Monday, May 13, 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 the World Road Association
Hon. Mr. Kent: Today I rise to pay tribute to the delegates of the World Road Association C-4 Technical Committee, who are holding their meetings here in Whitehorse this week. It is wonderful to have representation from so many countries. My understanding is that we have people from France, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Austria, Cuba, Denmark, Spain, the United States, Finland, India, Japan, Holland, Portugal, Romania, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Switzerland, Tunisia, as well as members from Canada.
As a proud Yukoner, Mr. Speaker, and indeed as proud Yukoners throughout this House, I know we are pleased to have a chance to show off this area of the world to visitors. I hope that during their time here they will take the opportunity to experience as much of the Yukon as time allows.
Iíd like to take just a moment, Mr. Speaker, to thank a few groups and individuals for making this event happen. First, to Mr. Rob Harvey of Yukon Engineering Services for offering the Yukon as a location for the meeting. As well, to the chair, Mr. Jean-Michel Gambard, and to all delegates who very enthusiastically agreed to come to the Yukon Territory. Thanks also to the Canadian National Committee of the World Road Association, the Yukon Infrastructure Alliance, Transport Canada, as well as staff within the Yukon government for working many hours to help organize this meeting.
I hope the delegates have a productive and informative meeting and that they enjoy their stay in our beautiful territory.
At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would ask all Members of the Legislative Assembly to join me in welcoming the delegates who are in the gallery here today.
In recognition of Police Week
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I rise on behalf of the House today to pay tribute and give recognition to Police Week, which runs from May 12 to 18. Police Week has four objectives: to act as a vehicle in which to reinforce ties with the community; to honour police officers for the public safety and security they provide to their communities; to promote the work police do in their communities; and to inform the community about the police role in public safety and security.
Here in Yukon, we would like to recognize and celebrate the efforts and hard work of the many police officers, policing staff, individuals and volunteers who together make our communities a safer place in which to live.
In addition to their regular work, many police officers and policing staff are tireless volunteers. They work with youth. They serve on school councils. They coach sport teams and volunteer in many, many other ways. Recently, I was told that police officers and policing staff in our territory spend more of their own time volunteering than in any other jurisdiction in Canada. I believe this reaffirms how lucky we are to have such dedicated members in our community.
The Government of Yukon applauds the police officers, the policing staff in the Yukon and the many individuals who work with them to make our communities a safer place in which to live. I wish to extend a thank you to them for making a difference.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the many auxiliary constables who successfully completed their training program yesterday. An additional seven auxiliary constables are now ready to be sworn in. This brings the total number of auxiliaries in the Yukon to 23. We now have auxiliary constables in Old Crow, Dawson City, Watson Lake, Pelly Crossing and Whitehorse.
Government of Yukon is committed to working with and supporting the RCMP and the many volunteers who work with them in making our communities, neighbourhoods and homes safe and healthy. I encourage all members of the Legislature to take time out of their week to join me in thanking our dedicated police officers, staff and volunteers.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Today joining us in the gallery are students from F.H. Collins, as well as exchange students from Quebec City, and joining them are their teachers, Mme. Gaudette, Mme. Coombs, M. Yessine and M. Guay.
Thank you, and welcome to our House.
Speaker: Are there any further introduction of visitors?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling a report of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on travel expenses of members of the Assembly during the 2001-02 fiscal year.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current sitting of the Yukon Legislature should be extended from May 30, 2002, to June 6, 2002, in order to ensure that essential pieces of legislation, such as the Electoral District Boundaries Act, 2002, are passed during the current sitting.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Secretary General of the United Nations has correctly declared that all children "have the right to grow up on a clean and healthy planet with access to safe drinking water";
(2) Yukon people want and deserve appropriate territory-wide standards to ensure that the water they drink is safe; and
(3) the environmental health services branch of the Department of Health and Social Services has a responsibility for education, inspection, surveillance, audits and enforcement programs and services in such public health areas as water quality; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to adopt more rigorous objectives and key strategies to ensure the safety of Yukon drinking water supply than those outlined under goal 6.2 at page 11A-4 of the 2002-03 operation and maintenance budget for the Department of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT, pursuant to section 18 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, the Legislative Assembly appoint David Phillip Jones, Q.C. as a member of the Conflict of Interest Commission for a three-year period.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognize that
(1) the Yukon FASD working group has recommended to the Yukon government that a diagnostic team should be put in place in the Yukon to assess FASD; and
(2) many other jurisdictions are using the team approach made up of a paediatrician, neurologist, speech pathologist, psychologist and education and social experts; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to put in place a diagnostic team to assess all FASD clients.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the effects of September 11 have changed travel patterns for visitors;
(2) the trend of trips of no less than a day from home or within direct air access links will be a reality for the Yukon tourism industry that they will have to struggle with throughout this summer;
(3) that the program designed to draw visitors to the Yukon from Alaska, budgeted for $300,000, is now one-and-a-half months late and may prove to be ineffective because of these delays; and
(4) Alberta fits all the same criteria as Alaska in identifying markets that will see the Yukon as a favourable post-September 11 vacation destination; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture to support the entry of Air North into the Alberta market through a reallocation of $150,000 from the Alaskan marketing program to a new Alberta market to take advantage of the newly created air links.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Speaker: Before we proceed with Question Period, the Chair would like to comment on a practice that seems to be developing during Question Period.
During Question Period last Thursday the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, in response to a question from the Member for Kluane, concluded his answer to the main question with what the minister called "an add-on." This add-on was, in fact, a comment on the previous exchange of questions and answers between the Member for Watson Lake and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
The Chair has also noticed that opposition members occasionally preface their main question with a comment on a previous exchange to which they were not a party. For example, last Wednesday the Member for Whitehorse Centre commented on the answer given by the Minister of Education in response to questions posed by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. The Member for Whitehorse Centre then proceeded to put his main question to the Minister of Environment.
As Guideline 2 of our Guidelines for Oral Question Period states, a question ought to seek information and should not be argumentative. Guideline 9 says, a reply to a question should be relevant to the question asked and should not provoke debate.
Comments on previous exchanges, therefore, are not in order as they do not seek information or are not relevant to the question asked. Such comments also provoke argument and debate. The Chair thanks all members in advance for their adherence to these guidelines.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Fund transfers between departments
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Finance minister. I would like to come back to a subject I raised on Thursday about the $700,000 in start-up funding for the new alcohol and drug treatment programs. The Minister of Health said the money came from money that was set aside for Call of the Wild. The Premier said it came from the contingency reserve. With the way this Liberal government plans and does their budget planning, that doesnít surprise us on this side of the House any more.
If the alcohol and drug programming was in the works before the O&M budget was tabled, why was it necessary to draw down the contingency fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: To respond to the member, the member asked last week about three things, the contingency fund being one of them. The fact of the matter is that the contingency fund is perfectly normal, and it is entirely within governmentís normal operation to draw down that contingency once the cost of a particular program is known and finalized. What the Minister of Health has done with drawing down the contingency is provided the funding for the alcohol and drug programming which is something that the members opposite have indicated in the past that they support.
Mr. Fairclough: The Finance minister didnít answer the question at all. I asked why was it necessary to draw down the contingency fund if this was already talked about and in the works before the O&M budget came to the floor of this House. This government is operating on special warrants with no authority from this House. The Premier is too caught up in government reorganization to have brought forward a budget in time. Now we are seeing new programs being added on the run and we are seeing money being shifted from one pocket to another with no public accountability. We are also seeing other expenditures being dropped as this Liberal minority government flip-flops on its commitments.
Will the Premier bring in a supplementary budget this sitting that gives the House a more realistic picture, other than the budget that we are currently debating that we already know is outdated?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iím going to address several points raised by the member opposite. First of all, with respect to the programming for the alcohol and drug secretariat, what this government did was establish the alcohol and drug secretariat. We established that within our first two years of office. What the Minister of Health and Social Services has announced is the programming thatís required from that, programming continued during the time we were establishing the secretariat.
This is an enhancement to that programming. The programming choices were finalized. The model was finalized after extensive consultation, and the funding was allocated out of the contingency. That is traditionally where governments have gone for programming initiatives that are finalized after the budget is done. For example, another drawdown on the contingency that can be expected by members opposite is the Judicial Compensation Commission. We have also only just learned the results of that and the cost to Yukoners of it.
The fact is I am pleased to hear the member opposite also raise the issue of accountability, because thatís also something this government introduced.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the public will be the judge of how this government proves things and passes things in the House. The Premier seems quite prepared to use the contingency fund, which should be basically a retuning of departmental spending. At the same time, she wants this House to approve her juggling act on the capital spending without showing any details. We have seen that with the Department of Environment in this House. She keeps saying that weíve debated and passed her capital budget, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Speaker: Order please. Iíd ask the member to withdraw that statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Iíll withdraw that.
Mr. Speaker, will the Premier provide a line-by-line breakdown of ó listen carefully ó all changes to the capital allocation as a result of renewal so that this House can do its job by keeping this minority Liberal government accountable for their spending?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As members of the Legislative Assembly, we work here in this House for 60 days a year on behalf of all Yukoners. In-between times, we also work, and the member opposite has a responsibility as chair of the Public Accounts Committee of this Legislature, a committee that he has failed to call. If the member is that concerned and that interested in the territoryís finances, why doesnít he do his job and call the Public Accounts Committee to meet? Thatís one point Iíd like to make.
The second point Iíd like to make, Mr. Speaker, is that the capital budget was on the floor of this House, was up for debate for 30 days last year, and members opposite walked out and refused to debate it. They have only themselves to answer to for that, not challenge this government for that. This government provided that information and was fully prepared to debate it, as we always are, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Water quality
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Premier. Could the Premier please tell the House which minister is responsible for environmental health services?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is asking who is responsible for water. The Minister of Community Services has answered those questions.
Mr. Keenan: Well, the Premier is absolutely wrong ó wrong again. It says in the environmental health services portion of the budget that environmental health services is responsible for, and I quote, "inspection, surveillance, the audit, the enforcement programs, all related to water quality" within environmental health.
So Iíd like to ask this Premier, why does the Premier persist in allowing the Minister of Community Services to answer questions that are within the domain or responsibility of the Minister of Health? Why is the Premier allowing that to happen?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís an issue of coordination between departments. Several departments have various pieces of the responsibility. As we keep repeating to the members opposite, a safe water supply is a priority for all Yukoners and we take this issue very seriously.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, itís beginning to sound like there might be another Cabinet shuffle that the spin masters havenít kept up with. Or maybe the Premier hasnít really bothered to announce it at this point in time. Or maybe the Premier lacks confidence in the Minister of Health. Or maybe the Premier does not know. Or maybe itís just another example of renewal, Mr. Speaker.
Why wonít the Premier insist that the appropriate minister take responsibility for environmental health and answer our questions about drinking water safety, which is so important to Yukon people?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I find it curious that the members opposite are more concerned with who is answering the question. Who is answering the question shouldnít matter. The fact of the matter is that safe water is a priority for everyone and we take the issue very seriously. I keep repeating that to members opposite but they seem not to hear it, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline competing with Mackenzie route
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Premier regarding pipelines. Now, on Friday an ad showed up in the newspaper which is testimony to whatís wrong with this Liberal government across the floor.
While the Northwest Territories government promotes a united front in selling the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, this Liberal government promotes counterproductive, misleading ads in the newspaper. When will the Premier get it right and put together a united front of Yukoners to promote the Alaska Highway line so that we can get back up even with the Northwest Territories at the very least in regard to the pipeline projects.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I find the Member for Watson Lakeís comments quite curious indeed. We have always, on this side of the House, rallied behind the Alaska Highway pipeline project for the past two years, while the Member for Watson Lake certainly has now finally come on board with the project and the advantages of it. We have been working with First Nations in the department. We have seen a number of First Nations form business partnerships with engineering companies and pipeline companies. I believe we do have a united front on the pipeline, and we continue to lobby very hard and very diligently for an Alaska Highway pipeline project, which will, of course, benefit Yukoners in great numbers.
Mr. Fentie: I think the problem is with the Liberal government opposite. Itís a well-known fact that all political parties in this territory fully support the pipeline project. The problem here is that the federal government now is much more on side with the Mackenzie Valley line, and that further compromises the Yukonís ability to develop an oil and gas sector. In the Peel Plateau and the Eagle Plains area, itís paramount that the Alaska Highway pipeline be constructed so that the Dempster lateral can take place and that resource can get to market.
Under the existing circumstances, that is very, very uncertain at this time, which is diminishing our ability to attract investment in the oil and gas sector.
When is this government going to act appropriately, get its head out of the sand, and get after the federal government for its promotion of the Mackenzie Valley line, not the Alaska Highway line?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned to the Member for Watson Lake before, since we took office we have increased the funding to the pipeline unit from $100,000 under the Member for Watson Lakeís previous party to $750,000 per year in capital spending for the pipeline unit, and we certainly continue to lobby the federal government. This past week, my Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, as well as the director of the pipeline unit, were in Ottawa talking to a number of officials in relevant departments down there. We continue to work with our other colleagues throughout Canada. The Premier recently spoke to the Premier of Saskatchewan about this issue. The Premier and I spoke with the Minister of Natural Resources Canada about this issue. As well, I have spoken to my energy minister counterparts in other provinces, outlining the importance of two pipelines for Canada, not pitting pipelines against one another, as the Premier for the Northwest Territories has been doing for the past number of weeks.
Mr. Fentie: Itís not so much the Premier of the Northwest Territories pitting anything against anything else. Itís the federal government clearly stating which line they support. All the Liberal government is doing now, Mr. Speaker, in promotion of our pipeline down the Alaska Highway, is counterproductive, misleading information and newspaper ads. Another uncertain point that the Liberal government has to address ó not only is the pipeline up in the air, but nobody in the industry knows, when it comes to the investment community, what is going on with the protected areas strategy.
While this minister and this Premier continue to say thereís a moratorium on it, they are also promoting protected areas smack in the middle of our oil and gas sector in the Eagle Plains area and the Peel Plateau. When will this government get it straight, come clean with the industry and all Yukoners, and letís find out whatís really going to take place in this territory when it comes to the Alaska Highway line?
We want the investment in the territory, not in the Northwest Territories. We want it in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kent: In response to the Member for Watson Lakeís question, part of the planning that is going into the protected areas strategy includes resource assessments and avoiding areas of high resource potential, where possible. We on this side of the House continue to work very hard to not only promote our oil and gas sector, as well as our mining sector, tourism sector, forestry sector; we are working very hard to promote the Alaska Highway pipeline to make sure that the delivery infrastructure is there for our own oil and gas, and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Children, programs for
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last week the United Nations conducted a special session on children called, "A World Fit for Children". Canada participated at this. Canadian NGOs drafted a resolution on "A Canada Fit for Children". It called on Canadian governments to invest in children and put the needs of children first.
What new initiatives is this government undertaking to ensure that we live in a Yukon fit for children?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are so many things that this government is doing to make the world fit for children ó Yukon children. The very first thing that I would like to talk about is the fact that we are restarting the anti-poverty strategy, and this is really important because there is no such thing as child poverty; it is family poverty.
Secondly, we are also working with our friends in the Childcare Association on issues around the toy lending library, which is new money for that. We have also got a new initiative around playgrounds for children. We have added funding for the Child Development Centre. We think, as a government, that early intervention is a very important thing, so we are examining anything that works with children to make sure that they can be the most productive members of society in the future.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, children do not live in poverty alone. Children live in families that are poor. The Liberal belief in child tax credits simply does not help the families who need it most. An essential step in moving children out of poverty is to ensure that their parents have adequate income security and adequate housing. What is this minister doing to ensure that parents have adequate income security, whether they are in the workforce or on social assistance?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Iíll repeat what I said in my answer to the first question. We have restarted the anti-poverty strategy because there is no such thing as child poverty. There is only family poverty, as I mentioned in answer to the last question.
Mr. Speaker, our government is looking at a number of initiatives around social assistance. One of them is looking at the clawback that has been in existence through many governments for the national child care benefit. That is one of the programs that we are reviewing. We are reviewing many, many different programs that have to do with making sure there is more money for children in the Yukon Territory.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, one important component in addressing the needs of children in poverty is the high-quality early childhood care and education programs. An investment in high-quality programs between birth and age six is an investment in our future and saves in future spending. Most children under the age of six are in non-parental care while their parents work. Why is there no new money in this budget to ensure that children are in high-quality care programs?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís go back. I sat for years in opposition begging the previous government to put more money into early intervention programs for children ó begging the previous government. What they did manage to do was to maintain the same level of funding for the Child Development Centre.
Since our government has come into power, we have dramatically increased the funding for the Child Development Centre as well as a number of childrenís programs.
The member opposite ó I canít believe sheís giving me this opportunity ó talks about the need for more money for children who are in care. We have given considerable increases in funding to the toy lending library. There are now two toy lending libraries in Whitehorse ó one that goes out to the communities. There is also a toy lending library at the Child Development Centre that many people are not aware of. In addition to that, of course, we have maintained and increased funding to the Child Development Centre. We have worked with family day homes and with daycares on issues that are important to them. Part of that is maintaining the hot lunch program, which is new ó it came out of this government.
There are a number of initiatives, and Iím glad that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin gave me the opportunity to talk about how this government has supported children in the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Association of Yukon Communities, funding assistance for
Mr. McLarnon: My question is for the Premier. At the end of March a delegation from the Association of Yukon Communities met with the Premier and the principal secretary, requesting expertise to prepare a submission for the federal Finance Committee which is receiving submissions on funding for municipal capital projects. No assistance was given.
The president of Association of Yukon Communities made a submission without them to the Finance Committee and was invited back again, after a successful submission, for a June 30 meeting. The Association of Yukon Communities is presenting a package worth $160 million to Yukoners. This can create massive employment and improve the lives of almost every Yukoner here.
At the Association of Yukon Communities annual general meeting, when the Minister for Infrastructure was asked for assistance directly by the membership, he stated he only had been informed about this about a week previous.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. McLarnon: Will the Premier tell this House, with a proposal this large and with so many possible benefits to the territory, why did she and her appointed advisors keep this information from the minister directly responsible?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, just to correct the Member for Whitehorse Centre, I know that he was in attendance at the ministers' round table in Dawson City this past weekend, as was the Minister of Community Services, the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture and the Minister of Justice.
What I was referring to about hearing about a week ago was the presentation that the president of Association of Yukon Communities had made to the parliamentary committee in Ottawa for the $160-million program. He asked recently if we would provide a resource person from either my department or the Department of Community Services to assist them with further development of this proposal, and in Dawson City I agreed to that and have subsequently brought that up with my deputy minister at a briefing I had with him this morning.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the minister. Unfortunately, the president of the Association of Yukon Communities asked the Premier in March, and unfortunately the answer had to come out at an Association of Yukon Communities meeting in Dawson in May.
Mr. Speaker, the Premierís gate keeping has already cost Yukoners a month and a half of time preparing for this $160-million proposal. When the request was made this weekend, the Minister of Infrastructure answered the association by promising the resources immediately, and I thank him for that. He added a caveat, though, that he wished any seconded position to also work on YTG issues with the federal Finance Committee. This is unacceptable to the association. After the ministerís response, they voted to contribute money out of their own meagre budget rather than have any other point of view represented than that of the municipalities themselves.
My question to the Minister of Infrastructure is this: due to the urgency of this request and the foot slogging already demonstrated by this government, will he immediately second expertise to help with this proposal without any conditions to the Association of Yukon Communities?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I have stated to the Member for Whitehorse Centre in my previous answer, I did have a briefing with the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure this morning and brought up the request from Association of Yukon Communities. The Deputy Minister of Community Services was in Dawson with us at the time and he is aware of that. I would expect that officials from both my department and the Department of Community Services will be meeting with the president of Association of Yukon Communities and going through what he wants in a resource person and what his expectations are. I expect that meeting to take place as soon as possible. I note the Association of Yukon Communities mentioned at the ministersí round table that the deadline was June 30, and that is why time is of the essence and we certainly expect our officials to meet with the association as soon as possible.
Mr. McLarnon: "As soon as possible" was this morning. The minister had already committed to an immediate response and so why there hasnít been a response already surprises me. This discussion leads us to a larger question. Why is there any gate keeping at all when it comes to supporting ideas of economic recovery? The idea of a democratically elected Cabinet is that all voices are heard, as well as briefed on any matter that concerns them. What we are seeing here is a minister being briefed when a crisis started to emerge rather than proactively so the crisis could have been averted.
My question to the Premier: will she open up briefing sessions so that the minister responsible for decisions in their department can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The infrastructure proposal that the president of Association of Yukon Communities spoke about on the weekend was done last week. I believe he asked for $160 million to be distributed over a four-year period. What I have committed to and worked with my colleague on, the Minister of Community Services, is that we will provide a resource person to go through the proposals with them and assist them where we can. I did mention it to my deputy minister this morning. The Deputy Minister of Community Services was there on the weekend, and we would expect action on this as soon as possible.
Question re: FASD programming
Mr. Roberts: My question is to the Minister of Health. Last Thursday and Friday, I attended the FAS/FAE conference and was exposed to world-class experts. There were over 500 people from across Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. This was a world-class FAS conference, and we in the Yukon were very fortunate to have it here.
Before I carry on, Iíd like to thank all those people who put this together. It was a marvellous convention. I think it rivaled anything we saw in any other part of Canada.
What I heard at the conference is that there are many interesting programs in place across Canada and the U.S. that are trying to address this disease. My question to the minister is this: since we have a crisis in the Yukon with this disease, could the minister please inform the House how much money the Yukon is spending on specific programs for FAS and FAE?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Once again, Iíve been given the opportunity. First of all, letís be clear about fetal alcohol syndrome. This is not a disease; itís a syndrome, and itís not an affliction. Itís not something you can be cured of, and itís not something that costs society. People who have this disability are a benefit to our society.
The member opposite is confused about the syndrome. How much money is being spent on FAS and FAE? Under this Liberal government, we have doubled our spending in alcohol and drug programming. Over time, there will be a complete program, a complete continuum of care for individuals who need help with alcohol and drugs. Over time, there will be increased funding and increased resources.
Already, having the 16 new positions doubles the number of positions we had in this area. Mr. Speaker, I canít believe Iím getting this opportunity twice in one Question Period. But we have done more in the last two years for fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects than any previous government, including the two positions that have just been added to the alcohol and drug secretariat and the position in Justice that is working on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, after years of going to FASSY meetings, bringing forward supported and assisted decision-making legislation that is now in consultation with Yukoners. I went to years of meetings.
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: These are the good results of that.
Mr. Roberts: Itís nice to see the minister is passionate about this. I didnít see her at the conference. Besides that, it took kicking and screaming to get those extra dollars for drug and alcohol programming.
Now, in and around Seattle, Washington, there are six diagnostic clinics that assess FAS and FAE, and they have a new name, "fetal alcohol spectrum disorder" ó thatís the name they now call it. The objective of these clinics is to assess individuals as soon as possible so that constructive programs can be put in place to support those afflicted. The FAS/FAE Yukon working group has, for the past two years, worked on a submission that builds on the diagnostic team approach.
My question to the minister is this: since the Yukon working group has submitted their recommendations to the minister, what has the minister done about their recommendations?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís go through this again. My commitment at the fetal alcohol syndrome conference was this: I opened the conference. I also went on the following night and had ministers meetings. Then, on the Friday, there was a press conference, there were ministers tours as well as ministers meetings all afternoon. I spent more time on fetal alcohol syndrome over the last few days than the member opposite.
The member opposite talks about how we went ó and we are now funding the alcohol and drug secretariat increase ó kicking and screaming. Well, how humorous, Mr. Speaker. We took our time, we developed a really good model under my ministership, and then we funded it.
The member opposite talks about FASD, which he still thinks is a disease. The assessment and diagnostic team that the working group has been speaking about is more than what it has been. This assessment and diagnostic team will be looking at not only fetal alcohol syndrome but many, many other disorders and disabilities that children may have in the early years. Thatís something that weíre working on and thatís something weíve been asked to do.
Itís a good thing that there are people out there who have been educating people for all these many decades about the disorder of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Mr. Roberts: Iím very pleased, Mr. Speaker, that the minister saw the light. The fact is that, two months ago, there was no money for drug and alcohol programming. It took us walking across here to find the money, and the minister knows that.
World experts Sterling and Sandra Clarren from Seattle, Washington, stated that, for every FAS child identified, we spend millions on social services, education and justice. The diagnostic team in Washington and Alaska is made up of paediatricians, neurologists, speech pathologists, and psychologists as well as education and social service experts. The objective of the team concept, which world expert Sterling Clarren stated, is called a "psychometric approach". This team approach is more reliable than having one doctor make an FAS determination based on facial features.
My question to the minister: with the fact that this is the route most jurisdictions are taking and the fact that the Yukon FASD working group recommended the team approach, when is the Yukon government going to put in place a Yukon diagnostic team and not come up with all the fluff that is coming down the pipe in maybe two or three years?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, what a joke. What an absolute joke. The reason we have doubled our efforts in the alcohol and drug secretariat is because of the years and years and years and years of work of people who werenít politicians. They went every day to meetings. They told people there was a problem. And now, 16 years later, after FASSY started, we have an increase in funding.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has no idea what heís talking about again. A person needs a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome sometime in their life, but thatís not all they need. They need assessment; they need to know what programs will be appropriate for them. This isnít just a diagnostic team. Itís a diagnostic and assessment team, and clearly the member opposite needs to get a little bit more educated on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. He still thinks itís a disease.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent re appointment of a new Conflicts Commissioner
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the House leaders, I request unanimous consent of the House to deal with the motion that the Premier gave notice of today respecting the appointment of a new Conflicts Commissioner.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent. Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion No. 264
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Premier that pursuant to Section 18 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act that the Legislative Assembly appoint David Phillip Jones, QC, as a member of the Conflict of Interest Commission for a three-year period.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to be moving the motion for the appointment of a Conflicts Commissioner. Members will be aware that the appointment of our past Conflicts Commissioner, Ted Hughes, expired on May 2, 2002. Mr. Hughes was appointed as the Yukonís first Conflicts Commissioner in May of 1996 and was appointed for a further three-year term in May of 1999. I am sure all members will recognize the service provided to this Assembly and to the Yukon during his time in office.
Since the Conflicts Commissioner is a House officer, the practice has been for the Membersí Services Board to determine who should be recommended by the Assembly to the Assembly to fill the position. The Membersí Services Board is chaired by the Speaker and has in its membership all leaders in this House, including me, the leader of the official opposition, and the leader of the third party. The fifth member on the board is the Minister of Education.
I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the board has reached unanimous agreement in recommending Mr. David Jones to the Assembly for appointment as our next Conflicts Commissioner. Although the motion for his appointment is being brought forward as a government motion, it must be stated for the record that it is being done out of necessity to permit the House an easy opportunity to deal with this matter.
It must be understood that the motion is being made on behalf of all members of the Membersí Services Board and that this is a House initiative and not a government initiative.
I would like now to provide some information on Mr. Jones. He grew up in Calgary. He studied at McGill University in Montreal and was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford in England. For 16 years, Mr. Jones was a full-time law professor at McGill and at the University of Alberta. He taught subjects such as administrative law, constitutional law, property, taxation and government control of business. He was associate dean at both McGill and Alberta and was twice acting dean at Alberta. He is co-author of Jones and de Villars' Principles of Administrative Law and is co-editor of the Administrative Law Reports. In addition, Mr. Jones is the author of numerous articles and comments in various law reviews and is a frequent lecturer. He was a member of the board of directors of the Alberta Law Reform Institute for eight years.
Since 1988, Mr. Jones has been in private practice in Edmonton with the firm of de Villars Jones. The firm does considerable work in all areas of administrative law, acting for or against government boards and agencies, including legislative officers such as the Chief Electoral Officer of Alberta, the Conflicts Commissioner and the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
A significant part of Mr. Jones' practice involves acting as a neutral arbitrator, either as sole arbitrator or chairing boards of arbitration in both labour and commercial matters. He is a named arbitrator under numerous collective agreements and is currently chairing the tribunal arbitrating the teachers' disputes in Alberta.
Mr. Jonesí credentials are obviously most impressive, and the Members' Services Board, after having met with him, was confident in recommending him to the Yukon Legislative Assembly for appointment.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Before putting the question, the Chair must draw membersí attention to section 18(4) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. That section requires that the motion appointing a Conflicts Commissioner be supported by at least two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present for the vote. In order to ensure that the requirements of section 18 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act are met, the Chair will now call for a recorded division.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Jim: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried by the required support of two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present for the vote, and that Mr. David Phillip Jones has now been appointed as the Conflicts Commissioner.
Motion No. 264 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:10 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Infrastructure ó continued
Transportation Division ó continued
Aviation and Marine ó continued
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate last Thursday we were dealing with airports. I was beginning to question the minister with respect to the airport situation specifically in my community. Given that there is going to be ó and there is underway ó a considerable expenditure of government funds on bringing the airport into conformity with existing Transport Canada standards, I was curious as to how these issues are going to be addressed this summer. The first issue surrounds the issue of fire suppression; the second issue is medevacs.
The airport in our community of Dawson is going to be shut down from 8:00 at night until 8:00 the following morning. During the daytime, weíre advised that the full length of the runway will be available but only perhaps part of it. Then after 8:00 at night it will be down to about 1,500 feet of the runway being available.
I did ask the ministerís department what arrangements had been made with the contractor to access the airport. I was sent over a lengthy document, but I couldnít, for the life of me, find out what was going to happen if a medevac was called for when the contractor had the airport shut down.
So I went to the contractor, who was kind enough and capable enough to send me a one-page response with their responsibilities circled. It should be noted that the airport may be shut down for medevac purposes after 8:00. When itís shut down after 8:00, it can be reopened. The contractor is not going to be compensated, from all appearances I have.
I have some serious concerns. The concern is another department of government, and that is the Health department. They havenít been able to arrange for any on-call services with the doctors in Dawson. The doctors work their regular hours and, after hours, theyíre not available.
The second issue is the issue of the nurse practitioners. We do not have the required number of nurse practitioners in our community to service the population of the area. What we have is kind of a reverse way of looking at the situation, in that the nurse practitioners available in our community are whatís available, not whatís needed. And that leads us to the biggest dilemma of all ó that the nurse practitioners, for all intents and purposes, are not allowed to admit anyone to the nursing station and keep them overnight. So weíre into package and ship, should anybody become ill or injured ó package and ship, get them out. That relies on medevac.
Now, there was a well-attended meeting this last week in our community that spelled out the various roles. But the Minister of Health indicated in this House that arrangements had been made when the airport shut down and couldnít be opened because the runway lights are going to be decommissioned, the VASIS lights are going decommissioned, and the full length of the runway might not always be available.
When you look at whatís going to happen, you have 75 feet of runway width that will be available, probably with a large ditch on one side or the other of the rest. If itís dry, it will not present a major problem. If itís wet, it will present a major problem.
So what is going to happen in the event that we cannot get a medevac aircraft into our community?
The Minister of Health has responded by saying that a helicopter company has been contracted with, but she didnít really specify, Mr. Chair ó to take and use Mayo as an alternate. Thatís 140 miles away, and the only helicopter company that has the ability to carry a stretcher ó they havenít really come to any arrangements with them, to the best of my knowledge, and I last spoke with the base operator just this last week.
So, Iíd like to know ó and this is all-encompassing, it encompasses the Department of Health and the Department of Infrastructure ó just who is responsible to ensure that medevacs can get in and out in a timely manner.
We kind of have a double-edged sword here. If it is wet, we are going to have trouble getting the medevac aircraft in on the runway. If it is extremely dry, we have the potential for forest fires. If we have forest fires and we have to bring in a suppression crew, which happens on a regular basis, believe it or not, because we do have summer in Dawson City. It is kind of late this year. We are still looking forward to this global warming. If we do have fires, we do bring in the bomber crews and these fire suppression aircraft require the full length of the runway and more to take off ó they usually fly right into the evening. I didnít see any arrangements in the contract between the Government of Yukon and the general contractor for fire suppression. Why not? These are two health and safety issues that appear to be have been overlooked and not dealt with completely.
But I will give the government of the day credit on one score, and that is that currently the red Liberal outfits that are normally amply displayed on the other side of the Legislature, are not evident any longer. It would appear that the Minister of Infrastructure has bought up all the red bolts of cloth in the Yukon and used them for flagging up and down the highways, so they are not available to make outfits. He has provided his department with enough money to buy bolts of red cloth and put them everywhere itís needed to indicate that thereís a depression or a hole in the highway, but he hasnít provided his department with enough money for labour, equipment and materials to repair and fix these problems ó weíre just flagging them. Thatís very interesting, Mr. Chair.
So I look forward to the costs that the minister is allowing his officials to spend on these bolts of red cloth for flagging, because we know heís not spending very much, if any, on fixing the potholes or the frost heaves and boils.
Weíve looked at the issues surrounding the airport in Dawson, the alternate, and Iíd certainly appreciate some very positive responses from the Minister for Infrastructure, as well as the Minister of Health. These two issues are tied together, because one minister canít address the issues in her department and deal with the health issues in our community, deal with the on-call service arrangements with doctors, staff the nursing station to an adequate level, which the Department of Infrastructure has to take over. Itís similar to what we had the other day with the Minister of Justice.
The Minister of Justice canít address the drug issue, so thatís impacting on the Department of Health where the Department of Health has to go out and train all the people how to deal with IV needles. We have the same situation again. If one minister is not doing his or her job, the other department has to pick up the slack, and we have it very evident here in this issue of medevacs and fire suppression in the Klondike region, Mr. Chair.
While weíre dealing with airports, we might as well get into the Whitehorse Airport situation as to when the full length of the airport here in Whitehorse is going to be available for landing, because that hasnít been addressed. There is still a NOTAM out on it, and we still have power lines in the way, as we do in Dawson. Theyíre building a power line down the side of the airport and it has taken the ministerís department one heck of a long time to come to an arrangement as to where the power line should be placed so that Transport Canada will accept it. Transport Canada said no to the first two or three locations that were selected. Now, I would have thought, given the expertise that this minister should have in-house, that this shouldnít be an issue, but letís start at the beginning.
Medevacs, fire suppression ó whatís going to happen this summer in our community?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With regard to the Dawson City Airport upgrade that is occurring this summer, operating restrictions will apply to general aviation and commercial aircraft using the airport during available daylight hours between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
The full runway length will be made available to medevac and other emergency services aircraft, if required, and construction activity will cease during these operations. As the Member for Klondike noted, there was an airport users meeting held in Dawson this past week ó Thursday, May 9 ó to outline the construction activities for this summer. There were approximately 30 users who attended the meeting, and consultation with airport users has indicated that the proposed restrictions will have minimal operational impact to aircraft operators.
The department has also consulted with the medevac carrier, the emergency services branch of Health and Social Services, DIAND forestry and the RCMP, and all organizations have indicated they will be able to maintain medevac and other emergency services to Dawson during the runway construction project.
This is a very important project for Dawson City, Mr. Chair. Not only the employment benefits that go with capital construction, but the upgrades to the airport, are important, and minimizing or mitigating the impact while still providing the short-term jobs and the long-term benefits that will come from the work are very important, and we intend to do that throughout the summer.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that the contract between Yukon and the contractor who is responsible for the reconstruction of the Dawson Airport has a clause in place in that contract specifically dealing with fire suppression aircraft? From my read on it, all it states is medevacs, but that could be located somewhere else. Just for the record, could the minister confirm that there is a clause in the contract where the government can advise the contractor that he must cease work and open the full length of the runway for fire suppression aircraft?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, as I stated for the Member for Klondike, the full runway length will be made available to medevac and other emergency services aircraft if required, and construction activity will cease during these operations. We have spoken, as I indicated earlier, with the medevac carrier, our emergency services branch, DIAND forestry and the RCMP, and they did indicate that they will be able to maintain medevac as well as other emergency services to Dawson City during the runway construction project. I donít have a copy of the contract with me, so it is difficult at this time to respond to the Member for Klondikeís question about this specific clause, but I will certainly look into it and provide any relevant clauses to him regarding medevacs and emergency services at the Dawson City Airport.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Chair, I am aware that there is one clause in the contract between Yukon and the contractor dealing with medevac aircraft, that the contractor will make available the runway for medevacs. I did not see anything in the contract dealing with any other type of emergency use, not even a declared emergency.
Now, there is one other type of major concern, and that is the fire suppression that requires the full 5,000 feet or more. The RCMP with their Twin Otter or their other type of aircraft is not a problem. Iím given to understand from individuals who attended the user meeting that there is going to be 1,500 feet available just about at all times. For a Twin Otter, thatís not a problem.
What I am asking the minister is to provide a paragraph in the contract between the Yukon and the contractor that specifically states that the government can advise the contractor to shut down work and to make the airport available for fire suppression purposes after 8:00 p.m. If it doesnít exist, I would ask that the minister sit down with the contractor and negotiate some arrangements whereby he is compensated for shutting down his work and the impact it may have on his operation there.
Can the minister provide a yes or no to that request?
Hon. Mr. Kent: And again, after line-by-line debate on Thursday for the aviation and marine branch that we are currently in, I did contact the branch and they did provide me with a number of responses to the two issues raised by the Member for Klondike. One response that I got from them was that the full runway length will be made available to medevac and other emergency services aircraft if required and that construction activity will cease during these operations. Again, I donít have a copy of the contract with me in the House today. I will certainly take the memberís concerns under advisement and either my department officials or I will look through that. If there is a relevant clause, I will make note of it and provide it to the Member for Klondike. But it is my understanding that construction activity will cease during operations ó not only for medevac operations but also for other emergency services aircraft, if required.
Mr. Jenkins: If any of these emergencies occur, how is the contractor going to be compensated for the shutting down of his work during that period of time?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iím very hopeful that we can mitigate the need for construction activity to be ceased during the operations of possible medevac or emergency services. Certainly weíre hopeful that medevacs or forest fire suppression aircraft arenít required on a regular basis, but we also do recognize that emergencies do occur. As far as the compensation issues that accompany the ceasing of construction activity, I can get that information to the Member for Klondike, as I donít have a copy of the contract with me here in the House today.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iím asking the minister to come to some arrangement with the contractor to compensate that contractor should any of these events occur. Now, there doesnít appear to be any provisions for a number of these potential emergencies that may or may not occur. If they do occur, the contractor should be compensated. He has got a very narrow window to get in there and get working. He would probably like to start very, very soon but canít move his equipment to Dawson because the minister has insisted upon road bans and 75-percent legal axle loading. I guess there are just too many red flags up and down the highway.
Further to that, it looks like highway enforcement is getting very, very aggressive underneath this ministerís umbrella, and thereís a whole series of problems there that are coming to the forefront. Itís just one thing after another, Mr. Chair. If it works, this Liberal government seems bound and determined to find a way to shut it down or to regulate the parties to non-existence. Why? One would have to question the wisdom of this government.
Mr. Chair, the minister avoided the question of compensation for the contractor. Will he be doing so if the government asks that the airport be shut down for fire suppression, medevacs or any other declared emergency? Will the contractor be compensated for the shutdown? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I did mention to the Member for Klondike previously, I donít have a copy of the actual contract with me here in the House today but Iíll have officials from the branch look into the compensation aspects of the contract to see exactly what they are. I can provide a response, either a verbal response to the Member for Klondike if weíre in discussions tomorrow, or I could provide it by way of legislative return, but I will look into the contract to address the compensation issues that have been raised by the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: When will the notification ó or NOTAM, as theyíre normally called ó on the changes in the Dawson Airport be published and sent out? We have a lot of general aviation interest in flying into our community. Because of the one-hour time change between Yukon and Alaska, a lot of inbound traffic comes over Friday night and doesnít get here until a reasonably late hour.
When is the NOTAM to the effect that there will be construction at the Dawson Airport going to go out?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The available runway length at the Dawson City Airport will be advertised by a daily notice to airmen, or NOTAM, as the Member for Klondike referred to it, and I would expect those advertisements would begin once construction on the facility begins this summer.
Mr. Jenkins: I have some serious concerns. Is the minister aware of what NOTAM is?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As advised by the branch, itís my understanding that a NOTAM is a notice to airmen.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís a notice to all airmen, thatís exactly what it is, but the timeline as to when this notice goes out is critical. If this were posted today, it would alleviate a lot of problems down the road as to what the intentions are for this forthcoming summer.
It can be upgraded on a daily basis, Mr. Chair, but I would encourage the minister to get this information out immediately, if not sooner, because itís going to impact on virtually all areas of our economy.
And the last one that this government hasnít destroyed, as yet, is our visitor industry. And we do receive quite a number of visitors by aircraft into the Dawson area.
Now, can I ask the minister to get that notice out immediately, if not sooner, in the appropriate format?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, as I mentioned to the Member for Klondike previously, the NOTAM regarding the available runway length will be advertised on a daily basis. Again, just to restate for the Member for Klondike that the department did have a very well-attended airport users meeting in Dawson City on Thursday, May 9, where the results of the consultation with airport users who were able to attend indicated that the proposed restrictions will hopefully have minimal operational impact on aircraft operators. Again, for the Member for Klondike, the available runway length will be advertised by a daily NOTAM once construction begins, and I will check with the branch to see if there is an opportunity to get some of the other information out about the intended construction and the issues surrounding some of the visitors who I know enjoy flying to the Yukon ó some of the flying clubs that do come to the Yukon. So I can commit to the Member for Klondike that I will check with the branch and make sure that appropriate information is provided.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís very, very important that this issue be addressed very, very quickly. We have quite a number of visiting groups coming in, flying in ó let me just cite one, itís called the Quiet Birdmen or the QBs. They are primarily retired military based in and around Anchorage who fly in for a two- or three-day fly-in on the July 1 to July 4 weekend. In speaking with officials in their organization, none of them were aware of them. They said, "Well, there isnít anything in any of the publications." Theyíve recently been working through the Canpass, getting into Canada after 9/11 and getting back into the U.S. Thatís the issue that theyíre facing.
With respect to the airport, the runway, or anything in that area, there is no information available in the public domain or in the domain of pilots flying in or out of our community, as to whatís transpiring this summer. I would encourage the minister to do his job and get that information out there and insist that his officials get that information out there. Yes, the NOTAM can be upgraded on a daily basis.
Now, given that we have a problem with the airport in Dawson, has the minister considered Mayo as an alternate port of entry? Because there are really only three airports in the Yukon that are port of entry. Youíre going to close one of them ó one of them where, if you look at the port of entry traffic over 12 months of the year, itís very minimal, but if you look at it over the window of about 90 days, it is very significant. Has the minister considered getting Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to look at Mayo as a port of entry?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, just to add to what the Member for Klondike stated in his preamble to that question, I certainly do also recognize the excellent potential of airports and the flying clubs, such as the Quiet Birdmen, as the Member for Klondike stated. I am certain that, in his speaking with the officials of the QBs flying club, he did state to them that the airport restrictions would only be between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. and that they would be able to use the airport during the other 12 hours of the day. I recognize, too, that this is important to the visitor industry in the Yukon.
The memberís last question about using the Mayo Airport as an alternate point of entry is something that I have not investigated. I can tell him, as he knows, that the Canpass expedited customs clearance program was reinstated at Yukon airports of entry on April 2, 2002 for transborder flights, and Customs services are currently available at the Whitehorse, Dawson and Old Crow airports. Customs services at the Beaver Creek Airport will be available May 1 to September 30 for the summer season. It is very important, and I recognize that the Member for Klondike has an expertise in the flying area. I believe he has his pilotís licence.
I will look into some of the recommendations that the Member for Klondike did make. I am sure that the branch officials for aviation and marine are also listening to the debate here this afternoon. I will endeavour to undertake with them what we can do to make sure that the construction at the Dawson City Airport that occurs this summer, while very important ó I am sure that all members of the House will attest to that, that it is important that these improvements be done as they also have an impact on medevac services, emergency services and a mitigated impact on the visitor industry.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to thank the minister for his responses. I donít get a great deal of comfort from some of the responses but perhaps at the break at 4:30 the minister can sit down with his officials and have a briefing. At that time, Iím sure weíll still be in airports and we can get some responses on some of these extremely important questions, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, Dawson Airport and the upgrades that are currently ongoing, theyíre to bring the aerodrome into conformity with Transport Canada standards. It still will not, after all of these changes and approximately $5 million spent on the airport, be in conformity with all of the regulations that Transport Canada has. What assurances did the minister obtain from Transport Canada that things like the proximity of the highway to the centre line of the airport runway are acceptable to Transport Canada, or are there some additional areas that have to be addressed before they will fully license the airport? Or is it going to be a conditional licence, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The relocation of the DIAND air tanker base and the construction of the new initial-attack base will allow the Yukon government to expand the aircraft parking apron area this year.
I am not aware of any irregularities with DIAND. But again, as the Member for Klondike has indicated, we will be in this particular line item for some time ó possibly the rest of the day and into the rest of the week ó so I will undertake getting that information for the member from the branch as far as the licensing between Transport Canada and the Yukon government is concerned with regard to the Dawson City Airport.
Mr. Jenkins: All of this undertaking at the airport in Dawson City is because the airport has never conformed to Transport Canada regulations. It has some very serious deficiencies and has had for quite some time ó in fact, since it was built by Transport Canada. They are primarily the proximity of tanker bases, fuel tanks, building structures, the proximity to the Klondike Highway ó the separation from the centre line of the runway to the highway is below the accepted standards. That is not going to change, Mr. Chair. In fact, thatís going to become more acute and more noticeable, given that all the brush has had to be cut down and the field of vision had to be widened as per Transport Canada regulations.
What Iíd like to know is what kind of licence the aerodrome in Dawson will receive after all this money is spent on it. Will it not be the same conditional type of licence? Could the minister just confirm that for the record?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Member for Klondike is very well versed in the issues that surround the Dawson City Airport. If indeed, after the current work is finished, a conditional licence is required ó at this point Iím not aware of whether or not it will be. Again, Iíll have to commit to the member opposite that I will endeavour to find that information out from branch officials, who, of course, have a lot of expertise in the aviation and marine branch.
I will look into that for the Member for Klondike, and I can either provide him with a written response, or I can provide a verbal response. It may not be today, Mr. Chair, but I will undertake to provide that information to the Member for Klondike, whether he wants it in written form or verbal form, as we carry on with debate on this line item.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, what we have in Dawson is strictly a VFR airport, 5,000 feet, gravel. The only change will be that it will go to a 150-foot width from a 100-foot width ó perhaps not all usable. We donít know yet at this juncture. But if the minister thinks that thatís a good expenditure of $4 million, what Dawson needs is a paved IFR/VFR airport ó at least night VFR, Mr. Chair, but weíre not going to get that unless, of course, itís medevacs or emergency use only.
Mr. Chair, that brings us to the next question: when will the airport in Dawson be paved?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, future paving of the taxiways and expanded apron areas will cost approximately $1 million, and paving of the runway could cost an additional $2.6 million. Transport Canadaís airport capital assistance program, or ACAP ó paving is not currently eligible for ACAP funding, Mr. Chair. The Yukon government and other airport operators are lobbying Transport Canada for expansion of the ACAP criteria. That lobbying effort will continue and, hopefully, we can get the paving costs eligible for the Dawson City Airport.
Mr. Jenkins: So what the minister is saying is that the Dawson City Airport will only be paved if the federal government pays for it through one of their programs; is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Kent: What I mentioned to the Member for Klondike is that the project that we are currently undertaking at the Dawson City Airport is being funded from a variety of sources including Transport Canada's ACAP program. That program is providing approximately $3.96 million to the project. The Yukon government has committed $900,000 to this project, and approximately $1.6 million to this project has been committed to by DIAND. As far as when future capital upgrades at any airport in the Yukon are planned, we will look at those upgrades based on available resources at the time. What I mentioned to the Member for Klondike is that paving currently is not eligible under ACAP funding.
If we can make changes to the ACAP criteria that expedite the availability of resources for paving the Dawson City runway or any other eligible airstrip, then certainly at that time we would consider it. Should it have to be funded purely from YTG coffers, we have a number of competing capital projects that need to be addressed through that.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím disappointed in what the minister has said. To sum it up very succinctly, unless the federal government comes to the party and pays for it, the likelihood of the paving of the runway being undertaken in Dawson is probably nigh on to zero.
If the minister could just stand on his feet and say that, thatís probably more appropriate and more succinct than all the bafflegab that we have heard over and over again about ACAP and the federal government, but the bottom line, Mr. Chair, is the responsibility for airports here in the Yukon has been transferred from the federal government to the Government of Yukon and, coupled with that transfer, were buckets of money.
We have witnessed that, if you want to go to the Junction and see the infrastructure that was built in Haines Junction, or if you want to go to see the infrastructure that was built in Carmacks. Just to bring the airport in Dawson into conformity with existing Transport Canada regulations, this expenditure approaching $5 million had to be made, Mr. Chair.
So, it sounds like somebody, specifically the minister or the previous minister, is asleep at the switch over there, Mr. Chair, and Yukoners are going to suffer, because one of the major tools of infrastructure on which you build an economy is transportation ó and there are only three. There is transportation, communications, and the other one the minister should be aware of. Transportation is critical.
Now, given the ability of this minister to put those bright red Liberal flags up and down the highway and only fund his department to the level necessary to buy a bolt of red cloth, rather than the necessary tools and equipment and labour to fix the potholes, weíre more and more reliant on airports than ever before, Mr. Chair. Given the inability of the Minister of Health to address her responsibility and negotiate on-call service with the doctors in our community and to hire the appropriate number of nurse practitioners and allow them to admit anyone who is sick or injured to the nursing station in our community, the instructions go out, "Package and ship." So, our community is heavily reliant on an airport for medevac purposes.
We have the second-largest population centre in the Yukon, in Dawson City, and probably the least efficient airport in the Yukon. Now, that shouldnít be the case, and this minister is responsible for airports, and he hangs his hat on these federal government programs, saying that the only way weíre going to go forward is if the feds pay. We know there is almost a $100-million surplus from the last budget cycle, and we know that it has been dwindled down. So we know thereís money there, of the order and magnitude the minister speaks of when it comes to paving.
What steps is this minister taking to ensure that the airport in Dawson is going to be paved in the very near future? Would the minister provide some timelines as to when that may occur? Iím not asking him to speculate for pure speculative reasons. Iím asking him to analyze the data he has at his disposal as to when his government will make a decision to address one of their major areas of responsibility, and address it head-on.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I do recognize the importance of infrastructure for economic development. Thatís why the transportation division in this current year has been allocated close to $40 million for capital expenditures. Included in those expenditures are, of course, aviation and Yukon airports. As I mentioned to the Member for Klondike, we allocated approximately $900,000 to the cost of the current upgrades at the Dawson City Airport. We also have other airports weíre responsible for and limited resources for capital expenditures.
As far as the timelines go for the paving, I noted for the Member for Klondike that paving of the runway would cost an additional $2.6 million and future paving of the taxiways and expanded apron areas of the Dawson City Airport will cost approximately $1 million. As far as timelines go, certainly we could expedite those time lines if we were able to access federal programs such as the airport capital assistance program. I think it is important that we continue our work in that regard, and also plan projects for not only the Dawson City Airport but for other airport facilities throughout the Yukon to ensure that we can maintain and enhance that very important infrastructure, just as we look to do the same with other important infrastructure such as our highways.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, could the minister confirm that after this expenditure of money on the airport in Dawson City is made that it will support paving?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I indicated to the Member for Klondike, the paving aspects of that runway are not currently eligible under ACAP. I also indicated to the Member for Klondike that I believe it is very important to ensure that we do maintain quality infrastructure, not only our highways but also our airports. I will check into the paving of the Dawson Airport and how it is prioritized within aviation and Yukon airports branch, and as resources are available in future capital budgets we will assess it at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: What Iíd like to know is, from a structural standpoint, will the work underway on the surface of the runway be done to a level that will support the application of hot asphalt on top ó a simple yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As the Minister of Infrastructure and the former Minister of Economic Development and currently the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, improving infrastructure is very important to me, and the more resources that we can attribute to improving our highways and our airports, as well as our other infrastructure requirements, is important. So those types of things are very important to me.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, itís very important to me and to my constituents ó more so to my constituents, Mr. Chair. But the issue and the question I have to the minister is, after this tremendous amount of money is spent on the airport runway, will it be at an acceptable level so that it will support the application of hot asphalt. Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The runway and taxiway reconstruction at the Dawson City Airport will meet the engineering standards required for future paving of the surfaces. I have mentioned to the Member for Klondike that, as resources become available in the coming years, I do agree with him that itís important not only to his constituents, but itís important to all Yukoners, that we have the highest quality of infrastructure that we can.
Mr. Jenkins: It took the minister a long time to find that briefing note, and in the interim the bafflegab was quite extensive.
So we have found out, number one, that the airport design ó weíre not sure that the final work will conform to a level that will support the hot asphalt application. But the design currently and the money being spent appear to be headed in that direction. Number two, we pretty well have determined from this minister that the Government of Yukon is not going to entertain paving of the Dawson City Airport until such time as (a) the federal government pays through one of their various programs, or (b) if it fits into their long-range government plan. Is this paving of the Dawson Airport included in the current Government of Yukonís five-year capital planning? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: If the Member for Klondike will look at the long-term capital plan that we tabled with our capital budget last year, he will note that the 2002-03 mains for Dawson Airport various projects is $45,000. The 2003-04 mains for Dawson Airport projects is $1 million with a further $150,000 for 2004-05.
As I stated to the Member for Klondike in my previous answer, the runway and taxiway reconstruction work will meet the engineering standards required for future paving of the surfaces, and that paving would be greatly expedited if we were able to access federal programs such as ACAP and also the partnering that weíve done with the federal government DIAND to look at improvements to the Dawson City Airport.
I can provide the Member for Klondike with a detailed breakdown of the Dawson Airport various projects with the numbers that I stated from the long-term capital plan that we tabled, which suggests that weíre going to spend approximately $1.2 million over the next three years, as stated in our long-term capital plan that we tabled last fall.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister aware of the class of aircraft that can currently land and what class of aircraft would be capable of landing there, or allowed to land, if the airport were paved?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, recognizing the aviation background of the Member for Klondike, I will note again that I know he does have his pilotís licence and is very astute about the aviation aspects and topics.
Iím not aware of the class of planes that will be able to use the airport. I can endeavour to find out from department officials or certainly the Member for Klondike can publicly provide that information on the floor of the House. Iím sure he is well aware of the class of aircraft that can currently use the Dawson Airport in its current condition, those that may or may not be able to use the Dawson Airport once the current reconstruction is done, and then the types of aircraft that can use the Dawson City Airport should future paving of the surfaces occur.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister is missing the whole exercise. The exercise is that the airport must be used as a tool of economic development, as it must also be used as a transportation medium. The minister is missing the boat completely on the visitor front. Without paving, no one with a pure jet or even a lot of prop aircraft want to land on gravel.
Their insurance precludes them from doing so. So, by adopting the stance that this minister has adopted, Mr. Chair, heís impeding the economic development of a very important sector of industry in Yukon. Thatís the visitor industry. Why would he do that, especially in light of the amount of money weíre looking at? Probably the amount of money to pave the runway is of the order of magnitude that this government would eventually kick in to reconfigure Quartz Road so that we can turn off to the liquor store, or it is what the government would pay for off-site levies to the City of Whitehorse. But I guess thatís right in this Liberal enclave of Whitehorse, and the minister canít recognize the potential for the visitor industry across all of the Yukon. Itís a shame, Mr. Chair. Itís really a shame, especially when I had so much hope and admiration for this minister when he was responsible for Economic Development. He was really looking like he was showing some potential. But he seems to have bought in to the Liberal government position of, unless Ottawa pays, we donít do it. That seems to be very much the case.
Mr. Chair, after paving, which probably wonít come under this government, is the minister aware of what the O&M costs of maintaining the airport would be? Because then weíre looking at dedicated aircraft, and there appears to be the crux of the problem: the government doesnít want to face the additional responsibility, which will be totally their responsibility for O&M costs.
Because the O&M costs do increase because of the dedicated equipment that is necessary to maintain the runway. Has that been factored into the equation? Is the minister aware of those costs?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I am not aware of the projected costs for O&M once paving is completed at the Dawson City Airport, but I can tell the member opposite that I do recognize the importance of infrastructure, not only for economic development but also for other purposes. There are certainly a number of industries that benefit from increased spending on infrastructure and improvements to infrastructure. We certainly ran into difficulties in the Yukon under the previous government when transportation division capital spending was significantly reduced. As I mentioned earlier in debate today, the transportation division budget in the capital budget is close to $40 million for this year. Not only does this put Yukoners to work immediately, such as some of the highway reconstruction jobs that we are seeing on the Alaska Highway, Campbell Highway, and the plans for the Tagish Road. As well, there are 12 to 17 people that the Dawson City Airport project is employing with an estimated labour requirement for this summer of approximately 200 person-weeks. There is certainly an awful lot of short-term economic benefits that we see from capital spending on infrastructure, as well as the long-term gains that come once the infrastructure is in place.
The Member for Klondike highlighted a number of advantages that paving the Dawson City Airport would provide and, if we can take advantage and partner with other governments and use their funding programs to expedite the paving of the runway at the Dawson City Airport, then Iím all for it. I believe that if partnering with other governments and partnering with the private sector will extend the spending power that we have and give capital projects the ability to occur more quickly, then Iím all for that type of partnering. I do support partnering with other governments, as we have done with the SHIP program with the federal government, and as we have successfully done with the current reconstruction at the Dawson Airport by working with Transport Canada and DIAND. I do look forward to the expedited improvement of not only the Dawson City Airport but other airports that we are responsible for, so that the visitor industry and other industries can take advantage of the short-term and the long-term economic benefits that are associated with improved infrastructure.
Mr. Jenkins: Letís explore this a little bit with the minister. Could the minister advise the House what initiatives he and his officials have made, what approaches theyíve made to the federal government with respect to the airportís ACAP program?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned to the Member for Klondike earlier in debate today, paving is not currently eligible for ACAP funding, and the Yukon government and other airport operators are lobbying Transport Canada for expansion of the ACAP criteria.
As the Member for Klondike knows, I assumed responsibility for the Department of Infrastructure on April 1 of this year. To my knowledge, I donít believe that any letters to Transport Canada have gone out under my signature, but I will check with department officials and let him know what other airport operators and what the Yukon government have done to lobby the federal government for the inclusion of paving in this funding program.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the minister to table any and all correspondence on this initiative that has transpired since the Liberals took office?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I previously stated to the Member for Klondike, I would look into that and explore that with department officials. I will look into the correspondence that has happened with Transport Canada and the lobbying efforts that have occurred for increasing the eligibility for ACAP funding and other important federal funding initiatives around transportation improvements that Transport Canada offers and that other federal government departments may offer as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iím willing to wager a whole dollar that, under this ministerís pen, or under the previous ministerís pen ó and this Liberal government ó that not one letter has gone to the federal government on amendments to the ACAP to include paving of airport runways.
Which leads me to another area, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to know, given that this minister is responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, why it took so long to come to an arrangement as to where the transmission lines from Mayo to Dawson would go around the airport. Why did it take the ministerís officials three shots at it to bring it into conformity with Transport Canada regulations? Is it currently approved?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, in response to the Member for Klondikeís question, I, too, am aware of the changes to the transmission line and the routing around the Dawson City Airport. I think itís important that we do address those types of concerns when we are building infrastructure. And I do believe that the current routing of the transmission line is approved by Transport Canada, but I will endeavour to clarify that with officials from the Department of Infrastructure as well as officials with the Yukon Energy Corporation as it pertains to the work that has been done in and around the Dawson City Airport.
Mr. Jenkins: More importantly, Iíd like to know why it has taken three kicks at the cat to locate the transmission line around the Dawson City Airport and obtain a right-of-way. The rules, Mr. Chair, are well known with respect to proximity of transmission lines to an aerodrome, to heights, to where they can be located. We are not talking rocket science here, yet it has taken this minister three kicks at the cat, with one of his hats, to establish where the power line should be located in the Klondike Valley, or adjacent to the Klondike Valley, before it is finalized. And the minister still doesnít know whether it has been approved by Transport Canada or not at this juncture. He is aware that there has been a problem but heís not even aware at this juncture whether it has been approved by Transport Canada.
I want to know what took so long and why it has cost so much, given that this minister should have a complete understanding of all of these areas, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I did explain to the Member for Klondike in my previous answer that I will look into the issues that he has raised here surrounding the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and its proximity to the Dawson City Airport, and I fully intend to undertake that as soon as possible. Of course, it is my understanding that the current location of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line does conform with Transport Canada guidelines. If that isnít the case, I will speak with officials and find out exactly what the outstanding issues are but, to the best of my knowledge, and at this time, the location of the right-of-way does conform to Transport Canada guidelines.
I will look into other information for the Member for Klondike regarding this initiative and, having gone to Dawson this past weekend, I do recognize that there has been substantial work on the transmission line since my previous trip earlier this year to Dawson Cityís 100th anniversary. I will be returning to Dawson this weekend for the gold show, and I look forward to meeting with Yukon Energy Corporation officials up there. I never had the chance this past weekend, when I travelled to the Association of Yukon Communities convention, but I intend to speak with Yukon Energy Corporation officials on Friday of this week, if I can find some time between the priorities at the gold show that I do have. I will take up the issues that the Member for Klondike raised, not only with officials in the Department of Infrastructure but also in speaking with contractors and officials with Yukon Energy Corporation at the Dawson plant and any contractors who happen to be in Dawson or at the camp at Stewart Crossing.
Mr. Jenkins: I am asking the minister to provide his assurances, either verbally or in writing, that the location of the transmission line in and around the airport from Hendersonís Corner to Callison subdivision conforms with Transport Canada regulations. I am seeking his assurances on that, and I am further seeking his assurances that all the appropriate easements have been obtained and are in place, because I know that is not the case. There is a lot of speculation out there because of the change and the location of the line because of Transport Canada. The government has had to go back and re-engineer the location and obtain new easements, and they are not all in place. There are a lot of claim owners who have grave concerns, and that is not fair. This minister is allowing his officials to take the stand that, "Well, we will just put the poles where we want. If you want to mine it then you have to pay us to move them." I have very grave reservations about a minister that would display that degree of arrogance, and not have respect for land use policies and land uses that pre-exist. There are a number of easements that have not been obtained by private land owners in Callison subdivision and these are all impacting on the costs of this project. They are not doing anything but driving it up ó probably to a level that if the minister would have had all his ducks lined up, he would have saved enough money that he could have paved the Dawson City Airport.
But no, we have a minister who is determined to move ahead at any cost. At least we have a government determined to do that.
There is the issue of the power lines that currently exist along the Klondike Highway adjacent to the airport. Could the minister confirm that these cause no problem and that they donít have to be relocated? I believe they are 15-kV line. Theyíre not the 69 kV that goes to Mayo-Dawson.
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I stated for the Member for Klondike in my previous answer, I will look into his issues surrounding the proximity of the new Mayo-Dawson transmission line to the airport. He raised a number of points ó Iím unaware of any problems with them. I will look into them. I can provide a written response to the Member for Klondike, or a verbal response as we continue debate in aviation and marine tomorrow or possibly on Wednesday or Thursday, as the Member for Klondike just mentioned. I will look into the matters raised by the Member for Klondike and provide him with an appropriate response. He has raised a number of concerns about existing power lines and their proximity to the airport as well as future power lines. I will look into those concerns for the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, there is also the issue of the power lines at the Whitehorse Airport. Has there been any movement on the part of this government to have Yukon Electrical move their transmission lines or bury them or relocate them out of the flight path at the end of Whitehorse Airport? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, these are issues about which, although I wasnít in government or a member of this Legislative Assembly at the time, I do recall speaking with some of my colleagues who were members, as well as staff people who worked for the Liberal Party in their capacity of official opposition. I know that this is a concern the Member for Klondike raised under the previous Yukon government when he was in opposition with the then Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the current Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
Again, I can commit to the Member for Klondike that I will look into these concerns and I will get back to him with regard to some of the issues he has raised here today ó not only issues about the power line issues at the Dawson City Airport but also the power line issues that he has just raised about the Whitehorse Airport. I am not aware of outstanding issues, but in the interest of providing good government to Yukoners, I will take the memberís questions under advisement and look into it and explore those issues with officials of the Department of Infrastructure and Yukon Energy Corporation or the appropriate officials that I should be contacting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iím certainly not comfortable with the ministerís response. All that is going to happen is that the minister is going to become aware of what has transpired in his department. Now, more importantly, the question is this: will he be in a position to do something about it, to rectify the situation, and will the minister do so? Because what Iíve pointed out, Mr. Chair, is that the existing power lines, the distribution lines, along the Klondike Highway adjacent to the airport in Dawson on the west end, as is the highway, is too close to the centre line of the airport. Transport Canada has identified it. Now, will this minister be doing anything about it? Will he be doing anything about the power lines at the north end of the runway here in Whitehorse? He is going to ask his officials for a briefing, and he is going to ask his officials to bring him up to speed, but at the end of the day, will he be doing anything about it? And thatís the question Iíd like an answer to: will this minister be prepared to take the bull by the horns and rectify the situation?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned to the Member for Klondike earlier this afternoon in debate, Iím not aware of any of the concerns that he has raised with regard to the proximity of power lines to airports and those types of issues at either the Whitehorse Airport or the Dawson City Airport.
The questions that he raised are, I believe, hypothetical at this point, and I will look into whether or not there is a problem. And should there be a problem, we can address it at that time but, as for now, I would like to check with some of the expertise we do have in the department surrounding aviation and power line proximity. And I can commit to the Member for Klondike that I will get back to him with the appropriate answers to the questions he raised here today and identify any problems, if indeed they do exist, with the current location of power poles in and around, either the Dawson City Airport or the Whitehorse Airport, or any other concerns he may raise as we proceed with debate this afternoon.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to thank the minister for his response, and all it means is a whole series of legislative returns, if we choose to leave this initiative.
Mr. Chair, the minister and I agree on the potential economic impact that a good transportation system has ó specifically air. We probably agree on the benefits that would accrue to Yukon if we had adequate airports. There are only two airports in the Yukon that are paved ó Whitehorse and Watson Lake ó and a number of the taxiways and some of the parking at Watson Lake needs quite a bit of attention. It needs to be repaved. What are the timelines for this government addressing its responsibility in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I do agree with the Member for Klondike about the important economic benefits of good quality transportation infrastructure as well as other infrastructure. As to the issues at the Watson Lake Airport that he has just mentioned, the paving requirements are not currently listed under the long-term capital plan. But again, Mr. Chair, this is a very high-level capital plan listing. I can look to department officials to see what plans there are in the near future to pave the parking lot ó I believe the Member for Klondike mentioned that ó and the taxiways at the Watson Lake Airport, and I will check with officials to see if there are any immediate or long-term plans to take care of the issues that were raised by the Member for Klondike here.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what appears to be happening in Watson Lake is that, due to this governmentís inactivity on the economic front, the use and usage of the Watson Lake Airport is a mere shadow of what it used to be. I guess, given the dismal track record of this Liberal government on economic issues and developing any way to stimulate the economy, other than by providing medevacs, Mr. Chair, airport usage has gone down, down, down in Watson Lake, and it would appear that the approach the Government of the Yukon is taking is, "We donít need all of the parking. We donít need all of the taxiways that we currently have."
We might as well just tear them up and leave them or just mark them as being unserviceable. If thatís the case, why doesnít the minister just come right out and say so? Because here we have an airport that, like the Dawson City Airport, could be used as a major tool of economic development but, because of this governmentís inability to get on board with a local carrier that wants to provide service to Alberta or Vancouver and do something for the Yukon, itís not happening. All these facilities are underutilized. Theyíre underutilized from their potential, and itís a shame.
The minister, in his other responsibilities, might want to go back and read the report when the Alaska Highway pipeline was being considered back in the 1970s, as to how the airports along the Alaska Highway came into play and what potential they offered for economic development. In fact, back in those days, the sked airline business was regulated. It was a sked carrier that applied for and received operating authority to run a sked right from Whitehorse all the way along the Alaska Highway west to Beaver Creek, as well as south to Watson Lake. It was all predicated on very good runways and very good airports.
Since the date of that last consideration of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and its potential for creating a corridor and airline travel back and forth, weíve gone backward. Weíve gone backward at an alarming rate, Mr. Chair.
All you have to look at is the statistics for movements in rural Yukon and about the only time they show a good bump is if there is a good fire season and the fire suppression aircraft have to be called in. That is the only time you will get your statistics driven upward currently. With the amount of aircraft coming into the Yukon on a scheduled basis, enplaning and deplaning passengers at Watson Lake, it is a shame that this government has not shown more leadership and ability to attract carriers, and has not worked more cooperatively and beneficially with the existing Whitehorse carrier. All the minister has to do is go to his Cabinet colleagues and call it "Air North Fulda" and they will get another couple of hundred thousand dollars for marketing.
Does this government have any policies in place with respect to stimulating the air industry in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Member for Klondike raised a number of assumptions in his previous question and the preamble to that question about what we are doing, and what our intentions are. I can inform the Member for Klondike that my intention as the Minister of Infrastructure, and indeed, the intention of my Cabinet colleagues on this side of the House, is to improve infrastructure. As I have stated earlier in debate today, we are spending $40 million on the transportation division capital budget not only on the highway infrastructure but also on the airport infrastructure.
Something that will be of particular interest to the Town of Watson Lake, which they actually came to me with when I was visiting with them ó I believe it was last October ó as the then Minister of Economic Development, is air park development at the Watson Lake Airport. The Town of Watson Lake, as I stated, did express an interest in developing an air park at the airport, as an economic development initiative. We certainly recognize the economic and lifestyle potential of residential air parks. I believe, in the recent official community plan that the City of Whitehorse has done, that they may have something similar planned for the Cousins Airstrip. The residential air park initiative is a development where pilots can build residences with aircraft hangars adjacent to the airport and have unrestricted access to the runway and taxiways. I can assure members in the Legislature here that thatís an idea that we are considering, and weíre going to work with the Town of Watson Lake to see that we can progress that initiative forward. I did speak to him about it at the Association of Yukon Communities meeting in Dawson City this past weekend, and the consultations with the community, with the aviation industry and other interested parties will commence in May of this year.
I noted the report that the Member for Klondike talked about, about the Alaska Highway pipeline initiative. There is another book out there, Mr. Chair. I believe the title of it is Wings over the Alaska Highway, summarizing some of the important runway developments that occurred in conjunction with the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942.
The name of the author and the photographer unfortunately escapes me at this juncture, but I would encourage the Member for Klondike ó if he hasnít already done so ó to read that book. Itís very interesting and states some of the important advances that the aviation industry has made here in the Yukon from World War II through to present day.
One policy that this government has initiated that will encourage competition in the local air industry is the air travel policy I recently announced. Weíre in the final stages of putting together the air travel committee that will look at predatory pricing policies by competing airlines in the territory, and looking to adjust government spending appropriately to ensure that those types of pricing policies donít take place. There is certainly a lot more detail I can provide for the member, should he wish, on the air travel policy we have initiated ó something I recently spoke about to a reporter from the National Post, as this is something brand new to the country. We have been contacted by government representatives from British Columbia and, I believe, from Quebec, who are interested in taking a look at this policy we have initiated.
We think the best thing for Yukoners is competition in the local airline industry. Hopefully, this policy we have introduced will be able to help that competition thrive. As I said, itís something new; itís something we didnít base on something that another jurisdiction was doing.
Weíre trend-setters, I guess, so to speak, on this, Mr. Chair, and we hope this is one government policy that can work and can encourage local airlines, as well as other airlines, to compete on a year-round basis in the Yukon market. So, this policy, I believe, will go a long way to addressing the concerns that the Member for Klondike raised.
Mr. Jenkins: Just a quick question for the minister: when will we be shown a copy of this government air travel policy? When will it be available?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I did release the air travel policy on April 8, 2002, at a press conference at the Whitehorse International Airport. I can provide a copy for the Member for Klondike as soon as possible. I wasnít aware that he hadnít seen a copy of the policy.
As far as the committee goes, I did mention earlier that we are in the process of identifying members for that committee and we will have it up and running, in conjunction with the anticipated scheduled service of Air North, which I believe is in early June. I will get officials to provide a copy of the air travel policy. I will table it in the House this week, Mr. Chair, for all members of the House.
Mr. Jenkins: The press release that the minister gave at the Whitehorse Airport, I am aware of that one, but the minister did indicate that they were still fine-tuning and working on it. Now, thatís what attracted my attention. Just what areas is the minister concentrating on? Is the Government of Yukonís air travel policy in a final completed form, or is there still work to be done on it?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I stated to the Member for Klondike, on the air travel policy, the one remaining item that needs to be addressed is the establishment of the air travel committee, which will be called on an as-needed basis to address concerns that Yukoners may have around perceived predatory pricing. I am in the final stages of identifying members of that committee, and the committee will be established and operational by the time Air North begins its service.
I should also mention for Members of the Legislative Assembly that this government air travel policy applies to carriers that provide scheduled service between the Yukon and southern destinations on a year-round basis. We know that there will be competition in that proviso of service by June of this year when Air North begins its scheduled service, and we will have the committee ready. The policy has been finalized, and I will table it in the Legislature this week for Members of the Legislative Assembly to take a look at.
Mr. Jenkins: So this air travel policy only applies north-south, it doesnít apply east-west? Because we have had trouble with carriers from Whitehorse to Yellowknife. We have had difficulties from Whitehorse to Anchorage, and to Alaskan destinations. Could the minister confirm that it only applies north-south, or to southern destinations?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The air travel policy applies to travel that we do Outside. There is medevac travel that goes to Vancouver and Edmonton. There are a number of different criteria that are taken into account: criteria are based on what we spend on medevac travel as well as business travel, and the majority of our business travel does occur to markets such as Vancouver. We have medevacs that do go into Alberta as well as medical travel that does occur to Alberta. The important thing to note for the Member for Klondike is that it is based on government travel expenditures, and the majority of those expenditures do take place to destinations that are south. As well, the policy only takes effect on routes where there are two airlines in competition on a year-round basis. Certainly, that is why the southern Canada routes, as they will exist once Air North starts their service, will be the routes where competition does exist for government purchasing air travel. I hope that clarifies the question that the Member for Klondike raised.
Mr. Jenkins: It brings me back to my original question. Does it only apply north-south because we have had two carriers in place between Whitehorse and Yellowknife? The second carrier came in and basically put the first carrier that developed the run out of business. This goes back just a few years ago. Why would this policy only apply north-south? Why doesnít it apply to all government travel on an equal basis?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I stated to the Member for Klondike, the area where we do have the greatest amount of impact is on our southern travel. We currently spend, I believe, in the neighbourhood of $3 million to $4 million on government air travel south and, again, the air travel policy will only take effect when there is competition in the proviso of service to southern destinations, such as Vancouver and Alberta. That is where we could have the greatest impact with current spending trends that the Government of Yukon does have with air travel, and thatís where weíre focusing the efforts of the policy, as it stands.
Mr. Jenkins: So the answer to the question ó and Iím not trying to put words in the ministerís mouth, Mr. Chair ó is that it only applies north-south, even though we have other government travel to other destinations, both east and west.
Mr. Chair, has the minister identified any money in his budget, or has he gone to any other ministers within his Cabinet, for money for marketing for Air North? Is there anything happening in that area?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The marketing of the Yukon, of course, is the responsibility of the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, with the new marketing branch that is in that department. I would invite the Member for Klondike, when we do reach debate in the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, to take up the concerns with the marketing of Air North with the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, the Member for Riverdale North.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iíd like to remind the minister, Mr. Chair, that weíre not yet into the Department of Blah Blah, Tourism and Blah Blah, but we will be and weíll get there ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do believe there was a ruling by the Speaker that we would not invent names for ministries.
Chair: Yes, and to be consistent with that ruling I will uphold the ruling. Thank you for the point of order. Please refer to the department as it is titled.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I donít want to dispute what youíre pointing out, but the ruling from the Speaker was with respect to naming fictitious names for ministers, for their department, for their portfolios. It had nothing to do with the department.
So, I would ask the minister to have a look at the Speakerís ruling ó
Chair: Order please. We will just expand it to allow for not only an improper name but also a proper sense and respect of the department. So that will take care of all other rulings by expanding it here in the Committee. Please use the name of the department as it is in the budget departments to avoid confusion and also to make sure that the demeanour of the debate is at the proper level.
Mr. Jenkins: I respect your ruling, Mr. Chair, but now that we have a Department of Tourism that encompasses quite a broad range, itís very difficult to get to who is responsible for what. Itís an area where, I believe, the Minister of Infrastructure is responsible in part for airports and should be cognizant of his responsibilities. So Iíd like to ask that minister what initiatives and approaches he has made with respect to marketing this new airport. He is the lead department on air travel policy and thatís responsible for overseeing millions of dollars of government expenditure on travel, and that could subsequently reduce the cost of travel if Air North is maintained in a very financially viable manner, which I sincerely hope it will be because, having just booked on Air North, their ticket prices to Calgary are $235.40 compared to the same ticket on Air Canada, which is $1,000 more one way.
Itís a pretty interesting comparison.
Iíd like to ask the minister if his department has developed any policy with respect to supporting our new airline based here in the Yukon. Itís going to employ quite a number of Yukoners. Itís going to have a tremendous financial impact on the economy of the Yukon and could very well be a lead carrier in western Canada. What has his department done in that regard?
I see heís getting instructions from the minister who is in part responsible for Tourism and perhaps we could get an overview of what is transpiring, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just stepping back, a point in debate ó the air travel policy does apply east-west as well as north-south. And, of course, it only surrounds areas where there is competition in the marketplace, which currently I donít believe exists between Whitehorse and Yellowknife, and, of course, on an as-needed basis. Weíre not going to increase our east-west flying ó if there is competition in the market, we will continue to do the medical travel and business travel as appropriate.
As I did state before, the greatest effect that we can have on the marketplace is for travel that does go north-south between the Yukon and southern Canada. So as far as business decisions made by airline companies go, that is where Air North decided to enter the market and to compete with our existing carrier, Air Canada. So that air policy, should the need arise on east-west travel ó and I can get the figures for the Member for Klondike on what exactly the government spends on east-west travel. I will endeavour to get that information. Not knowing offhand what it is, I still would assume that itís not very much. I should also note for the Member for Klondike that it doesnít apply to international travel such as that that would go to Alaska. What I can state for the Member for Klondike regarding the question he just asked is that the marketing responsibilities, again, are the responsibility of the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture. The support that we have given to encourage competition in the local airline industry is the governmentís air travel policy that weíve been speaking about here for the last 20 minutes or so, and that is what the Department of Infrastructure is doing to provide necessary support to airline competition. As far as marketing assistance, I would invite the Member for Klondike to address that when the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture comes up for debate sometime before May 30 as, of course, that is the scheduled final date for the current sitting.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to ask the minister if Yukon has developed a policy with respect to how they are going to treat and what they are going to do in the event that Air Canada becomes very predatory in their pricing policies.
All we have to do is look back at last year, and we look at Canada 3000 when they were flying into Whitehorse. For those flights that Canada 3000 had arriving and departing at virtually the same time that Air Canada had a flight arriving and departing, the prices were almost identical. But as soon as you moved on to an Air Canada flight outside of the one that arrived and departed at the same time as Canada 3000, it was a much different pricing schedule.
I think, thanks to Air North, Yukon is going to enjoy a resurgence of competitive pricing, once again from Air Canada on the route Whitehorse to the south. But it would appear to be a game of whoever has the biggest pockets wins. Given Air Canadaís propensity to not even bother how much of a deficit they run on a quarterly basis ó and, I might add, their deficit position for some periods exceeds that of the total budget of the Government of Yukon for an annual basis. They have very, very deep pockets and, as evidenced by some of the rulings coming down that were brought to the competition arm of the government overseeing airlines in Canada, it has taken a heck of a long time to get them to the table and they have basically destroyed financially the airline in question. I am referring to some eastern Canadian airlines that went head-to-head with Air Canada.
They just didnít have the deep pockets. They didnít have the Government of Canada backing them up. At the end of the day, we all lose, and Air Canada enjoys their regulated monopoly.
Iím hopeful that the government has in place some kind of policy to deal with this initiative, should it arise, and Iím not speculating because, if past history is correct, it will arise.
What position is the government going to take, and what are they going to do in this area?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I have mentioned to the Member for Klondike regarding this issue, we have instituted an air travel purchasing policy, which is something that we can control. We can control Government of Yukon spending practices as they apply to air travel. What the policy that we have instituted ó I have mentioned earlier in debate today that this is a policy that is unique to Canadian jurisdictions now. We didnít have a model to base it on; we are somewhat of a trend-setter when we speak of this type of anti-predatory purchasing policy.
What the Yukon governmentís new air travel purchasing policy seeks to correct are some of the deficiencies in the current air travel options between Yukon and southern Canada, by encouraging and supporting the existence of airline competition.
The Yukon government believes that competition is the best way to achieve lower air travel prices, improved airline services and a greater choice of flight destinations. We look forward to the economic development benefits that will result when Air North commences its new southern service this summer. The policy will ensure that Yukon government travel money does not support the anti-competitive practices of an airline that attempts to eliminate fair competition in the Yukon marketplace.
The policy will ensure that Yukon governmentís air service spending is divided on a fair and equitable basis between airlines serving the Yukon offering scheduled, year-round service to southern Canada. The Yukon government supports the federal governmentís proposed amendments to the Competition Act, respecting anti-competitive airline behaviour, and we particularly support providing power to the Commissioner of Competition to issue temporary cease-and-desist orders in cases of anti-competitive behaviour.
As I have stated in the Legislature this afternoon, I will get a final copy of the governmentís air travel policy, and Iíll make it available for all Members of the Legislative Assembly sometime this week. We certainly want to see competition in the air travel industry that will benefit all Yukoners. Iím particularly excited with the service that Air North will be offering into the Alberta market, as it relates to the oil and gas industry, as well as pipeline proposals that are happening. I did mention their service to a breakfast that Yukon government hosted at the Petroleum Club in Calgary in January. There were a number of executives in the room who were excited by the opportunities for direct service from Alberta to the Yukon, as well as the connections from Whitehorse via Air North, and other carriers, to other destinations, such as Inuvik in the Beaufort Delta, and destinations in Alaska.
Itís certainly something weíre excited about, and we have introduced this policy to make sure that we can have competition in the local airline industry. I have spoken with the president of Air North on a number of occasions since we decided to develop this policy, and he has indicated his support for the policy and feels it will be an important step in maintaining his place in the local marketplace.
So, we are excited about competition.
By introducing this policy, if that leads to sustained competition in the local airline industry, then weíre very happy with what it has done and it has accomplished what we intended it to. So in answering the Member for Klondikeís question, the government air travel policy is what we have done to ensure that competition will exist in the local airline industry.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to explore with the minister some of the conditions in the government air travel policy that would give rise to the Government of Yukon registering a complaint with the commissioner with respect to air travel. How long would a condition have to exist before the government would take action and bring forward a complaint? Is it a week, two weeks, or is it the announcement of a new set of rates, before the government would take action? Or do they allow it to go for a whole season? Just how long will the condition have to exist before the government comes to defend the local carrier?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, the government air travel committee can be called at any time, should a member of the public or a member of the business community feel that one airline is unfairly competing against another. So the calling of the committee can be done by any individual. It is my understanding that the government can also ask the committee to sit when they feel that there is a predatory nature in the local airline industry by any airline that is providing competition or scheduled year-round service to the Yukon.
That is the basis. It is driven by complaints or concerns of the Yukon public as well as the Yukon government.
Mr. Jenkins: I am more concerned about the mechanism in-house with the air travel policy. When a complaint is brought forward under this policy, how long does it take for an actual complaint to be registered by the Government of Yukon with the commissioner responsible? Is there any kind of lead time, or is it just one of those issues that is left to wander around in space forever and a day ó that we are still studying it, we are looking at it? I would like some clear, definitive guidelines, if they are not in place and not established, that within so many days of receiving a complaint, the committee shall act. Within so many days after hearing a complaint, a decision will be rendered. Within so many days after that, the decision of the committee or whomever will be the Government of Yukonís position and will be taken up with the Conflicts Commissioner. I would like to know what would trigger this other than a complaint? Is just the mere announcement of predatory pricing policies enough to trigger a complaint? How is this going to work? Has careful thought and consideration been given to how this is going to be structured, or is this just some new committee that we are going to put in place that reports to the Commissioner in Executive Council and then they make the decision? It probably goes right up to the corner office before anything is determined or done.
Hon. Mr. Kent: There seems to be quite a bit of confusion by the Member for Klondike as to the air travel committee. Again, hopefully, weíll be able to rectify that confusion once I table a copy of the air travel policy.
The air travel committee can be called by the Yukon government at any time, based on a complaint from the public. The question of how long it would take before the committee was struck is something that I did answer to a reporter at the press conference, when we introduced this policy. I would expect that committee to be struck immediately upon complaints ó of course, within a reasonable time. We do have representation on this committee from the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, as well as one private sector representative. As well, there will be alternates assigned to the committee.
So, if the committee determines that an airlineís actions are detrimentally affecting competition between airlines, the committee will direct the Department of Infrastructure to curtail or cease purchasing Yukon government air travel from that airline, or such other action as is considered appropriate for such period of time deemed necessary by the committee.
The Department of Infrastructure shall implement the decisions of the committee on the purchase of government air travel, and decisions of the committee are final. So that is what we envision the committee doing. It will not meet on a regular basis. It is a complaints-driven committee.
I have asked the department to keep the committee very small in order that it can respond more quickly to what may be predatory pricing policies by either airline providing service between the Yukon and southern Canada, and that is what I expect the committee to do. Again, I will provide a copy of the full policy to Members of the Legislative Assembly this week, as I have committed to, and hopefully that will clarify some of the issues that have been raised by the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has gone on at great length about this wonderful trend-setting air travel policy, and I recognize that it has some potential, but what triggers a complaint going right to the commissioner under the Competition Act? How do we get from here to there, because really thatís the only thing that Air Canada is going to stand up and take notice of.
If this committee here in the Yukon sits down and deliberates over an issue and renders a decision and the government moves a couple of tickets from one carrier to the other ó really, if you think Mr. Milton is going to stand up and take notice, I would doubt that to be the case. What they will stand up and take notice of is an actual complaint laid under the Competition Act. Now, how do we get there and whatís going to trigger that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I stated, the air travel policy surrounds the spending practices of the Government of Yukon. The Yukon government does support the federal governmentís proposed amendments to the Competition Act as well as the Commissioner of Competitionís ability to issue temporary cease-and-desist orders in cases of anti-competitive behaviour. But what this policy does address, Mr. Chair, is the spending priorities of the Yukon government as they pertain to carriers that are providing local service.
I will get a copy of the full policy to Members of the Legislative Assembly, but this policy deals specifically with government spending on air travel, be it business spending and/or medical spending requirements that this government is mandated to provide. That is something that, from a Yukon government perspective, we do control, and that is a tool that we can use to ensure that competition does exist in the local airline industry.
Mr. Jenkins: So the government really doesnít have a position or a way, nor will they get involved in taking anything up under the Competition Act with the commissioner overseeing the air industry in Canada. Is that very much the case? If there is a very valid complaint and concern, will the government be taking that forward to this federal regulatory body? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, as I mentioned to the Member for Klondike, we do support the federal governmentís amendments to the Competition Act respecting anti-competitive airline behaviour. What we have done at the local level to react to any predatory pricing that is taking place is that we have introduced a government air travel policy.
I do have copies of the air travel policy with me now. At the break, I will make sufficient copies for the Table Officers so I may table that in the House here this afternoon. Perhaps that will provide some clarification to the confusion that the Member for Klondike has surrounding the policy and what it is intended to do.
As I have stated on a number of occasions this afternoon, this air travel purchasing policy is designed to protect and preserve competition in the local airline industry so that Yukoners can enjoy the same amount of competition that other Canadians do in southern jurisdictions. Again, we are excited about the proposed service that Air North has announced. In formal discussions with the president of Air North, he has expressed his support for this government initiative. We feel that, since this is something we can control, we were able to react quickly to meet the needs of Air North, and Yukoners will benefit from increased competition in the local airline industry.
I will make copies of the government air travel policy, so I may table it for members of the Assembly, either after the break which I have committed to, or if that is not possible, I will table it at the scheduled time for tabling returns and documents in tomorrowís Orders of the Day.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iím not getting an answer to the question that I have posed to the minister a number of times. The minister is all over the wall on this question.
I want to know if, under this air travel policy that the Government of Yukon has, there is ever a very valid, bona fide and substantiated anti-competitive stance ó I would suspect it would ultimately be Air Canada ó and that the Government of Yukon would take this up under the Competition Act and make representation to the federal regulatory authorities.
The minister just went on at great length in saying they support changes to the Competition Act, but the minister has avoided the question as to whether this minister or his government would actually lay a complaint and represent Yukoners on this very important issue. I suspect he will not. Could the minister just get up on his feet and say yes or no as to whether he would, if there was a complaint that was substantiated under the Competition Act, take up the cause and take it before the Competition Act tribunal?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With the Member for Klondikeís questions again, we are entering hypothetical questions. I would certainly have to address those concerns if the issue does arise. It hasnít arisen yet. Indeed we havenít even seen Air North begin its service to the south. What we have instituted is the government air travel policy to be able to react quickly to anti-competitive practices by any airlines that are doing business in the north, and thatís what we intend to do.
I hope, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, that we wonít need to call the government air travel committee and initiate this policy but, should the need arise or should we receive a complaint from a member of the Yukon public with regard to pricing activities of either carrier providing the service, then we can react quickly with this. But again, the hypothetical question asked by the Member for Klondike ó we would have to address that situation if, and, or when it does occur.
Chair: Order please. Just to ensure, hypothetical questions are covered under Guidelines for Oral Question Period. Theyíre certainly allowed in debate, so thereís no problem with that.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Well, I still havenít got an answer to my question because, ultimately, thatís what will probably occur. I would just like to know what the governmentís policy is, should it occur. Have they even considered a policy, or are they just providing all the bells and whistles and window dressing out in the public domain, but theyíre not backing up their position with teeth? Because the only thing that will make a major air carrier in Canada stand up and take notice is a complaint laid before the feet of the commissioner and, even if you look at the past complaints that the commissioner has had to deal with, Mr. Chair, there has been some tremendous length of time before a decision has been rendered. That I have difficulty with, given that if the same time frames were applied to complaints originating out of the Yukon, a carrier could probably have met his demise financially and be out of business before this government would react.
Once more to the minister, I would like to know what the governmentís policy is because they appear to not have a policy, they donít want to raise any alarm bells, they just want to put forward a window dressing that is usually one of those Liberal positions that sits right in the middle of the fence and doesnít come down fairly and represent Yukoners ó it is a position that avoids dealing with the question ó and they hide behind this committee that they have yet to structure. Now, is that fair? I donít believe so.
When the minister is next up on his feet, could he please provide an answer to my original question? Does the government have a policy or anything in place ó if a complaint is received that is substantiated and very valid, will the Government of Yukon be taking that complaint right to the federal regulatory authorities? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, in order to react quickly to predatory pricing practices in the local airline industry, we have instituted the policy that we have been speaking about here this afternoon and I have stated that we do support the federal governmentís amendments to the Competition Act with respect to anti-competitive airline behaviour. We particularly support providing power to the Commissioner of Competition to issue temporary cease-and-desist orders in cases of anti-competitive behaviour. But again, the Member for Klondike is talking about a specific incident that hasnít occurred and hopefully may not occur, and I would have to consider that on a case-by-case basis as it would occur.
So in response to the Member for Klondikeís question, it would depend on what the case is, on a case-by-case basis. Itís a hypothetical issue that weíre dealing with here. We are hopeful that this never does exist but, if it does, we will deal with it on a case-by-case basis. We are supportive, as I have mentioned, of some of the federal governmentís initiatives and we have instituted our own initiatives so that we can react quickly to anti-competitive policies of airlines that are competing for Government of Yukon expenditures.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this ministerís position on this issue reminds me of the dentist who said, "Well, your teeth are good, but your gums have to come out." With this piece of legislation, there isnít anything to hold the teeth and there doesnít appear to be any teeth in it. All we have is a policy, but no way of carrying out the policy, other than perhaps taking it and moving some business one way or the other.
As soon as Air North starts flying, you can bet your bottom dollar that the same kind of situation is going to occur here in the Yukon as occurred when Canada 3000 started flying into the Yukon. For those flights that arrive and depart at a certain time of the day that correspond to Air North, Air Canada matches their airfares ó thatís it ó or goes below them or maybe a few dollars on top of them. They wonít provide those flight fares for the balance of the flights.
You can buy a ticket currently on Air North ó I encourage the minister to try it. Or maybe heís looking for a freebie flight, I donít know. Hopefully, Iíll be attending my daughterís graduation in Calgary sometime later in June, if this Legislature isnít sitting at that time.
It is pretty interesting as to what this government is doing creating a travel policy, not having any teeth and taking out the gums.
We could go around on this, but it would appear that the minister has been issued his instructions not to answer on this very important issue. Let the record reflect that government doesnít appear to have a policy as to how to deal with predatory pricing policies for any air carrier serving Yukon. And that should hold true currently ó and I would encourage the minister to look at some of the pricing policies that are currently in place, where we have one carrier and that carrier has the monopoly. And when the minister next flies on Air Canada, I would encourage him, if on the dinner flight, to take his bagged lunch with him because a bag of potato chips is not anywhere near appetizing. The costs are being cut, and savings are being realized. They are not being passed on to those of us who use the airline on a regular basis.
In fact, Mr. Chair, if you want to fly where I go on a regular basis, to Victoria, you might want to look at taking Air North to Fairbanks, and then Alaska Airlines down to Seattle and Horizon back to Victoria, and see what savings you realize out of Air Canada out of Whitehorse through to Victoria. Yes, you have to contend with Customs, but theyíre pretty easy getting into the States. Sometimes getting back into Canada is not so enjoyable, but so be it.
Mr. Chair, letís try this once more with the minister. Does the government have a policy in place as to what initiatives they will undertake when predatory pricing has been clearly demonstrated by a carrier serving the Yukon?
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, we will take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with line-by-line debate in the Department of Infrastructure.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to respond to the Member for Klondikeís question that he raised just prior to the 4:30 break, I will table the government air travel policy during tomorrowís Orders of the Day ó the tabling of returns and documents ó for the benefit of all Members of the Legislative Assembly.
Also, what I can state to the Member for Klondike is that, in order to respond quickly to predatory pricing or those types of actions by any airlines providing services to Yukoners, what we have done is to initiate this air travel policy and we will use a tool that we have at hand that we can react quickly to these pricing policies with, and that is the spending of government as it relates to business travel of officials and/or medical travel that is required.
We feel that that is a very good tool we can use to encourage airlines to not exhibit predatory pricing policies. The ability of airlines to compete in the Yukon market is not something new. It wonít be new with the proposed Air North service scheduled to start in early June. In the past, we have seen a number of different airlines compete on the Whitehorse to Vancouver route, including Air B.C., I believe it was, as well as N.W.T. Air.
What we are doing as a government to react to some of the predatory pricing and inequities that occurred when those airlines were offering competition is to institute this policy, where we feel that we can react quickly to predatory pricing exhibitions by either airline, and weíre hopeful that this is an effective tool in ensuring that competition can and will exist for Yukon travellers.
It is my feeling that the record will reflect that this government has gone much further than any other government previously in addressing the aspects of competition in the local airline industry. I am very hopeful that this policy will allow competition to exist in the local airline industry.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister states that he will react quickly to predatory pricing policies. Could the minister spell out what he anticipates doing? How is he going to react quickly?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I stated earlier, if there is a practice that exists that is deemed to be predatory or anti-competitive in nature, the committee that we have proposed ó the government air travel committee ó will be summoned. The committee will take a look at the allegations of predatory pricing and anti-competitive behaviour and will make a ruling on that. The ruling of the committee, as I mentioned earlier, will be final.
Mr. Jenkins: Does that mean taking it right to the federal regulatory authorities? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: What the committee is mandated to deal with is using the tool of the travel spending authority of the Yukon government, which is something that we can control and react to. As Iíve stated previously, we do support the federal governmentís amendments to the Competition Act and we do support providing power to the Commissioner of Competition to issue temporary cease-and-desist orders where anti-competitive behaviour exists.
So, again, rather than responding to hypothetical situations that the Member for Klondike is raising here this afternoon, we would have to take a look at those behaviours on a case-by-case basis and assess them at that time. What the government air travel committee will be dealing with is government travel expenditures.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have here, Mr. Chair, is exactly what I thought. We have a minister who dances all around the issue and heís not prepared to meet the issue head-on. Even after the committee on air travel policy that the Government of the Yukon is putting together has rendered a decision, he is loathe to take the step that is a meaningful step, and thatís to the federal competition commission.
So, can I state for the record that the minister will be not taking any cases that have been substantiated, proven, well-founded, well-documented to the federal Competition Commissioner with respect to air service to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, I stated that we would consider those practices on a case-by-case basis. Under this government, we havenít had the benefit of competition in the local airline industry. We will soon be getting that benefit with the scheduled operation of Air North and, should there be a need to call this air travel committee, we will do so and the committee will make decisions using the tool they have at hand ó government travel expenditures. As far as the hypothetical issues being raised by the Member for Klondike, we will assess them on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the minister has still not answered the question. He has danced all around. Heís loathe to state any government policy. I guess heís afraid he might offend someone somewhere, but the minister has a responsibility. It appears to be addressed through this air travel policy, but the step after the committee has reported is not well-defined or clarified. The minister is just not doing his job, if he just leaves it at that level and examines it on a case-by-case basis.
If there is no clear outline of the steps that are to be taken, chances of them being taken are next to non-existent. The minister will stand up in the House and defend his position, saying he adhered to government policy. What we have, Mr. Chair, is a government policy that is not developed. It appears to be flawed in that it does not bring it through to a conclusion.
I donít know why this Liberal government would do that, other than on instructions from the office upstairs. So it looks like the corner office has determined the outcome of this situation, and I have some very serious reservations.
During the break, Iíd like to ask the minister if he received any further briefings on any other aspects of the questions that took place earlier. Does he have any other information he can provide?
Hon. Mr. Kent: During the recess, I did not receive any other information on some of the issues that the Member for Klondike brought up earlier today. I took a health break, as stated by a member previous, and I will endeavour to get some more information to some of the Member for Klondikeís questions when we continue debate on this line tomorrow after Question Period when we resolve back into Committee of the Whole. I do anticipate having some answers for the Member for Klondike to some of his earlier requests tomorrow in debate.
But again, I will state for the record, with regard to the government air travel policy, that this government has gone further than any government previous in addressing the issues surrounding air travel and competition in the local airline industry. I see this as a very good step, as has been informally communicated to me by the president of Air North in ensuring that competition can exist in the local airline industry. Certainly the hypothetical situations that have been raised by the Member for Klondike are impossible to answer until we are confronted with such a situation, so I canít respond to a situation that doesnít currently exist, or hopefully may never exist, until that comes up. What we are anticipating is that this policy that we have put in place will encourage fair, competitive responses by the airlines that are offering service into the Yukon. We hope this is an effective tool in doing that.
Again, I will mention that this is a new policy to the country, something that has never been tried before, and we anticipate it being an effective tool in maintaining competition in the local airline industry.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I couldnít agree with the minister more in some areas, and I couldnít agree with him less in many, many others. At this time, I do not agree with his position on this issue. If you want to look at what has happened in the world of airline competition previously and what governments have done in the past, Iíd encourage the minister to go back and read about the history of PWA and what Premier Lougheed did in Alberta to get that competition going there.
So there are various ways of approaching the issue of competition and various undertakings that have been done by various provincial governments across Canada over the years. Air Ontario ó the minister might want to go back and look at what happened in that situation, where the province actually purchased a couple of airlines, gave them to a regional carrier, and they had to recover just the O&M and the operating costs. So there are various ways that various provinces have addressed the issue of the airline industry and the seemingly ever-increasing prices.
Mr. Chair, Iíd encourage the minister to go and perhaps take a course, and that course would be on emergency preparedness. It teaches the individual ó they have them for elected officials. They used to be held in Arnprior, Ontario, and I donít know if theyíre done there any longer, but they have them for elected officials, and it teaches one to look at a situation and prepare for any eventuality.
The fact that the Government of Yukon would bring in an air travel policy recognizes that there is the issue of predatory pricing policies that might be implemented by our national carrier and that might be to the detriment of Yukoners and anyone providing competition to Air Canada. And itís our responsibility to ensure that we get the best possible deal for Yukoners.
Now, when the minister is taking this course in how to deal with emergency measures, you kind of stand back, analyze the various risks and where those risks and exposures come from. With respect to this air travel policy, Iíd encourage the minister to stand back and look at what the risks are and what the governmentís exposures are. Without that stand-back overview, the minister is going to be buying in to the instructions issued to him from the corner office and Yukon is going to go nowhere.
I will recognize that the minister has demonstrated that ability in his short time in a ministerial portfolio. He has the ability to stand back, look at situations and somehow come up with the right words. But to put a position forward on the floor of the House that all of these scenarios are hypothetical is pure bunk, because what is going to happen can pretty well be predicted by anyone familiar with the airline industry here in the Yukon and what is going on in that industry.
Letís look at some of the other issues surrounding airports in the Yukon. Whatís the game plan for the airport in Old Crow ó when are they going to get their terminal?
Hon. Mr. Kent: If the Member for Klondike would look at the long-term capital plan, the Old Crow airport facility, there are scheduled expenditures of $150,000 for 2003-04, as well as further expenditures of $1 million in the 2004-05 fiscal year. I recognize for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin the importance of the airport and the air terminal building in Old Crow. Since, of course, that community is not able to be accessed by roads, all the freight for the community comes through that air terminal and, as I stated earlier, the plans for the air terminal are in the long-term capital plan.
Iíve had the opportunity to see the plans and the schematics for the project recently at my deputy ministerís office, and I do recognize the importance of this building for the community of Old Crow. We do have the project in our long-term capital plans and, of course, construction of the facility will be scheduled in accordance with the availability of capital resources.
Again, I will state that the numbers are in the long-term capital plans, and I do recognize the importance of the facility to that community. I hope to be able to travel to Old Crow later on in the summer, perhaps early fall, to not only meet with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin but also the chief of the First Nation and other appropriate officials, to discuss a number of initiatives for Old Crow, including the Old Crow airport facility.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, letís just concentrate on the terminal building for Old Crow and letís concentrate on the Government of Yukonís position when they were first elected. This government categorically stated that they were going to adopt the NDP budget and they were going to deliver because they didnít want to see things slowed down. They wanted things to just keep progressing along.
Now, letís see what actually happened. If it was an initiative outside Whitehorse, those initiatives were, by and large, stopped or put on hold. We only have to look at the Mayo school and the delays there that will probably come back to haunt this government because of their cost reductions that appear to be unreasonable and do not pass the building inspections, do not meet the applicable code, and with a foundation thatís moving all over the place.
At the end of the day, the taxpayers will end up paying a considerable additional sum to right the wrongs of the school in Mayo.
Then we have the bus for Old Crow. The minister responsible for that area wouldnít say yes, no or maybe for the longest time, and it took an extensive amount of berating of that minister in order for that committed piece of equipment that was promised, budgeted for and approved to be delivered to Old Crow. And why? I can only suggest, Mr. Chair, that it was because it belonged in rural Yukon and this government does not have a commitment to rural Yukon that they want to stand on or deliver.
Now we have the Old Crow Airport terminal that this minister is responsible for.
It was identified, it was budgeted, and all we see now are the long-range capital forecasts in 2003-04 having some planning or preliminary money amounting to some $150,000. We have to wait until the 2004-05 construction season before we can even begin to look at that kind of expenditure in Old Crow. By that time, in all probability, it will be a new government ó a new government that is sympathetic to all Yukon and will see that project come to fruition, hopefully before that date that it is anticipated to be undertaken by this novice Liberal government.
Here is another flip-flop that this government can do that will be well-received. I will stand up and pat them on the back for carrying through on a commitment that they should rightly be carrying through on.
Old Crow is very unique in Yukon. Its only way of receiving the majority of its goods these days is via air. Its fuel supply ó its bread and butter ó comes in on the airplane. You have to commend the First Nation in Old Crow for recognizing the importance of the air industry to their community. Unlike this government, the First Nation in Old Crow has put their money where their mouth is. They have bought into the airline that services their needs.
This minister is responsible for the infrastructure. He has promised it, it was committed, and now heís reneging on that commitment ó backing up on that commitment. Now, why? It just doesnít make any sense. There is a need for a new terminal building in that community. Yes, they can probably get by with the existing modular units that are in place, but it really doesnít address the communityís needs.
Mr. Chair, go and have a look at the terminal building at the airport in Carmacks, or the one in Haines Junction, and see what a wonderful job the Government of Yukon can do building a terminal building in areas that have no scheduled flights, in areas that are serviced by road, in areas that do not have the need for an airport terminal, like Old Crow does. You have to ask yourself why these terminal buildings were built in Haines Junction and Carmacks to that standard. Itís because the federal government made available the money for them, and it was tied to airport transfers ó the old A, B and C airport transfers.
If ever there were a case to be made for funding for an airport terminal building in the Yukon, it certainly wouldnít be Carmacks or Haines Junction ó and no slight to these communities, Mr. Chair, but the need is demonstrated in the community of Old Crow.
That is their lifeline, and what is it going to take for this minister to come to his senses on this issue and move this capital undertaking ahead. I mean, we can find $2 million lickety-split for drug and alcohol abuse. We can find millions of dollars for this and $750,000 for that at the drop of a hat. Now, what is it going to take for this minister to realize the need for an air terminal in Old Crow and advance the date so that it can be done and is included in the capital budget that this House will hopefully approve before the election this fall?
Whatís it going to take?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I will note for the Member for Klondike that I do recognize the importance of the Old Crow Airport facility. It certainly is, as I mentioned previous to him speaking, very important to the community. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has stated that to me in the House and Iíve also had discussions with other community members, including the chief, outside the House about the importance of these types of initiatives.
What I can commit to the Member for Klondike is that expenditures for the replacement of the Old Crow Airport facility are in our long-term plan. There is $150,000 identified for 2003-04, and a further $1 million has been identified for the year 2004-05.
As Iíve stated many times on the floor of this Assembly, budgeting is about making choices. Often we have to make difficult choices. I note the Minister of Community Services has said similar things on the floor of this House.
We would like to be able to address all the capital concerns and issues for all communities but, unfortunately, thereís a limited amount of resources available to us. Some of the community undertakings that I can mention to the Member for Klondike, which are either approved or underway for this year are, for the community of Watson Lake, the Department of Education is doing the tech wing upgrade of the high school at an approximate cost of $350,000; Pelly Crossing, the Eliza Van Bibber School, an addition and a heating system at the cost of $2.5 million.
Mr. Chair, there are a number of community initiatives that we are undertaking. I hear the Member for Klondike asking across the floor what that has to do with the airport in Old Crow. Iíll note that he, in his questions, suggested that this government is pitting Yukoners against Yukoners. Weíre certainly spending our resources throughout the Yukon. You only have to take a look at the capital plan and the expenditures for this year, 2002-03. $23 million on the Shakwak; $7 million on the Alaska Highway from Champagne to Haines Junction; expenditures on the Campbell Highway of $900,000; expenditures on the Tagish Road of $800,000; also expenditures on the Dawson City Airport, the project that we discussed earlier today. There are recreation facility expenditures in Carmacks. So I certainly take exception to the memberís statement that we donít respond to the needs of rural Yukon.
There are retrofits at a number of the grader stations that exist throughout rural Yukon, as well. Itís important that this work be done and that it benefit all Yukoners and Yukoners who reside in the communities.
As Iíve stated for the Member for Klondike, the Old Crow air terminal building is in our long-term capital plan for 2003-04 and 2004-05. I do recognize the importance of the building to the community of Old Crow, and we have responded by placing it in our long-term capital plan.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, after all of that rhetoric, at the end of the day, we still do not have a government that is respecting its commitment to the residents in Old Crow ó that they were going to build an airport terminal there. And I have grave reservations that theyíre a government that wonít honour its commitment.
Mr. Chair, thereís a need for a new terminal in Old Crow. If the government of the day wants to make very silly promises, thatís their prerogative, but this initiative was in a budget that they chose to adopt, that they chose to sell at the doorstep during the last territorial election, and they failed to honour the commitments in that budget.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Now, the minister who used to be responsible for education, who made a mess of it and had to pass it on to another Liberal who appears to now be listening to Yukoners about the education system, had to do the job better than the previous Minister of Education in this Liberal government. So heís just chirping on there, Mr. Chair. Weíll just have to leave that alone.
But let us get back to the terminal in Old Crow. I would like the minister to tell the House how the decision came about that cancelled this very important initiative. Why was it cancelled? Because it was in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, I take exception to the Member for Klondikeís comments about rural Yukon. We certainly want to encourage capital development throughout all communities in Yukon and, as I mentioned before, budgeting is an exercise in making choices. I certainly wish that we could provide all the capital resources that we need for a number of projects, both within the capital city of Whitehorse and throughout rural Yukon, but I can tell the Member for Klondike that the construction of the Old Crow air terminal building is in our long-term capital plans, as tabled last fall with the capital budget. If he looks under 2003-04, there is $150,000 identified for that year, as well as a further $1 million for 2004-05.
Mr. Jenkins: The bottom line is that Old Crow is not going to be provided with the new terminal building that they were promised by this Liberal government. It probably has more to do with whom that community elected and the party affiliations than anything. It is sad, itís really sad, because it doesnít matter what government is elected, they are supposed to represent all Yukoners equally and fairly, but there seems to be a definite bias against rural Yukon by this Liberal government, and we see that more and more.
If itís money for going overbudget for Hamilton Boulevard ó no problem at all; if itís money for any project in the Whitehorse area, it doesnít matter ó letís just go ahead. But when it comes to rural Yukon, itís a different matter.
The minister went on at great lengths to tout the capital budget. Iíd encourage the minister to go back and look at the source of funding for that capital budget, because the biggest majority of the Shakwak money comes from Uncle Sam. We know that. The second largest amount of money is through the SHIP arrangement with Canada.
Then we look at some of the other initiatives. The Dawson Airport ó thatís primarily Transport Canada and DIAND to address their responsibilities for the airport and its tanker base, because they have not done so in the past. It doesnít have anything to do with this Liberal governmentís prioritizing or directing capital to an undertaking. These initiatives were needed and had to occur, otherwise the airport in Dawson would have lost its operating certificate from Transport Canada. It would have lost its operating authority. Itís called an aerodrome licence. The minister had to react and react very quickly.
But the terminal in Old Crow is for a community whose only link with the rest of Yukon is just about 99 percent by air. The minister did go on to say in one of his previous briefing notes that Old Crow is now a port of entry and recognized as such.
Could the minister just confirm what level of port of entry Old Crow currently enjoys?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, Iím not wanting to engage in the rhetoric here this afternoon with the Member for Klondike. We certainly agree to disagree on what has been going on with rural Yukon. I am very supportive of the initiatives, and the record speaks for itself on the things that weíve done for not only rural Yukon but the community of Whitehorse. We have committed to replace the Old Crow air terminal building. Those commitments are reflected in the long-term capital plan, with expenditures in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
Earlier in debate, I stated that Old Crow did have available Customs services in it. As far as the level of Customs services, thatís another thing that I will endeavour to take up with the appropriate officials and get back to the member on that.
Mr. Jenkins: A port-of-entry terminal requires quite an extensive office according to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Is that community going to have to wait for this new terminal building before those types of offices are going to be constructed?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, as I stated, Customs services are currently available at Whitehorse, Dawson and the Old Crow airports, so the Customs services are available there right now.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd encourage the minister once again to go back with his officials and ask his officials to outline for his information what Canada Customs and Revenue Agency wants by way of an office and office space to clear deplaning passengers. If itís a port of entry, they are very specific, and they were very specific with respect to the airport in Dawson. That building had to be reconfigured to their standards, and that was done by the Government of Yukon.
Now, the minister has indicated that Old Crow is a port of entry. And I know the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services worked hard on obtaining that designation, and Iíd like to commend the former minister who was in charge of community and transportation services for that initiative in this regard because there is a lot of traffic between Fort Yukon, Fairbanks and a couple of other Alaska destinations and Old Crow. In fact, fuel supply is usually brought by a tanker aircraft from Fairbanks directly to Old Crow. Thatís how they can keep the price down, Mr. Chair, and that it would have a designation as a port of entry is great.
Now, I know the minister isnít aware of what the requirements are of Canada Customs and Revenue Agency with respect to office space, and I know they usually stipulate that that port of entry will be allowed subject to these conditions being met. Is there any agreement between Yukon and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency for the supplying of customer services by however they are supplying it in the Old Crow area to meet certain standards within certain timelines?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As Iíve stated, Mr. Chair, Customs services are currently being offered in Old Crow, as well as Whitehorse and Dawson, and seasonal Customs service at the Beaver Creek Airport between May 1 and September 30. Those services are currently underway, and we will work with Canada Customs to ensure that their needs are addressed and that we do a proper assessment of what their needs are with regard to a new Old Crow Airport facility, which is scheduled to begin in the 2003-04 fiscal year and continue into the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the bottom line, Mr. Chair, is the minister has reneged on a promise to build a new terminal in Old Crow and reneged quite extensively.
Mr. Chair, Iíd encourage the minister to consider a change in decision, an upgrading, and move this project ahead. There is money available to this government. They have that wonderful contingency that they choose to use whenever itís convenient to the government, and hereís an opportunity to demonstrate the tremendous skills that theyíre trying to amplify through the Yukon. Itís an opportunity to serve the needs of rural Yukon, so they probably wonít be equal to the challenge, nor will they take up the challenge. Itís pretty interesting the way this government determines its priorities.
Mr. Chair, letís deal with another area ó run-up pads around the Yukon have just been provided at some of the airports. We attempted to do some investigations, and the Minister of Environment laughs. But if he saw the amount of dust that was generated by an aircraft on its run-up, heíd understand the need for a run-up pad. The other thing it addresses is the amount of blade or propeller damage that may occur, running up on gravel.
Itís part of the necessary infrastructure at an airport where the airport runway is gravel. The Government of Yukon has tried various methods, and they havenít come up with a very good one until they get into actual concrete or hot asphalt. Now, just where is the Government of Yukon with respect to providing run-up pads at all the rural airports?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I do appreciate the level of detail that weíre getting into in debate here this afternoon with the Member for Klondike, because it has certainly sparked a number of questions that I will be taking to officials in the aviation and marine branch. I will take up the last issue raised by the Member for Klondike with those officials and provide a response to him in the very near future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, our community of Dawson ó we went through a chipseal run-up pad that didnít work. Then there was a poured concrete pad that did work, but then it was pretty well done away with when that whole area was recently paved, which is the ultimate and usually the best. So, Iíd encourage the minister to look at it.
I know out at Beaver Creek there have been problems in the little terminal there that is operated seasonally. It is probably in need of a lot of upgrade and care and attention. Itís interesting to note, as I said earlier, that Government of Yukon has been able to build and supply better terminals in communities not reliant on scheduled service, not even having scheduled service and not even having anywhere near the number of aircraft movements that Old Crow has, either on a scheduled charter or just a general aviation basis.
And yet this government reneges on its promise to provide a terminal building in Old Crow, let alone all the other bells and whistles. Letís go back to Old Crow as to the runway, taxiway and that area. What is the long-term game plan for that community aerodrome?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, I do enjoy getting down to this level of detail in line-by-line debate with the Member for Klondike. He has raised a number of questions here this afternoon that I fully anticipate taking up with the officials in the aviation and marine branch.
When I was out there earlier in the spring visiting the officials in Haines Junction, I suggested that perhaps we could go to observe a number of the rural airports this summer. I anticipate, of course, that after todayís debate, we have eight sitting days left in the current sitting. The spring sitting will come to an end on May 30 as subject to an agreement by, I believe, the party leaders last fall, and those changes are reflected in the Standing Orders. We will be concluding debate here on May 30, and I would expect sometime after that to be able to not only travel to visit some of the highway reconstruction projects on the north highway toward Beaver Creek, but also to stop in at Haines Junction and take a look at some of the rural airstrips and landing pads.
As I said earlier today, a visit to Old Crow is also something that I am planning for this summer. I will take a look at the needs, and I will undertake briefings with officials to address a number of the issues that have been raised this afternoon by the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: So I can look forward to a whole series of legislative returns on this issue ó is that what the Minister of Infrastructure is advising the House?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I stated to the Member for Klondike, I will work with officials. Although we only have eight days left in the current sitting, I will endeavour to get those legislative returns the member has requested to him in the current sitting but, given the fact we have only eight days left in this sitting, they may not arrive in the current sitting. I could provide him with written responses to his questions sometime this summer. Of course, I will make the commitment to provide those written responses to members of the official opposition, as well as a copy to the independent members of the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister for that information. Whether the legislative returns come in the remaining several weeks of this sitting or go beyond that ó Iím still waiting from legislative returns from previous ministers in this government from the last sitting. So, be that as it may, the timelines for responding to the offer for a legislative return is extremely flexible, and perhaps that is something we should nail down in due course ó an actual timeline under which a legislative return is supplied.
Mr. Chair, we have been through the issue of the capital budget and the minister reneging on his promises for terminal buildings. Heís going to go out this summer, and the only nice thing about visiting the majority of Yukon air terminal buildings and airports is ó with the exception of a few ó that they are all accessible by road. So, he could probably rent the same motorhome as the previous Minister of Tourism used last summer, travel around the Yukon and visit all the airport terminals and runways and have a look first-hand at what we have.
Iím sure he will ó or the minister ó he used to be Tourism, but now he has some highfalutin name, Mr. Chair. I donít know what it is. Iím not allowed to use just part of the name or anything today in the Legislature. I just have to refer to the whole title, but itís a name that the industry barely recognizes or associates with and has a hard time pronouncing in the current format. Itís kind of like somebody in the department of highways running down the highway, who had a great amount of enthusiasm in their job and wore a hat, "Highways". Now it has to be "Department of Infrastructure". It builds a lot of character and builds a lot of enthusiasm and morale, the ministry of infrastructure. Itís kind of just like some of those other names that we have that hide departments here, there and everywhere. People associate with a department that has one clear, concise objective, and all this government has managed to do for this past year is rearrange the deck chairs on the SS Liberal Titanic.
Itís amazing how this Liberal government operates, or doesnít operate, because we really havenít seen any production out of it other than a downturn and a spiral in the economy. They have flushed the economy down the toilet. It used to be sitting in the toilet, but they have managed to flush it now, and I donít know who is going to treat the sewage but, my gosh, that might be cause for concern. You might say, if youíre in Whitehorse, "Flush twice," because itís a long time to get that sewage down the river to where I live, Mr. Chair.
But rural Yukon is treated that way on a regular basis by this Liberal government, and we have grown to expect it in rural Yukon, Mr. Chair, and I donít know how many more changes this Liberal government is going to have to make before they wake up to the reality of their responsibilities. Iím hoping itís going to happen in the not-too-distant future.
Mr. Chair, letís go back to the minister and see if we can pry out a bit more with respect to whatís going on within a department. Itís like finding a henís teeth, and we all know thatís sometimes impossible.
Are we going to be seeing an added level of enforcement around Yukon airports? If we want to look at some of the other areas that this minister is responsible for, weíve got the highway enforcement. Now that theyíve accelerated their responsibilities and vehicles are being directed on a continuing basis to the scales to be weighed, theyíre even sending the water trucks and the garbage trucks up there now, under this minister. Why? I donít know; it makes no sense.
We start looking at some of the highway contracts. Yes, this government initiated moving the capital budget to the fall and getting the contracts awarded very early, but under this ministerís guidance they forgot to get water permits, so the contractors canít use water. And thatís their responsibility.
But they do have another level of inspectors out there from the department, and theyíre environmental inspectors looking after the environmental issues.
Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister, on the capital projects and on the operation and maintenance projects undertaken in airports, just how much is being used up of the total in administration? There used to be a percentage, and it used to be down around eight, 10, 12 percent. Now, where are we at today?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Rather than providing that level of detail on the floor of this House and possibly providing incorrect information, I will undertake to get that information for the Member for Klondike and provide that to him in writing sometime either in the remaining eight days of this current sitting or after the House rises on May 30, as of course was subject to an agreement by leaders of the three parties of this House last fall and is written into the Standing Orders.
Mr. Jenkins: Really, no answer to the question. If the minister would like to sit down with his government House leader and see the offer thatís on the table to move the business of the House forward, itís a very bona fide, legitimate offer and Iíd encourage him ó rather than to get on with the bafflegab ó that he sit down with his House leader and ask him what that offer was because itís a bona fide, genuine offer that will move the business of this House forward, and it will put to rest a number of the outstanding issues that we are faced with.
You donít have to get your back up and you donít have to get your dander in an uproar ó just face the realities of your responsibilities. Thatís all Iím encouraging.
Chair: Order please. We must ensure that weíre addressing through the Chair instead of directly. Thank you, Mr. Jenkins, you may continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. All I was doing was encouraging the minister to address his responsibilities and recognize and deal with them ó and deal with them heads up. That can be done quite readily.
We only have to look at what transpired when the Minister of Education took over from the previous Minister of Education and made a whole series of arrangements that were not satisfactory to the education ó the new minister was bitten by the public outcry and finally recognized that some of the advice that she received was not as accurate as it should be. She finally listened to Yukoners and changed her position. I am pleased that there was a mindset there that recognized that the way the government had determined to proceed was not correct or accurate, and it wasnít going to serve the needs of Yukoners.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Because I really work at my job.
We see the same changes with the minister responsible for health. The previous Minister of Health was chastised severely for not purchasing outright the CAT scan and not putting enough money into drug and alcohol programming. Bingo, we got a new Minister of Health and the issue of a couple hundred thousand dollars for a new CAT scan ó that is a complete 180-degree reversal.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McLachlan, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The Member for Klondike is referring to the Health and Social Services budget when he talks about CAT scan. That is up next, that is not today, and the minister is on line-by-line with airports. CAT scans arenít in airports.
Chair: So what is the point of order, Mr. McLachlan? You have made a very good point.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The point of order is that the member is digressing from the line-by-line debate for airports when he gets into CAT scans.
Chair: Thank you for stating it to relevance.
Mr. Jenkins, if we could bring this back to airports. I know that sometimes we go through circular arguments, so if you could just find a way to bring it back to airports, I would appreciate it.
Mr. Jenkins: What I was pointing out to the current Liberal government, and pointing out correctly, is that there have been a number of ministers who have made changes. This is a new minister and a new portfolio, dealing with a new area of responsibility, and Iím encouraging this new minister to follow the current lead set by the Minister of Education in his government and by the Minister of Health. These two ministers kind of looked at the situation and changed their position.
The Minister of Health, with respect to the CAT scan, is one of the changes, and Iím encouraging the minister responsible for airports to change his position in a number of these areas and address his responsibilities. I know he can do so, Mr. Chair, but weíre not seeing that. Weíre not seeing that at all, and Iím very, very disappointed.
We have gone around and around on a whole series of issues, and we really havenít had any definitive answers from the minister. He has stuck to his scripted lines and is not going to take the time to learn and understand his portfolio like he should. Yukoners are going to be saddled with a legacy of, apparently, broken promises from this Liberal government, but it only applies to rural Yukon. Rural Yukon is seeing a litany of broken promises from this Liberal government, and it is indeed a shame.
Whether it be the terminal building in Old Crow, whether it be the Mayo school, it just goes on and on and on. And theyíre starting to have to recognize that some of the political decisions they have made here in Whitehorse are not going to serve their cause.
But letís go back to the minister responsible in part for airports and just look at the enforcement issues within his department. It just is increasing at a level that is incomprehensible. It doesnít matter if itís the trucking industry, whether itís the contracting end of things, road construction; theyíre inundated with inspectors.
Now, canít the minister wake up and see whatís going on within his department? But I guess, Mr. Chair, if youíve never been there before and you donít know what to rely on, you kind of have a tough decision to make. I guess Yukoners have failed when they chose their elected officials in part to govern the Yukon the last time. A number of people were very capable of getting elected and have demonstrated very little ability to govern, and thatís what we have as a problem.
Itís a two-way street. Yukoners failed to recognize that there wasnít the ability there to govern, and the Liberals have been equal to the task and have proven them to be correct. So, weíll go forward from here, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, Iím looking forward to receiving a whole position, probably a whole series of correspondence from this minister to a level that I never thought was possible, given his inability to answer so many questions on the responsibilities he has vested in his portfolio. It just goes on and on and on. And Iíd encourage him not to go out and just give his department enough money to buy some more bolts of red cloth to put flags up along the highways and around the airports, but to give his department officials enough money to spend on equipment, labour and material to fix the problems that need to be repaired with our airports and along our highways.
Thatís the problem, and weíll look forward to seeing everyone dressed in Liberal red colours in the not-too-distant future, because then the Liberal government of the day, Mr. Chair, wonít need to go out and buy any more flagging because theyíll have done the right thing for Yukon and will have fixed the problem, not just flagged it.
Mr. Chair, we look at the advertising campaign that is currently underway, touting the accomplishments of the Liberals, and they are just playing political posturing. Iíd encourage the minister to address the issues specifically surrounding airports, specifically surrounding the needs for these airports as a tool of economic development, develop clear, concise, comprehensive policies that airports can be used for the intent that they should be used for, and that is a tool of economic development. There is so much potential with areas surrounding ó like, Watson Lakeís airport and its proximity to the lake and a subdivision there. I have friends who live on lakes where they drive their aircraft right into the lake and park it right at their dock. Mind you, thatís in a different country ó thatís over in Alaska. It works there. Theyíre premier properties and premier areas ó very close proximity to Anchorage.
When the minister goes over there next, maybe take the Minister of Justice along and show him around, because he has obviously not had the opportunity. Heís just chirping away in the background over there.
But thatís a very good idea, very good potential for economic development. If they had a forestry industry in Watson Lake, there would probably be a need for that kind of a subdivision a lot quicker, and the minister can do something about that very quickly. But that doesnít appear to be the case.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Progress has not been called for. Mr. Jenkins, you have the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís kill some of the fertile ground that the minister couldnít respond to previously, and I guess we have to go on to 6:00 p.m., Mr. Chair, which is just a few minutes away.
Thereís a stubbornness being demonstrated by this novice Liberal government that I have never seen demonstrated before ó never seen this demonstrated before, Mr. Chair. At House leaders this morning, the government House leader had an offer on the table that was a very, very bona fide, up front, sincere offer that would move the business of the House forward, but either he didnít have the ability to sell his caucus on it, or he didnít buy into it.
I donít know which one, but I would suspect that the first is closer to reality than the second ó that the government House leader didnít have the ability to sell his caucus on a forward-thinking plan put together by the official opposition, the third party and the independents. And thatís a shame, because what it means is that we end up embarrassing ministers who canít answer basic questions about their responsibilities and portfolios. Itís sad ó itís sad.
Then theyíre going to ask the Yukon for the trust once again, or theyíre going to be forced to go back to the polls in the not-too-distant future. This airport issue is a very important one, in that this whole area can be very beneficial, if used correctly, but itís being ignored and sidelined by this novice Liberal government, which has demonstrated no ability to get the economy rolling and no ability to get anything occurring. Iím just very disappointed.
Itís going to be in the not-too-distant future that this government comes to the realization that theyíre failing Yukon and Yukoners with their inability to address even the basic units.
About the only area where we have seen a tremendous increase in their exposure is in the enforcement end of things. We now have the highway enforcement officers just determined to scale every truck and inspect every truck. Whether it be a garbage truck or water truck, it just doesnít matter. It just goes on and on and on. And why? I guess they donít have anything to do and the minister has to justify their positions by sending them out and impeding the normal course of business. What this is going to mean, with this added enforcement to the level that they are providing it, is that ó
Chair: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the Chair will now rise and report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 13, 2002:
Travel Expenses of Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly 2001-02 (dated April 2002) (Speaker Schneider)