicle, it occurred to me that this person may benefit from such a program as the renewable power sales incentive program. I asked the person if they had heard about it, to which I was told no. I explained what I knew about it and indicated that there was this potential program on the horizon that could provide electricity for about two and a half or three cents a kilowatt hour, which is about a quarter of the going rate.
We know this is substantially lower than heating fuel. We also know, from reading through the final report of the Yukon energy commission, that this is an area that is very desirable for the Yukon, both financially and in terms of leakage from our economy, and even in terms of climate change.
If we can reduce our need for importing fossil fuels through more efficient use of our domestic supply of hydro energy, then the Yukonís further ahead.
So I came across this situation where a business person was on the verge of making an investment in the wrong direction.
It begs the question of when this program is going to be communicated so that Yukoners such as this are aware of this possibility and are then given the opportunity to hold off until this program is able to help them. Because, understandably, there are distinct advantages with this program.
Iíd also like to know if there will first be a pilot project for this program, and I would also like to know if the minister has resolved the problem with the indemnity clause in the NCPC transfer agreement that I brought to the previous ministerís attention last year. That clause is such that there is a threshold amount on the amount of power generated in the territory and, if we break through that threshold, weíre paying higher payments to the federal government. So we might be paying far more to the federal government than what weíre collecting from power sales, especially on a program like this.
It has always been a challenging area. I would like to know what this government has done to deal with the indemnity clause. So those are my questions with respect to that program and, as previously put on record, the minister has undertaken to get back to me with that material.
I want to turn now to the area of First Nation equity in the corporations and ask the minister whatís happening with respect to ownership opportunities and partnerships with Yukon First Nations and Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Kent: A couple of examples of opportunities that are being provided through YDC to First Nations ó of course, the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, and the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation have been offered equity shares in that project. And, with the recent announcement of the gas distribution utility franchise, the Yukon Development Corporation will be made available to provide support and advice to all proponents, and that includes First Nations interested in developing partnerships with private sector companies.
Weíre actively pursuing relationships and providing advice and support to First Nations so that they can take equity shares in energy infrastructure projects in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís laudable, Mr. Chair, but it doesnít respond to the question about the ownership opportunities and partnerships with Yukon First Nations in YEC or YDC ó not with them, but in those entities.
Hon. Mr. Kent: There are no current plans with respect to that. What we are undertaking, as I mentioned in my previous answer, is that we are exploring opportunities for partnerships with First Nations, such as the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, as well as facilitating advice and support on the project of the gas distribution franchise here in Whitehorse.
So, in answer to the Member for Kluaneís question, there are no current plans for First Nation participation in direct ownership of YDC.
Mr. McRobb: That did respond to the question and I thank the minister for that. Looking back on the record of what the Premier said previously in this House with respect to this particular issue, it is clear that the Liberal government has made a firm decision with respect to the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation, which was defined by the Premier in that example of pertaining to ownership, particularly the Yukon Energy Corporation. In reviewing that transcript, it is quite evident that the Liberal government has made a firm policy to not offer any ownership opportunities to First Nations in those corporations.
Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: My apologies, Mr. Chair ó can I just get the Member for Kluane to repeat the last part of his question?
Mr. McRobb: Sure, I am looking for confirmation of whether the Liberal government has a firm policy to not provide any opportunities to First Nations for ownership in Yukon Development Corporation or Yukon Energy Corporation, as previously put on record by the Premier in this House. That was her position on that day. We would like to know if that is still the policy of this government.
Hon. Mr. Kent: As far as ownership in a Crown corporation, we are not pursuing that with First Nations at this time. Again, Iíll reiterate for the Member for Kluane that we are offering First Nations the opportunity to participate in infrastructure projects, such as the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and, of course, also providing them with information, support and advice to develop partnerships or participate by themselves in the gas distribution franchise for Whitehorse. Of course, we are always interested in promoting economic opportunities for Yukoners and First Nations in the Yukon on a project-by-project basis so that they can realize economic benefits from electricity infrastructure and energy infrastructure.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not sure if my question was answered there. Again, the minister is alluding to projects, and Iím talking about ownership in the corporations themselves. Of course, those are two distinctly different areas.
I want to move to one last area I have for now. Hopefully, we can clear this before the House is adjourned today. It deals with major capital projects. Iíd like to know if the government still intends to undertake a major capital project in this term and what that project might be.
Hon. Mr. Kent: One of the things weíre looking at are the internal requirements for energy infrastructure ó by "internal", I mean within the Yukon Territory. We have already undertaken one major infrastructure project, that being the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, and work has begun on the right-of-way for Stewart Crossing to Carmacks. So we are very interested in major infrastructure programs, and we will continue to work on those too.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that qualified answer. I would like to know if he would provide us with a list of the 10 potential hydro sites that were protected under the umbrella final agreement. Can the minister give that back to us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: It is my understanding that we can provide the information on the sites that are located within areas of settled land claims, but areas that still do not have a final agreement ó I cannot provide that information at this time.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to refer the minister to page 15A-4, goal 2.1, which deals with infrastructure development. Iíve got a question: how does the minister plan to mitigate the big issue of who assumes the financial risk associated with developing infrastructure? We know that when developing energy infrastructure, commonly weíre talking about projects that are in the range of $20 million to $200 million. Thatís a significant amount in terms of what the ratepayers can afford to carry.
In situations where infrastructure is built for a specific customer ó usually when weíre talking this scale, weíre referring to industrial customers ó we know there is no guarantee that that customer will continue to pay for that infrastructure for the required number of years.
Now, the required number of years, Mr. Chair, might span 25 to 30 years. This is a similar argument to abandonment costs and how perhaps a water board deals with how to handle the costs of reclamation when issuing a water licence. It is a very similar argument. And we know there are strong pressures on government to favour economic development and so on, yet there are also strong pressures to be responsible to the ratepayers, especially in terms of future costs.
The other day, I gave a quick example of the coal plant that a previous government was planning to undertake and how we would all be severely punished on our bills now had that project proceeded. I think in terms of rates, Mr. Chair, weíd be looking at at least double the power bills we currently pay, and that extra amount would be going toward the capital costs of a plant that would be mothballed now, and all the advantages that were ballyhooed, jobs and economic development and so on, would all be down the drain because the plant would be mothballed. So this is a very serious situation and, as a former member of a Yukon consumer group, itís one we dealt with extensively all the time when dealing with the politicians.
Mr. Chair, what Iím trying to do is ensure the minister is aware of the flip side of this pro-development argument and, at the same time, try to glean something from him about how he intends to deal with this huge issue of financial risk.
Can he just give us a response to that, please?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, when we discuss long-term electrical or energy infrastructure planning, we have to be mindful of the fact that those decisions are assessed on a case-by-case basis ó I think thatís what Iím trying to say. The business case has to be there. We have to make sure that we have all the information required to make a sound business decision. The member opposite referred to some projects that were assessed by a government previous to the NDP government, and business decisions must be based on sound reasoning, making sure we have all the information required to make a decision thatís mindful of the taxpayers and ratepayers, and that protects Yukonersí interests so that we donít make a poor decision when it comes to long-term energy infrastructure planning.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Kent that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, 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: Youíve heard the report from 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 Legislative Returns were tabled April 30, 2002:
Faro Memorandum of Understanding: allocation of funds (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3245-3246
Faro mine site (Anvil Range Mining Corporation): information pertaining to abandonment (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3256