Wednesday, May 1, 2002 Ė 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 Sexual Assault Prevention Month
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I rise in tribute today on behalf of this Legislature. May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month in the Yukon. As civilized women and men, we cannot accept the prevalence of sexual assault in our society, nor can we condone it with silence. As elected representatives of the people, it is our duty and our privilege to do everything in our power to eliminate all forms of abuse.
In 1991 the Womenís Directorate established Sexual Assault Prevention Week, which became Sexual Assault Prevention Month, to raise awareness about this issue. A contribution agreement with the Women's Directorate enabled the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre to take the lead on organizing public events and information sessions for Sexual Assault Prevention Month.
This year, in partnership with the Womenís Centre and the RCMP, the directorate will help fund the development and printing of a teen-help card on safe partying.
The Womenís Directorate retains its role of raising public awareness and, as part of this role, the directorate will issue the first A Cappella North II bulletin, using information gathered during the A Cappella North II survey.
In honour of Sexual Assault Prevention Month and Youth Week, the first bulletin will focus on issues of sexuality among young people.
I am also pleased to inform the House that the popular radio drama on teen issues, A Little Respect, is now a stage play, sponsored by the Womenís Directorate and the Department of Education. A Little Respect ran as part of the MAD programís one-act play series in March and is now going on the road. This play will be performed in Carmacks, Mayo, Faro and Watson Lake, starting on May 2. Due to popular demand, MAD will perform the play again in Whitehorse on May 3 for three performances, and I invite the members of this House to attend and take the opportunity to see it.
Preventing sexual assault is everyoneís business. Mr. Speaker, informing ourselves about the issue is a major part of prevention and initiatives like A Cappella North II, A Little Respect and the safe-partying card will help make us more sensitive to this problem.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have for tabling today a number of legislative returns. They are in response to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakesí request on April 22, 2002, for Yukon Housing Corporationís corporate structure and, specifically, who reports to the president, and to his request on April 23, 2002, for the occupancy rates in Yukon Housingís staff and social housing.
I also have information in response to the Member for Klondikeís requests on April 23, 2002, for the exact sale price of the two homes sold to Nacho Nyak Dun last year, and the holding costs for Mountainview Place.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I have for tabling a legislative return in response to a question asked by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin about community justice reviews by the Department of Justice.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House fully supports the announced allocation of space at the Wood Street Annex for the Whitehorse Youth Centre in recognition that the creative atmosphere and physical surroundings will be conducive to adding a positive atmosphere and alternate school for these students.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Dawson City, this Assembly supports the designation of Dawson City as honorary capital of the Yukon for the duration of the centennial year commencing on June 4, 2002.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government should bring forward a supplementary budget before the end of the spring sitting, allocating $2.5 million to the alcohol and drug secretariat, with this funding being provided through:
(a) reductions in the Executive Council travel budget and in expenditures being requested for parks planning in the Department of Environment resulting from delays in actions on YPAS; and
(b) matching funds equal to those reductions to be drawn from the surplus or the Yukon permanent fund.
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: I have a question for the Minister of Education. This Liberal government has finally been flushed out of hiding on its own plans to shuffle schools in downtown Whitehorse to justify replacing the Grey Mountain School. Can the minister tell us why neither she nor the department saw fit to consult with the people involved before cementing this deal together?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I think Iíll address the last part of that question because there were several involved. Youíre right ó we did not consult with the schools on this initiative, and I apologize to all the parents, the staff and the councils. I have found myself in the unfortunate position of having to make this announcement early to clear up the ever-escalating misinformation that is out there, courtesy of the opposition.
Mrs. Peter: Letís be clear about this. This was a political decision with the department doing the bidding of the corner suite upstairs. The Liberals promised to rebuild the Grey Mountain Primary School. The numbers did not warrant it so they had the department ditch the school capacity study. Then they told the department to get rid of the vacancies at Selkirk Elementary so they could make a case for replacing the Grey Mountain Primary School, and todayís announcements are a result of that.
Will the minister now apologize to the students, the parents, the school councils, the administrators and teachers who had no opportunity whatsoever to provide input into the decision that will disrupt their lives?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I believe the member oppositeís information is somewhat dated. I met last night with the school council and members of the staff of Grey Mountain School, and Grey Mountain School planning has been put on hold pending a review of the support for the initiatives. I will be attending an open house at Grey Mountain School to see if there is that support, and I would encourage the members opposite to join me.
Mrs. Peter: This Liberal decision to build the Grey Mountain School was done for political reasons. This is exactly why this Liberal government is in a minority. This is exactly why the Yukon people have had it with the Liberal government. The Education Act review was a farce right from the start. This Liberal government put politics before people. For two years they have got away with it, then they lost their majority, and then all hell broke loose. Now that the minister canít ó
Speaker: Order please. Order, order, order please.
The member has violated so many of the Standing Orders here under section 19, I donít know where to start. I would ask the member to be very cautious in her choice of words, starting with "farce" and then "with all hell breaking loose". That is not acceptable ó not in the least ó in this Legislature. Iíll give the member the opportunity to start again on the final supplementary, but please, please be careful in your choice of words. Keep some professionalism in here.
Withdrawal of remark
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I apologize and I do retract that.
Now my question for the minister is, now that the minister has admitted that there is no public support for rebuilding the Grey Mountain School, will she reserve her ministerial directive to the department and scrap the plan to reorganize downtown schools and ship kids all over town?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There are a number of issues here. My colleagues and I have spent the last 18 months consulting with the youth of the territory, and they have requested a permanent place for youth in the downtown. We are also creating an alternative school to try to provide education opportunities for those students who do not do well in a traditional education system.
Over the last three months of going to school council meetings and going to schools, I have been asked for a number of things: to keep our schools open, to find creative alternatives, to help youth, to keep and to expand experiential learning opportunities like ACES and PACES and MAD.
There are some very important things potentially to be accomplished here, and I ask the parents to work with us to try to accomplish those things.
And I have apologized for the lack of consultation at this point; however, I felt it necessary to make the announcement to deal with the misinformation. There are a lot of potential benefits for the kids in an expanded French immersion program, expanded experiential learning programs, better programming for the English-stream students, a better use of our resources. There are a lot of good things, and Iím hoping that those good things ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Whitehorse schools reorganization
Mrs. Peter: I have another question for the same minister. One impact of these changes will be on transportation costs. Kids from downtown Whitehorse will need to be bused to Riverdale and back. It now appears that students in the experiential science program, who have been at Wood Street, will have to be bused to Yukon College to have access to the gym there.
Has the department had any discussions with the company providing school bus services about renegotiating their contract for next year, or is it that one more detail has been overlooked?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The English-stream children in the downtown catchment area are currently being bused. So, instead of being bused to Whitehorse Elementary, they would be bused, potentially, to schools in Riverdale.
In terms of the gym and Yukon College, the experiential science students are already going to Yukon College to use the labs up there, and they still have use of the gym facilities downtown.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, these changes will affect a number of educational programs but they have other implications as well. For the ministerís information, I should point out that Whitehorse Elementary houses the whole child project and the toy-lending library, which will be displaced by moving experiential science into that school.
What are the ministerís plans for relocating those programs, or does she expect these community services to just dissolve?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Again, I think the member opposite is labouring under some misinformation, and thatís that the lending library would stay there, and the program will continue.
Mrs. Peter: We know the minister had much information from last nightís meeting with the Grey Mountain School parents, and she is probably in for a noisier session downtown tonight at Whitehorse Elementary School. Parents donít see these changes as being in the best interests of their children and they are very, very concerned. Kids will be bused all over town, programs will no longer have access to their equipment, community programs may no longer exist, and even kids in daycare will be scattered farther from home.
Will the minister now do the right thing and put the brakes on this political game sheís playing with the Whitehorse students and their families?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Just a comment to the member opposite: we are elected politicians. This is what we do. Part of that is making good decisions on behalf of Yukoners, with public input.
The programs that exist at Whitehorse Elementary, the French immersion program, will have opportunities to expand, as will the experiential learning programs. The experiential learning students will have the opportunity to create an environment of their own in an expanded environment. The students from the English streams have options as to what other schools they would choose to attend ó for example, Selkirk Elementary. They will potentially end up benefiting from this because they will have a new music teacher, a new music program and a new language program. So there are an awful lot of benefits to this program. Iím also looking forward to going to the meeting tonight at Whitehorse Elementary. Iíve adjusted my schedule so that the Minister of Health can go to the Romanow commission public hearing tonight so that I can go to Whitehorse Elementary.
Question re: Faro MOU
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question to the Premier in her capacity as the Minister of Finance. Yesterday, the Premier tabled a legislative return concerning a question I asked about an expenditure of $200,000 for the Faro mine site. In the Premierís response, she states that the $200,000 was provided in the 2001-02 main estimates for the Department of Economic Development to cover the Yukon governmentís cost for the Faro memorandum of understanding. The memorandum of understanding was to address the issue of environmental protection and preservation of assets at the mine site.
Now, because Cominco and the federal government choose not to implement the memorandum of understanding, the Yukon government used this $200,000 for other purposes. It spent $40,000 to cover legal expenses and a further $72,000 to provide higher speed data and Internet service for Faro and Ross River. How can the Premier justify these expenditures?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, because it was good work on behalf of the people in Faro and because we are working with the other bodies involved in terms of the Faro mine site. The member opposite knows because I tabled another legislative return that dealt with the issues around that mine site being under the receivership. So, in effect, what happened is that the money was spent on working with the people in Faro.
Mr. Jenkins: I donít begrudge the people of Faro or Ross River gaining higher speed access to the Internet and I would approve such an expenditure if I were asked to do so.
It would appear to be quite a stretch for this House to approve $200,000 for a memorandum of understanding for environmental protection and preservation of mine site assets and then have our government use this money instead to cover legal costs and Internet service. Itís a heck of a stretch. Itís just beyond reproach.
Does the Premier not agree?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the member opposite, no; I donít agree with him.
Mr. Jenkins: Then why go line by line and designate where this money is earmarked? Previously this House provided $1.5 million for the Whitehorse waterfront development and then discovered that half of it was used to meet the development needs of the Argus property ó totally unrelated to the Whitehorse waterfront.
Does the Premier believe the Auditor Generalís office will approve these kinds of expenditures and the spending patterns?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Whitehorse schools reorganization
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to follow up with the Premier on the school changes that were finally announced today. This question is more about leadership and decision making than it is about the details of the move.
These changes were not part of the Education Act review and there has been no consultation with the people who were directly affected by this decision. They were part, I would say, of a political agenda that was cooked up in the corner suite upstairs and imposed on the Yukon people without any input ó and that is very shameful.
So, I would like to ask the Premier, in her capacity as the Finance minister, to tell us what the actual cost of these moves are and where these expenditures can be found in the O&M and the capital budget for 2002-03.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: We have just spent the last 18 months consulting with the youth of the territory on the creation of a youth centre and an alternative school. This is good news for the people of the Yukon. Our estimates for any capital changes are less than $300,000, and it is not in the O&M budget for this year because the decisions have only been finalized in the last week.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked the Finance minister to explain where itís coming from. It appears that members on that side of the House would be more than willing to take over the Premierís position.
Here we are, in this sitting, trying to keep government accountable for its spending priorities. The second day of the sitting, the Health minister announced a $2-million item that isnít in the budget. And now we have the Education minister on a spending spree. When will it end?
This is exactly the same as the Yukon Party government when they launched an expensive grade reorganization without any consultation.
So, Iíd like to ask the Premier this question: will she be tabling a supplementary budget for this sitting to cover the full costs of this politically motivated move?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The budget that is under discussion is the budget in front of the members opposite. There is time for supplementary budgets in the fall. What weíre trying to do is to help the youth of our communities by making good decisions for them.
We have consulted with the youth for the last 18 months and they have asked us to do these initiatives. I have spent months listening to people talk about being creative, finding alternatives and keeping our schools open, and thatís what weíre trying to do. Weíre trying to improve and increase experiential program opportunities. There is an opportunity to expand French immersion. There are opportunities to be gained from other initiatives that are part of this.
I would like the members opposite to keep in mind that it is about the kids, and weíre trying to do a good job with kids.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but the question wasnít answered. I asked the Premier to bring forward a supplementary budget this sitting and, of course, somebody else is answering the questions again from that side of the House.
The bottom line is clear. Once again, this government has botched and bungled and betrayed Yukon people ó no consultation on their budget, no consultation with First Nations, no consultation with their partners in education.
The Premier needs to come out of the corner suite and face the Yukon people. So, I would like to ask the Premier if she will admit that she has lost control and end the pain by turning her leadership over to another minister who might show some respect to Yukon people in the dying days of this Liberal government.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: We on this side of the House have every confidence in our leadership.
Once again, itís about kids. We have done lengthy consultations with youth. I apologized that the schools, the parents and the staff of the directly affected schools have not been consulted.
I felt that it was important to make this announcement to get rid of all the misinformation out there ó misinformation similar to what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin presented. The facts need to be out there so that people can make informed comments and we can assist people to constructive resolution of any issues arising from this. We need to work, find out what some of the issues are and find good solutions for them, and I think itís important that the information is out there so people can do that.
Iíd also like to comment that I saw no one from the opposition at Grey Mountain School last night.
Question re: Whitehorse schools reorganization
Mr. McLarnon: Okay, we want to get some facts. My question is to the Minister of Education. We want to get some facts on the table, so letís get some facts on the table. This discussion on this budget item was done well before the O&M budgets were set. These decisions were already being discussed with stakeholders in the youth groups well before the budget was set, so there is no reason not to have these numbers in this budget right now.
We have heard from the government that, by questioning these very expenditures, we must be questioning the very positive aspects of the youth centre. No one in the opposition here is suggesting that the youth centre is a bad idea or that it should go to Wood Street. What we are asking is why the government is spending outrageous amounts of money when the simple option was to take high school students and put them back in a high school that has the capacity for them right now. The reason why they are in the Wood Street Annex in the first place is because there wasnít capacity for them in ó
Speaker: Order please. The memberís time has expired.
Mr. McLarnon: I thought I was going to get a warning, Mr. Speaker. You warn us.
Speaker: Order. Let me explain to the member that the member did ask the question and here is your warning. Your time has expired. You have 10 seconds. Ask it.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the question to the minister is when did the department start talking about moving these schools around, and was it before the O&M budget?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: In my previous answers I indicated to the members opposite that we have been talking with youth groups for the last 18 months. There was not a final decision made as to whether Wood Street was acceptable to the youth of this community until a couple of weeks ago.
Mr. McLarnon: The reality is that this government did not consult; this government did not want to present the budget numbers in the budget because it would have raised interest prematurely. That is the reality, because this move would have been seen immediately for what it was: it would have been rigging the numbers at Selkirk Street School to justify a Grey Mountain School.
Mr. Speaker, this government is displacing downtown children so that Riverdale politicians can keep a promise they should not have made.
Mr. Speaker, this government should be ashamed of itself for hiding behind a project that has a demonstrated need, such as the youth centre, to justify a project where there is no demonstrated need.
We support the youth centreís move to the Wood Street Annex. We see no need to tie the moving of the elementary programs to the positive initiative of the youth centre.
Mr. Speaker, the high school students could have simply been moved back to F.H. Collins where thereís more than enough capacity and the proper age range for the high school students.
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please ask the question?
Mr. McLarnon: Will this minister, now that she has backed down on the Grey Mountain School, also back down on any related schemes to justify this ill-conceived promise?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I think the member opposite needs to get some more facts before he continues with those types of allegations.
This is seen by many people as a good opportunity for the downtown English-stream children to have a better educational opportunity. In some classes at Whitehorse Elementary there are three students, so they have multiple grades in one class. By having the opportunity to go to other schools in the city where they have classrooms under capacity, they can benefit from expanded programming.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, another fact that surfaced yesterday, in order to mix the elementary students ó from which I see no possible benefit to mixing with older students ó the renovations cost would be $300,000 alone for the bathrooms. Moving the high school programs back from the Wood Street Annex to the high school would cost nothing. There is no benefit from mixing older students with elementary-aged students in the same school. So the minister should think of that when sheís trying to sell this another way.
Whitehorse Elementary School is pioneering a program called the whole child program, which deals holistically with education, especially with children with special needs, and it has created room for special needs. A downtown school is also vital to the long-term survival of . . .
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please ask the question.
Mr. McLarnon: . . . downtown Whitehorse as a place to live. The minister has brought forward benefits. Theyíre not in this budget. Will she bring forward to the meeting tonight at Whitehorse Elementary all the money that is presently allocated in the budget to show the benefits to parents today?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There are a number of questions. One of the things that comes to mind is that the experiential learning portion of the school will be separated from the elementary school. What I have heard from many educators and parents is that thereís a great deal of benefit from having older students modelling wonderful behaviours for younger students. My hope is ó and what I hear is ó that people are more interested in having experiential students downstairs to model good behaviours, and they were far more concerned about the location of the liquor store than they were about experiential kids coming into their school. So there is a huge number of potential benefits. Iím going to listen to the parents and the schools, to listen to their concerns and to try to mitigate any downside to this. I understand the member opposite has some concerns. However, there are some real benefits to youth.
Question re: Community home care program
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health. Now, an issue that has been raised a number of times in recent days is that of home care. Iíd like to remind the Liberals that the Liberals did say during the election, just a couple of years ago, that they would ó and this is a direct quote ó "ensure that the existing home care program is funded to adequate levels to support seniors in their home."
Yesterday, a doctor was on the radio and said that the number one concern, his first one, was home care. Today, two community nurses were on the radio saying that one of the issues surrounding their lives and affecting their lives is a lack of home care in the communities.
What does the minister have to do to address this critical need in the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Home care is an integral part of the health care program here in the Yukon Territory ó Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker, itís difficult to hear because of the construction thatís going on, on the roof. The home care program in the Yukon Territory has expanded over the last couple of years. The services that are available in Watson Lake and Dawson City are occupational therapy and physiotherapy. Those specialty services come to those communities on an intermittent basis. In addition to that, we are looking at expanding our nursing services in all Yukon communities, but that is not the primary part of the home care process.
Mr. Speaker, the home care services in Yukon rural areas, in particular, are important in order to ensure that seniors and people of other ages stay in their own homes and can stay within their communities.
Mr. Keenan: Again, the question hasnít been answered ó not at all. I find it rather disgusting, if I can say it in that manner.
I realize that itís not meeting the needs, and the minister says, "Well, weíre going out there and weíre doing something new." Well, Iíll tell you right now that we need continuity in this program. It has to be delivered on a basis that will bring health to the people who are affected.
I mean, picture a senior or a handicapped person at home ó and we want them to remain at home; we want them to be near their family. We want them to be near their community, because that community, that family, does provide support to those folks.
Now, home care is a lower cost alternative to extended care, and we only have one extended care centre that is coming now. So it can also provide employment in the communities. Without home care, many seniors and many folks will have to leave their community.
Iíd like to ask the minister this: the development of an extended care facility in Whitehorse will support seniors from the communities who would prefer to stay in their own homes ó can the minister tell me how that will affect the communities?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, the individuals who will have the choice to stay in extended care often do not have the choice to stay at home because they require a far, far greater level of care than individuals in need of home care only.
We are looking at the continuum of care for individuals, not only in Whitehorse but within the rest of the Yukon Territory. Home care is an integral part of the health care service, and it is an important part of our philosophy to keep people in their homes for as long as possible. At some point, though, thatís not always possible.
Mr. Keenan: I think the minister is really missing the point here. The minister says that home care is out in the communities. Itís not. Itís not in the communities as it should be. We need continuity. We canít just have a nurse ó and pretty much an overworked nurse ó in the community come in on their own time, into a home, after their own hours, and try to do a job. We need continuity, and the people who are affected, in a lot of cases ó mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandparents ó are much better off in the community in a home.
A good health care program would include emotional support around the house and maybe even include some treatments, such as foot care. So will this minister ensure that an adequate home care program that addresses this range of support is developed as soon as possible and not simply put on the community nurses to carry out on their own time? Will the minister ensure that that happens?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think the member opposite is a little confused about what home care is. Preventative health care programs are done by the nurses in the communities, but home care services are not the primary responsibility of nurses at nursing stations. That is done by other individuals. There is home care, of one sort or another, in most Yukon communities. Rarely is the primary responsibility that of the nurse at the nursing station.
Of course people need to have emotional support, and they need to have physical support, spiritual support, et cetera. We try to look at the whole person when we look at the continuum of health care needs in the Yukon Territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to Committee of the Whole. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will now recess until 2:00 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Yukon Development Corporation ó continued
Chair: We are on general debate of the Yukon Development Corporation. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just responding to the final question raised by the Member for Kluane last evening about large-scale infrastructure projects, Iíd just like to state again for the record that when we make decisions on large-scale infrastructure projects we do them on a case-by-case basis. That involves making sure that the business case is there for us to carry on and develop those projects, be it a hydro line or, of course, the gas distribution franchise. There are a number of different projects that YDC is undertaking and, again, just in answer to the memberís last question last evening, I just wanted to state that again for the record.
Mr. McRobb: I think one of the most startling revelations that came out of yesterday afternoonís debate was how most of the $12 million allocated to continue the NDP rate stabilization fund has come from either the ratepayers themselves or the previous NDP government. We discovered that after questioning the minister on a few occasions, Mr. Chair. And it was proven out that $7.8 million of the $12 million was a transfer of ratepayersí revenue from the Yukon Energy Corporation to Yukon Development Corporation, and $1.2 million was left over from the previous NDP program, and only $3 million was provided by the Yukon Liberal government. Compare that to the $10 million provided by the previous Yukon NDP government, and you could see that itís a much smaller commitment from the political level of government.
In addition, given that this Liberal government started off with a $64-million surplus, compliments of the previous NDP government, it doesnít take a mathematical wizard to extrapolate that really the commitment from this Liberal government is virtually non-existent.
Who pays for this rate stabilization fund? Thatís the question. Clearly the answer now is that itís a combination of the ratepayers and money put into the program, and surplus money from the previous NDP government.
So, what we get from this is another point to make toward how the Liberal government is not very generous when it comes to giving credit where credit is due. Obviously when it stands up and ballyhoos this new program, along with all the Warren Kinsella-type of buzzwords, like "rate stabilization" and "this is in the consumersí interest" and "stable rates", itís trying to create a public perception that the Liberal government is, in fact, actually doing something for the ratepayers.
Itís trying to create a public perception that this is, somehow, an important priority of this Liberal government. That is clearly not the case and for anyone wanting more information, I invite them to check the Hansard online from the government Web site for the discussion yesterday afternoon.
Now, if truly this were an important priority of the Liberal government ó that is, stabilizing rates for Yukoners, making electricity more affordable ó and we all know there are plenty of reasons to do that. Electricity is recognized as a staple of modern society. It has been referred to as a lifeline service. It is very important to a lot of people for their very survival, for quality of life and other essentials.
So if this truly was a priority of this Liberal government, why did it rely on others to pay for this program? Why didnít it take the example from the previous NDP government and pay for this program using its own money out of general consolidated revenue?
I think that is the question I would like to put forward to the minister today. Why was the commitment from the Liberal government watered down to an amount that is less than one-third of the commitment from the previous government, and is only one-quarter of the total cost of the entire program? When the minister gets on his feet in response, I would like him to explain that for us in detail.
The minister alluded to the financial risk from engaging in huge infrastructure investments that are energy related. Again we hear all the soft talk about how the Liberals will examine the business case and make sound decisions, blah, blah, blah. But when it comes down to reality, how closely will this government scrutinize the business case to ensure ratepayers are protected well into the future from any major electrical infrastructure investments?
Yesterday afternoon I gave an example. Just to summarize that example, if we go back about six or seven years, we can recall a previous Yukon government ó namely, a Yukon Party government ó on its high horse, wanting to develop a coal plant near Braeburn on the highway. I recollect the cost was something in the magnitude of $300 million.
We heard all the political arguments at the time ó about how there was a good business case, all the employment this would produce, and arguments of cheap power, and on and on. But if that project had proceeded, where would we be today? Well, the answer is very clear now ó our power bills would be at least double, and probably close to triple what they are today, had that coal plant proceeded. In fact, the coal plant would be mothballed. All those jobs that were ballyhooed by the previous Yukon Party government would be down the drain. Those people would have been laid off about four years ago when the Anvil Range mine closed.
There would be no coal plant in operation, Mr. Chair, and this is what Iím talking about here. With my roots, coming from a utility-based consumer interest group, I want to bring that message to this Legislature to ensure the politicians understand that thereís a flip side to any decision to proceed with any huge energy infrastructure, and that is the long-term protection of the ratepayers. And itís easy to point and say thereís a business case there. Mr. Chair, that is simply not enough. We need some kind of a guarantee that that infrastructure will be paid for by that industrial customer if, in fact, that is what causes a huge infrastructure investment, and that is commonly the case. We need some guarantee that the cost of that infrastructure wonít be foisted back on the remaining ratepayers on our electrical system.
Mr. Chair, if that were to happen, it could create what is referred to as a death spiral in electricity prices. And what happens, Mr. Chair, is this: the first step that we have seen on more than a few occasions from a closure of a major industrial customer ó letís take the Faro mine ó is an immediate spike in electricity rates just to cover things such as the increased diesel generation costs that were smoothed out over a period of time that assume the industrial customer would be there to help the rest of us ratepayers with. The industrial customer is no longer there.
It assumes the industrial customer will be there to help pay for infrastructure costs that are smoothed over an even longer period of time, for which we depend on that customer continuing its contributions to help the remainder of us ratepayers pay for that infrastructure which, in a lot of cases, is not otherwise needed.
Mr. Chair, when we talk about the Faro mine, weíre talking about a major industrial customer that was already connected to the grid. Weíre talking about a location where there was already a diesel farm nearby in the Town of Faro. But what about if weíre talking about new, prospective industrial customers, such as the proposed Casino mine or any one of the other mines that we hear about ó Kudz Ze Kayah and so on? What if we have to build new infrastructure, new transmission lines, new generating facilities and so on to supply a new industrial customer such as the ones I have just mentioned? Where is the protection from the financial risk of those investments?
Now, Mr. Chair, I know the minister is getting briefed by his departmental official about how this is an area covered by the Yukon Utilities Board. However, I would like to caution the minister from getting up and taking that approach because this goes far beyond throwing this in the lap of the regulator. This must be dealt with at a governmental level first. It is up to any Yukon government, whomever it might be, to ensure the arguments Iím making today are seriously considered and adequately considered before merrily going along with what looks like a good business case and then pumping out all the subsequent press releases about how the government is promoting economic development and so on.
Any Yukon government must seriously consider the future risks of imposing what could be a huge financial burden on the ratepayers.
I spoke about the death spiral. What I mean by that is that there are fewer people in the customer base to pay for a greater amount of capital expenditures.
The revenue side must match the payment side. Therefore, the part of the equation that must give is the rates. So the fewer people who are buying power in the territory simply must pay more. The more people who leave because of increased electricity rates, the more the remaining customers must pay. This is referred to as a death spiral, because once it starts, it is very difficult to tell where it might end.
I also mentioned how itís very likely that any infrastructure built for customers of this magnitude is a significant cost. Yesterday I indicated that itís usually between $20 million and $200 million.
A transmission line is commonly at least $20 million if itís any length at all. The small line between Mayo and Dawson City is close to $30 million. If we look at a hydro plant, Mr. Chair, we could easily be talking about $200 million. Iíve heard estimates coming out of the corporation itself to the effect that the replacement cost of the Aishihik facility could be $400 million to $450 million. Itís only a 30-megawatt plant ó in that case $15 million per megawatt.
In the case of the Casino mine I mentioned, I believe their power needs were originally about 80 megawatts, and I think they were scaled down to about 40. If we extrapolate the cost per megawatt there, we are talking about an investment that could approach $1 billion, maybe less. This is a significant investment. We have to look beyond the politics of it. We have to look beyond the press releases and the excitement of a major industrial customer coming on line. We have to think about the what-if. What if a new mine canít make it after two or three years? What then, Mr. Chair? What happens to the rest of us who are forced to pay electricity bills that will be far higher?
I think what the government has to do is examine this question of financial risk to ratepayers as a fallout from major infrastructure investment and develop some kind of policy. I asked the minister what policy they had in this regard and the minister was unable to identify any policy. This is exactly where the political level of government requires some hard policy work done. Such policy work must protect the future ratepayers from these huge threats associated with building infrastructure that may no longer be required for a customer that may not be there at a certain point in time. When the minister is on his feet, I also want him to address the issue of why this government hasnít rolled up its sleeves and done some policy work with regard to investment risk.
One of the other startling admissions made by the minister yesterday is that the government is operating in a policy vacuum when it comes to energy policy for the territory. This is absolutely amazing.
Now, we know that previous Liberal MLAs called for previous governments to develop comprehensive energy policies. Fortunately, Mr. Chair, the previous government did exactly that.
Through the Cabinet Commission on Energy, a comprehensive energy policy ó the first one for the territory ó was developed. Following that energy policy was an implementation plan, which I have in my hand here at the moment. This implementation plan contains 56 initiatives that are well-grounded in public support following extensive consultation.
Iím somewhat bemused to hear that the government has dropped the ball on this huge initiative. A lot of work went into developing this policy and these recommendations and, unfortunately, itís very disheartening to hear that the Liberal government has felt it necessary to try to undo all this good work that was done.
This is very closely associated with how the Liberals are undoing good NDP programs just to put their own stamp on things. Weíve seen them do that to the community development fund; weíve seen them do it to other funds. What about the trade and investment fund, Mr. Chair? I want to thank you personally for bringing that to the attention of the House ó the fact that the Liberal government was sitting on and was hiding a report for more than a year, which revealed an independent analysis showing how the trade and investment fund was a very worthwhile government program that really produced results.
I admire your honesty, Mr. Chair, for standing up for what you believe in, and drawing the line between being muzzled and being able to come over here and speak out on such important matters to the Yukon. I agree with you ó it doesnít matter what party develops good initiatives; if itís good for the Yukon and makes sense, letís do it.
Yukoners are getting fed up with political systems, and thatís why theyíre demanding a fresh look. They want to hear new options for how their territory is governed. They want to hear about more cooperation in this Legislature and not this name-brand political cleansing we hear from this Liberal government on almost every occasion. Quite frankly, Iím getting rather tired of it.
So I would like the minister to also explain why the government is operating in an energy policy vacuum and to explain about the investment risk situation, and all the other items I have identified.
Is my time running out, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Just a note to all members ó while the Chair does appreciate the complimentary remarks from Mr. McRobb, please do not include the Chair in the discussions, or else I know that negative remarks will fly at the Chair during the discussion as well. The Chair is neutral during this.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Thanks, Iíll take the pumping up. Thatís why I didnít stop the member, but I will stop members in the future.
Is there any further debate?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iíd just like to respond to a couple of the comments made by the Member for Kluane. With respect to the rate stabilization fund yesterday, I did announce that we extended the rate stabilization fund last fall to March 31, 2005. We put $12 million into the program, of which $1.2 million was remaining from the old program, $3 million was from the Yukon governmentís accumulated surplus and $7.8 million was from the Yukon Development Corporation.
I find it quite interesting that the Member for Kluane speaks about the money inherited. Until the Taxpayer Protection Act was put in place by the Yukon Party government ó I believe the Yukon Party government inherited a substantial debt from the Tony Penikett government that served before them. So, as accumulated surpluses go, weíre fortunate that that piece of legislation was in place so that the NDP government under Mr. McDonald wasnít the spendthrift that the Penikett government was in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Speaking about some of the larger infrastructure programs, perhaps we could use the Mayo-Dawson transmission line as a case study for the business plan and the case studies that we do to identify the business case. The Yukon Energy Corporation initially completed economic and technical feasibility studies on that project. The board of directors carefully reviewed, with the benefit of an independent advisor, the studies that came out. The Department of Economic Development reviewed the planning as well, and took a look at the business case for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. The Yukon Energy Corporation had B.C. Hydro conduct a peer review of that project. And then, with the major risks identified ó the technical, the economic risks ó the board authorized the project with financing to protect the ratepayers.
Mr. Chair, I think itís very important that I listened to the Member for Kluane when he discussed some of the mining projects and when we look at infrastructure for those. Of course, those would also have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis ó their distance from existing infrastructure. I certainly would welcome the opening of new mines in the territory and the business opportunities that those provide for the service and supply sector, and the employment that those types of initiatives offer, as well.
Mining is certainly something Iím very supportive of and I will continue to lobby hard to see that new projects can come on line, and also opportunities that came with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. There are, of course, the immediate opportunities of construction jobs, those types of things, but there are also the benefits that are left beyond the construction phase. As I mentioned earlier in debate this sitting, I spoke with a prospector in Dawson City at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the City of Dawson, and he mentioned to me that there was interest in some of the property he had. One of the questions they asked was about proximity to electrical infrastructure and fortunately his property was close to the proposed Mayo-Dawson transmission, which is under construction right now as you know, and he was able to gain support for his property based on that.
As far as the energy policy, I stated to the Member for Kluane yesterday in debate that energy policy is located in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. I would be more than happy to discuss the policy initiatives, reviewing the energy policy done by the Cabinet Committee on Energy when the Member for Kluane was in charge, reviewing those types of policy initiatives and carrying on. I would be happy to discuss that with him when we are in debate on the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the coming weeks.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister, since heís getting back to me with so many material responses, if he would also provide a comprehensive reply to my questions regarding the investment risk for major capital projects. I see the minister nodding to that effect. I see the minister changing his mind. Iíll just give the minister a minute.
What Iím looking for is a response to my concerns about what this government is doing or what it intends to do to alleviate the business risk associated with any major capital investment. Iím not looking for a response such as the one already provided on the record, such as "weíll ensure there is a good business case, blah, blah, blah."
Iím looking for something a little more substantial. Perhaps the minister would want to consider creating a program ó I know the EILRDP was out there. Even the previous Yukon Party government had the initiative to create the Yukon industrial support policy. What is this Liberal government doing to create policy and programs regarding economic development for a mining industry? Itís really hard to tell. We hear all the political buzz words but there is very little there to show it has done anything.
What Iím looking for is a material reply from the minister to these types of questions. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned in my previous response, with any major infrastructure program, you have to evaluate it on a case-by-case basis. The Member for Kluane mentioned the Casino mine and its distance from infrastructure that, as far as generation of power goes with that project, weíd have to take a look at that and do that specific to that particular project.
I can provide the member opposite with the information that was put in when we evaluated the business case for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. I would be more than happy to provide that for him. As far as future infrastructure needs and future infrastructure projects, it goes on a case-by-case basis. I can give him the assurances that we will certainly apply due diligence to each project and make sure that we follow a number of steps with interdepartmental work and of course with the Yukon Development Corporation Board to make sure that they are onside with us in any future developments. Those are the types of assurances that I can give to the Member for Kluane on some of the bigger infrastructure projects that are being planned now or that may come up in the future.
Mr. McRobb: In other words, the Liberal government is proceeding on what is called a willy-nilly basis. A willy-nilly basis is one that allows complete freedom. There are no parameters, guidelines or policy framework within which the government must operate. It just does whatever it feels it should. This is a little scary because when this happens the government is saying, "We know best. We are smarter than everybody. Whatever we decide upstairs in the corner suite is the way it is going to be." Looking across at the view I have right now I see very little substance to back up that belief ó believe me. There is very little substance. I know the minister has somewhat of a business background, but we are going magnitudes beyond that for a government to be making such fundamentally important decisions affecting the territory for generations to come.
So, obviously, we canít squeeze juice from a rock. Iíll accept the fact that the government is operating in a policy vacuum, and Iíll decline the offer from the minister regarding the information he reviewed prior to proceeding with the Mayo-Dawson line, because I already have that information.
I want to turn to that particular project now and ask if the minister could provide a written response that outlines the current economics of that Mayo-Dawson transmission line, particularly identifying the demand on electricity in Dawson City, the overall demand in the area of that transmission line, and any problems, such as land issue problems or right-of-way problems or quality of electricity problems. I would also like to know the latest figures on generation requirements for the prospective rebirth of the mine at United Keno Hill, and how that might affect things.
Does all this lead to a reconsideration of the Mayo dam upgrade project, and how much would that cost? I seem to recall figures of about $35 million, which, again, is a significant amount. Can the minister identify all that?
As well, I want an update on the cost figures for this project and how itís being paid. Would the minister undertake to get back to me with a written response to those questions?
Hon. Mr. Kent: That was a substantial list wheeled out by the Member for Kluane. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to put him in touch with officials from the Yukon Energy Corporation, possibly Chant Construction or the general contractor on that. If he does require answers to that series of questions and the figures that he has laid out, I can review Hansard and I can get back to him, or I can arrange for the Member for Kluane to meet with officials from Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. McRobb: Iím sorry, Mr. Chair, but I would like the information from the minister. He is the one responsible. He is the one whom I must hold accountable in this Legislature. Iím not an intervenor with the utility corporation any more. Iím an MLA in this House, and the minister should accept the fact that heís the minister responsible for this corporation, and itís up to him to respond to our questions. So would the minister undertake to provide me with a response?
Thereís another advantage here, Mr. Chair. That is the minister, when signing off a response, usually reads the material; therefore I can be assured he is aware of the information I get, which sets the bar for asking the minister any future questions in this area. So would the minister be kind enough to provide that material to me?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I will review Hansard tomorrow and go through the items that were mentioned by the Member for Kluane. I can meet with officials from the Yukon Energy Corporation, and I can provide that information to the Member for Kluane if he wishes. I have no problems with doing that. I certainly canít promise that Iíll get that information to him in the short term, but it will be prior to the House rising at the end of May.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. That concludes my questions for now, and Iím looking forward to receiving the material responses.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would appreciate the information that is going to be provided to the Member for Kluane also being provided to me on all aspects of this department.
Mr. Chair, I would like to explore a couple of initiatives with the minister with respect to Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. Chair, it would appear, from the information that has been provided to me from quite a number of sources, that Yukoners, on their basic bill, whether they are customers of Yukon Electrical or of Yukon Energy Corporation, are being overcharged between 22 and 25 percent. I would encourage the minister to call for a GRA so that this matter can be dealt with.
There is a lot of information out there that doesnít make sense. When you start analyzing it and applying standard utility accounting practices, one can only conclude that the electrical consumers here in the Yukon are being well over-charged.
Iím one of those fortunate or unfortunate people, as the case may be, who receives a number of bills. There are a couple of fuel adjustment riders that are pretty interesting to note. If you are a customer of Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., the fuel adjustment rider is 0.5924 cents per kilowatt hour. Perhaps the minister would like to investigate how much diesel is being consumed on the WAF grid, the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid, to date. But if youíre a customer of Yukon Energy Corporation, the fuel adjustment rider is 0.2214 cents per kilowatt hour. Iíll send over this information to the minister.
The other area that is very telling is the Yukon Energy Corporation revenue shortfall rider of some 18.74 percent, or letís call it the "Anvil bad debt surcharge", which is exactly what it is.
So, right there, Mr. Chair, we are all being surcharged some 18.74 percent on our basic customer charge and energy charge, which is questionable.
Mr. Chair, thatís an issue that should have been resolved by the government of the day a long time ago, but it was not and it has resulted in a charge to all of us.
Although I donít fully understand the Financial Administration Act and the fail-safe component, there appears to be a way where the Government of Yukon could lend the money, or give the money, to the Yukon Energy Corporation to cover off the debt of Anvil and recoup it into the fail-safe component of the formula financing agreement with Canada. I would encourage the minister to follow up on that. The financial arrangements with Canada specifically exclude the Crown corporations such as Yukon Housing, Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation, but it does not exclude the Government of Yukon advancing funds to cover a political decision, which is exactly what the extension of credit was to Anvil, Mr. Chair. Weíre all being held to ransom for that.
Mr. Chair, one only has to look at the rate stabilization fund and take a good look at the RSF. Really, all it is is that weíre being bribed with our own money. Under the NDP government, there was some $10 million of Government of Yukon surplus paid directly into the RSF, but under the Liberal initiative what is happening is weíre taking money from Yukon Development Corporation, the parent of Yukon Energy Corporation, and using it to fund the RSF.
So, really, who is paying? Weíre all paying, and the profits are being distributed through a government plan.
Iíd like to ask the minister to define the January 1997 basic level of services. Whatís the true definition of that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Member for Klondikeís first question about providing information ó information that was requested by the Member for Kluane ó I will certainly provide to the Member for Klondike as well as the independents on the other side.
Is one copy sufficient for the independents?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kent: Okay. I will provide one copy for the independents as well.
The bill that was sent over from the Member for Klondike respecting the fuel adjustment rider ó I note that on his Yukon Electrical bill, the date is March 22, 2002, and the fuel adjustment rider was 0.5924 cents per kilowatt hour.
The second bill, the Yukon Energy bill, that he sent over is dated April 10, 2002 and the fuel adjustment rider was 0.2214 cents per kilowatt hour. On April 1 of this year, we decreased the fuel surcharge by about 60 percent, or 3.71 cents per 1,000 kilowatt hours. The discrepancy is just a matter of timing between the bills. That rider F was decreased on April 1, so hopefully that will answer his question.
The 1997 number and breakdown that the Member for Klondike was requesting is explained in an OIC and I would be more than happy to get a copy of that for him.
Mr. Jenkins: The point that I was making with respect to the fuel rider is that on the Whitehorse-Faro-Aishihik grid, no diesel is being consumed currently. Could the minister just confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The short answer to his question about the diesel consumption is yes, but the fuel adjustments riders apply across the board to all ratepayers.
Mr. Jenkins: So we can expect an adjustment decrease from Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. very soon. I know the minister canít speak for that separate entity, but these bills were both received in the same billing cycle. It is exactly the same public utility board that rules on this rider.
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned earlier, the rider F was decreased by 60 percent as of April 1, so any electricity bills that are received after April 1 will reflect the 60-percent reduction in the fuel adjustment rider.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister will note that there is no notation on the bill to that effect.
The other area I would like to explore with the minister, dealing with the rates, is the Anvil bad-debt surcharge of 18.74 percent. To the best of my knowledge, this should be liquidated or just about liquidated. How is that debt being treated? Is there an internal treatment of that bad debt where interest is applied to it on a continuing basis, or is just the basic amount being recouped through this surcharge? What is the accounting method that is being employed? Because to the best of my knowledge, that should have all been recouped now, unless the Energy Corporation deemed it appropriate to place an interest charge on a recurring basis on the declining balance and recoup that interest charge also. How is it being dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Kent: If I may beg the Houseís indulgence on this, I would like to approach the Yukon Energy Corporation and get some further details on that for the Member for Klondike, and I can provide that for him. Rather than conveying misleading information in here, I would prefer to get the proper answer for the Member for Klondike on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate that information, and I appreciate the ministerís frankness because, from my recollection of the original amount and from what was anticipated to recoup, the only way that this surcharge could still be implemented and collected is if, somehow, the Development Corporation or the Energy Corporation, or somewhere in the equation, someone is placing an interest charge on that amount on the declining balance. That is also recovered through the ratepayers.
Mr. Chair, letís look at another area: Yukon Energy Corporation went to direct management. Does the minister have a cost comparison of the direct management cost versus the cost of the previous contract? On the side, could the minister also provide the capital costs that have been realized as a consequence of direct management?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, yesterday, in debate with the Member for Kluane, he asked a similar question on the direct management initiative, and my response was that I would provide him with detailed information on that. That will be included in the package that the Member for Klondike receives on the issues raised by the Member for Kluane yesterday.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the direct management costs ó I want to go into much more detail on what the Member for Kluane asked. I want to know about the capital side of the equation, too ó not just the management costs. The capital costs have been significant for construction of office space at the Whitehorse Rapids plant ó quite a number of vehicles, staffing levels. Iíd like to know how the staffing levels currently compare with what was in place under the management contract. Could the minister also provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The information that the Member for Kluane requested about the capital costs of the direct management initiative are included in the annual report ó I believe itís the 1998-99 annual report, but Iíll make sure of that and get that information to him. As far as staffing levels, Iíll check with the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation and get that information to the Member for Klondike with respect to the staffing levels post-Yukon Electricalís management of the facility.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, are most of the vehicles purchased outright or leased? How are those vehicles being treated?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, that information is contained at the Yukon Energy Corporation, and I can ask the Yukon Energy Corporation president if he is able to provide that information to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if itís supposed to be a stand-alone Crown corporation, the plates being used for a number of the vehicles operated by Yukon Energy are government plates. How could this be the case?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, Mr. Chair, Iíll explore that with the Yukon Energy Corporation as far as what licence plates are on their vehicles and the lease or owning options for the vehicles that the Yukon Energy Corporation uses.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what Iím seeing is a fleet of shiny, new vehicles of all types and all sorts, emblazoned with the emblem of Yukon Energy Corporation, which kind of just reared their heads after the takeover by direct management. If you look back to when Yukon Electrical was operating, you could count the number of vehicles and there appeared to be considerably fewer vehicles. A lot of them currently appear to come out of the rental pool.
So what Iím looking for is all of the components in the equation as to the cost of direct management.
I have reviewed the financial statements of the Energy Corporation and Development Corporation on a regular basis. There appears to be some very, very capable accounting methods employed, because a lot of the information that Iím seeking Iím having to ask for on the floor of this House because itís not readily identified in the audited financial report, Mr. Chair.
The hydro situation here in the Yukon ó our reservoirs are up, weíre burning no diesel fuel in the WAF grid, and yet our rates are remaining artificially high. Itís the ministerís prerogative to insist on a GRA. Will the minister do so?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I said yesterday in debate with the Member for Kluane, applications for rate increases are the responsibility of the utilities, and, of course, electricity rates are regulated by the Yukon Utilities Board. If consumers have an issue with electricity rates, itís my understanding that they too can make representations to the Yukon Utilities Board in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Or alternatively the minister can do something about it. Now, what I am asking is for the minister to do something about it because everyone out there is probably overwhelmed by the smoke and mirrors. One only has to attend a GRA to understand how a simple equation like setting the electrical rates can be made so convoluted and complex. It should be a very simple process, but it has probably been taken to the level of some of the most capable and best legal minds in western Canada, coupled with some of the most capable technocrats.
But the bottom line that the minister should be aware of is that all arrows are pointing to Yukon Electrical consumers being overcharged by more than 25 percent.
I have figures from 24 percent to 28 percent of an overcharge. It would lead one to believe that the exercises of the Crown corporation in providing the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to the end consumers are not being realized.
Mr. Chair, Iíll ask the minister once more: will he exercise his prerogative and ask for a GRA?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The GRAs, of course, are time-consuming and expensive undertakings. If I were to ask for a GRA, I feel that I would be interfering with the role of the Yukon Utilities Board, which is a quasi-judicial board, and Iím not prepared to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, all the indicators are that we have passed the five-year test, which is the normal model that was accepted at the last GRA as the test period. We have long passed that. The other area that can trigger a GRA is a major capital expenditure. Mr. Chair, had the standard utility accounting practices, including the cost of borrowing, the rate of return, and all the other related factors, been addressed at the forefront in the Mayo-Dawson transmission line capital expenditure, that would have triggered a GRA, because the rates would have had to go up. But what has happened with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line is, after the financial analysis has been completed, there is going to be some capital put in with no rate of return and no borrowing costs attached to it that would trigger a GRA.
And all of this information is being hidden from the general public, who ultimately, one way or the other, have to pay the costs. So what we have, on one hand, are the electrical rates being kept artificially high here in the Yukon. Dividends are flowing from the Energy Corporation to the Development Corporation, which are funnelled back based on the rate stabilization fund for some electrical consumers. Mind you, that is going to be re-examined. We have not heard how it is going to be re-examined or to what extent. All we are told is that it canít go beyond $12 million for the duration of the time extension of this program.
So, when you add in all these factors, we have a very carefully orchestrated smoke-and-mirror situation ó a smoke-and-mirror situation that the general public is baffled by. That is why I am urging the minister to call for a GRA. We have gone past the test time of five years. GRAs used to be held every two years. The minister can confirm that information, and the minister can also confirm there is a tremendous amount of capital going into the Mayo-Dawson transmission line that is not going to be included in the rate base nor treated in the uniform manner that normal utility expenditures are undertaken.
Can the minister confirm those two as being facts ó number (1), that we have gone past the test period that was originally outlined and, number (2), that the capital in the Mayo-Dawson transmission line is not being treated in the normal utility practice, in that a tremendous amount of this capital is not in the rate base?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The utility companies are the ones that call for rate increases and ask for GRAs. Rates have been stable for the last number of years, and they havenít asked for a rate increase.
As far as the way the capital is being treated with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, and whether or not it is outside the normal utility practice, I can refer that to officials in the Yukon Energy Corporation, and I will get a written response for the Member for Klondike on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iím not comfortable with the response I received from the minister ó the response that itís standard practice that the utilities ask for a rate increase. What Iím asking for is not a rate increase. And if it were warranted, I can assure the minister that the utilities would be banging on his door, asking for a GRA, but it should become clear to the minister that the utilities are not banging on the ministerís door asking for a GRA, because theyíre very, very happy with their rate of return and the money theyíre earning.
What Iím asking the minister to do is to call for a GRA with a review to lowering rates here in the Yukon. Now, will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and, as Iíve stated earlier in debate with the Member for Klondike, as well as in discussions with the Member for Kluane yesterday, itís the Yukon Utilities Board, which is a quasi-judicial board, that sets the electricity rates in the Yukon Territory and, as the minister responsible, I will not interfere with the actions of that board.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím not asking the minister to interfere with the actions of that board. The minister said consumers could trigger it. So, let me ask the minister this: if I were to write the minister a letter as a consumer asking for a GRA, would he respond in the affirmative and say yes? I believe I get about 28 or 29 electrical bills a month across the Yukon. That should classify me as a consumer.
Hon. Mr. Kent: If I were to receive a letter as the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, I would certainly forward that request to the chair of the Yukon Utilities Board, as it is the public body responsible for setting electricity rates.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess weíre back to, "You can lead, follow or get the heck out of the way." Iím encouraging the minister to lead in this regard, because there are a number of ways that a GRA can be triggered, and the minister is either not ready or prepared to take up the challenge. Heís more interested in maintaining the status quo. Iím disappointed to hear that, when all the evidence points to a need to lower electrical rates here in the Yukon. Electrical consumers here in the Yukon are being overcharged by the Yukon Energy Corporation, for which the minister is ultimately responsible.
Letís explore with the minister some of the other initiatives, and I know he probably wonít have some of the answers because they are of a financial and technical nature. But I would ask him to explain the "financing to protect the ratepayers" ó thatís how the minister worded the amount of money that is being used for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. What is actually meant by "financing to protect the ratepayers"?
Hon. Mr. Kent: By that I meant that, with the initial capital costs of the project, the rates initially donít have to go up. Then, after a certain amount of time with the savings on the diesel thatís displaced, we will re-evaluate it at that time.
So, by financing the initial capital costs, it protects the ratepayers initially from that expenditure on that type of infrastructure.
Mr. Jenkins: How is the total capital cost of this undertaking going to be treated? Will it be going into the rate base of the Yukon Energy Corporation? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Responding to that question, itís speculative of me at this point to determine how much of that capital cost will be going into the rate base. Hypothetically, all but the YDC capital contribution of $5 million could be applied to the rate base but, of course, there will be savings from deferring diesel generation in the Dawson area.
So, there are a number of net savings that weíre going to realize from the construction of this project as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister failed to answer the question, and the question was, is the capital cost of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line going to go into the rate base?
The reason the minister didnít answer the question, Mr. Chair, is that if it were ó which is standard utility practice, and this capital cost went into the rate base ó it would trigger a GRA, because it would mean that the rates would have to increase significantly.
The minister might want to ask his technical advisor how much is being expended per year on diesel fuel in the Dawson area. Itís about $1.6 million.
Now start looking at that expenditure and the rate of return that the Yukon Energy Corporation is allowed and you see an expenditure that is probably going to hit $30 million. Look at the rate of return on that $30 million. Itís not quite 10 percent, but letís use 10 percent because it rounds right out to basically $3 million. Those are nice round numbers. Then you take away from that the cost of the diesel fuel that youíre going to save ó if you use no diesel fuel, which is not the case. In order to regulate the power, there is probably going to have to be diesel run in the Dawson area for a significant amount of time ó probably for peaking and to bring it back on when they lose the load. The diesel plant canít go away; itís going to have to be maintained and started on a regular basis.
The bottom line is that, using standard utility accounting practices, this whole equation does not fly. Iím surprised that the minister bought into the equation without asking some very serious questions of his officials as to how weíre going to treat the capital. Because, really, there are two parts to the capital. There is the cost of borrowing and there is the rate of return on the asset base when the capital goes into the asset base. Neither one of these is being addressed.
And Iíd like to ask the minister why not. Why is the minister so reluctant to come out and advise the House as to how the capital on this undertaking is going to be treated? What is he hiding behind, and what does he have to hide from?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned previously, the $5 million in capital expenditures that Yukon Development Corporation put into this project will not be added to the rate base. However, once the project is complete, the remaining amount of capital that is involved ó my understanding is that the Yukon Energy Corporation will submit that to the Yukon Utilities Board and they will make a determination on how much of that will be applied to the rate base at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in all other jurisdictions that Iím familiar with, any new capital undertaking is subject to a GRA, because usually in all situations a capital expenditure triggers an increase in power rates. So what I hear the minister saying is that weíre not going to have a GRA at this time, which I would submit, Mr. Chair, would in fact lower the electrical rates by anywhere from 10 to 28 percent across the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: It might even be more, the Member for Kluane chirped in.
But at the end of the day, the status quo is being maintained, a GRA will be called after everything is completed, and Iím sure that, at that time, the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation, when they include all the capital expenditures as being incurred outside the purview of the Utilities Board, the rates will have to remain the same or indeed increase. Now, thatís not a fair treatment of customers here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
It is not a treatment at all. Now, once again, why will the minister not call for a GRA at this juncture?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, the electricity rates in the Yukon Territory are set by the Yukon Utilities Board, and it is up to the board to call for a GRA, or the utilities can, of course, request one of the board. So, as the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, I am not going to interfere with a quasi-judicial board ó the Yukon Utilities Board. It is up to them to set the electricity rates in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister is going to authorize the lending of $5 million, with no rate of return, from the Development Corporation to the Energy Corporation, he is acting irresponsibly. The minister is charged with overseeing these departments, and that is not a fair treatment of that tremendous amount of money. Why is the minister not protecting the $5 million of the Yukon Development Corporation? He could leave it on deposit at the bank and at least get a couple of percent. Why is he not treating this tremendous amount of money and acting in a responsible manner and getting a rate of return for it?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Of course, part of the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation is to invest in energy infrastructure and the economic development activities that occur from that investment, and that is what we have done with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would urge the minister to re-read Hansard in about two years when a GRA will be triggered, and all the information will come out, and the smoke-and-mirrors game that is being played will be clearly identified, Mr. Chair.
Letís look at some of the other issues surrounding the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. The total installed capacity at the Mayo hydroelectric dam is currently just less than five megawatts, the new Mayo school has a 50-kilowatt electric boiler, and theyíre going to sell secondary power to the school to fire that boiler.
Letís look at the Dawson end of it. Currently, with the diesel generators, the heat is recovered and the cooling is provided by the Dawson water system, which is a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby the water is heated with the heat from the diesel generators and the diesel generators are cooled by the potable water.
What happens is that the Yukon Energy Corporation puts the city on notice that theyíre cancelling this wonderful arrangement and they are going to look at charging them for the heat. What it means, if the Yukon Energy Corporation wants to go back and look at history, is that they are going to have to run a great big cooling tower with its resulting electric fans to cool the diesel generators. So where does the saving come in? Because currently the City of Dawson takes all the heat that is available, pays for it right from the heat exchanger to the pumping and all the related costs, and returns the coolant at a certain temperature. What it means is that, after this system is done away with, the Energy Corporation itself will probably have to heat its office and garage with electric heat because itís on a waste-heat recovery system. There is a plant cost there just to maintain the plant, which is not even being identified.
And the ratepayers in Dawson, yes, will be on hydroelectric; yes, there will be a savings in diesel being consumed at the power plant, but thereíll be an increase in diesel being consumed for heating the potable water. Furthermore, Mr. Chair, with the coming of a system thatís apparently going to come into place, the sewage in Dawson is going to have to be heated also to go through the sewage treatment plant.
None of these factors have been considered in this overall equation. Furthermore, Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, the Development Corporation has $5 million sitting out there, interest free with no rate of return, not even in the asset base, which may or may not come into play down the road when the situation improves.
Could the minister confirm that all these areas have been explored and analyzed and that the Energy Corporation has concluded that theyíre only concerned with power? Theyíre not concerned with the total recovery system and energy efficiency. Theyíre only concerned with their little bailiwick and are not concerned with the total cost of residency in a rural Yukon community? Because that appears to be very much the case, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, specific to the questions that the Member for Klondike raised about Dawson City and the loss of waste heat from the Dawson diesel power plant ó itís my understanding that Yukon Energy and the Energy Solutions Centre are working with the City of Dawson on a number of energy cost-saving options for existing facilities. We are supporting them with technical advice and are trying to come up with positive solutions for when the waste heat is no longer available to the City of Dawson. We are trying to come up with some positive solutions and work together on options that will meet the needs of the City of Dawson on the energy efficiency side.
Mr. Jenkins: Great sounding words, Mr. Chair. What are these positive suggestions, and how are they going to translate to my utility bills? Really, thatís the only concern my residents have.
If you want to look at another area ó during the summer, when there is no reason to heat the water to the extent that it was, the municipal swimming pool was heated with waste heat. Now thatís not the case. The municipal swimming pool gobbles something like 250 gallons of heating oil about every three days, and it has to be heated year-round so that itís kept above freezing. Mind you, it canít be used year-round, Mr. Chair, but it has to be heated year-round. It used to be heated with waste heat from the diesel, so thereís another cost. Yes, itís a recreational facility, but recreational facilities add to and improve the quality of life in rural Yukon, and they are very much an integral part of the community.
So that whole area has been destroyed by this initiative ó not even addressed.
Could the minister be specific and give me some examples of positive initiatives that are being explored through the energy solution division of the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Weíre working with the City of Dawson to take a look at the energy requirements for all their buildings and facilities. The renewable power sales incentive program, along with a number of other federal energy programs for municipalities, may also be useful in addressing the concerns of the City of Dawson when it comes to the loss of waste heat. We are going to continue to work with the municipality to address their concerns in this regard and make sure that we can mitigate the effects of the loss of waste heat as best as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister didnít answer the question. I asked the minister to cite one of these positive initiatives. Be specific. I am not looking for a whole bunch of verbiage. What is one of these positive initiatives? Secondary power sales ó we know that might be a benefit but what is one of these positive initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We are working with the City of Dawson and examining the total equation and all their energy needs throughout their facilities. There are a number of new technologies that may be available in the Dawson area such as heat-pump technology. So we are going to work with Dawson City on their overall needs.
Mr. Jenkins: I asked the minister a specific question. He has not answered that question. Could the minister give me a specific example of one of these positive initiatives? All we are told is they are exploring all sorts of avenues. Let the record reflect that the minister has not identified one positive initiative other than ongoing studies and looking at ongoing working arrangements.
Hon. Mr. Kent: As Iíve mentioned, we are working with the City of Dawson on the overall energy requirements of the facilities that they manage so that we can make sure when the loss of waste heat from the diesel power plant does occur, the effects will be as small as possible. As far as a specific example goes, the work that we are doing is collaborating with the city on their overall energy requirements and making sure that we make the best technical decisions based on the energy requirements of the city. I donít have a specific example in the City of Dawson for the Member for Klondike, other than to say that we are working on the overall city energy requirements with the Energy Solutions Centre and the Yukon Energy Corporation to mitigate the loss of the waste heat from the diesel power plant.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, D-Day is coming. When is the minister going to have this information available? When will he be able to provide me a copy of what he is going to do and how he is going to address this situation? What are the timelines?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Right now, weíre working with the city. Weíre working on identifying the needs and working collaboratively with the city. Once the information is available ó and as the City of Dawson is responsible for the management of these facilities ó we can identify that information at that time, once we have looked at the overall needs of all the facilities that Dawson is responsible for.
Mr. Jenkins: You know, it probably would have been a more acceptable response from the minister that "I donít know" and "I donít really understand what weíre doing, but this is my scripted answer", because that is very much what is happening here. Even the minister responsible for the environment would agree with me.
There is a whole series of issues, and I would encourage the minister to have this information available before the switchover from diesel to hydro is undertaken and have these areas addressed, because they are of critical importance to the total operation of the whole community.
Mr. Chair, when we look at the total output of the Mayo hydroelectric dam, we look at the line loss ó the Mayo-Dawson transmission line at 69 kV, given the size of the line. We look at backfeeding, single phase from Dawson to the Dempster Corner; we look at the opening of the Elsa mine and whatís available for power.
How is the Yukon Energy Corporation going to meet the demand? Itís going to end up having to run the diesel generators that were relocated from Faro to Mayo, and itís going to have to run diesel generators in Dawson. Is that the game plan?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Based on current projections, the power that is generated at the Mayo hydro facility can supply the Dawson region, as well as the Mayo region, for the next five to seven years.
I will provide the Member for Klondike with the load forecasts if he would like them but, based on what we have for load forecasts and the requirements in the region, weíll be able to meet the electrical requirements of the Dawson region with the Mayo hydroelectric facility.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, is the minister aware of the current peak load in Dawson, the current peak load in Mayo, what the potential peak load would be in Elsa, and what the line loss is? Could he add those all up and provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Kent: All that information will be made available in the load forecasts, as far as peak operating hours in Dawson, Mayo and the proposed requirements for an Elsa mine operation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let me help the minister. Currently Dawson is peaking at about 2.6 megs summer and winter. Itís projected, with the new recreational facilities and the new hotels, to come in at just under three megs. There is another meg over in the Mayo-Elsa area. There is just over a meg of potential line loss, including the step-downs, depending on how many are going to be put into place. When you add those all together, there is not much room to even meet the forecast load from the operation of the mine at Elsa, let alone meet the current demand, Mr. Chair.
The only way to do it is by running diesel and the minister will see that when he gets the figures from his officials. I would encourage him to go back and have a look at this. If he really wanted to do something positive, instead of just looking at an extension cord between Mayo and Dawson, it will work if you swing a line down from Stewart Crossing and tie into the grid in Carmacks, Mr. Chair. Then you can feed both ways. Dawson is in a unique situation in that it peaks summer and winter at about the same. Itís one of the few communities that does do that. The peak loads in all other communities come in the wintertime, but Dawson, because of its tremendous emphasis on the visitor industry, has a very, very good electrical load in the summertime. But thatís probably going to fail us with the tremendous efforts that are being exercised by the new minister responsible for Tourism, which donít seem to be coming to fruition, so I guess thatís the oppositionís fault also. This year, weíll probably see a reduction, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, one of the other areas that Iíd like to explore with the minister is the loan that the Government of Yukon had with Canada when they acquired the assets of Northern Canada Power Commission. Thereís a dispute on the failsafe component in that loan. It was originally designed so that when the Faro mine went off the grid, interest-and-principal payments on a portion of the debt would stop. That is currently under dispute with Canada having one view, saying that this much money is due to them and Yukon Energy or Yukon Development officials saying something else.
Now, where are we at with settling this dispute with Canada?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iím not aware of any current concerns that have been expressed about the NCPC loan but, upon leaving here today, I will endeavour to find out if there are concerns and address them at that time. Iíd be happy to address that with the Member for Klondike, either in debate on Yukon Development Corporation or outside of the Legislative Chamber.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when the previous officials from the Energy Corporation appeared before the House, it was a bone of contention. It was being accounted for and kept separate, and I would just like to know where weíre at with the dispute resolution and, if it has been solved, how was it resolved, and where are we at, and how much money is currently outstanding, if it hasnít been?
Mr. Chair, I have one more area where Iíd like a definite answer.
By the way, Mr. Chair, Iím asking the minister for a legislative return on that previous matter ó the NCPC loan that Yukon has with Canada. The minister nodded in the affirmative that he would be supplying one.
Contract registry ó the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation are terribly remiss in providing contracts on a regular basis, and the current yearís contract registry search provided me with eight contracts. Could the minister advise how I would find these contracts for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation on the Web?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As far as the Yukon Development Corporation goes, I have a copy here of the contract registry for 2001, and I would assume that these are the eight contracts that the Member for Klondike is referring to. These are for the previous fiscal year ó 2001. Yukon Development Corporation operates on a January 1 to December 31 fiscal year, and contract listings are in the 2001-02 contract registry and updated year-end information was provided in March.
Yukon Development Corporation does not have a high volume of contracting, and the batching for contracts for posting are generally on a quarterly basis. As far as Yukon Energy Corporation goes, the contract registry is for government operations only. My understanding is that this is subject to the Financial Administration Act. Yukon Energy is not part of the government contract registry since the utility is not a government department or Crown corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: I am very uncomfortable with the minister hiding all this relevant information and not providing it. Would the minister be so kind as to provide a copy of the contract registry for Yukon Energy Corporation for the last two years? Letís say Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation for the last two years, because all I have are eight contracts for the last year for the current year contract registry search. And all of them, I might add, are sole-sourced and all of them appear to stem from the energy solutions area, because they are all general consulting contracts: general consulting contracts, sole source, $18,500; general consulting contract, sole source, $6,500; general consulting contract, $24,000; general consulting contract, sole source, $18,750; general consulting contract, sole source, $13,125; general services contract, sole source, $17,500; general consulting contract, sole source, $14,000; general consulting contract, sole source, $10,500. That is what I have drawn off the Web: that it is all that appears there. Why are not the contracts for all the undertakings of these two entities posted on the Web? Why not?
And when will they be? Will the minister please provide a copy of all contracts?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, the eight contracts that the Member for Klondike listed are provided on the Web, and I can provide him with any Yukon Development Corporation contracts for the last two years ó I believe thatís what he had requested.
As far as the contracts for the Yukon Energy Corporation go, as I mentioned in my previous answer, the contract registry is for government operations only. I can refer the Member for Klondikeís request to the board and speak with them about providing that information. I met with the board ó I believe it was a week and a half ago. I can arrange to be at the next board meeting and bring forward the request of the Member for Klondike to the Yukon Energy Corporation Board then.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I believe that this government should be open and accountable. They campaigned on it, and I believe these contracts should be listed on the Web totally and that they should be made available to the general public.
The Member for Porter Creek North wants in on the debate, and I know he has some pressing matters. Iíll let him in. Iím not going to leave this one alone, so Iíll need an answer. Otherwise, weíre not going to leave this department alone.
Workersí compensation ó the same situation arose. I brought it to the attention of the president of the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. I finally received a very nice note from the president. It says, "Further to our discussions Ö and your recent comment in the Legislature, our office followed up to see if the WCHSB contracts were posted on the Web site. They can be found under Publications, Recent Publications, at the bottom of the page. They can also be accessed through the governmentís contract registry.
"However, you are completely right and although they were listed, they were not accessible. The Department of Infrastructure has now remedied the broken links to the information, and you should be able to access this easily.
"Iíd like to thank you for bringing this information to my attentionÖ"
All government agencies, including Yukon Housing, put their information on the Web. I would submit, Mr. Chair, that Yukon Energy Corporation does not want this information to be made public, because they have a lot to hide and they donít want the general public to know whatís going on. Thatís why it is not being posted on the Web, and I am asking the minister to submit and table in this House all the contracts for the Yukon Energy Corporation for the last two fiscal periods, forthwith. Will he do so?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned, the contract registry is for government operations only. Thatís subject to the Financial Administration Act. I will bring forward the issue that the Member for Klondike has raised to the board that is responsible for Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation, and make sure that they are aware of his concerns with this matter. I will do so at the earliest possible convenience.
Mr. Roberts: Iím just going to spend a few minutes here. My colleague from Klondike said he would only be 20 minutes. I remember him saying that to me this morning, and that was a long 20 minutes. Iím going to spend even less than that.
Thank you for the opportunity to make a few comments.
First of all, Iíd like to congratulate the Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation, the combination, for their energy efficiency programs. I think these are very cutting-edge-type programs. I believe theyíre the kind of programs that we have to encourage even more in the future.
One of the problems I think we have, and I think thereís a false sense of belief in the Yukon that our rates are fairly high. Thereís also the sense that theyíre not lower anywhere else. I think, even though I know the corporation takes great pains in trying to share with Yukoners where the costs are across the north and across Canada, thereís still the belief that we have high rates.
I really feel quite strongly that if we are going to get off the stabilization fund and stop using taxpayersí dollars to subsidize electrical rates, weíve got to be really forthright with the Yukon public about what our costs are. I know the corporation has worked very hard in trying to do this, but the message is not there. I mean, if you look at all those riders that they have on the bill ó most people donít even look at them; all they do is look at the bottom line and say, "Okay, that is what I have to pay."
I would really want to encourage the corporation to take even a more vigorous approach toward ensuring that Yukoners in three yearsí time could quite potentially be paying the full rate of costs for electricity. There should be no surprises. Weíve got lots of lead time now. We had lots of lead time under the former government, the NDP government. They did the same thing. And when the Liberal government took over there was very little in place. There were some efficiency programs but I donít think the message was out there. There were a lot of efficiency programs that were being offered to Yukoners, but I think Yukoners have a real sense that we have a huge corporation with lots of money, and therefore we should end up sharing in those results and those profits.
The problem that we have is that, if we are going to build for the future, weíre not going to have any money to do that unless youíre going to take it out of general revenue. I think thatís the message thatís not out there. A lot of Yukoners donít understand that if youíre going to build for the future, whatever it is ó hydro, wind, in-stream generators, whatever they are ó that takes money. Where is that money going to come from?
So Iím very pleased to see that the Energy Corporation is using some of those dollars to build more efficiency programs and is trying to move down the path of having citizens understand that, really, the responsibility is each of ours.
I want to encourage the corporation to even spend more energy. I donít know how youíd do it. Itís going to be a tough sell. I hear from my colleague that we have to take more of the profits and give it back to the people. I donít disagree with that as long as weíre not going to be looking at building for future. Thatís the other contradiction I hear ó that we have to build for the future but weíve got to give all the profits back so that we have fairly reasonable electrical rates, but how can we do both if weíre not going to balance out how we can become more efficient?
Itís a tough balancing act but I think it has to be done. I just wanted to go on record as encouraging the energy efficiency programming because I really believe thatís where the answers are.
When I was over on that side and we kind of looked at where I wanted to go with this energy efficiency, I was a lot more draconian in what I thought should be done. My colleagues then felt that that would have been too draconian and too realistic and would not have been very favourably accepted by a lot of Yukoners, but yet the reality is there. These costs are there and they should be used for what I think theyíre intended. They should not be used to buy ports or sawmills or whatever. They should be maintained and kept in the area of energy efficiency and trying to build for our energy future.
So I would applaud the government for maintaining that direction. That was started, I guess, by the NDP. Iíll give them credit as well. But it was lacking some principles in the area of trying to really build on how we would like to end up as consumers. Itís like a lot of things here. If we are not much clearer with the public about how these issues are being looked at, then we have a problem.
The Mayo-Dawson transmission line ó I mean, there are a lot of questions around it. Is it energy efficient? Well, if weíre to believe the experts, then I guess, yes.
If we donít want to believe the experts, then, I guess, for those people who are the self-appointed experts, itís no. I believe thatís why we have people around to help us make those decisions. I believe it was a good move.
I think yes, we should question whether the issues around it are going to do what theyíre supposed to for the long term. But I think itís not an easy task, so one would almost think that Iím speaking on behalf of the minister, supporting these issues, but I do believe that we have to be very open with the Yukon public about what these costs are.
I donít even have a question around that. Iím just saying to maintain the course, be even more vigilant in ensuring that we get that message out there. I know there are a lot of publications going out but, for some reason, people donít read them, so Iím not sure how we can do that.
I know that when the prices go up, they read that, and thereís a lot of concern about, my gosh, why have they gone way up, forgetting that there may be a lot of energy efficiency things they could have done in the interim.
I think itís important that we try to look at how we can get that message across to the Yukon public.
I have a couple of questions around the governance model. From my perspective, I understand the armís-length approach to governing corporations, but I also have a concern about who is going to be calling the tune here. Obviously, if itís the government of the day and the leader, or the Premier, calling the tune, where does the board fit into this? Is the board just going to be a rubber-stamp board, or is the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation actually going to govern the Yukon Energy Corporation, with no interference from government?
So my question to the minister is what guarantees do we have that this is what is going to happen? That the board itself will be the governing body for Yukon Energy Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I thank the Member for Porter Creek North for his comments. I know that he did an awful lot of hard work when he was the minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation on the energy solutions side. And of course he and I jointly made the announcement in my role as Minister of Economic Development and his role as minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation last fall about the extension of the rate stabilization fund. At that time I recall discussing with him that we have to look at some long-term measures in order to bring stability to the rates that Yukon consumers pay. Certainly on this side of the House we are still very committed to that as is stated in goal 1.3 of the accountability plan through strategic investments, incentives and innovation. I can assure the Member for Porter Creek North that we fully intend to continue with those types of programs and to look for long-term solutions to the Yukonís energy needs.
As for the memberís question regarding the governance and the role of the board, as I mentioned to the Member for Kluane yesterday in debate, the Yukon Development Corporation is now aligned with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and they share a common minister. The Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is now the president of Yukon Development Corporation.
Of course, we continue to work very closely with the board to make sure that they feel comfortable to deliver the mandate with which they were tasked. Itís very important that there are no overlaps in policy and those types of initiatives between the government department and the corporation. So, I think that, coming out of the governance legislation thatís before this House right now, weíre going to see a great deal of cooperation between the policy side at the department level, as well as the delivery side, which is at the board level. So I can assure the Member for Porter Creek North that the board will continue to serve a very important role.
Weíre very pleased to have the gentleman who is serving as the new chair. I think weíre fortunate to have him in that capacity, and we will continue to work with the board on addressing common issues and concerns that will benefit all Yukoners.
Mr. Roberts: I appreciate those comments from the minister. I guess, from my perspective, one of the issues has always been the connection of the political arm of government with the corporation. I believe that, through the deputy minister this, hopefully, will be improved in the sense of knowing what the real issues are and trying to reflect what the government of the day would like to see for the future.
I also acknowledge the fact that we have had some very strong people in the past, and currently, working in those positions, who have been very creative in trying to move forward with the energy efficiency model. Your assistant right there has been one of those key people, so I think that has to be acknowledged as well.
I think the important part is that we need the opportunity and the times to allow this to happen, to let those ideas flow and to ensure that they are moving toward the goal of helping Yukoners become more efficient. I know some people get that information and some others donít. They donít even know it exists, even though I know there are a lot of attempts being made to ensure that people are receiving the information. But again, as I said earlier, itís when it hits the pocket that people really understand, "I have to become more efficient now with my use of power." So I think, basically, I just had those two issues. The deputy minister being responsible for Yukon Development Corporation I personally think is a good move. I think it does connect it, and I think time will tell how it would work. I would hope that the government would be open to changing some aspects of it if itís not working, because I believe that the electrical generation portion of it has to be independent. I think they have done a good job in the past. I think they could continue to do a good job, and I donít think we should be interfering in what they do. As far as the Yukon Development Corporation, which always has been in this "what-is-it" kind of a shell, I believe now there seems to be some rationale as to how they can work together. So I would like to thank the minister for his comments.
Thatís all I have to say.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister the same question asked by the leader of the third party. Would he provide all the material being passed to the other members of the opposition to us as well? I see him nodding in the affirmative, Mr. Chair, and thatís fine.
For the last hour or so, Iíve had the opportunity to review what is entitled the Yukon Government Implementation Plan for the Final Report of the Cabinet Commission on Energy (1998). I really should refer to this report more often, because itís really chock full of a lot of good policy direction that is still very relevant today. I would just like to spend one minute on this.
The first recommendation says ó everybody is holding their watches up. I donít blame them. It says, "Yukoners should move away from electric heating systems as a primary source of heating." That is precisely what spawned what is now known as the renewable power sales incentive program.
It goes through all sorts of policy initiatives. For instance, no. 8 encourages Yukon Housing to promote greater energy efficiency in the residential sector. Yukon Housing Corporation has earned awards as a result of this type of policy direction.
We also see a lot of the concerns that Iíve elaborated on dealt with. Recommendations 23 and 24 deal with the issue of protecting ratepayers from the huge financial risk of supplying electricity to large industrial customers. The recommendations go on and on. Itís somewhat reassuring to know the minister will be providing me with a full response to this implementation report in the format previously provided, because a lot of these initiatives ó well, every one of them, actually ó deserves full recognition to be implemented.
Iíd like to ask the minister if he would consider putting this implementation report, along with progress indicators, up on the departmentís Web site. That would be an excellent performance indicator to the public of progress on these important initiatives. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I said in debate yesterday, we will, of course, address energy policy when we get into the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The initiatives and the policies that are on the Web site are, of course, the accountability plans. There may be portions of the Member for Kluaneís Cabinet Commission on Energy included in there. Quite frankly, Iím not aware of whether they are or whether they arenít at this time, but Iíll take some time to investigate that over the next number of days, prior to getting into debate on Energy, Mines and Resources, and Iíll certainly be more than willing to address that particular document with the Member for Kluane at that time.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, thatís fine, Mr. Chair. Itís disappointing to hear the minister not agree to put this up on the Web site. I think it would be very valuable information to many Yukoners. And I would like to say that I look forward to the progress report on this implementation plan because it does deal with a lot of initiatives that I did not address at this occasion, such as developing district heating opportunities for off-grid communities and many other initiatives. So I look forward to the progress report the minister will provide. I know he did undertake to provide that before we get into EMR debate and weíll follow up with it at that time.
So, thanks again, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I just had a couple of issues arising from the previous debate, Mr. Chair. One was with respect to the fuel rider adjustment. Could the minister just send over the information as to what triggers it? Because it seems to be triggered by two areas ó the price of a barrel of oil from a given contract date to date. The price of a barrel of oil is back up now to what it was some months ago. It did swing down. Iíd like to know what triggers it because, right now, everyone knows that, in the WAF grid, thereís no diesel oil being consumed, so why is everyone paying this rate rider?
The other one deals with the income tax rebate. A number of years ago, this income tax rebate was changed, and my understanding of it is the investor-owned utility pays income tax on its profits, which are refunded to all the electrical ratepayers in the Yukon. Is that the case today? Where does this income tax rebate come from?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With respect to the income tax program the Member for Klondike mentioned, itís my understanding that the program is still in place and is still being carried out today. In regard to the electrical bill and the rider F that has been reduced by 60 percent as of April 1, there are some technical formulas and calculations that are done when we arrive at that rate rider. I can provide the information to the Member for Klondike as well as the Member for Kluane, and a copy for the independent members.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that information. The only other area I very much look forward to receiving some information on is the contract registry for Yukon Energy.
Before we leave this department, the territorial formula financing agreement with the Government of Canada makes for some of the most boring reading Iíve ever gone through, but it does govern a lot of ó well, virtually all of the money thatís being spent here in the Yukon today. We have a GDP of $1 billion here in the Yukon, with 80-odd percent of it flowing from Ottawa. So this is probably one of the least understood documents, and yet itís the reason we are in the financial position we are today.
Exclusions from eligible revenue calculations, annex 5, are Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Housing Corporation revenues and recoveries. But there appears to be, in my understanding of it ó I would ask the minister to take it up with the Minister of Finance and her officials, who probably understand it more than any of us elected people will ever understand it, and see if there is not a way where, if the Government of Yukon advances or provides the money to cover the bad debt load of Anvil Range, it cannot be written off in the same way as the taxes for Anvil Range were written off and then subsequently recovered from Canada. For an $800,000 write-off of the taxes for Anvil Range, weíre recovering, because of the perversity factor, almost $1 million from Canada.
So the same might hold true for this rather than going to the ratepayers for basically another political mistake. Would the minister explore that with the Minister of Finance and take it up with her officials who probably have a better understanding than all of us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes, I will take that up with the Minister of Finance and her officials. Of course, I thank the Member for Klondike for bringing me into the dry-reading world that the formula financing agreement is all about. As I committed to previously, I will take the Yukon Energy Corporation contracts up with the board. Just to go on the record, the Member for Klondike asked some questions about the NCPC loan and asked if I would provide that information by way of a legislative return.
Deputy Chair: If there is no more debate, we will go through it line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Development Corporation
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Development Corporation agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will take a recess for 20 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Department of Justice
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Iím pleased to present the Justice departmentís main estimates for the 2002-03 fiscal year O&M budget. Our budget will total $34,003,000, and thatís a decrease of $539,000, or two percent, from the previous year.
Mr. Chair, one of the most striking things about the Department of Justice O&M budget is that 89 percent is on fixed costs. The contract with the RCMP for policing services, personnel costs, departmental communications and utility costs, contract services, grants and contributions are by far the major expenditures for the Justice department. We have discretionary authority for only 11 percent of its budget.
The Justice department doesnít have complete control over many costs associated with the budget, and itís not always possible to anticipate demands and the resultant cost of transfer payments to organizations that are at armís length from us, such as Legal Aid Society and Human Rights Commission. There are also many externally driven demands that the department does its best to anticipate and meet in a responsible and accountable manner. Externally driven demands include such things as salary increases for the RCMP, added judiciary costs, coroners inquests and autopsies, and rate hearings with the Yukon Utilities Board.
For the fiscal year 2002-03, the O&M budget for the department is as I previously stated, $34,003,000, and of this overall budget amount, $14,928,000 ó or 44 percent ó covers personnel. These costs for the department were impacted by normal collective agreement increases and associated benefit costs.
The amount of $11,981,000, or 36 percent of the budget, is spent on policing services for the Yukon. This is a decrease of $163,000 from the previous year. The amount of $3,446,000, or 10 percent, will be spent on transfer payments to groups or individuals who deliver programs on behalf of our department.
$3,648,000, or 11 percent, is allocated for all of the remaining program costs.
All of this is an overall decrease of $539,000 for the whole budget, compared to the forecasted costs for 2001-02.
The O&M budget for each branch in Justice is as follows: management services branch is responsible for supporting policy and program delivery through the provision of planning, analysis, communications, financial, human and physical resource management, and the workersí advocate office is also located in this branch.
Management Services' budget for 2002-03 is $2,486,000. That is an increase of $159,000, or seven percent, from last year. The bulk of this increase is due to an increase of 1.5 FTEs in the branch and increased personnel cost, which are offset by a decrease in general office operating expenses.
There was a 0.5 FTE increase due to the conversion of the term communications coordinator position into full-time and, as well, one FTE funds accounting clerk was transferred from the court services branch to finance and admin.
Court services is responsible for the operation of the Yukon court system and provides support for the judiciary. The branch also runs programs such as the maintenance enforcement program, child support guidelines, witness administration and the sheriffís office. Total budgeted for court services is $4,027,000, one percent above ó or $32,000 ó from last yearís forecast. Court operations and witness administration personnel costs were increased slightly to meet increased demand for these services. This increase was offset by a decrease in court reporting contract costs and costs to operate the Yukon Review Board.
There was also a slight decrease in personnel due to a reduction in federal child support guidelines funding. Costs related to the child support guidelines program are fully recoverable from the feds.
The legal services branch drafts our legislation, litigates our civil matters, and prosecutes a wide variety of territorial offences. This branch is responsible for First Nation administration of justice negotiations and provides legal advice to the Government of Yukon. The branch also administers the aboriginal courtworker program, legal aid and public legal education programs under the access to justice agreement with the federal Department of Justice.
In the 2002-03 estimates, the legal services branch is allocated $4,193,000. This is a one-percent decrease, or $45,000, from last yearís budget forecast.
The legislative counsel budget line has been decreased by 32 percent, or $180,000.
The consolidated statutes project is now nearing completion, and one FTE has been transferred to the solicitorsí area.
Costs for outside legal counsel are estimated to decrease by 62 percent, or $329,000, as a result of converting legal contract costs to personnel costs in the solicitorsí area.
The 2002-03 estimates include a 42-percent increase of $429,000 in the solicitors' budget line item. Additional resources were required to allow the department to fulfill its constitutional role as a legal advisor to Yukon government. The budgeted increase is a direct result of the departmentís expanded responsibility for managing outside counsel contracts for the Government of Yukon. Using in-house expertise is expected to continue to decrease the amount spent on outside legal contracts.
This year, there is a four-percent increase forecast of $67,000 for the community legal support budget line item. It is due to an increase to the access to justice agreement the Yukon cost-shares with the federal government. The access to justice agreement provides funding for services such as legal aid, the aboriginal courtworker program and the Yukon Public Legal Education Association.
In 2002-03, the overall funding of $1,356,000 provided for legal aid remains the same as in the 2001-02 estimates. Our regulatory services budget line item reflects the areas remaining when the consumer services, corporate affairs and labour service units were transferred to the new Department of Community Services.
The activities included under this line item are the land titles office, the public administratorís office and the budget for the Yukon Utilities Board. In comparison to last yearís forecasted amounts for these three functions, this represents a 51-percent decrease, or $790,000. Itís mainly the result of an 81-percent decrease of $801,000 in forecasted costs for rate hearings that were expected to be held into a gas distribution franchise to be conducted by the Yukon Utilities Board. If these hearings are held in the 2002-03 fiscal year, the department will then be seeking approval for a revote of the money identified for this project.
The community and correctional services branch administers the probation services for adult offenders, the victim services and family violence prevention unit, as well as the territoryís correctional facilities. The community and correctional services budget for 2002-03 is $8,852,000. Thatís a three-percent increase, or $256,000, and itís due in most part to increases provided for in the collective agreement and the cost of staffing 1.5 FTEs for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Thereís also a 0.95 FTE increase for victim services and family violence prevention unit, but that is fully recoverable.
The community justice and public safety branch administers programs directed at promoting public awareness and safety, promoting respect for the law through effective policing and community justice initiatives, and administering programs directed at crime prevention.
Community justice and public safety budget for 2002-03 is $13,258,000, and this represents a one-percent decrease of $75,000 from the previous yearís forecast. There was a slight decrease in the chief coronerís budget that was offset in part by additional costs to hire support staff for the program directorís area.
The funds provided for the human rights program for this fiscal year are $413,000. Thatís a decrease of 16 percent, or $76,000, from last yearís estimates. The base grant for the commission has increased to $371,000 from $254,000 in previous years. The difference of $109,000 between the forecast and main estimate amounts was created by a one-time grant toward capital asset replacements and to assist with funding of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Authority Conference, hosted by the commission last year. This amount is offset by a $33,000 increase to the funding allocated to the Human Rights Adjudication Board to reflect increases in honoraria and board operating costs.
This budget reinforces the accountability plan of the Yukon Department of Justice for 2002-03. Our accountability plan for this year identifies the departmentís primary responsibilities: administering the court system, providing services that contribute to public safety and security, and providing legal services to the Government of Yukon.
These responsibilities will be fulfilled through five goals that will guide implementation of the accountability plan. They are the following: to promote accessible resolution of civil and family disputes; to provide for the operation of the corrections systems and the safe, effective custody, control, probation, supervision and reintegration of offenders; three, to provide services to victims and ensure that their issues are understood throughout the justice system; four, to provide a range of Justice services to communities; and five, to provide high-quality and cost-effective legal service to government.
The goals of the department will serve to enhance public confidence and respect for the law and society by promoting an open, fair and accessible justice system to all citizens. Through the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, this government is working toward an effective and responsive correctional system that promotes rehabilitation and ensures public safety.
The Department of Justice will ensure that the Government of Yukon continues to receive high-quality advice and services. The Justice department will promote effective policing, crime prevention and community justice initiatives throughout the Yukon and will continue to encourage respect for the individual society and human rights. These goals, Mr. Chair, will be achieved with a responsible and efficient budgetary framework.
Mr. Chair, Iíd like to turn to some of the accountability objectives that are shown for the first time in our budget plan for the year 2002-03. The department is going to be doing the usual business of the things that Yukoners expect it to do, but itís not quite business as usual in that in 2002-03, the department is going to examine different ways of delivering the services that Yukoners expect. Through this yearís accountability plan, we have committed to several key strategies. Iím going to highlight these strategies.
We have heard the Premier say, countless times, that the accountability objectives will now set forth the business plan for the department and will lay out, in a form that has never been approached before, the objectives of the department and how we attempt to measure them.
One, we will examine the effectiveness of a domestic violence treatment option, often abbreviated to DVTO for short. This option is based on the offender taking responsibility for family violence. Itís intended for couples who want to stay together but who want the violence to stop.
We need to know whether this option will reduce the responsibility of the victim to testify against their partner and whether it will reduce domestic violence incidents for the people who appear before the court.
Two, we will re-examine the programs offered to offenders. We want to foster the development of addiction treatment programs at the Correctional Centre by including public, volunteer and non-profit agencies at the Correctional Centre. The centre will focus on improving its relationship with the community in the interests of clients, the public, cost efficiency and common sense. We need to find ways to make Whitehorse Correctional Centre a community resource and not a last resort.
Three, we will develop and integrate a model of case management for offenders in the Correctional Centre, on probation, or serving conditional sentences in the community.
Four, we will develop a community-based community program delivery model for offenders. In such a model, programs for offenders are delivered in the community, rather than at the Correctional Centre. This is critical because the current average length of stay at the Correctional Centre is only six to 12 weeks, and thatís not enough time to deliver effective programs to the offenders.
Five, we will survey clients to learn how we can better help them meet their needs. We need to know how victims, offenders, communities and the Yukon public view the service that we provide.
Six, we will work with other departments to develop a coordinated response to victims. Victimsí needs are a high priority, and we need a well-developed plan to appropriately and effectively assist them within our resources and our territory-wide resources.
Seven, we will review the public notification protocol for advising the community about the presence of high-risk offenders in our midst.
Eight, we will explore the effectiveness of community justice initiatives.
Nine, we will explore alternate ways of resolving disputes.
Ten, we will complete the implementation of the Teslin Tlingit Council administration of justice agreement.
These are some of the key strategies, or tools, that would help our clients. If youíre wondering who our clients are, look at the accountability plan in the budget. It shows that we have many different clients with varied needs ó and all of them count on access to a range of appropriate and effective justice services.
Our client is the victim who needs information about the justice system, personal counselling, ongoing support in recovering from trauma, and referral to other community resources. Our client is the offender who needs help in managing behaviour and making positive changes. Our client is the spouse struggling daily with the effects of domestic violence and feeling very alone. Our clients are also the couple who decided that the violence in the home must stop and needs help to make that happen. Our client is the family coping with the impact of an assault on a child, a mother or a father, by someone outside the family. Our client is the person or family dealing with property crime. Our client is the community that is struggling with the problems of the past and the present. They are hurting and theyíre healing, and they are resolving to provide a safer place for those who want to call it home.
Iíve used these examples to convey that we are committed to the faces. Both the loud and the quiet voices behind that one word is the word "client."
We are going to meet our commitment by fulfilling our primary responsibilities, by delivering mandatory and discretionary programs, and by meeting Yukonersí expectations in a cost-effective and a client-effective way. I encourage all members of the House to join the Department of Justice in continuing to support victims, offenders, families and communities. Join us in reassuring them that the services that they need, or their neighbours need, will be available tomorrow, next month and next year. Yukoners ask and require no less.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounded like a right of passage presentation for a recent graduate in some initiative.
Let's start at the top with the Department of Justice. We are hearing a lot about devolution these days. Where are we at with the Crown attorneyís office? Is there any movement there? Or is there still a lot of mistrust in the current Minister of Justice and no resolve on the parts of the feds to transfer the Crown attorneyís office to himself?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: For the Member for Klondike, we are not opposed to the devolution of the Crown attorney. I wanted to remind the Member for Klondike that the current Minister of Justice has been in that portfolio for only three or four months, so there is no necessary objection because that minister knew or there is a mistrust of that minister.
We believe that the devolution of the Crown attorney will have a difference here; however, we are involving the Grand Chief of the Council of First Nations in this matter, and my predecessor wrote to him in late September. We have yet to meet recently and assess what their feelings are on it. But certainly the Council of Yukon First Nations has a fairly large part to say about that particular responsibility. We are waiting for continued meetings that we hope will be fruitful with the Grand Chief on this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: And rightly so. The First Nations do and will have a lot to say on this issue. But where are we at with the transfer of the Crown attorneyís office? Is there movement on anyoneís part, or is it still stalled where it has been for just over a decade now?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: It may have been stalled for the past decade in the memberís mind, but remember that this particular government has only been working on it for two years. It is still our intention to continue to work with the federal Minister of Justice on this and continue to pursue that objective in concert with all parties that are affected, and the most notable one being the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís go back to the Yukon Liberal governmentís watch. Can the minister advise the House what has transpired on the transfer of the Crown attorneyís office to the Yukon just over the last two years that the Yukon Liberal government has been in power? I can understand the ministerís new in his responsibilities, but itís an important issue. Just what has transpired in the last two years?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: For the record, Iíd like to remind the Member for Klondike that the senior federal person who is responsible for the prosecution of criminal matters throughout all three territories just relocated to Whitehorse in September of last year. It is that person who is responsible, in a large part, for these negotiations. I have met personally with him once. My staff had met with him on a few occasions prior to that. But that particular individual who will be heading those negotiations only came here in the fall.
Mr. Jenkins: So weíre talking September to current; weíre talking six months. So what has transpired in the last six months? Very little, if anything, has transpired in the last two years. So between the two-year gap, thereís six months that this individual has been here in the Yukon. Could the minister share with us here what has transpired on the transfer of the Crown attorneyís office to Yukon in the last six months since this individual responsible for overseeing the transfer and working on it has been located here in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Yes, Iíd also like to remind the Member for Klondike that, since the relocation of the senior federal person here, the federal Department of Justice has been tied up extensively, after the events of September 11, on an issue that had far more importance than moving the Crown attorney here. In our mind, itís important, yes, it is, and it always will be, but a number of people were involved in other issues between September and December on a federal anti-terrorism bill.
Now, we continued to work, we continued to meet, we continued to put our position forward. This particular issue is one that is not simple. Itís fairly complicated and involves a shift of personnel, and we did not at any time expect it to move at the speed of light or anything of that nature. We are continuing to work on it, but progress is slow.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I recognize that progress is slow and has been slow but, under the Liberal watch, can the minister advise the House what progress has been made, and what progress has been made in the six-month period during which the individual has been relocated to Whitehorse? The minister has now narrowed it down and said that, for the initial three months, he was involved in anti-terrorism situations and things of that nature, and we know that the Liberals on the federal level have tabled one bill and now they have tabled a second bill on the terrorism act, but thatís aside.
Things still have to go forward, and they have moved forward with respect to devolution in a number of areas. Iím asking for a progress report in this area, Mr. Deputy Chair, and all I get is bafflegab.
Now, would the Minister of Justice please answer the question?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: For the record, Mr. Chair, not he ó she ó was involved in the development of anti-terrorism legislation, and there was a change of ministers in January. Now, to be more specific, there have been ministers' meetings on this issue. There have been officials' meetings at the deputy minister level, and there has been a considerable amount of correspondence back and forth, putting forward Yukonís position for the devolution of the Crown attorneyís office.
As I indicated earlier to the member, itís not a thing that is going to move with rapid speed. We didnít expect it to. I donít know what expectations were in the memberís mind, but we were certain at our level that it would not happen "overnight".
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has not provided an answer. What progress has been made? A simple answer.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: For a clearer illustration of the record in the Member for Klondikeís mind, weíve articulated our position to the federal government. Weíre waiting for their response. We have articulated our position to the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Grand Chief, and we are waiting for the response on their position. Until it comes from both fronts, weíre unable to move to the next position, which would be our reply to those letters.
As Minister of Justice, I canít formulate the answers for them. They have to reply to us, and that hasnít come yet.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís interesting to note that all weíve learned is that the minister has added a word to his vocabulary ó "articulated".
If there has been no progress, could the minister please stand up and say, "There has been no progress; weíre stalled right where we were", if thatís the situation? Or if there has been any progress, could the minister just elaborate on the progress that has been made?
We realize there has probably been an exchange of correspondence, and there have probably been meetings but, on the specific points, has there been any progress made whatsoever? A simple yes or no.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I will not fall into the trap that the Member for Klondike tries to set by getting members on this side to admit that we havenít done anything. I have specified what weíve done. Iíve specified that weíve articulated the position that we would like to see the devolution of the Crown attorneyís office moved to this territory. Answers have not been forthcoming from the other critical parties to the negotiations.
This was not a land claims negotiation with a March 31 deadline. This was a courteous request on our part for them to outline their positions so that we could respond and move to the next step, which was to have all parties together. That has not happened, so we are waiting for the next step in the process.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, after all of that dialogue, all we hear is that there has been no progress. Let the record reflect that, because after you go back to Hansard, I think you would conclude that that is very much the case. Iíd like to thank the minister for his non-answers in this area.
I would ask him to be a little bit more precise, because justice is supposed to be precise and definitive but it doesnít appear to be the case.
Is the Minister of Justice aware of the First Nationsí position on the Crown attorneyís office being devolved to the Government of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: For the record, let the record show that our interpretation of a set of circumstances is entirely different from that of the Member for Klondike, who seems to think that nothing is being done on this side. It is. To answer the question specific, no, we do not know the position of the Council of Yukon First Nations, because we havenít received an answer to the letter. I think that is the third time I have said that to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would encourage the minister to sit down with the Grand Chiefs and the chiefs of the various First Nations in the Yukon and probably come to an understanding of this area. It is a very, very important area, and there doesnít appear to be very much, if any, movement on the part of the Government of Yukon to see the devolution of the Crown attorneyís office to the Yukon.
To explore with the minister the area surrounding legal services and the hiring of attorneys, we were previously advised by the previous Minister of Justice that any requirement for legal services had to be funnelled through the Department of Justice, no matter what area was being looked at.
Could the minister tell us how this is working? How many attorneys do we have on staff here within the government? How many lawyers are on staff? How many outside lawyers are being hired, and what does the trend look like, compared to what it used to be? How quickly is the Department of Justice responding to the needs of the various departments for legal services?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: In the legal services and the legislative divisions of the department, there is a total of 29 employed: 14 of those are legal counsel, eight are staff on the legal services side, and in the legislative side, there are two in English, two in French, and three staff.
As for the time of response, how can I put it? There are always countless requests for the department for legal opinions on almost any matter that government seems to undertake. And thatís only natural. You want to know that youíre on the right steps. One wants to know that oneís not following down the road in the wrong direction. If the particular issue is one that requires a great deal of expertise, it is frequently necessary to go to outside counsel. When there are those issues that can be done in-house, weíre doing them to the very best of our ability with the 29 people we have in this area. I have not heard any reports of any departments or corporations of this government that are backed up in their work because of a backlog of legal opinions.
Mr. Jenkins: So, with the structure currently in place, has there been an improvement in the way government deals with legal matters? A simple yes or no is all that suffices.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Yes, most assuredly, there has been.
Mr. Jenkins: And how is that being determined?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: It is determined in a manner that suggests to us that all of the legal needs of government are being met and that the costs for outside legal counsel are decreasing significantly. That is, it can now be done to a much higher level in-house than it has ever previously been done.
Mr. Jenkins: That fact, which the minister appears to present as being factual, is being demonstrated by a number of cases. One, is it substantial and increased in matters that are presented to the court? Are we coming out substantially better off now that we have in-house counsel vis-à-vis using hired counsel from any one of a number of law firms?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The particular tally card for one lost, or a draw, is published by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. They keep track of all manner of judicial matters relating to the territory. Thatís not a particular document that we have ready access to at the moment. It is not published weekly, for example. We would have to provide a summary to the member showing the results that he appears to be seeking.
Mr. Jenkins: So what the minister is saying is that there has been improvement but he canít substantiate it. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I said that there has been an improvement; we canít substantiate it at this five minutes because the results reside in a complicated format published by the Centre for Justice Statistics in Ottawa.
But I would like to clarify, for the memberís benefit, over the last five years, the budget for outside counsel costs to this government have gone from $241,000 to $200,000. They have fallen that much over the last five years. Normally the trend is for an increase in cost to government. This governmentís costs are going the other way.
Mr. Jenkins: That still begs an answer to the question, Mr. Chair. The minister gets up and says that there has been an improvement but all the statistics are kept in this great, big whatever he wants to refer to it as. He canít substantiate the position he has taken and he canít show any indication that this is very much the case, other than that the cost for outside counsel has been reduced. That is an interesting position to take for a Minister of Justice ó very, very definitive. I wonder if heís working on the basis of the balance of probabilities or proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or either.
Mr. Chair, Iíd like to explore the issue of some of the departments, specifically highways. They have taken a pretty hard stance with a number of the contractors and, when it comes to dispute resolution, the standard position of some of the senior personnel of the department of highways is, "Sue us." Is this the current position and policy that is being provided to the department of highways ó or whatever that entity now is called ó from the Department of Justice when they seek some sort of advice?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Well, to clarify further for the member, I suppose itís a routine cause and effect of doing business that some matters of contractual obligations are going to wind up in a dispute in a court. Iím not necessarily sure that the department of highways ó or the Department of Infrastructure, as it is now called, for the benefit of the Member for Klondike ó is any worse than any other particular department of government, but each case is assessed on its own individual merit and its own individual presentation of facts that are brought before the dispute resolution ó whether thatís arbitration or whether thatís going to civil court.
We donít believe that we are in any worse or any better position necessarily on the particular matter of highway contractors.
Mr. Jenkins: Yet if you look at the overview of the Department of Justice, some of the major justice issues in the Yukon are a growing interest in alternate dispute mechanisms. Is there a growing interest in alternate dispute mechanisms everywhere but in government?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: No, itís not necessarily restricted to government only, but the use of alternate dispute mechanisms is also used in a number of civil cases to keep the court time and court costs down to a much lower level. I can attest for the member that the use of the dispute mechanism is an achievement that is looked at, respected and of very much benefit to the parties of the disputes. So there is nothing particularly out of line with that particular observation by the Department of Justice.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me rephrase that for the minister. The Department of Justice, the overview ó some of the major justice issues in the Yukon are a growing interest in alternate dispute mechanism. Now, I am aware of what is transpiring in the private sector. What I am asking the minister is this: why are these initiatives not being adopted and utilized to a greater extent than they are within government?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: It sounds like the Member for Klondike has one interpretation on that and we have another. We donít think it is necessarily any better or any worse, but I will look into the matter and see if I can get a more definitive answer on the issue of dispute resolution for the Member for Klondike and perhaps provide some more definitive facts that would assist in the answer for the member.
Mrs. Peter: I look with great interest also at the overview for the Justice department, and I have a few comments to make for the minister.
I also take interest that the wording or addressing of restorative measures is not at all in the overview of the Department of Justice. I know there is some history in addressing restorative justice measures throughout the Yukon, and especially in our communities. These measures were encouraged throughout the communities in the territory to take responsibility to address issues regarding offenders and victims.
Restorative measures are effective. Theyíre effective measures used by community members to address their own problems and try to take responsibility for them. I know the justice committee members in our communities are volunteers who believe in working in partnership with the community justice departments and other First Nationsí resources so that they can address these issues in the communities and also be helpful to other governments, whether they be First Nation governments or federal government programs or the territorial government. They believe in the work that theyíre doing, and this also includes the youth diversion program. I would just like to hear from the minister where he stands on the restorative justice measures.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I appreciate the question from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, and Iíd like to advise the member that Iím well familiar with them. I participated myself in the restorative justice tour when the individuals came to Faro, and I believe in them. Part of the programming that will come out of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre changes on the new build is called an integrated case management system. Gone are the days when the justice system dealt with only the three Cs: the cops, the courts, and the corrections systems. Gone are the days when the offenders were locked up, fed and, on the day they were released, the key was turned and they were pushed out in the street.
The department and I fully believe in the restorative justice mechanisms. We can hardly be proud of a 70-percent recidivism rate, and it is our objective to improve that. The integrated case management file simply means, for simplicityís sake, that each case is studied on its own merits and each offender is followed through with the hope that we can do something with them and make a difference in the end.
The department uses a slightly different terminology now than "restorative justice". We refer to it more as "community justice", but its objectives are contained in the accountability factors for the department and related to simply working with communities and First Nations to deliver policing, crime prevention and other community-based Justice services to meet the public safety and security needs.
I have some empathy with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, who is well aware of the very high First Nation inmate population at WCC, and indeed many institutions throughout this country. I have done the Saturday night ride with the RCMP, and I have seen the results. Before I even started the ride ó and I have to tell the members opposite that, on that particular evening in question in mid-April where four out of five of the people before starting the shift at 8:00 p.m. were of First Nations descent and had been there since earlier in the afternoon, I was quite surprised and took what I saw to heart.
But I agree wholeheartedly with the issue the member is putting forward. Itís not a pleasant experience in this territory to see the results of what we see on the register list at WCC and, as long as I am in this position, I will be doing the very best I can to improve on that situation.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate the answer from the minister. In many debates before today, I brought many statistics forward around the percentage of First Nation inmates in the jail in Whitehorse and across our nation and, yes, we do have a problem and we do need to address some of those issues. Itís all well and dandy to say that we are going to have all these nice programs. I know there is also a community justice review in progress. I support that review. However, what are we doing today to address the issues that we have today? The programs that are being reviewed are going to be put in place maybe in two or three years, and you went on your ride, you saw, you know what the facts are, and we need to know from the minister what is being done today to address those issues.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: It is the intent of the Department of Justice to work very closely with the community justice committees. As I indicated to the member yesterday, there are nine involved in the territory that have First Nation involvement.
Weíve tried wherever possible to increase funding to these committees. Weíve gone from $220,000 to $293,000 in the current budget that weíre debating today. I also wanted to tell the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that one of the things that has only been in place less than two months is that we now have someone from alcohol and drug secretariat working on a pilot project at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and dealing with the problems of alcohol addiction immediately.
We know there is no particular reason why people get involved with the law and get into trouble, but two of the things that always seem to point the finger of suspicion have to do with all the wrong things with drugs and alcohol.
As others in this Legislature have indicated, there is never enough money ó when itís there at all ó but there is often not enough money to deal with this problem. When the opportunity to get someone from alcohol and drug secretariat came up at the beginning of March, we were more than glad in the Department of Justice ó and itís a shared pilot project with Health and Social Services ó to put this person in there.
This particular person ó who is not inexperienced ó has experience in dealing with these issues, and thatís the front line at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. They are now working hard on those issues, believing that when the particular individuals finally reach the release date and have been able to spend some time with this ADS counsellor, that it is going to show up and make a difference. It is my hope that when they return to their communities, wherever those communities are throughout the territory, that the effects of whatever time and whatever weeks the individual has had with the ADS counsellor will show a difference.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate that information, and that is a step in the right direction. However, with the community justice concerns that I have right now, I would like to see the minister stimulate some interest or be vocal out there in support of these community justice issues, to let the people know that, yes, the Minister of Justice is in support of what they are doing. I have heard from several people in different communities throughout the Yukon that there has been very little contact. They are not quite sure if the minister is in support of their communityís restorative justice measures. It needs to be heard loud and clear.
Would the minister be able to do that?
Chair: Just to correct the record and make sure there was no insult intended, I meant to say Mrs. Peter instead of Ms. Netro. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: In answer to the member, we have a full-time person of First Nations descent within the department who works very closely on the issue of community justice. We have increased funding 33 percent over the last two years, and we reflect it in our accountability plan that I earlier mentioned.
Now, having said all that, I take to heart what the member has said. I sometimes believe that it isnít just having more money there that makes a difference. I believe that the personal contact and the commitment by an individual who gives some indication that he cares makes a big difference. In a couple of weeks, Iím going to Dawson, and Iíll make an attempt to start the system at the north end there.
In connection with what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has asked me, I wanted to tell her a story that affects me and that I remember from many years ago and that gives an illustration of the very situation she has portrayed.
When I was involved in another business situation, which was motion pictures, I was asked by the late Margaret Thomson of Ross River ó when we finished a particular run of a movie at Faro, could I take it to Ross River and show it there? I had a bit of a problem because the movie companies ask you to make a deposit for every showing you have. I knew what she was getting at, but we found a way of doing it on Sunday nights when we had finished the three-day run at Faro ó Thursday, Friday, Saturday. I would take the movie down, and I would show it. They would advertise it. All I did was show it. And they brought a number of people in to see the movie. Whatever topic it was, it didnít matter. They came because it was a form of entertainment. The old came, the elders came, the young came, the parents came.
I believed, and I still do to this day, that she had her finger on the right track because she knew that if we could have something for the kids to do, it kept them busy, occupied and away from trouble, whether that was a symptom of B&Es or too much early drinking. I believe the late Margaret Thomson knew exactly what the problem was, but in those days she really didnít have enough resources to do it.
For a trip to Ross River and back on a Sunday evening, I did what I could to help the situation out. I think, and still believe, that it made a difference in those days because that was the sort of ó it wasnít called restorative justice in those days. It was just keeping them busy and out of trouble because she operated, and so did I, on the basis that idle days promoted idle troubles for them, and idle situations meant that they got into more trouble. But I just wanted to share that story with the member as one prime example of where it made a difference for me ó and I thought in those early days in Ross River.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate that story from the minister. Itís in that very light that we are speaking about these issues today. Itís from people like the ministerís friend ó there are people out in the communities, the volunteers, who sit on the justice committees and who make a difference. They care about what happens to the people, especially the young people in our communities, so that they donít have to go astray. They need to be kept busy, they need to be involved in teachings from our elders and from whoever is going to take the time to listen to them, including our court parties.
We need to be accountable to the people out there in the territory and for the people who are working so hard in this area ó the grassroots-level people, whether itís in Old Crow or Dawson or Whitehorse. We need to keep the communications open and to let them know that, yes, we do care, we are addressing these issues on your behalf.
That brings me to my next question. The minister did answer my question about increases in financial support. Thereís always a shortage of funding out there, and whatever increases we can add to these departments that can offer our communities, whether small communities, Whitehorse or in a small village, so that they can take responsibility for people in those communities and address those problems with the young people so that they donít have to end up in WCC. They can take responsibilities and use whatever measures they have from local people to address alcoholism or any law-breaking measure. We need the financial support from governments.
The review was in place. I did get the legislative return today, and I have the information in front of me. The review started a year ago, and it will take two years before it is complete. We are coming up to a year since the review started, and there is still no framework. It says here that a framework should be completed by July, and thatís still a couple of months away. Can the minister tell me how come it has taken a year before a framework is in place?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Part of the problem for what seems like a very long period of time ó the one year ó is that the particular person who is in charge of the program was seconded from the federal government and has an extensive background in this area. By all admissions, it has taken longer for her to become familiar with the situation locally and to build up credibility with the community justice committees to resolve this program. I think a program review that takes two years is very long, but in this particular case, because thereís so much riding on it, we want to make sure that it is done properly from the outset. If the framework and the ground rules and the basis on which the program analysis is being done are not structured properly, it can only lead to imperfect answers, and those are not the ones we want.
Mrs. Peter: When the review has been completed and the report becomes final, it will be another year and a half before we see that report. Is the person who is doing the review travelling to every community in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Once the definitive framework is in place, we will then know the methodology that we will be using to tackle the problem. We can go superficially to every community now, but without the first step that I referred to in my earlier answer ó having a definitive framework in place ó it would only be wasted dollars. Youíd be spinning your tires in the sand.
We wanted to approach it this way with the seconded federal employees first so that weíll make that kind of a difference.
For further clarification on what the member has asked me earlier, I just wanted to give an example of what I referred to earlier in the story out of Ross River. We have provided money in a number of cases to do exactly what I referred to earlier in my answer to the member. We have provided money, for example, to the Little Salmon-Carmacks band to renovate a youth centre and purchase equipment for it. We provided money to the White River First Nation for Education: a Lifelong Process ó a pilot project to provide safe and supportive residence for youth from Beaver Creek who are attending school in Whitehorse.
Skookum Jim Friendship Centre ó $5,960 for youth projects: a horse wrangling trip, CPR course, assistance with programs. There is $10,000 for the Youth Association of Watson Lake for their 2002 positive choices tours. These are but four of the examples that Iíve just used that show how the department, through the crime prevention and victim services trust fund, is providing funding to allow people ó and a lot of those were in rural communities ó to do those very things that keep them involved, keep them busy, keep them wanted, keep them working, give them a sense of responsibility so that they donít fall off the narrow diving board, as you would have it, into the trap of getting involved with the wrong kinds of people.
Thatís one example of what the department is doing to move those projects along and keep them busy ó relying again on the earlier idea that I said, that idle hands often promote trouble. There are just a few examples for the member to consider.
Mrs. Peter: The information that the minister just gave to me about the person who is doing the review and being seconded and all the money that they are putting out there, I appreciate that. However, in the legislative return that I received, one of the sentences caught my eye, and that is the review of the framework that is being looked at on how effective these programs in the communities are. The person who is doing the review will look at community needs.
I believe that the people who are sitting on the justice committees in our communities, and the people who are offering their volunteer work, are the experts out there in the communities. If we have someone doing a review of a program that is already working out there, and we are having another look at it and saying, well, gee, is it cost effective, and the person doing the review doesnít agree with what is going on in Old Crow, that they have a program in place that is already working, then how fair is that? That is my question: if this person is not going to be visiting the communities throughout the territory where the experts are, and then comes up with a final report that doesnít address the community needs, where do we go from there?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: To come back to my earlier point, until the framework is in place, weíre going to have a bit of a problem establishing the methodology of the results. However, the federal government has a substantial sum of money in this project as well, so weíre not the only party interested in the results, but I would like to tell the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that, while we hope this particular person has the time and the ability and money to visit all communities ó and we certainly hope thatís the case ó but I would like to reiterate for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that, if the member believes, through her justice committee, that they have a project or idea thatís working, I would appreciate them telling the person doing the review. That can only be positive. I do not believe for one moment that this person is going to be heavy-handed, and that because something in her view isnít working, it gets a downgrade or a D-minus or something like that. When she doesnít review the program, that jeopardizes it. We want the community and the community justice committees to tell the person doing the review that they believe the program is successful and, further, why itís successful and where it could be approved again.
As I indicated in my answer yesterday, we do intend to involve those who are front and centre on the receiving line and who are front and centre and know what is taking place. That can only be positive.
Mrs. Peter: Thatís my point exactly. There are programs in the communities, or people on the justice committees, who are taking the time out of their lives to address these issues in the communities and taking the responsibility. So, we have a person who is doing a review and not listening to these concerns. Iím not saying that weíre having a problem with it at the moment, but if that should arise, then we need to be aware of it. We need to know that the person who is doing this review is open, and itís up to the department or the person who is doing the review to reach out to the communities and to the different community groups in Whitehorse, to help them look at this in depth.
They will come up with a framework, and then a second phase will look at specific areas, and that is going to test that framework. And the framework that was developed, hopefully, had input from everyone throughout the territory. Iím hoping that the person who is doing the review will definitely take that into consideration and hopefully be in touch with people out there. If a community tour could be done, then I would suggest that a community tour be done by the person who is doing the review. Does the minister think that would be possible?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I think the member and I are both agreeing on the same principles. We put a lot of value in the work that the community justice committees believe is happening and the results that are being produced. And I really believe that we can work cooperatively in continuing this work, and when this particular person gets, in the case of the member, to Old Crow, I again urge the community justice committee ó if the member is in the committee at the time the individual comes ó to make their views known ó absolutely ó on this particular initiative or initiatives, whatever they are, that the community believes are working successfully. I think we can only be all winners in this. And Iíd like to say "Tell me", but I think it means ó tell her, tell me. But I think tell her is the most important factor there, because that is the person who is working front and centre on it, and I didnít want to pre-empt the review in any way. But in the end, Iíd like to hear about it as well, and I think I probably will when the report is done.
I think, Mr. Chair, that the member and I are agreeing on the same thing. There is a lot of value in what the community justice committees can tell us, and I think we can both be very positively enhanced by the results and the face-to-face meeting between the committee and the reviewer.
Mrs. Peter: Would the person who is doing the review also be involved in the programming for the new facility ó the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: If I interpret the question correctly ó is the question, "Is this person going to be involved in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre review as well?"
This person is on secondment from the feds to do the review of the community justice committee. We have approached others for the specialty work at WCC. As I indicated yesterday, a lot of our work has been done for the Council of Yukon First Nations elders. The direct answer to the question is that this person is mainly for the community justice review committee. Those are the terms under which the secondment was made from the federal government.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to hear from the minister when exactly he thinks the final report will be available.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: When the framework is done in July, that is the basis upon which we will have an estimate of the time for the complete review to take place. And if weíre not sitting ó which is quite inevitable in July ó I will personally endeavour to provide the member with the best estimates of the final completion date of the review by sending a letter from the Department of Justice directly to the member.
Mrs. Peter: Since weíre agreeing on so many issues here, I hate to put a damper on things; however, a few weeks ago we had the opportunity to do welcoming remarks for an elders justice forum that was held in Whitehorse.
The minister and I were there making the remarks. At the forum, the elders spoke about how, in their time, they dealt with justice issues in the different communities using different ways to do that. Traditional knowledge in any program that is offered out there, I believe, is key. The minister shared a story with me about his friend in Faro and the impact it had on him. The opening remarks I made at the elders forum, for me, were very important. It was an honour for me to be asked to do that, and not only because I was in a room full of elders. I was very humbled to be able to welcome these people of great wisdom, who have guided us in our communities to always do what is right, and to try to do it in a good way. I took issue that very same day when we paid tribute to National Law Day. We paid tribute to Law Day in this Assembly, and that wasnít recognized. I felt very sad about that; however, we learn from our mistakes.
That was part of my comments at that forum at that time. I grew up in a small community. Everybody in that community took responsibility for my upbringing, not only my mom. Thatís part of what weíre talking about today. Thatís part of the justice, the social, the education ó every department that we deal with within government. Every mistake we make, we learn from. I learned. I had a few teachings today. Every day that Iím allowed to live, I learn something new.
To me, thatís what justice is all about. We have the court circuits come into our communities, do their job and leave. Many of our people who go before the courts are involved with alcohol and drugs. Some of these people have families and some of them have to spend time in the jail in Whitehorse and, of course, that separates their families. They have small children.
So, within the Justice department, we are dealing with people who have multi-issues. Itís not only with the courts. Itís with alcohol and drugs. Itís with social departments, and with the Education department because we have our young children going to school and theyíre torn apart by whatís going on at home. We all know that story. It has been with us for a long time. We have our people come down and stay at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and, when itís time for them to be released, they end up here in the city, so now weíre dealing with people who are homeless. They have very little to go on. You probably ran into them when the minister went on the police ride. The facts are clear on what weíre dealing with today.
Thatís how come itís so very important. When we have these reviews, how many times do we have to have these reviews?
It was called restorative justice; now itís called community justice. We can give it every name we want. The facts are still there. Itís still the same issue. How many times are we going to review these programs by various people? I appreciate trying to offer effective programs where theyíre needed, but itís when we talk about cost-effective community needs, how many times do we have to hear it? Doing these reviews, is it cost-effective? We can take that money and spend it on other justice initiatives, where itís needed most.
I know that this person was seconded by the Justice department from one of our federal departments to save some money. However, we donít need to review these programs any more.
There was a community tour that happened three years ago. Where is the report on that? I remember when they came to my own community. The community centre was full to capacity. People came out to voice their concerns and say that this is what we need to do; we are willing to take responsibility; yes, we need your help; yes, we are willing to work in partnership with you, with the Justice department; here are some plans that we have; here are some of the ideas that work for us, because weíve tried them.
The best place for our people to learn is out on the land. A lot of the money that is being spent on reviews, and what have you, can be spent doing exactly that ó to use common sense and to be accountable to people in the territory, so we donít have to warehouse people any more.
If we want to work in partnership with the people of this territory, then we need to take those steps and use common sense.
Considering the time, Mr. Chair, I suggest that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mrs. Peter 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 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 1, 2002:
Yukon Housing Corporation Organizational Chart (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3312
Social and Staff Housing Occupancy Rates as at March 31, 2002 by community (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3316
Mayo housing units sold to Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3324
Mountainview Place carrying costs (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3321-3322
Community Justice Review: responses to questions on various issues asked during Question Period (April 30, 2002) (McLachlan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3427-3428