Thursday, May 9, 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 Canada Health Day
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to Canada Health Day 2002. Each year on May 12, which is the anniversary of Florence Nightingaleís birth, we take time to celebrate our health. This year, Yukoners can celebrate with Run for Mom on Sunday, starting at 1:00 p.m. from Whitehorse General Hospital.
Mr. Speaker, this yearís theme for Canada Health Day is "Together for a healthy environment," and on behalf of the Minister of Environment, I can convey his heartfelt words about the connection between peopleís health and the health of our air, lakes, rivers, wildlife and ecosystems.
We rely on the earth to provide us with food, water and shelter for our daily survival. In return, we must make sure that the activities on the land do not damage the earthís vital processes.
On Canada Health Day, and many days to come, Yukoners will enjoy our pristine natural environment and our good health. One recent example of how Yukoners enjoyed nature and their physical health was one of approximately 300 school children from over 13 different Yukon schools participated in the 25th anniversary of the Carmacks ridge run this past May 3. Congratulations to all those who participated. We encourage all Yukoners to do something active in the outdoors on Canada Health Day.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
In recognition of Information Technology Week
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise today to remind the House that this is Canadaís annual Information Technology Week, and pay tribute to the many Yukoners who have been instrumental in the development of IT in the territory.
IT Week is part of a national initiative of Industry Canada and the Information Technology Association of Canada to raise awareness of information technology. This week is designed to showcase IT and to recognize community, industry, education and government achievements in information technology. It also gives Yukoners the chance to forge and celebrate partnerships, and to highlight the benefits of developing the critical skills that people need to succeed in the modern economy.
Yukon has made great strides over the past few years in becoming connected to the rest of Canada and to the world. IT Week is one of advancing Yukonersí knowledge and awareness, so we can continue to use information technology more effectively to increase productivity and to enrich our business, social and cultural lives.
Thanks to all those skilled and talented individuals and businesses who have worked so diligently over the last several years to bring information technology innovations to Yukon.
I look forward to working with community and industry groups as we move ahead in the field of technology.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on May 7, the leader of the official opposition asked me a question in Committee of the Whole debate regarding the Financial Administration Act and the capital budget. I have for tabling a legislative return in response to that question.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling two letters regarding Bill C-5, Species at Risk Act, dated December 11, 2001: one letter to Minister Anderson and the other letter to Prime Minister Chrétien. These letters are in response to the MLA for Kluaneís question on May 6, 2002, on page 3531 of the Blues.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukonís forest industry operators in communities like Watson Lake should not be penalized for the mismanagement of forests in the southeast Yukon by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development;
(2) the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and his senior departmental officials have made many commitments promising Yukon forest industry operators that they would have long-term tenure or timber harvest agreements, including a commitment that the operators would have access to a two-year interim wood supply until timber harvest agreements came into effect;
(3) none of these commitments were kept; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to reject the findings of the report, entitled Yukon Forestry Issues: A Reality Check in a New Direction, until such time as all the facts are presented and a more balanced set of recommendations are brought forward.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, may I ask the Houseís indulgence to introduce a guest who has just arrived in our gallery. The hon. Linda Reid, Minister of State for Early Childhood Development is visiting the Yukon as part of the Prairie Northern Pacific Fetal Alcohol Syndrome conference this week.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Transfer of funds
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. On April 4, the minister tabled the operation and maintenance budget that we are now debating. A few days later, the Minister of Health announced her plans to spend more than $2 million over and above that budget. Yesterday, we learned that there wonít be a supplementary budget for this until next fall. Instead, the Minister of Health is dipping into someone elseís budget for $700,000 in start-up costs.
Will the Minister of Finance explain what statutory, regulatory or legislative authority is being used for this transfer of funds from one department to another?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In the budget that I tabled on April 4 in this Legislature there is $5.5 million identified in the contingency line item. The Minister of Health and Social Services is drawing that down with full Cabinet and Management Board authority as a result of her announcement yesterday.
The other point I would make is that that contingency item is identified and has been in several past budgets and there are a number of pressures upon it, including the most recently announced Judicial Compensation Commission.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister knows thatís not what that fund is used for, to top up the departments and so on. Itís mostly used for emergencies in the territory and it is not the Management Board that gives spending authority to the departments. If this is what this Liberal minority government means by "accountability", I believe they have to take another look at the dictionary.
In our system of government, the authority to spend taxpayersí money comes from this Assembly and it doesnít come from the departments, it doesnít come from the corner suite upstairs and it doesnít come from the Commissioner ó it comes from this House.
So, will the Minister of Finance immediately table a supplementary budget to get authority from this House to finance these programs in an acceptable manner?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The direct, immediate answer to the member oppositeís question is no, it is not required. The contingency fund has been a line item identified and passed in every budget that I can recall since I was first elected in 1996. Itís generally the same amount of $5.5 million. It is used for such items that come up over the course of the year including items that are identified after the budget is tabled, like the Judicial Compensation Commission, like wage settlements, like the additional funding required for the alcohol and drug secretariat that the minister has announced.
Iím quite assured by members opposite who have stated repeatedly in this House that they wish to see Yukon taxpayersí money allocated in this manner and thatís exactly what has been done.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like it to be clear that we, on this side of the House, do support spending more money on alcohol and drug programming. I believe the Finance minister is completely wrong on this. If the departments feel they are going to be overspending in their departments and they just dip into this fund, then it is a slush fund, and the minister knows that. Thereís a proper procedure in this House, and I believe the government is not following that process at all. What we donít support, Mr. Speaker, is exactly what theyíre doing. Itís sloppy fiscal decision making and this Liberal governmentís arrogant contempt of this Legislature.
I should remind the Minister of Finance that it is with exactly that kind of attitude that her own Ottawa friends got into hot water with the Auditor General.
So my question: will the minister immediately ask the Auditor General for a ruling on whether or not this exercise in creative bookkeeping is acceptable when a budget is still under debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iím quite confident that it is entirely within the expenditures and within normal practices of this government. Should the member opposite wish to consult with the Auditor General, Iím sure she would welcome his letter and answer it.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, $5.5 million in a contingency reserve has been shown in every budget I can recall. It has been used for any number of items throughout the year, such as the items that come up after the budget is tabled, like the Judicial Compensation Commission, for which costs can be quite extensive, if the member opposite takes the time to read the report that was tabled in this House. I must thank the member opposite for his support for the additional money in alcohol and drug programming.
Question re: Water quality
Mr. Keenan: Today Iíd like to ask the Minister of Health a question about the accountability statements for her department. The departmental objective 6.2 states that the department will, and I quote, "Continue to monitor development of national standards for water and food safety and develop options for implementation appropriate for the Yukon." So Iíd like to ask the Health minister, why is this Health minister promoting such a vague commitment to safe drinking water for all Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Our commitment to drinking water is not vague. The safety of our water supply, as I have told the member again and again, is a priority for all Yukoners, and we take this issue very seriously. My department and the Department of Health and Social Services are continuing to work with Yukonís municipalities with all Yukoners to ensure a safe water supply for everyone.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, Iíd just like to point out that this is an absolute result of renewal that the ministers are confused about who has the responsibility for something as important as water standards. Iíve pointed out and Iíve read the accountability from the Department of Health and Social Services, where it clearly lies with the Minister of Health and Social Services. Now, yesterday, the minister who just spoke in answer for the minister responsible for health, who is shirking her duty by not answering the question, said that a federal environmental assessment screening report on the Whitehorse water supply was flawed. They said it was flawed. Now, this report was based on the same scientific standards used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so Iíd like to ask a question of the Minister of Health.
Will the Minister of Health and Social Services please table all correspondence between her department and DIAND that is relating to water safety that explains why DIAND is wrong and the minister is right?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Before I answer that question, I would beg the indulgence of the House in recognizing the former Member for Whitehorse Centre, Todd Hardy, who is with us in the gallery.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Now, in answer to the question, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency released, in February, a draft report on the City of Whitehorse water supply. The Yukon government expressed concerns and provided suggestions about the presentation and interpretation of public health information in that report. The recommendations made by the medical officer of health and officials from the Department of Health about the presentation and interpretation of public health information associated with the cityís water supply were agreed to and incorporated in the final report released May 3.
Mr. Keenan: Iím just absolutely appalled. Neither one of the ministers wants to stand and answer the questions. One is about the infrastructure, and the minister responsible for communities stands up and talks about infrastructure development when the standards clearly lie with the Minister of Health.
For them, in the middle of Question Period, to be hiding behind an introduction of a former MLA is atrocious. Not only do they not know what theyíre doing, theyíre hiding behind feeble excuses to get away from answering questions on the floor of this House.
Other governments thought they were right. The most recent example is the former Premier of Ontario, who thought he was right, and we know the results of that. Yukoners want to be 100 percent sure that their water standards are there ó and should be there. And the burden of proof, I might say, lies with this government; it lies with this Health minister.
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, Iím just getting to it. The standard of proof has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. So will the Minister of Health and Social Services, who truly does have responsibility in this, table any studies and any reports undertaken by her department proving that the Whitehorse drinking water is safe beyond a reasonable doubt? Will the Minister of Health do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes wishes to complain about somebody not answering questions, he should look to his own performance yesterday afternoon during private membersí day, when he absolutely refused to answer any questions on his own bill.
The final CEAA report recommends that the City of Whitehorse complete a study of the drinking water supply in the community of Whitehorse, including a risk assessment of the effectiveness and adequacy of the water treatment system. Such studies are part of the normal, prudent steps that jurisdictions follow to ensure a continuing safe water supply. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon government takes this issue very seriously. We will continue to work with the municipalities and, indeed, with all residents of the Yukon to ensure a safe water supply.
Question re: Forest Industry Association funding
Mr. Fentie: I have a question for the Premier today. The recent Tough report is very unfair to the Yukonís forest industry. It even goes as far as to recommend that Minister Nault take away the associationís funding, and that adds further to the contradictory manner in which the federal government has dealt with the forest industry in this territory. Many commitments have been made by Minister Nault and his senior officials ó commitments that have never been kept.
Will this Premier now tell the House what she and her government have done to hold the feds accountable when it comes to those commitments to the forest industry, and will she make an immediate demand that Minister Nault not take away the funding for the Forest Industry Association and, indeed, increase it as their needs require?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the responsibility for forestry is mine, so Iíll answer the question for the Member for Watson Lake.
The Tough report, of course, was released in the past two weeks. It was prepared for Minister Nault. There are 19 recommendations in there. What my department and department officials are doing is carefully analyzing all the recommendations. As the Member for Watson Lake knows, the responsibility for the management of our forests will transfer from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to the Yukon government on April 1, 2003. We certainly want to make sure that as smooth a transition as possible occurs, and that Yukon forests can begin to play a very crucial role in the Yukon economy, just as it has done in the past, and we know they can do so in the future.
Mr. Fentie: As we expected, absolutely nothing is being done by this government in holding the federal government accountable on its commitment to industry, and the Liberal government across the way couldnít care less about funding for the Yukon Forest Industries Association.
Iíll try this another way. Even though the Minister of Environment has made a commitment to the public that the Yukon protected areas strategy is now in a moratorium phase, he has continued to spend money. He has allocated in this budget $655,000 on protected areas planning. The Premier continues to tell the Yukon public that her government is working hard on the economy. Let me ask the Premier this question: how much money has the Premier allocated toward the Yukon forest industry planning in this territory? How many dollars?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Of course, forest industry planning is very important. Weíve held a forest summit in conjunction with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Weíre working hard on a forest vision policy framework so that, when the responsibility for forestry and forest management is transferred from the federal government to the Yukon territorial government on April 1, 2003, that a smooth transition occurs and that we can ensure that the forest industry ó particularly the forest industry in southeast ó can play a very pivotal role in developing our economy and leading to sustained economic development in the territory.
Mr. Fentie: While the YPAS planning process is in a moratorium phase, this government is still spending $655,000 on it but, when it comes to forest industry planning, not one thin dime.
The Yukon Party will take a balanced approach to this issue. We believe in a balanced, progressive approach to the hard policy issues for this territory.
We have a suggestion: will the Premier bring forward a supplementary budget allocating $655,000 of planning money for the Yukon forest industry now?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned to the Member for Watson Lake previously, weíve held a forest summit in conjunction with industry and DIAND. Weíre working very hard to ensure that the forest industry will play an important part in the economy and that we are ready for the transfer of management of our forest resources to the Yukon government on April 1 of 2003.
Question re: Museums strategy
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture. Now, the consultantís report on the museums strategy is being released to the Yukon Heritage Resources Board today. This report will affect the operations of facilities throughout the territory and will have a bearing on their finances for years to come. Will the minister agree to table this report today to all members opposite so we may also have a chance to study the recommendations contained within?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I donít have a problem doing that, as we are dispensing that report to all Yukoners. Weíre going to a consultative phase on the comments that we heard in the preliminary go-round on the whole of the museum strategy, and out of respect for the board, we gave them the copy first for their review and comment.
Just an add-on, Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the members opposite are picking on the Department of Environment with respect to the policy section that specifically works on policy as it affects jobs, policy as it affects First Nations, policy as it affects conservation issues, policy on environmental issues, policy for the whole department. The members opposite obviously donít understand or appreciate the efforts of seven individuals within that branch.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank the minister for his cooperation in agreeing to provide us with copies of that report today. However, I donít understand where he was coming from in the latter part of that response or to which question he was responding to. I suggest that maybe the minister just stick to the questions.
Now, the museum community has real concerns about the financial situation. They are concerned that, unless the reportís recommendations are adopted, the museums will be without additional operating funds next year. The Dawson Museum still receives the same amount of funding it received in 1985 and had to lay off its curator because of this. Other museums are also concerned about their survival too, especially while this government pleads poverty. Will the minister guarantee that the financial resources will be there to implement recommendations from this report?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I appreciate the question from the Member for Kluane but, as we have indicated, we listen to what Yukoners have to say. I am not going to prejudge what Yukoners have to say. I will respect what they have to say, but we are going through a consultative phase now, wanting input from Yukoners and respecting what Yukoners have to say. This is the first chance that Yukoners have had to look at the draft strategy comments that are all put together for their further review, so I am not going to prejudge the outcome. I want to listen and not prejudge what they have to offer us by way of suggestions.
Mr. McRobb: Why should Yukoners participate in consultation processes by this government if the final recommendations of these taxpayer-paid reports will be cherry-picked by the minister? The consultant, Bill Barkley, is one of the countryís most respected experts on museums. Mr. Barkleyís discussion paper from last December identified many problems with the heritage branch. These included a cumbersome grant process, lack of consideration of community priorities, perceived favouritism and authoritarianism. These problems have led to the heritage branch neglect of some facilities and interference in others.
What steps has this minister taken to fix these problems since the discussion paper came out, and will he commit to solving any departmental problems identified in this final report?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Of course, the NDP are very, very familiar with the word "favouritism" because they practised that substantially when they were in government.
The fact of the matter is that we are taking the advice of the individual who put this report together. The Member for Kluane is absolutely right that heís well-esteemed, so we are taking his advice and are going out for further consultation. We are awaiting word back from the heritage board, as well as YHMA, as well as museums, as well as Yukoners in the communities because it has an effect on a lot of people. So we are awaiting word back and for the recommendations that come from the public.
Itís unfortunate now that the members are challenging the fact of consultation. Iím indicating to the members opposite that we are listening to what they have to say. We are going out for consultation, and thatís a good thing.
Question re: First Nations secretariat
Mr. Jim: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. During the past two years, the Health and Social Services department and the Council of Yukon First Nations have worked very hard in trying to establish a First Nations secretariat. My question to the minister: since the Aboriginal Social Services Council has been collapsed for at least eight months, could the minister tell the House what happened to the $45,000 allocated funding that was used to pay for the council meetings? Can the minister tell this side of the House what happened to that money?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Over time, there has been a change in the arrangement that was made with the Council of Yukon First Nations. $60,000 has been allocated toward a position for the First Nations child secretariat. So there has actually been an increase in the funding.
We deal with Chief Lucy McGinty now, who is the chief responsible for health services at CYFN, and thatís who we are having our conversations with today.
Mr. Jim: There were no answers as to what happened to the $45,000 held for the council meetings, Mr. Speaker. In the summary on First Nations issues submitted by Corbin D. Shangreaux to the Child Welfare League of Canada, he identified many times that a First Nations secretariat should be established as soon as possible. The idea of the joint secretariat would be that it would operate at armís distance between Council of Yukon First Nations and the social services department. The joint secretariat would work toward reconciliation of families, funding issues, and help build capacity with First Nation governments.
My question to the minister: could the minister inform this House when the First Nations secretariat is going to be established?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, Iíll remind the member opposite that Iíve answered his question already. The funding for the First Nations child welfare secretariat has increased to $60,000, and thatís for a position. Iím having ongoing discussions with Chief McGinty, who has been assigned as the chief responsible for health issues.
Mr. Jim: In many studies completed in the past and today on the social services delivery, it has been found that First Nation families have many questions about child protection. Justiceís suggested novel approach is to help bring First Nation communities into partnership on child welfare, such as with healing centres and use of clan systems, just to name a few. We know that other government departments are involved in the welfare of children in one way or another and that communities should be actively involved with the welfare of our children.
My question to the minister: could the minister inform the House what concrete steps are being taken to ensure that all departments and communities are working together to ensure that positive and realistic programs are being developed to improve the health of our families?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: In answer to the memberís question again, the Child Welfare League of Canada report will be due at the end of June. At that time, we will be looking at all the recommendations from the Anglin report that was released in November as well as the recommendations that come from the Child Welfare League of Canada. At that time ó and Iíve answered this question many times before in the House, Mr. Speaker ó we will be going out and speaking to individual First Nations as well as to Yukoners about how we can improve the child-in-care system.
Question re: Forestry devolution
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier on devolution of forestry.
The report by the Minister of DIANDís special forestry envoys reveals that forestry management here in the territory is in a total and abject mess. In 11 months from now, the Yukon government is going to inherit this federal mess under the Premierís much-touted devolution initiative. In reviewing the structure of the new Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, however, there are only three positions devoted to the forestry issue.
Other than the money ó the $650,000 ó that my colleague from Watson Lake proposed that the Premier bring forth in a supplementary budget ó thatís it.
Now, are these three Yukon government employees expected to perform a miracle and have all of the forestry planning work done prior to the date of transfer, which, by the way, Mr. Speaker, is April Foolís Day, 2003?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As the Member for Klondike stated, we will of course be receiving management and control of Yukon forests on April 1, 2003. The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources will be receiving the DIAND employees who are currently involved with forestry management, and we expect to integrate them into the department and work hard in the lead-up to devolution with the resources that we have available now and post-devolution and make sure that Yukon forestry is a strong contributor to the Yukon economy.
Mr. Jenkins: Letís look at what weíre taking over. The development of a comprehensive forest management plan is being left, by default, in the hands of DIAND officials, and they have failed miserably to develop such a plan over the course of the last seven years. How can this current forestry mess be cleaned up in 11 months when the Yukon government has done nothing to develop its own plan, and DIAND has proven itself incapable of doing the job?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned before to the MLA for Klondike, weíre certainly working very hard to ensure that thereís a smooth transition of not only the forest industry on the date of devolution but, also, the mineral industry. If he looks under goal 3 of the accountability statement for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, it deals specifically with forestry ó developing a forest policy framework, working on the Yukon forest industry strategy, as well as working with industry and DIAND to ensure new timber tenures are negotiated and awarded.
We also plan to undertake policy work to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation, post-devolution. Weíre working very hard during the next year and post-devolution to ensure that forestry will be a very key player in the Yukon economy.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím appalled the minister canít face up to the reality of the situation. He touts an accountability plan, but he canít face the reality of the situation, which is that, in 11 monthsí time, this federal forestry mess is going to be transferred to the Yukon government, ready or not. With no comprehensive forestry plan in place, Yukon forest industry operators could be waiting another two or three years to gain long-term access to timber, which will paralyze the future development of the industry.
What does the Premier or the minister, whoever wants to stand up and answer ó plan to do to change this situation?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned before, we are carefully analyzing the recommendations in Mr. Toughís report that he has made to the Minister of DIAND. Of course, all members of the House recognize that DIAND is still responsible for forest management in the territory until April 1, 2003.
I laid out a number of initiatives that we are undertaking in the accountability plan to address the forestry issues so that upon taking control of forestry in 2003, we will be ready to assume control and restore the forest industry as a key economic contributor to the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Ministerial communiqué regarding feminist movement
Mrs. Peter: Although a number of weeks have passed since the e-mail from the Member for Riverdale South surfaced, there are still some outstanding issues. This government has said that it replies to all correspondence. In fact, they even sent a thank-you note that was posted on the menís activism Web site. However, there are at least two letters, from both the regional and national Public Service Alliance of Canada, that have not yet been answered. Will the minister extend that same courtesy to the other groups that wrote letters that was extended to others?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The letters the member opposite is referring to were addressed to me. I have telephoned the individuals and indicated why no response had been received to date, and I will be following up and responding in writing.
Mrs. Peter: A few days ago, the Member for Riverdale South said that she always responds in two or three days, yet no letters have been received by the Public Service Alliance of Canada. A telephone call is not sufficient. They have not even received a form letter. When can these organizations expect the courtesy of a reply?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, immediately. I thank the member for drawing the fact to my attention that they had not yet received a response other than my personal telephone call indicating why there was a delay in the response to them. I will certainly ensure that that response is done. I thank the member opposite for the question and thank the other members for allowing me the courtesy to respond.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
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.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader 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. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:00 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will continue with general debate on the Department of Infrastructure as part of Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Infrastructure ó continued
Hon. Mr. Kent: Over the past number of weeks in this Legislature we have spent a fair amount of time discussing Yukoners and how government can best meet the needs of various groups and individual Yukon people. I know the leader of the official opposition has questioned the Premier a number of times about whom we speak to in the community. I can certainly assure the leader of the official opposition that all members on this side of the House get out regularly in the community and talk to business, business people and contractors. As the minister responsible for the Department of Infrastructure, I, too, spend a lot of time in the communities speaking with a number of individuals and business owners, as to how business is going, how busy they are, what we can do to better serve them or reduce red tapes, and those types of initiatives.
In the past couple of weeks, I spoke to a tourism operator from Teslin who said that May 4 of this year was the busiest May 4 that he has ever had. I have spoken with construction contractors as well as electrical contractors who are quite busy and getting more and more jobs all the time. A carpet-laying contractor approached me a month ago and said that he had an extremely busy winter with his business, one of the busiest winters he has ever had. I have also spoken with engineers and highway contractors, and they, too, are quite busy working in the territory.
So certainly we have been out talking to Yukoners and Yukon businesses and identifying their concerns and issues and just basically seeing what we can do and how we can improve the services that government offers to allow their businesses to compete and thrive in the Yukon economy.
In debate on Tuesday, the Member for Kluane asked me about a ministerial travel schedule for the upcoming year. I can tell the Member for Kluane that, as the Minister of Infrastructure, I have a trip planned to the federal/provincial/territorial ministers meeting in Winnipeg in September ó thatís out-of-territory. I have a number of trips planned within the territory over the next couple of months.
This weekend, for instance, along with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, as well as the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, and the keynote speaker at this weekendís Association of Yukon Communities conference, the Minister of Community Services ó we will all be in Dawson City this weekend to listen to the concerns of communities, mayors and councils and to participate, of course, in a ministers round table, and listen to a number of issues that are raised there.
Next weekend I will also be travelling to Dawson City to attend the gold show, both in my capacity as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, as well as the Minister of Infrastructure.
Certainly we responded to the issues of the placer mining community this year by opening up the roads that serve the placer industry in Dawson City two weeks early so that they could get their equipment out to the mine sites and begin work early. The price of gold, as you know, Mr. Chair, is slowly creeping up. I believe itís at the $307 to $310 an ounce range right now, so by providing that service through the Department of Infrastructure to the placer miners in the Dawson City area, we were able to accommodate their wishes to get out to their claims earlier this year and begin work.
At this time Iíd like to commend the efforts of the grader operators in Dawson City who were able to get out early and do that work so that the placer mining industry could go to work earlier this year than they normally have in the past.
Something else that weíve done to respond to the wishes of contractors is putting out the capital budget in the fall. By putting out the capital budget in the fall it has allowed contractors to bid on contracts earlier than they normally would have. Certainly the president of Golden Hill Ventures, after being awarded a contract, was quoted in the paper thanking the Yukon government for responding to the wishes of the contracting community by putting out the capital budget in the fall.
They were able to mobilize their equipment prior to the road bans going into place and have Yukoners out working on the projects earlier than they normally would have been. Especially with the late spring this year, Mr. Chair, road bans, of course, are late, as well, and itís important that not only the capital contractors are able to do that work but also the people who do the maintenance. The crushing contracts for maintenance were also out early and that service was provided for the Yukon government as well.
Mr. Speaker, since becoming the Minister of Infrastructure, as well as in my capacity of Minister of Economic Development, and since then, Energy, Mines and Resources, Iíve travelled around the territory. Iíve spoken to citizens from Watson Lake to Mayo, to Dawson City. Iíve been to Teslin. Also, Iím planning trips in the near future to Faro and Ross River. I was recently in Elsa, speaking with the proponents of the former United Keno Hill Mines. I know that I have officials from the Department of Infrastructure this week, prior to the Association of Yukon Communities meeting in Dawson, meeting with the proponent of AMT Canada and addressing some of the concerns surrounding the hauling of tailings from the valley up to the mill and a number of other issues and concerns that have been raised. Officials in the department and I were very pleased that we were able to respond to his requests and go to Elsa to address some of his concerns.
Mr. Chair, all Yukoners are interested in the quality of life here and recognize the role the Department of Infrastructure plays both in the economy and in keeping our highways safe, providing appropriate facilities for our students, our senior citizens, citizens in the Justice system and, of course, patients of the Yukon health care system.
When dealing with keeping our roads safe, perhaps at this time I could highlight a number of the capital and O&M projects the department is undertaking this year with the $40-million budget in the transportation division, as well as the budget in Government Services for construction projects.
Mr. Chair, for the Alaska Highway No. 1, under the Shakwak project, weíve budgeted $23.5 million this year. Of course, members of the Legislature know that is a transfer from the United States Department of Highways to Canada to the Yukon government in order to complete construction of the Shakwak project, which goes from Haines, Alaska, to Haines Junction, and then north from Haines Junction to Beaver Creek and the Alaska border.
On a recent trip to Juneau, I testified before the Senate Transportation Committee to have them lobby the federal Government of the United States to appropriate the remaining $45 million that we need to complete the Shakwak project. That $45 million will be used to reconstruct 18 miles of highway along the shores of Kluane Lake, as well as replace four major bridges along that northern section of the Alaska Highway.
Weíre certainly very thankful for the Shakwak funding weíve received. It has allowed us to improve the transportation infrastructure in the Yukon. That transportation infrastructure is very important to Yukoners and Alaskans, as it is the vital artery that carries not only visitors to Alaska, but commercial traffic travels to Alaska along that route as well.
Itís interesting to note that this year the Yukon Transportation Association is inducting three pioneers of the Shakwak project into their Hall of Fame. Of the three, two are former Commissioner Jimmy Smith of the Yukon Territory, as well as Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska.
This year on the Shakwak project, approximately five contracts are going to be awarded. We have 10 kilometres of construction, from kilometre 1674 to 1684. Work on this section of the highway includes construction of subgrade, granular sub-base, granular base and drainage structures. That contract has been tendered and awarded, and Yukoners are working on that right now.
A second portion of construction that will be taking place on the Shakwak project is from kilometre 1738 to 1750, near Destruction Bay. This work is similar to the previous contract that I mentioned ó construction of subgrade, granular base and drainage structures. We expect the tender to be let on that within the next couple of weeks.
We also have construction from kilometre 1775 to 1786 ó thatís Burwash Creek to Quill Creek. Similar work will be undertaken. That contract has already been tendered and awarded, and again, Mr. Chair, Yukoners are out there working right now.
There is BST work that will be tendered this year from kilometre 1664 to kilometre 1674, from kilometre 1684 to kilometre 1692 and, of course kilometre 1798 to kilometre 1820. As well, along those same sections of highway we are planning seeding and fertilizing work. The Shakwak money, as I previously mentioned, of course, flows from the United States federal government, and we are very thankful of that, as we work to improve the Yukon highways. But certainly, we are doing our part as well to improve the Alaska Highway with a total budget of $9.3 million for this fiscal year. We have approximately four capital projects that are scheduled to take place on the Alaska Highway south, from Haines Junction toward Watson Lake. These projects include asphalt overlay from the Carcross Corner to the Yukon River bridge, possibly extending as far as Kettley's Canyon on the Alaska Highway. Work on this includes construction of hot mix asphalt, overlay including paved shoulders, as well as rumble strips on those shoulders. Of course, rumble strips are very important for the safety of travellers who are using our highways. Members in the House may be familiar with them because they are very present on highways throughout Alberta and B.C. We are also conducting intersection improvements on the Alaska Highway near the Fish Lake Road. Work on this includes construction of turning lanes and the proposed tender date is May of this year. Going back to the asphalt overlay from Carcross Corner to Kettley's Canyon, we expect the tender to be done later this month as well.
Weíre also undertaking some construction on the Alaska Highway near Champagne, in the Member for Kluaneís own riding. Construction from kilometre 1557 to 1572 continues. That, of course, is the Champagne revision work. Work on this includes the construction of the Mendenhall culvert, sand sub-base, granular base and a tie-in at both ends of the Champagne revision as well as removal of the existing Mendenhall bridge. A local contractor has been awarded that contract and, of course, Yukoners are out there and Yukoners are working on that project right now.
A second major construction project on the Alaska Highway is kilometre 1572 to 1586, near Cracker Creek. Work on this includes construction of sub-grades, granular sub-base, granular base and drainage structures. This may be tendered as a two-year project and, of course, the project was tendered last week and we expect the contract to be awarded very soon so that Yukoners can get to work on that portion of the Alaska Highway as well.
Improving infrastructure is so important. Not only does it provide short-term jobs to Yukoners but it also leaves us with a number of long-term benefits from infrastructure construction. It makes our minds more accessible. It improves the transportation network for our visitors, for Yukoners, for commercial traffic that not only comes to the Yukon but carries on beyond Haines Junction, beyond Destruction Bay, beyond Beaver Creek into Alaska.
Certainly, there are a number of initiatives the Department of Infrastructure is undertaking to ensure that Yukoners are working now and that Yukoners can continue to work. Since April 1, we have tendered over $21 million in contracts to put Yukoners to work. Those are very important because they do provide jobs for Yukoners ó jobs for Yukoners from direct government spending provide sustained, economic benefits to the territory, which is very important.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for the information, but his response had nothing to do with the question, which was on the governmentís new enforcement program for highways. Instead, what we got was about a 12-minute commercial on some things the minister hopes happen in the future.
When the minister talks about travel, Mr. Chair, we expect to see a fully itemized list, along with the cost to the taxpayers of these trips, as well as what kind of production the minister expects to come from each of these trips. Weíll be following up with him on these highway construction projects for a greater amount of detail. As the minister knows, Iím a strong backer of these highway projects in the Kluane riding. Weíll get to that later on this afternoon, perhaps.
I do have a number of questions on this department, dealing with a range of issues, but I would like to follow up some more on this highway enforcement issue. I asked the minister to give us an overview of this, when we left off. Unfortunately, not very much information was provided. So, subsequently, I took it upon my own initiative to discuss this initiative with a member of the Yukonís transportation industry. I got a lot more from that individual in about two or three minutes than I got from the minister the whole other day in this Legislature.
But I understand, Mr. Chair, that the RCMP highway patrol units will be increasing from about four to six, and that the individuals manning the units will be getting training in Regina this fall. The RCMP will be stopping commercial highway trucks and not just giving them directions to report to inspection sites. The RCMP will have the authority to examine some of the paperwork, such as log books, driverís licence, et cetera, and also issue tickets for any obvious infractions, such as lighting and anything else that is obviously wrong with these commercial vehicles. That is all in addition to what the minister mentioned the other day.
Mr. Chair, something else coming out of the ministerís response in Question Period yesterday was the fact that these inspection sites will be mobile. That wasnít indicated at all previously, and I understand that, if the sites are mobile and more of a check-stop type of installation then, of course, there is just reason to keep those places confidential. However, the way the minister had described it previously, Mr. Chair, it made it sound as if those inspection sites would be stationary and in a lot of communities throughout the Yukon. As a matter of fact, I think I saw one of the experimental sites in operation on the weekend at the Haines Junction weigh scale.
This initiative, Mr. Chair, of course, is a result of the Liberal governmentís decision to do away with the mobile highway inspection unit, and that was a unilateral decision, taken on its own ó without any public consultation or discussion in this Legislature, I might add.
Several employees were laid off as a result of this renewal initiative and that perhaps is an issue for another day because the Liberal government has always said there wonít be any layoffs because of renewal. In this case here, we see there are several layoffs right in the highways enforcement division. I would hope the minister can give us more details about this initiative.
One of the concerns Iím hearing about highway safety is how our highway crews are being protected by a lot of the commercial traffic, especially commercial traffic that is exceeding the speed limit. Iím familiar with some outside trucking companies ó I wonít identify who they are ó that have units that travel very close to 100 miles an hour on Yukon highways. This is indeed a problem. A lot of these are hauling produce, fish or perishable goods. I wonder where the enforcement is.
Another problem I hear about is how commercial vehicles ó again, I assume that a lot of these are from outside the territory ó are taking detours to avoid our highway scales. Now, we know our highway scales are fewer in number than they used to be, and in some locations, itís quite easy for a truck to avoid the scales. But Iím hearing some stories about how outside commercial operators are driving down the Two Mile Hill through Whitehorse and out the South Access Road at night to avoid the weigh scale.
As a matter of fact, Iím aware of recent reports to the RCMP to that effect and possibly with one of the violators being nabbed.
I would like to ask the minister if he can give an overview of these issues as I have identified them.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I thank the Member for Kluane for his interest in highway safety because, of course, thatís something that is a shared interest I have. I note that he has family members who are involved in the industry. I, of course, have family members who were previously involved in the industry as well, so ensuring the safety of the memberís familyís employees is maintained, as well as ensuring the safety of a number of individuals I know in the commercial industry, is of utmost importance to all members of this House, and, of course, the Member for Kluane and I are included on that list.
As the Member for Kluane mentioned, the RCMP are now involved with roadside inspections of commercial vehicles. However, itís my understanding from speaking with department officials that the RCMP will not be conducting roadside inspections of commercial vehicles under the new compliance program that we have put into place. Instead, at the roadside inspection sites, the RCMP officers may direct commercial vehicles to report for inspection by our staff. They will handle situations that pose a threat to the safety of our staff at the inspection site.
As well, the Member for Kluane mentioned the renewal and what weíre doing with the new compliance program. Two new positions have been added, and we will double the number of certified inspectors to 15 over the next year.
Under renewal, we certainly want to make sure that we can maintain the safety of our highways and ensure that our visitors, Yukoners and commercial operators are as safe as we can possibly make them. Thatís evidenced under the capital work that weíre doing on our highways to improve the overall safety ó the rumble strips that I mentioned in my overview before.
Certainly Iíve heard similar stories to what the member opposite was saying about diverting from weigh scales and some of the commercial trucks speeding through the territory, and I would encourage all Yukoners who witness this type of activity to report it to the local RCMP. These commercial operators, if they are indeed doing these types of things ó travelling at high rates of speed, avoiding weigh scales ó are certainly breaking the law and, again, I think itís incumbent upon not only all members of this House but all Yukoners to report those types of infractions to the local RCMP so that the perpetrators can be dealt with accordingly and within the law.
Again, Iíd just like to restate for the House and for the Member for Kluane that highway safety is very important to me, as it is to members in the House and the Member for Kluane, and that we have to ensure that our roads are the safest that they can be at all times.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I thank the minister for that, but if what he says is correct, Mr. Chair, that highway safety is that important, then why hasnít the minister concluded this agreement with the RCMP to set this new program into full gear? Why is there still no agreement in place? Can the minister indicate when he does expect this agreement to be in place, and once it is, if it ever happens, Mr. Chair, would the minister agree to provide me with a copy of that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, as the member noted a couple of questions ago, this past weekend we did have a roadside inspection done. It was the first one we have done in conjunction with the RCMP, and I am not aware of the location of it. The member suggested that it may have been in Haines Junction, and that may well be the case.
As far as signing a formal agreement with the RCMP on conducting these types of inspections, weíre working with them currently on formalizing that agreement. Working with the RCMP on improving safety for our roads is very important, and although I canít give the Member for Kluane a definitive date for when that agreement will be formalized, I can commit to him that once it is I will provide him, as well as other members of the Legislative Assembly, with a copy of that agreement.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, going back to a point addressed by the minister regarding the extent to which the RCMP can conduct inspections of commercial vehicles they pull over, I did not hear him indicate that any inspection of the paperwork or obvious infractions may take place. But, as I had on record, I do believe that might be the case.
Further information I have on this program regarding the inspection sites is that they wonít be taking place at existing highway pullouts or rest stops so as to use facilities currently in existence for other purposes.
So if the minister would like to send over a written response sheet on this program, I would be most interested to learn any information he would like to volunteer on it. One question I have, in follow-up to the example I gave of how some operators may avoid our existing inspection facilities like weigh scales, is this: has the minister considered the installation of monitoring equipment at strategic locations throughout the territory? What Iím speaking of, Mr. Chair, is maybe a camera connected to the Internet where someone in Whitehorse may monitor a number of locations throughout the territory. It wouldnít take too many tickets or licences sold to actually pay for such a program. If compliance is the approach preferred by this minister, once these operators were aware that their entry into the territory could be monitored from a long distance away, and consequently that they could be pursued by someone with the authority to pull them over, of course there would be a greater pressure on those operators to comply with our regulations and so on.
What has the minister done in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Kent: To clarify a point for the Member for Kluane again, the RCMP will not be conducting roadside inspection of commercial vehicles. They are there to direct commercial vehicles to report for inspection by our staff, and they of course will handle any situations where there is danger or perceived danger to our staff at the inspection sites.
As far the Member for Kluaneís suggestion about cameras being installed in strategic locations throughout the Yukon, I would note that there are a number of other considerations to take into account with that suggestion. Of course, cost-effectiveness of that is one consideration that springs to mind, as well as all the recent media coverage over cameras and the ó for lack of a better term ó Big Brother type of innuendoes that have been associated with that. We certainly witnessed that in Whitehorse with the camera that is focused on Main Street, I believe. I do recall similar reports from other parts of the country. There are a number of other considerations we would have to take into account when dealing with the installation of cameras to monitor highway traffic, or monitor other things.
Mr. McRobb: I understand that. That is why I suggested it, knowing the Liberalsí position on this. But I would like to say that these cameras would not be broadcasting anything over public television, so there is a huge difference there. They could be placed so that they cover a minimal amount of public area that would still be very strategic for the purposes of monitoring outside trucks and so on in the territory.
Perhaps one at the intersection of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and the Alaska Highway in the vicinity of the weigh scale that is no longer in operation would be effective. There are other such strategic locations that I am thinking of when making this suggestion.
I want to just follow up on something the minister said. He is indicating that there are Yukon government staff who will be going out and enforcing our highway regulations. Can he indicate who these people are and what they are in number and availability? Are these full-time staff who will be doing this or is he speaking about the occasions when they will accompany the RCMP officers during these blitzes? Just what exactly is he speaking about here?
Hon. Mr. Kent: These staff members are compliance officers from our weigh stations. They will be conducting the roadside inspections along with the RCMP. As far as numbers, there are 10.9 compliance officers who will be working for the Yukon government, not only participating in these roadside inspections with the RCMP but also working at our weigh stations and conducting inspections and the other normal things that occur at our weigh stations.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not quite sure if the minister said this staff will be conducting these checks in concert with the RCMP only or also by themselves. It does raise the question, Mr. Chair, what happens outside of these blitz initiatives where we have the RCMP and staff, along with the inspection personnel, out at these undisclosed locations, which I would presume would total just a small percentage of the time?
What happens outside of those periods, Mr. Chair? Because itís my understanding the former mobile enforcement crews were pretty well full time, or at least they patrolled the highways on a regular basis. Maybe the minister can help by giving us some kind of figure of what percentage of the time the highways will be patrolled in relation to how things were formerly?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I donít have that detailed information as to the percentage points that the Member for Kluane asked about. What I can convey to the Member for Kluane is that the new program has entailed reorganizing the weigh station and enforcement section. All staff will regularly conduct inspections of commercial vehicles and are required to deliver all components of the compliance program at all locations. So this will eliminate the need for specialized positions.
As I mentioned before, we have added two new positions, and weíll double the number of certified inspectors to 15 over the next year. Under the new program, Mr. Chair, our hours of operation are 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which will, of course, require shift work for our employees. And with the new program, more commercial carriers will be regularly inspected at any time of day, which we hope will promote an overall improvement in not only the mechanical fitness of vehicles but also a greater deterrent for unsafe and illegal behaviour such as the Member for Kluane was speaking about previously, the speeding and the failure to stop at weigh stations. So weíre hoping that what this results in, of course, is the ultimate goal of increased road safety for all road users.
Mr. McRobb: I look forward to receiving that information and possibly following up on it. I want to turn now to the accountability plan for the department ó since we have just had a fairly good discussion on this program ó and show how few performance indicators there are in this accountability plan to hold the government accountable. Under goal 1.2, it says to provide an effective regulatory environment, and the key strategy that accompanies that says to develop and implement new highway regulations and a new compliance-based model for on-road vehicle and driver inspection. Thatís all it says, Mr. Chair.
Thereís another bullet that says to improve safety standards for the commercial carrier industry through implementing National Safety Code regulations and formalizing the compliance strategy for commercial vehicle operations. Thatís all it says, Mr. Chair. How do we assess the performance of this government in dealing with a whole host of issues, some of which have been identified this afternoon? These strategies and objectives are so broad that itís impossible to nail them down; itís impossible to really hold the government accountable for these broad statements, unless really nothing is done at all.
Iíll just leave it at that, because the minister and his colleagues really get up and blow the horn about these accountability statements and try to make a big deal out of them ó that theyíre the best thing since sliced bread, and that no other government has done this, and blah blah blah ó yet when we see a good example of how broad these statements are, it really reveals this whole accountability plan routine as a pretty thin soup.
So, Iíll just leave that for now and go on to another issue the member raised, and that is the highway work thatís being done.
Consistent with the response from the previous minister, I would like the minister to agree to provide me with a map of the section between Mendenhall and Haines Junction, which has the areas of major highway work anticipated, and indicate for me certain basic information for each of the projects, such as the kilometre postings, the cost of each known project, and the funding sources for those projects ó Iím aware that there is some federal money, through the SHIP program ó and also when the minister expects those projects to be completed.
I would also like an accounting, specifically of the SHIP program, identifying all of the projects under that program, because I know that some of them are elsewhere in the territory, such as along the Marsh Lake section, at Carcross and so on. So, can the minister agree to provide that information to me?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just taking a step back to the accountability plan of not only the Department of Infrastructure, but also other departments in government, including Energy, Mines and Resources, this is, of course, the first year that the Yukon government has undertaken such an initiative as putting in accountability plans. In my discussions with some industry groups, including the Yukon Mineral Advisory Board, specific to the Department of Energy, Mines and Resourcesí accountability plan, they are very excited about the concept. We have also raised this issue with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce members and highlighted some of the initiatives.
Of course, they are living documents that will change year to year as O&M budgets are tabled. I think they are going to improve as time goes on. We are very excited with the fact that we are able to introduce them for the first time in the Yukon this year. I know the Member for Whitehorse Centre was very involved in the process, and certainly in my discussions with him, he has had good things to say about the accountability plans, keeping in mind that they are living documents and will change on a year-to-year basis.
Specific to the question raised by the Member for Kluane regarding the work on the Alaska Highway between Mendenhall Landing and Haines Junction, in my overview earlier today, I mentioned to the member that there are two major construction projects in there, one from kilometre 1557 to kilometre 1572. This is following up on work that began at that site last year. The Premier and I had the pleasure of visiting the highway camp and driving the Champagne revision with the YTG foreman on site last October. We were quite excited about the improvements to the road at that point, and we look forward to the opening of that sometime later this summer or early fall. Work on the kilometres that I mentioned, 1557 to 1572, includes construction of the Mendenhall Landing culvert, sand sub-base, glandular base, tie in at both ends of the Champagne revision and the removal of the existing Mendenhall bridge.
The tender date for this ó of course, this contract has already been awarded. It has been awarded to Pelly Construction of Whitehorse, and they are carrying out that work right now. I know that, in speaking with the president of that company recently ó I believe it was at the Senatorís Ball, Mr. Chair ó he informed me that that weekend they were actually putting in the culvert or doing some amount of work around the Mendenhall River bridge. So weíre certainly excited that Yukoners are working on that project right now.
The second construction that is taking place out there was a contract that was tendered last week. It hasnít been awarded yet. Department officials are going through a tender review, and that is construction from kilometre 1572 to 1586, near Cracker Creek. Work on this includes construction of subgrade, granular sub-base, granular base, and drainage structures. As I mentioned, the project was recently tendered. At an announcement last month, the Yukonís Member of Parliament and I signed a SHIP agreement that provided for co-financing between the Yukon government and the federal government for that project. I should also note for the Member for Kluane that grade work for the Champagne revision was substantially completed in 2001. The road will be gravelled this year, and a BST surface will be applied if the work can be completed early enough in the season that the weather will permit it to be completed.
If BST work canít be completed this year, it will be done next year. Again, as I previously mentioned, the Mendenhall bridge will be replaced this year, and a further seven kilometres of highway from ó actually, Mr. Chair, I should correct for the record that the construction near Cracker Creek is actually kilometre 1579 to kilometre 1586. My apologies for that, and that is the true amount of mileage that will be reconstructed.
Also, a realignment, including BST surface, has been completed at the Pine Lake corner, just this side of Haines Junction. What the government intends to do, and what we are committed to doing, is complete reconstruction between Mendenhall and Haines Junction over the next three to four years ó of course, as resources and budget permit. Following this yearís work, there will be approximately 37 kilometres of the Alaska Highway remaining to be reconstructed between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. With the possibility of an Alaska Highway pipeline being announced, weíre certainly very concerned with this infrastructure. There will be a lot of commercial traffic travelling that infrastructure, so that particular section of road being completed is very important to Yukoners, as well as the continued work and the completion of the Shakwak project I mentioned earlier in debate.
Hopefully, this will provide enough of an overview for the Member for Kluane. If itís possible to provide him with a map or more detailed written information, I can certainly do that as well.
Mr. McRobb: Unfortunately, the minister provided only a partial response to my question, so I would ask him if he would oblige with a written response. I do have the map provided last year that identifies the other sections the minister excluded, but Iím also asking for the cost of the projects, and so on. In cases where the projects havenít been started yet, the estimated amount will suffice.
In regard to the question I had on the SHIP program, the minister didnít indicate what the cost of the other sections were. Once again, I would prefer that information in written format, along with the other details. That would help to expedite proceedings this afternoon.
If the minister could just give a nod to the effect that he can provide that in writing, we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Kent: The SHIP funding that we announced ó myself and the Yukon Member of Parliament announced last year ó of course he was representing the federal Minister of Transport, Minister Collenette, regarding the strategic infrastucture fund. I believe we are cost-sharing that portion of the highway ó the Cracker Creek reconstruction ó under the SHIP program at 50 percent each. As soon as the tender review is done and the final contract is awarded, I can share the information with the Member for Kluane as to final project costs and where the resources are identified. If he prefers that information in writing, then Iíll make attempts to provide him with that information in writing as soon as the tender review is done and the contract is awarded, as I mentioned.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, as indicated, I would prefer the information in writing. A lot of it can be provided in advance of any specific contract. So, I would ask the minister to endeavour to do that. He can always forward any further details later.
One other question to do with projects in that area is that, not long ago, the government announced there would be a new project up to the Aishihik Lake corner, as it was described. Thatís the section I drive frequently and can inform the House that there is new highway on either side of the Aishihik Lake corner. So, which section is the minister talking about ó the one to the north that starts at Canyon Creek, or is he talking about one on this side, which would be to the east?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The project that the Member for Kluane is speaking of is the one that I mentioned ó itís the one I announced with our Member of Parliament last month, I believe it was. It is the further seven kilometres of highway from kilometre 1579 to 1586. I have been in the Yukon for a number of years, as has the Member for Kluane, and Iím probably better with mileposts as pertains to the Alaska Highway, but I can inform the Member for Kluane that I believe that section of highway is in the vicinity of Cracker Creek.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, that would be correct, Mr. Chair. That particular project would comprise a portion of the Champagne-to-Cracker Creek section, which was identified as kilometre 1572 to 1586. Of course, thatís about 15 kilometres this side of the Aishihik Lake corner, so thereís quite a variance in the location there. I would urge the minister to try to send statements to the public that are a little more clear, because I was asked, as MLA for the area, just where this section was. The section on the west side, commencing at Canyon Creek, is still old highway. Of course, that would be a lot closer to the Aishihik Lake cut-off. It would be within two kilometres for sure, but it turns out itís about 15 kilometres on the other side.
If the department and the minister could be a little more exact about the location of these projects in the future, it would cause less confusion in the public.
I want to ask the minister about the Shakwak project and, first of all, state that I have basic information, as he knows. On our trip to visit the Alaska state legislators a couple of months back, we discussed the Shakwak issue in Juneau. We have some basic information on that project. I would like the minister to provide to me written material that identifies the remaining sections by kilometre and the anticipated price, and also identifies the bridges that will be replaced and the order in which theyíll be replaced and timelines along with those projects. Can the minister undertake to provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Kent: In response to the first comments made by the Member for Kluane in his question about the reconstruction of the Alaska Highway in the vicinity of Cracker Creek, I should note again that, in debate today, I have corrected for the record that that would be reconstruction from kilometre 1579 to 1586, a further seven kilometres. My apologies to the House for that and, of course, I have corrected the record here this afternoon.
As I also mentioned, following this yearís work, there will be approximately 37 kilometres of the Alaska Highway remaining to be reconstructed between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, with total upgrading costs from the Mendenhall section, of course, to Haines Junction estimated at approximately $31.8 million.
Mr. Chair, with the Shakwak project I, too, was fortunate enough to travel to Juneau with other legislators from this House for the legislative exchange that we went on. I believe it was in March. I had the pleasure of testifying to the Senate Transportation Committee there regarding future Shakwak funding.
With the Shakwak project ó as the Member for Kluane knows and as I testified in Juneau ó the current appropriation is scheduled to run out after the next fiscal year. I believe that would be 2003-04, and what weíve undertaken and begun lobbying plans for is to have the final appropriation of money thatís required to complete the Shakwak project, complete reconstruction of the road and the replacement of the bridges for the Shakwak project. As I stated earlier, there are approximately 18 miles of road that remain to be reconstructed in the vicinity of Kluane Lake ó I believe itís around Sheep Mountain, in that area.
As far as the bridges that need to be replaced, I donít have that information at my fingertips, but I know the Slims River is included in that. The Duke River, I believe, is also included, as well as the Beaver River. I will get that information for the Member for Kluane.
Reconstruction plans of that section of highway and the order in which the bridges need to be replaced are done. What weíre focusing on right now is getting the final appropriation from the U.S. government to finish that. Of course, when Shakwak was originally conceived a number of years ago, the idea was to have asphalt paved road from Haines, Alaska to Beaver Creek, as the Member for Kluane may or may not be aware. That, of course, would come at significantly more cost for the project. Appropriations for that are outside of the current appropriations that we are seeking.
Yesterday afternoon, at 2:00 p.m. Yukon time, I testified again via conference call to the Alaska State Senate Transportation Committee on funding for Shakwak. The committee members were as amiable as they were when we were in Juneau a couple of months ago. They certainly had some good questions for me surrounding the tendering process for the Shakwak jobs, as well as the fact that this appropriation is being sought over and above what Alaska currently receives for appropriation for their highway capital projects.
As all members in the House and indeed all members of the Alaska State Legislature who travel that stretch of highway on a regular basis ó including Senator Phillips, who was our gracious host in Juneau, as well as Representative James, who we know has been actively lobbying for the railroad connection from Alaska to British Columbia ó are strong supporters of the Shakwak project. Itís very important to note again for the record that the budget this year for the Shakwak project is about $23.5 million, including three major reconstructions, some BST work as well as some seeding and fertilizing work. As soon as the engineering information is complete on not only the remainder of the appropriation but the further appropriation that we are seeking and hope to secure from the federal government, I can make that information available to the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, thatís fine, Mr. Chair. I would like that information.
Just to follow up on the other bridges ó those would be the ones at the Donjek River and the Koidern River.
What comes to mind when talking about Yukon jobs here is the realization that a lot of the jobs in the highway reconstruction projects are taken up by people from outside the territory. Certainly we recognize the need to train more Yukoners for those jobs.
In light of the recent cancellation of those programs, such as the training trust funds and so on that were very valuable in training Yukoners for those jobs, can the minister indicate what job-training programs are out there specific to highways work? Perhaps if itís a long answer, once again, Iíll state my preference for a written response that identifies the number of jobs for programs on these projects.
Hon. Mr. Kent: With regard to the training trust funds and those types of initiatives mentioned by the Member for Kluane, I would invite him to take those issues up with the Minister of Education when departmental debate is done for that particular department, as those funds are the responsibility of the Minister of Education.
I can tell the Member for Kluane that, of the contracts that have currently been awarded for work on the Shakwak project, one has been awarded to a local contractor ó Golden Hill Ventures. They are providing jobs and putting Yukoners to work right now. As I mentioned earlier today, the president of that company was recently in the media, thanking the government for tabling the capital budget in the fall which, first of all, allowed the tenders to go out early enough and so allowed him to mobilize before the road ban went on.
A second contract on the Shakwak has been awarded to a firm from B.C., but it is our understanding in speaking with that firm that they do intend to hire a number of Yukoners and put Yukoners to work on that project. Of course, we have excellent road builders here in the Yukon Territory and very good expertise from the reconstruction that has been done on the Alaska Highway to some of the secondary roads and other highways throughout the territory. We can be very proud of the expertise of our local contractors in the road-building community. I know that some of them have taken that expertise as far away as Antarctica to do projects in the past, and their expertise is in demand worldwide.
Again, just going back to our legislative exchange to Juneau, I note that one of the members of the Senate Transportation Committee was quite appreciative of the BST work that weíve done and the fact that they were able to use that BST ó I believe it was in the capital city of Alaska, Juneau ó to get the best value for the dollar.
Mr. Chair, I should also mention one other Alaska Highway project that has been awarded. I mentioned it earlier today. It has been awarded to a local contractor, Pelly Construction, and that is the Mendenhall culvert installation as well as the work on the Champagne revision. Pelly did that work last year. It put Yukoners to work. Weíre very pleased with the work they are doing in that regard.
Mr. Chair, some points on local hire and employment generation as it relates to the transportation division and the contracts: data collected through employment reports on highway construction contracts in recent years shows that, on an overall basis, about 95 percent of contractorsí employees are Yukon residents. The 2001-02 highway construction program is estimated to have generated approximately 200 person years of direct employment. Of course, there are also a number of spinoff jobs for the service sector and other sectors of the economy that service camps and highway contracting outfits.
Mr. Chair, of 45 transportation division 2001-02 contracts awarded to the end of February of 2002, 41 of those contracts have gone to Yukon contractors with four going to non-Yukon companies.
Again, before I turn the floor back over to the Member for Kluane, I should take this opportunity to let the House know that the Yukon Infrastructure Alliance is hosting an international committee meeting. It begins on Sunday evening this weekend. I will be speaking at the opening reception, as well as attending a dinner on Monday night. Iíd like to applaud the hard work of the Yukon Infrastructure Alliance for, first of all, attracting this meeting and putting on a good show. I should also applaud some officials in the Minister of Business, Tourism and Cultureís trade and investment branch for the good work they have done. I know that the private sector has e-mailed me and sent congratulations for the good work of those officials. Their hard work doesnít go unnoticed by myself or Cabinet ministers, nor should it go unnoticed by the Yukon public.
Mr. McRobb: I would appreciate it if we could shorten up the answers a little bit to make a little more progress this afternoon.
A lot of the information Iím requesting can simply be provided in writing, if the minister just wants to give a nod to that effect. Given the amount of tributes we see from this Liberal government lately, perhaps the minister would like to make these announcements at the beginning of the day, during camera time, so they can get out to more Yukoners and promote the event at a more suitable and effective time.
I do have a couple more questions in this area but, first of all, the work at the Mendenhall culvert has been ongoing for the past couple of weeks now. I think the contractors out there are doing a great job so far, it looks like.
I want to ask the minister about this contract on the project between kilometres 1572 to 1586 with the SHIP funding, how might this affect the capital allocation from the fall budget? Because I believe there were a few million dollars or so at that time allocated toward this project. Just how is that allocation affected by the SHIP funding? Can the minister give us an update of the timelines for this project at this time?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, just for the record, the construction at Cracker Creek is kilometre 1579 to 1586. Can the Member for Kluane clarify his question somewhat? Iím not quite understanding what heís asking of me at this point.
Mr. McRobb: Sure, Mr. Chair. In the capital budget tabled in the fall there was an allocation to start this project between kilometres 1572 to 1586 which, geographically, lies between the Village of Champagne to Cracker Creek. Now, about a month ago the minister made an announcement of SHIP funding between kilometres 1579 to 1586, which lie entirely in that previous section identified as part of the capital budget.
So I am wondering, how is the allocation made in the fall capital budget, which is part of these main estimates we are dealing with now? How is that job project affected, especially with respect to timelines by the SHIP program? Is it advanced or is there less YTG money being expended here or the expenditures that were approved, are they being paired with federal money as part of the SHIP program? Can the minister just shed some light on whatís happening in this area?
Hon. Mr. Kent: It is my understanding that any impacts on the capital budget will be reflected in the capital budget that we table this fall. I can again state for the Member for Kluane that the tender closed last Thursday, I believe ó May 2 ó and that we are in the process of doing the tender review on that project and, subsequently, will be awarding the contract in the coming weeks. Again, just for the Member for Kluane, I believe that any revisions to the capital budget, as far as that project goes, will be done this fall with the tabling of the fall capital budget, and the work will proceed on that project this summer.
Mr. McRobb: All right, that is not quite what I was looking for, but maybe in some of this written information I am expecting back, the minister can fully respond.
Just before closing this one off, I would like to ask him about the Champagne bypass. This is the connection the Village of Champagne would have to the new highway routing. Can the minister explain what his intentions are with respect to that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I do thank the Member for Kluane for that question. The access to the Village of Champagne, upon completion of the new section of the Alaska Highway from Mendenhall Landing just past Champagne, has been addressed. We have consulted with the community in Champagne regarding access to the Alaska Highway.
Following reconstruction, the community has been advised that both the east and west accesses to the community will remain in service. Both accesses will be maintained while the BST surface is intact, and at some future time when the surface reverts to gravel, only one access will be maintained, and that access will be at the choice of the community. As I did mention, the realigned highway is expected to be in service by the fall of 2002.
Mr. McRobb: So the minister is not intending to install a new access to the village, that either the east or west access will be used after such time as the BST falls apart and the gravel surface is used. Considering the condition of that area, Mr. Chair, thatís likely to happen within two or three years. Can the minister just shed a bit more light on this situation for us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned previously, we have been in consultation with the community of Champagne regarding what weíre going to do for an east-west access. A new direct access from Champagne to the realigned Alaska Highway would be approximately 2.2 kilometres in length, at a cost of approximately $500,000 to construct and $10,000 annually for maintenance. Construction and maintenance of a new access would impact Champagne-Aishihik First Nations settlement land and is also less attractive economically for the village than maintaining the existing accesses. We certainly commit to work in consultation with the Village of Champagne to make sure that we can respond to any requests that they have. As I did mention, both east and west accesses will be maintained until such time as the surface reverts to gravel, and one access will be maintained after that at the choice of the community.
The Member for Kluane just asked me when the reversion to gravel is expected to happen. Not being a highway engineer or working for the transportation maintenance division, Iím not exactly sure when that will take place. There will be, of course, less heavy transport traffic on the BST surface, so Iím sure those types of factors will impact on when it will revert to gravel, but I wouldnít want to speculate on when that would be.
Mr. McRobb: I know the department has these expectations in the ministerís briefing notes, so I think heís playing a game of hide and seek with me at the present time.
I would like to ask him about another issue that does exist throughout the Yukon and thatís the issue of communication gaps. Itís an issue that I believe I spoke to this minister about in the fall, along with about four other ministers, and every one of them, Mr. Chair, shrugged their shoulders and basically said, "Thatís not my area." But now that this Department of Infrastructure has been created, it would be a difficult task for this minister to plead the same defence.
The minister is also aware, from our trip to Juneau a couple of months back, this is an issue the Alaskans were very motivated about. Essentially, itís the fact that there are several areas in the Yukon where there are no telecommunication abilities, at least, with cell phones and so on.
Now, the minister did identify that Senator Randy Phillips was our host, and indeed he was very gracious. He was also quite interested in this issue himself and displayed his motivation by contacting senior officials in Washington while I was in his office to discuss this matter.
Senator Phillips placed this matter in the category of military importance because, as we know, the United States government has made significant allocations for the purpose of national security. There are several military bases in Alaska, and a very common method of transportation for those personnel is simply to drive the Alaska Highway. When they do, a lot of them are simply out of the communication zone. The Alaskans and the Americans to our south are well aware of how big a problem this is to them. Certainly it appears there is an acknowledgement on their part to try to address this problem to ensure that there is a solid line of communication. This is also something the minister and I talked informally about during our visit to Juneau this year.
Last fall, I suggested the government show some of its own initiative and try to strike an agreement with others to try to address this problem. The other parties could involve the State of Alaska, the U.S. government, the Canadian government, of course the Yukon government, and possibly the British Columbia government, as well as industry and anybody else with a stake in this.
Of course, the benefit to Yukoners is not primarily whether the American military is keeping in touch with itself, but itís basically an expansion of our existing infrastructure that can benefit both of us in the areas of tourism and commerce, as well as providing additional services to Yukoners.
It makes sense that the Yukon government can undertake an initiative that can produce such results and, if the cost of this project can be shared with other partners, such as the ones I have identified, then it sounds like a good thing.
Can the minister identify for us any progress he has made in this area?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Closing communication gaps is something about which the Member for Kluane is quite right ó we did discuss it informally in Juneau. I would like to take the opportunity to discuss the initiatives further with the Member for Kluane. I think there are some real opportunities in addressing those. As he said, there are opportunities to partner with other governments and industry, of course, including proponents of a possible Alaska Highway pipeline project that would be very interested in this. The Member for Kluane mentions military interests on the U.S. side of the border.
I note that the Member for Mount Lorne, the Minister of Education, is the second vice-president of PNWER, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, and members in the House will know that that organization is a public/private partnership that deals with a number of issues that affect Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta and some Pacific northwest states. So, perhaps that is something that the minister, when she attends the annual meeting of PNWER in June of this year, I believe, in Oregon, can take this up with some of our neighbouring jurisdictions and look to address that issue. I would invite the Member for Kluane to take this issue up with me, perhaps outside of the Legislature, and we could sit down and discuss some of the things he heard when he was on the phone with Senator Phillips and people in Washington, D.C., I believe he said. I would invite the member to sit down and we can discuss those matters then.
Mr. McRobb: Just to clarify, it was in Senator Phillipsí office while we were on the speakerphone to Washington on this matter. But I would invite the minister to approach me on this, and Iíll go a step further, Mr. Chair. If the minister would like me to participate in such an initiative, I would invite him to indicate such; and certainly I would be interested in pursuing this matter on my own time or the public time since, really, this job doesnít have any punch-out time to it. It seems to go around the clock, seven days a week. So, on whatever time, Mr. Chair, Iím willing to contribute to any such initiative. Itís one that is not only important to the Yukon and other jurisdictions, but especially to a number of my constituents who currently are without communications. This impairs their ability to compete in our commercial world, it impairs their ability to enjoy basic services that many other people have, and it poses a problem with respect to emergency response. It goes without saying that it also degrades the ability of emergency personnel and government personnel to communicate on an easy and open basis. So, once again, if the minister would just indicate at any time if he would like my help, I would be more than willing to contribute.
On a similar issue, and one Iíve discussed very briefly on a previous occasion with the minister, it has to do with the main Internet trunk line coming to the Yukon which, as we know, as the number of users increases in the Yukon and the demand on bandwidth increases, it results in a slowdown of service between the Yukon and areas outside.
One of the potential solutions to this problem is tapping into the huge capacity that just lies off our shore. Iím aware of this from my regular review of the Anchorage Daily News, which had a couple articles late last year, I believe, on this topic of how the Internet infrastructure was greatly overbuilt. As a matter of fact, I believe some of it ended up in receivership and was purchased at just a fraction of the cost.
This capacity is so huge and so close. If you look at the distance between Whitehorse and Skagway, for instance, we realize that the offshore location may only be a couple hundred kilometres away, which is about the distance from Whitehorse to Swift River. That is just a fraction of the distance from Whitehorse to Edmonton, letís say, which is quite a bit farther.
So I would like to ask the minister what progress he has made in this area.
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Member for Kluane is quite right; we have discussed the "big pipe", as itís often referred to, in increasing the bandwidth into the territory to provide us with more opportunities.
With renewal, Mr. Chair, I would note that the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture now has the responsibility for policy work surrounding that type of initiative. I can speak briefly to it from experience that I had last fall in St. Johnís at an IT conference that I went to with two members of the private sector as well as an official from Government Services. We talked there with Industry Canada officials about the Connect Canada initiative and the broadband initiative that they wanted to do and made Yukonís concerns known on our issues with Internet service into the Yukon and broadening that bandwidth.
Perhaps the type of infrastructure that the member speaks about, offshore in the Pacific Ocean, is something that we could take a look at. I would invite him to bring it up with the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture. There are other proposed infrastructure projects, such as a proposed Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, that could share fibre optic infrastructure, as well. I have heard Governor Knowles of Alaska mention that on a number of occasions, and certainly there are a lot of opportunities for us to deal with that, but again, Mr. Chair, I would invite the Member for Kluane or the appropriate critic from the official opposition to take this initiative up with the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture when that department comes up for debate.
Mr. McRobb: That would be most interesting because I donít see any particular line item in that department that deals with this. I see a sheepish look on the ministerís face that he really doesnít have much to say on this. We are dealing with the Department of Infrastructure here and, certainly, a main Internet trunk line would fall into that category, so I would urge this minister to review the range of his responsibilities and maybe pick up the ball on this, because there is a lot of untapped capacity just sitting off the coast not far away that can greatly increase Yukonersí ability to use this ever-increasingly popular communication service.
Now, Mr. Chair, I mentioned Skagway a moment ago. Of course, Haines is another nearby port. Has the Minister of Infrastructure done anything to secure any port facilities at those locations?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I can tell the Member for Kluane that, as far as port facilities go in Skagway, I had meetings last fall, as the Minister of Economic Development at the time, with officials from White Pass and Yukon Route, and they assured me at the time ó I believe a press release went out at the time. I donít have it with me ó that the Port of Skagway is open for commercial traffic, and it continues to be open for commercial traffic. So, as far as port work goes, that is what I did in that regard. I had lunch with the president and vice-president of White Pass and Yukon Route. I should note the vice-president now resides in Whitehorse and, although he is working in Skagway for the tourist season, I am planning a possible trip down to Skagway after the Victoria Day long weekend ó either the Tuesday or Wednesday, when the House is adjourned for the Minister of Business, Tourism and Cultureís trip to Rendezvous Canada ó and I will be able to provide perhaps an update or more information for the Member for Kluane, should those meetings take place.
Chair: Order please. The Chair needs a 15-minute break. The Committee of the Whole will recess until 4:00.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order please.
Is there any further debate?
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate being acknowledged. It has been quite awhile I have been standing up here waiting to be introduced. I wanted to continue on with my very important and urgent questions on behalf of Yukoners but felt quite disappointed to be standing here so long without being recognized. So, I really do want to pay my respects to you for doing that, Mr. Chair ó going above and beyond the call of duty, I might add.
The minister and I were talking about a number of issues dealing with this new Infrastructure department, and I wanted to ask him about the rail initiative. Itís a matter we discussed in the fall and we recall how the minister, along with the Member for Faro, attended a railway conference in Fairbanks. I have reviewed the transcript from the Member for Faro in Fairbanks and do note that there is no specific reference to expressing a preference for a route through Faro.
And that is rather inconsistent with the media coverage in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper, which was quoting the Member for Faro for explicitly favouring a route through Faro. So obviously what was reported in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner was quite a bit different from the copy of the speech that was provided by the minister. So I was wondering if the minister could shed some light on that difference between what was reported and what was in the speech?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I hate to keep doing this to the Member for Kluane but, again, Iím going to have to punt him to a different department on this issue. This is the responsibility of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. If you will read the accountability plan under goal 2.1, page 8A-5, at the top of the page, the last bullet there on key strategies is to provide support for creation of a joint commission to study the feasibility of a Canada-Alaska rail link.
That is where debate will occur surrounding this initiative, and I would invite questions on that from the Member for Kluane when we are in departmental debate sometime in the remaining nine days we have in this sitting.
Mr. McRobb: Well, excuse me, Mr. Chair. You know, I heard all this talk about the one-stop shop, and all this other stuff ó the big group hug, and how all the ministers are consulted on these things ó but Iím rather surprised how I keep getting railroaded and shuffled further down the line into these other slots, considering how the government speaks about the one-stop shop type of government that it is.
I would like to ask the minister about the highway sign policy. Is that in this department? Am I allowed to ask about highway sign policy?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: I am. There we go. I got a hit there. I might remind the member that this is hockey season. Maybe we can use appropriate sports analogies, if you will. Iíll slap that puck back to his end of the rink and ask him if he can give us an update on the highway sign policy.
Hon. Mr. Kent: The sign policy I assume the Member for Kluane is referring to is regarding commercial and community sign regulations. The commercial sign amendments are a project in progress. Political commitments have been made to bring in new regulations for 2002, and I believe that actually some of my department officials will be making a presentation surrounding this sign policy at AYC this weekend. Of course, we are committed to developing new regulatory standards for commercial and community highway signs. As we all know, signs are an important way for visitors to locate businesses and tourist services as they travel through our territory.
The former Department of C&TS and the former Department of Tourism ó now, of course, the departments of Infrastructure and Business, Tourism and Culture ó worked with the YTMP to develop these proposed amendments. Approximately 260 stakeholders were surveyed for their input, and we also sent information packages to communities and First Nations regarding the new proposed regulations.
So we are committed to addressing issues surrounding this.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the minister for that and I am particularly interested in receiving any material he can provide me about this highway sign policy. It seems that no matter when I ask about this, the answer is that itís always a work in progress. So Iím wondering at what point we might expect to report progress on this initiative. Can the minister give us an indication of that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned in my previous answer, there is a commitment that has been made to bring in new regulations this year. I would assume those commitments were made by the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services and I intend to honour those commitments and bring in the new regulations in this calendar year.
I again want to let the Member for Kluane know that there will be a presentation to the community stakeholders this weekend at Association of Yukon Communities on some of the proposed regulations.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate if he is looking at approving the use of two-way signs and, if so, when Yukoners might be expected to use two-way signs?
Hon. Mr. Kent: A number of the proposals and regulatory standards for commercial and community highway signs are going to be done. I note that that is one of the proposals, and I can certainly get that information to the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Iím always willing to entertain some material getting back that provides further detail on these areas.
Can the minister table a list of approved rural road upgrade projects for last year, as well as any for this year?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I do have a list of the rural road upgrading program projects for the 2001-02 program ó last yearís program, of course ó and Iíd be more than happy to provide that information to him by way of tabling ó if heís satisfied with me tabling that when we resume debate on Monday.
Mr. McRobb: Sure, thatís fine, Mr. Deputy Chair. I would ask if the information can be provided in the previous format that identifies the costs and so on. If the minister would just nod to that, that would be fine, and heís nodding, Mr. Deputy Chair.
I would like to ask the minister about the use of highway kiosks. As he is probably aware, a few years ago there were a couple of experimental ones put up in the Haines Junction area. Can he undertake to provide me with an update on these kiosks and if further use of them is being contemplated?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Actually, I will look into that for the Member for Kluane. Iím not aware of the two projects in Haines Junction, but I will look into that for the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask about this Marsh Lake highway situation. As we all know, the chipseal that was laid there is breaking up very badly. This was a $750,000 expenditure, not by this minister, but by his predecessor, who is now Minister of Community Services. One of the quotes you made at the time was that the $750,000 was a lot better than spending a million and a half on a road that isnít going to hold its shape. The previous minister indicated that she was waiting to see if that section of road holds its shape before making a decision on whether itís paved.
Can the minister explain to us just what he has in mind for this section of road?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As the previous minister stated to the Member for Kluane, or perhaps in debate, the cost of the BST on that section of road was $320,000, compared to an asphalt surface at a cost of about $1.35 million. Again, the heaving problem that exists along that stretch of road on the shores of Marsh Lake would ó there is difficulty in assessing the engineering requirements for that stretch of road. Weíre certainly going to allow that stretch to settle, and then perhaps ó or, we will, after we can assess the issues with the subsurface there on how we can best alleviate the problems and possibly move to an asphalt surface there instead of the BST surface. I will note for the Member for Kluane that we are laying asphalt surface from the Carcross Corner to what used to be Black Mikeís or Kettleyís Canyon on the Alaska Highway.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Deputy Chair. Thatís fine.
Now, last year, I asked for a copy of the BST schedule. After reviewing my files, itís unfortunate to report that I donít believe that material was ever provided, so I would ask the minister if he would undertake to provide the BST schedule for last year, as well as for this year, once itís available.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes. If that was a commitment that was made to the Member for Kluane in debate last fall, I would look into it and undertake to provide that information for him.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate when there would be an answer to the letter from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes in regard to his concern about making highway pullouts a bit safer?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I signed that off this afternoon. He should be getting a copy of that letter shortly.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine.
I would like to ask about the report on the sewer upgrades. Back on November 1, I asked the former minister about this matter, and she indicated that the priorities for upgrading facilities would be based on need and the report would be out, she expected, by the end of that month. Can the minister indicate if that report is out and, if so, can he send a copy over to us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Sewage infrastructure is the responsibility of the Minister of Community Services, but I can take the memberís recommendation to her and endeavour to have her provide that report prior to debate. I will check with the Minister of Community Services on that issue.
Mr. McRobb: All right, thank you. I want to retouch on the compliance strategy for just a moment and ask if there is a strategy the minister can table for us. He has attempted to explain what it is a couple of times, but surely there must be some documentation. Is there something that he can provide us in the way of written material?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes, I can provide him some written material based on the RCMP and the inspections of the new compliance program. I will get some information to the Member for Kluane on that.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further debate?
Seeing no further debate, weíll go through it line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Deputy Ministerís Office
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us a breakdown on that one, please?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I would assume that the Member for Kluane, consistent with other departments, would like a breakdown of each line. Am I correct in assuming that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kent: Okay. Deputy ministerís office, $307,000 ó this activity includes $297,000 in personnel costs for three FTEs. Other funding totals $10,000, consisting of $2,000 for travel to the annual deputy ministers conference; $4,000 in communication costs; and $4,000 in program-specific material costs.
Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $307,000 agreed to
On Human Resources
Hon. Mr. Kent: Human resources, $682,000 ó this activity includes $657,000 in personnel costs. That is 10.5 FTEs. Other funding totals $25,000, consisting of $5,000 for in-Yukon travel for recruitment interviews; $8,000 in communication costs; $5,000 in supplies; and $7,000 in program-specific material costs such as advertising, rents, et cetera.
Human Resources in the amount of $682,000 agreed to
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Kent: This activity includes $973,000 in personnel costs. That is 12.42 FTEs. Other funding totals $708,000, consisting of $649,000 for insurance premiums; $2,000 for travel to various job sites; and $3,000 for bid-challenge committee travel and honorarium costs. Other costs include $14,000 for communication charges; $7,000 for printing of the source list, contract registry, et cetera; and $36,000 in program-specific costs for items such as I mentioned before ó advertising, rent, supplies, et cetera.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,681,000 agreed to
On Policy and Communication
Policy and Communication in the amount of $501,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $3,171,000 agreed to
On Information and Communications Technology
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $429,000 agreed to
On Planning and Development
Planning and Development in the amount of $829,000 agreed to
On Client Services
Client Services in the amount of $600,000 agreed to
On Production and Network Services
Production and Network Services in the amount of $4,221,000 agreed to
On Records Management
Records Management in the amount of $389,000 agreed to
Information and Communications Technology in the amount of $6,468,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Administration
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, this activity includes $1.762 million in personnel costs. Other funding totals $259,000, consisting of $58,000 for travel in Yukon for transportation maintenance superintendents and managers travel to highway camps and outside Yukon for Transportation Association of Canada Conference; $78,000 in communication costs; $49,000 for superintendents, road and airport equipment fund, vehicle usage; and $10,000 in training. Other program-specific costs for $64,000 includes office supplies, program materials, advertising, memberships and miscellaneous cost.
Transportation Administration in the amount of $2,021,000 agreed to
On Highway Maintenance
Highway Maintenance in the amount of $31,281,000 agreed to
On Aviation and Marine
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate if weíre reaping any of the benefits of the security allocation for airports from the federal government? If he wants to get back to me with a written reply ó heís nodding ó thatís fine.
Mr. Jenkins: I have some concerns with the aviation and the contract thatís underway in our community, with the availability of the airport for its intended purpose, that being an airport to service the community.
Itís currently going to be shut down starting at 8:00 each evening and is not to reopen until 8:00 the next morning. It will be opened sometime just before 6:00, I believe, if itís possible, but it will not be fully opened and operational until 8:00 a.m. The window in there is a very narrow window, especially since it will be impacting on our visitor season.
The runway lights are going to be decommissioned, the VASIS are going to be decommissioned. The only people who could access the airport after 8:00 p.m. will be for a medical emergency or declared emergency. We have a lot of itinerant traffic that arrives at our airport after that time. There has been no NOTAM issued as yet with respect to this intended approach. Iím not aware of anyone outside of the immediate few who reside in the area who know whatís going to be transpiring. There is no NOTAM on it, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Seeing the time, I move we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Deputy Chair, I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Deputy 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 Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Deputy Chairís report
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Deputy Chair, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 9, 2002:
Capital expenditure authority: Financial Administration Act (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3567
The following document was filed May 9, 2002:
Species at Risk Act (Bill C-5) House Standing Committee recommendations: letters (dated December 11, 2001) to the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister and to the Hon. David Anderson, federal Minister of Environment, from the Hon. Dale Eftoda, Minister of Renewable Resources (Eftoda)