Monday, May 27, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am pleased to introduce two representatives from the Canadian Executive Service Organization, or CESO, to the Legislature. Mr. Bob Dickson is the chair of the CESO board and Mr. Charles Beer is the president and CEO of the organization. Mr. Dickson is also general manager of Niigon Technologies Ltd. for the Moose Deer Point First Nation in Ontario and Mr. Beer is a former member of the Legislative Assembly in Ontario and minister of community and social services there.
Please help me welcome them to the Legislature.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return on May 15, 2002. The Member for Kluane asked a question with respect to the banking agreement with TD Canada Trust.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(a) to encourage new investment in the Yukon economy,
(b) to create new jobs in the Yukon businesses associated with the new investment, and
(c) to diversify and stabilize the Yukon economy,
the government should immediately review the experiences of other jurisdictions with investment tax credit programs and take action to introduce an investment tax credit system.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that this House urges the government to bring forward amendments to the ATIPP act to ensure that all documents, contracts and board meeting minutes of the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation be available to the public in the same manner as all other government documents, in order to create greater transparency and accountability in government as well as to avoid costly litigation that must be borne by both concerned citizens and the taxpayer.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Utilities Board should be directed to use an integrated resource-planning process in the licensing of all energy projects so that social and environmental costs to society are included in new project assessment.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline competing with Mackenzie route
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. The federal Minister of Natural Resources has once again said publicly that the Liberal government in Ottawa favours a Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline over the Alaska Highway route. In this morningís Financial Post, Mr. Dhaliwal called it strategically important that the project get underway first. The minister even suggested that Ottawa would fast track the regulatory approvals to get Canadian gas to the market.
Will the Premier now concede that her lobbying efforts on the Alaska Highway pipeline route have fallen on deaf ears in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I also read the article that the leader of the official opposition refers to, and from that article itís quite clear that Minister Dhaliwal doesnít understand the issues surrounding northern pipelines. He doesnít understand that the Yukon has gas ó some nine trillion cubic feet that has to get to market. He doesnít understand that Yukon gas is also Canadian gas. He doesnít understand that thereís room in the North American marketplace for two pipelines.
I have a phone call into the ministerís office. I note that the Premier is drafting a letter to the minister in order to help him understand these important issues surrounding northern development.
Mr. Fairclough: Youíd think that two years of this government having a good relationship with the Liberals in Ottawa would have some messages going on behalf of Yukon; it appears that there arenít.
The federal minister also believes that the market can only support the development of one northern gas pipeline at this time. Industry representatives are increasingly saying that the Alaska Highway pipeline route is not economically viable at this time, in the short run.
Can the Premier tell us ó or the minister, whoever wants to answer the question ó on what grounds the minister believes for having the Alaska Highway route going ahead in the foreseeable future?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The answer to the leader of the official oppositionís question is that I have spoken with North Slope producers ó both representatives from British Petroleum and Phillips Petroleum ó and they say that, given the opportunity to reduce the risks of an Alaska Highway pipeline through such measures as the Senate energy bill as well as some measures that are being discussed in Juneau, that pipeline will go ahead.
When I asked a senior official from BP recently what I should tell Yukoners who ask me the status of the pipeline, he said to tell them that itís very much alive and well, and itís a project that could go ahead in the foreseeable future.
Mr. Fairclough: Obviously the minister is not communicating with the cousins in Ottawa. The Premier said, all along, that the decision about the pipeline route would be made by industry and not by government. Now we have the Canadian government and the U.S. government taking sides about which route should go ahead. Now itís time for the Premier to show some leadership and get this special relationship in Ottawa working.
The minister responsible for economic development in the north was in town last week. Did the Premier take the opportunity to spell out to Mr. Nault the Yukonís displeasure with Mr. Dhaliwalís obvious favouritism on this issue?
I know thereís a letter going out, but did she take the time to do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, both the Premier and I did meet with Minister Nault last Friday morning. The main issue of discussion was, of course, the forestry issues and the Tough report. We did, of course, mention the pipeline. Again, subject to Minister Dhaliwalís statements in this morningís paper, he quite clearly does not understand the north. He doesnít understand the significant benefits that an Alaska Highway project will bring to not only the Yukon, not only Canada, but his home province of British Columbia. I will be making those statements to him in a phone call in the very near future, and Iím quite certain that the Premier will make those statements to him in the letter that she drafts for him today, as well.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline competing with Mackenzie route
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, this government should be working with the federal government in ensuring our messages get out there. I believe the minister himself does not fully understand the issue, Mr. Speaker. I have a follow-up question for the Premier. If the Alaska Highway route goes ahead, it will be at least 10 years down the road. Can the Premier tell us exactly how much her government has spent since the last election to study the social and the environmental impacts of the Alaska Highway pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Kent: First of all, the question raised by the leader of the official opposition is speculative as to the timing of an Alaska Highway pipeline. The answer to his final question is that there is a person in the pipeline unit who is dedicated to studying socio-economic issues surrounding the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the minister didnít answer my question. I asked how much money has been spent on this and the minister didnít answer the question.
According to the contract summary for the last fiscal year, a considerable amount of money has been spent for First Nation liaison on this proposed pipeline.
Can the Premier tell us exactly how much has been spent on this item since her government took office? I ask the Premier because she is the Finance minister.
Hon. Mr. Kent: In our capital budget over the past two years, we have dedicated $750,000 per year to the pipeline unit. As well, staff from the Executive Council Office has been seconded to the pipeline unit to deal with the socio-economic benefits. These are important expenditures as we lobby for an Alaska Highway pipeline and show how important it is to Yukon and Yukonís future development.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, all that lobbying that took place didnít get the message to Ottawa at all. Theyíre talking about the Mackenzie Valley pipeline route.
The summary shows a sole-source contract of $150,000 for a First Nation liaison coordinator in the pipeline unit. Thatís more than a deputy ministerís salary, Mr. Speaker. When you add up the travel and administrative expenses, Iím sure thatís quite a large sum.
So, will the Premier provide the terms of reference, which they were so famous for when they were in opposition, the performance indicators, and any reports submitted to date by her hand-picked First Nation pipeline liaison coordinator? Will she do that, or will the minister provide that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: First of all, I think itís important to clarify for the leader of the official opposition that we do have a good working relationship with Ottawa as demonstrated by the Canada Games announcement that is slated for this Wednesday.
With regard to the specific contracts in the pipeline unit, we have contracts, of course, for a First Nation liaison; we have an engineer under contract there. Itís money that is very well- spent. It is certainly something that is important to Yukoners and itís an important economic development aspect for the Yukon Territory in the short term, the medium term and the long term.
Question re: Dawson City sewage treatment system
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community Services.
Now, the minister stated previously in this House that, as a major financial contributor with respect to Dawson City sewage treatment, the Yukon government is interested in ensuring that standards are met and operating costs are minimized. Theyíre admirable words coming from the minister, and I intend to hold her to them.
Now the SBU sewage treatment system that the City of Dawson is currently considering has capital costs that might even approach $5 million and it will result in an O&M cost per household of $2,000 per year or more. Thatís a ludicrous amount of money, and weíre not even sure that it will work.
In view of the fact that the minister has appointed a supervisor to oversee the finances of Dawson City, can the minister explain why the Yukon government hasnít requested that the City of Dawson fully investigate a technologically superior hydroxyl system? It would mean considerably less capital cost and minimum O&M costs. So why is it not even being considered?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, as I had indicated to the Member for Klondike when we last discussed this matter in general debate on the Community Services budget last Thursday, we are doing that.
I had indicated that at least one other community is looking at alternatives. The Yukon government is undertaking an independent review of the proposed mechanical treatment options for Dawson City including the hydroxyl system.
Mr. Jenkins: Representatives of this system type approached the City of Dawson some years ago. The City of Dawson asked that they say nothing publicly. The cityís position at that time was that they didnít require secondary sewage treatment, and they did not want it known that a sewage treatment system was out there that would work and was cost-effective.
Is the minister or supervisor aware of this position taken by the City of Dawson, and if not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would point out again to the member opposite that the sewage treatment facility is a City of Dawson project and, as such, they are the ones who make the decisions. However, in the review that we are doing, should a clearly superior alternative be found, we would definitely recommend that Dawson look at it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I point out to the minister that thereís a supervisor she has appointed, overseeing Dawsonís situation. Iím asking the minister to cut through the political gamesmanship, ensure that thereís a public tendering of the type of system and the cost associated, rather than the current way of being sole-sourced to one firm for the total design and implementation.
Will the minister ensure that this company at least has an opportunity to test run its system in the Yukon? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The political gamesmanship is coming from the Member for Klondike.
As the member knows, the first phase of the sewage treatment project, as necessary for the water licence, is implementing the water meter and bleeder portion of the design, and the installation of the meters is progressing. I believe most of them have been installed at this phase.
As for the independent review that I have said this government is undertaking, we will have more information when we have a progress meeting early in June, and the draft report should be completed by the third week in June.
Question re: Forestry industry future
Mr. Fairclough: I have another question for the Premier, about the recent visit by the minister for economic development in the north. Mr. Nault was quite candid about who is to blame for the Yukon forest industry being dormant for so long.
Does the Premier agree with the ministerís assessment that DIAND is largely responsible for this ongoing mess?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I think that with respect to a comment that Minister Nault made last week, it is very important to keep in mind that it is time to move forward on forestry in the Yukon. There have been a number of issues surrounding forestry. I note the Member for Watson Lake, when he was in charge of the forest commission, certainly had difficulties with the forestry issue as well. He wasnít able to gain unanimous support for his efforts. It is important to move forward on forestry in the Yukon, and I am pleased that DIAND is committed to devote resources to gaining some sort of resolution to the outstanding forestry issues that plague the industry here in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: We on this side of the House have been urging this Liberal government to move on and get on the issue of forestry in the Yukon Territory and put some policies in place. Nothing has been developed yet with over two years in office. The federal minister has promised to fix the outstanding problems over the next two years. He has started by putting resources, as the minister said, into DIANDís forestry branch in the form of five new positions and an extra $1 million a year.
Did the Premier have any discussion with Minister Nault about this decision before he announced it on Friday?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Of course, forestry, until the date of devolution, remains the responsibility of the federal government, as all members in this Legislative Assembly know. Officials in my department of Energy, Mines and Resources have been in contact with officials in the local branch of DIAND as well as officials in Ottawa regarding the forestry issue. We met with Mr. Tough when he was in the Yukon. I personally met with him as well as the Minister of Environment. It is very important that we do move forward with forestry in the Yukon. I welcome the news that the minister is going to commit resources to the outstanding concerns, and will be addressing the forestry issues that do face the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister again didnít answer the question, Mr. Speaker. I asked if there were any discussions before the announcement on Friday. Itís all very well for the federal minister to throw more money and resources at a problem in his department, but itís only 10 months before the Yukon takes over that responsibility, and there is obviously an awful lot of work that needs to be done in that time. Even Minister Nault says it will take two years to do the planning of a good draft forest management regime. So will those five new positions and the extra $1 million a year be transferred from the federal government as part of devolution, and are we looking at a change in the devolution agreement to include the five positions and the $1 million a year?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The answer to the leader of the official oppositionís question about devolution is a simple one. We are very pleased that the federal minister was forthright in allocating the proper resources to the two-year planning process. We certainly look forward to assuming responsibility for forestry on April 1 of 2003.
I should also note that, although the majority of the forestry concerns are in the southeast, we certainly have issues in the Haines Junction area, as well as the Teslin area, and proper forest planning is very important. Itís also important that we get out some short-term timber supply and, through the negotiations of the Kaska memorandum of understanding, we hope to do that, and weíll continue to work hard with all stakeholders to ensure that forestry does become a good, strong player in the Yukon economy.
Question re: Aquaculture industry
Mr. McLarnon: My question is for the Premier.
One of the goals of renewal was to group services to businesses in such a way that the services could improve at the end to businesses. This is the driving reason for the creation of two new departments. Yet, when the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources were created to connect industries, one important industry fell through the cracks. To prove our point, Iíll ask the Premier this.
Can she tell me or this House which minister is responsible for promoting the aquaculture industry in the Yukon Territory? Is it Business, Tourism and Culture or Energy, Mines and Resources?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact is that fish and wildlife are within the Department of Environment, so the aquaculture industry will be encouraged and promoted and supported by the Department of Environment.
Mr. McLarnon: Thatís what I thought.
The Premier moved the agriculture branch because of lands issues and pro-business attitudes of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Fish farming, on the other hand, was not dealt with in the same way.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon has thousands of pothole lakes. The industry has proven markets and has done extensive product development and market research, yet it wasnít treated like a business. The industry is only being held back today by previous government mistakes and current government red tape.
Will this minister at least assign staff from the ministry of Business, Tourism and Culture to correct the problems this industry faces?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Iím glad that the Member for Whitehorse Centre pointed out that it was a previous government that created this problem.
We are working very diligently with the aquaculture industry, as a matter of fact, but there are a number of issues, as Iím sure the Member for Whitehorse Centre has been apprised of in his discussions with the aquaculture industry.
There are federal acts that are still governing our fisheries here in the territory. The Department of Environment manages fish habitat and it is a complex arrangement that we do have. We are encouraging the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to transfer further the responsibilities of managing fish here in the territory as well. That would give us greater latitude to support aquaculture.
The member brought up the pothole lakes situation. These are public lands, and the fact is that these lands that surround these pothole lakes will be transferred over to the territory come devolution.
So, thereís a huge mix in this, and we are working very closely and ardently with the industry.
Mr. McLarnon: The largest problem for the agriculture industry is lack of protection for its stock. The laws allow protection to all of society from protection of theft, yet there is precious little that a conservation officer can do now to stop people who wish to take fish from lakes that were once empty, but now teem, because of the enterprise and hard work of fish farmers.
This industryís potential is immense. The government is the only thing stopping it from growing. Will the minister commit to bringing forward any new policy that arises after any meeting with the Yukon Agricultural Association in terms of a ministerial statement in the fall?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, we certainly hope to have the situation resolved in the fall. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and myself met with industry and had a very detailed briefing provided by the president of the association. The fact of the matter is that we are also dealing with public waters here and, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre Iím sure can appreciate, there is no private ownership of public waters. So, it is a very complicated issue. Weíre recognizing the fact that there is a huge investment in some of these pothole lakes. What these members want is certainty, and we are working at our best with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as designing our own policy to address the specific needs.
So, I know that the president of the association is very dedicated and working very hard on behalf of his membership, and we are listening and working just as hard with that association.
Question re: Forestry industry future
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to follow up with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources regarding DIAND and Minister Naultís forestry fiasco in this territory.
Now, the minister blew into town last Friday and proved, once again, that he is very long on rhetoric and short on delivery. He states to the Yukon public that itís going to take another two years to develop a forest management plan for this territory. I would point out that, seven years ago, another Minister of DIAND said the very same thing.
Itís also very magnanimous of the minister to say that he accepts the blame for the fiasco and the mess we face today in our forest industry.
But I want to ask this minister, is it fair that Minister Nault forces the industry in this territory, Yukon communities and Yukoners to pay for that mess ó is it fair?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The simple answer to the Member for Watson Lakeís question is similar to the answer I provided the leader of the official opposition: it is time to move forward. I will note, again, that the Member for Watson Lake was with the NDP government prior to my arrival in this House. He worked for four years as forestry commissioner, quite unsuccessfully.
Certainly, we want to move forward; we want to make sure that thereís a viable industry. We want to work on the Kaska MOU to develop short-term permits and ensure that cutting does take place this year. Thatís something we are committed to. Of course, we do look forward to the devolution transfer date of April 1, 2003, when Yukoners are responsible for managing their own forests.
Mr. Fentie: Well, again, the minister goes on with a bunch of rhetoric similar to the Minister of DIAND. What weíre facing here is a serious problem, and Yukoners are bearing the brunt of that problem.
The minister states that nothing happened under the former governmentís watch, but I would point out that the facts speak for themselves. Under the former government, we increased the export of lumber from this territory by some 400 percent. It was under this Liberal governmentís watch that the industry itself shut down and any planning toward forest management ceased and desisted.
Does this minister believe that Minister Nault is actually going to deliver on his promise and commitment of two years, when he states to this government that the federal government will participate in the financial resource side to make this work happen?
My question to the minister: given all the money for parks and protected areas planning that this Liberal government has allocated, how much money is this minister willing to put forward to forest management planning, here and now?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The answer to the Member for Watson Lakeís question is that we do have personnel who are dedicated to forest management within the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The budget for that unit is approximately $280,000 and, when he speaks of the trials and tribulations as forest commissioner, I tend to agree with Chief Danny Morris of the Liard First Nation, in his comments this morning on CKRW, when he said that a lot of what the Member for Watson Lake is saying is just politics and that he never did anything for forestry in the area when he was in power with the NDP. Thatís coming from one of his own constituents, and itís my understanding that that was the case when he was forest commissioner, and itís something that I agree with. Itís time to move forward. Letís move forward over the next two years and ensure that forestry can become a viable industry. Letís move forward over the next couple months and get the Kaska memorandum of understanding dealt with so that we can supply short-term timber permits and make sure that people in the industry can go to work as soon as possible.
Mr. Fentie: Well, thatís the whole point. Yukoners want to move forward on this issue. Theyíve wanted to move forward on this issue for seven long years and, under this Liberal government, any progress was negated. The minister states that he wants to ensure that we have a good comprehensive process for forest management in this territory, and yet all he has allocated within his department is a measly $200,000 for planning, while we have $2.9 million for parks and protected areas. Furthermore, the memorandum of understanding with the Kaska First Nation was sitting in this governmentís hands in April of 2000, and still has not been completed, and the minister points the finger at others. The real problem lies across the floor by this lame duck Liberal government who ó
Speaker: Question please.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker ó who has done nothing to deliver on the hard policy work when it comes to forestry. Will this minister now stand on the floor and allocate some real money as the federal minister has signalled the Yukon government is going to have to do because the feds are only going to participate in this matter? How much money is this government going to put forward?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again the simple answer to the Member for Watson Lakeís question is that we have allocated $280,000 in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the forest planning sector.
The Minister of Environment, then Minister of Renewable Resources, and the Premier, then Minister of Economic Development, hosted a forestry summit. And the Member for Watson Lake speaks about process. Again, I have to refer to something said by the Chief of the Liard First Nation on a radio broadcast here this morning, and I quote: "Right now the politics of the industry in his former NDP department, when he got hold of that forestry commission ó it never really went anywhere. It never really developed a process." I think it is very important that we work over the next two years and that we move forward with forestry in this territory. A giant leap forward will be devolution when Yukoners do control their own forestry, their lands and the mineral and water resources. I think that is going to be a very, very important date for Yukoners as we move to make forestry and other industries economically viable and economically sustainable in the Yukon.
Question re: Economic development agreement
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Premier. I would like to come back to Minister Naultís visit here last week.
Last year the federal Finance minister said that the Yukon should have an economic development agreement with the federal government. Did the Premier meet with Minister Nault to discuss the urgent need for an economic development agreement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, that was also a subject of discussion with Minister Nault. I can also advise the member opposite that I have the unique opportunity of chairing the western premiers conference next week, in not only my capacity as Premier but also as a Finance minister. We were working on the Finance ministers' report that last week, and we anticipate that the Finance ministers will join with me in recommending to the premiers that they support Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut in accessing an enhanced western diversification fund.
Mr. Fairclough: My question was about an economic development agreement. Weíve been asking this government to take action for quite some time now. Iím glad that we are getting some different answers from the members opposite. We know about the capital funding program for cultural industries and the fact that the Premier did not know anything about it when I asked a question of her last week on this.
When does the Premier intend to sit down with the minister who is responsible for the northern development and hammer out an agreement to get our economy off its back ó to sit down and hammer out an agreement, not just talk?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has some ó not a huge amount, but some ó economic development responsibility in the north. In that regard, there is some economic development money that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has in his A-based budget. Individual First Nations, Council of Yukon First Nations and a similar organization in the Northwest Territories have accessed that fund. Minister Nault continues to encourage that access.
In terms of an individual economic development agreement for either the Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, it has been made clear that that is not forthcoming. The three northern premiers have the support of our colleagues. Instead of duplicating the infrastructure and administration associated with the northern economic development agreement, we have asked that we be able to access the western diversification fund and that the fund be enhanced.
Iím looking for continued support for that position from the western premiers next week in Dawson City, and I anticipate fully to receive it. That is where the Yukonís access to an economic development-like agreement is going to come from.
Speaker: Conclusion, please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier hasnít answered my question, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, we have heard the talk about the western diversification fund. It has been talked about over the last couple of years, and Iím sure itís going to be talked about again at the western premiers conference. Iím glad the Premier has at least bumped it up as an important issue at this conference.
Obviously, Mr. Speaker, the federal Liberals havenít heard the Premier on this issue, and she needs to be doing something different.
So, will the Premier put together a senior level delegation of MLAs, First Nations and municipal leaders, as well as business and labour representatives, to lobby Ottawa for an economic development agreement immediately after the western premiers conference? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have answered the memberís question for the last three months ó the same question, the same way. The member opposite keeps asking about an economic development agreement. What I have indicated to the member opposite over and over again is that the opportunity for the north ó not just the Yukon, but Nunavut and the N.W.T. as well ó lies not in a separate EDA for the north, because itís pretty clear after the events of September 11 and a few more fiscal pressures on the federal government that a separate agreement is not forthcoming.
Plan B, if you will, has been to access the western diversification fund, which is the economic development agreement for western Canada. We have asked the feds to put more money in it, allow the north to access it, and that way we can make greater use of that administration and not duplicate it. Thatís what we have asked for. The member opposite has only to go back to the two annual premiers conferences that I have attended to see that the Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut have had success in support from our colleagues across the country. Thatís exactly what we have to do.
We have to get the federal government to put more money in the western diversification fund, Mr. Speaker, and we will.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move 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: Good afternoon everyone. I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:00.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Community Services ó continued
Chair: Ms. Buckway, weíre in general debate and you have the floor.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: When we left Community Services debate last Thursday, there were a number of questions outstanding, and the Member for Klondike, in that discussion, had been talking about classes of municipalities: village, town, city. Section 14 of the Municipal Act as enacted in January 1999 provides for classes of municipalities, and the only classes available are city and town; village is not a class available under this legislation.
The previous Municipal Act, 1986, now repealed, in section 371(2), did provide for "village" as a third class. Section 9 of that act provided for the class of village for estimated populations of 300 to 1,000, for the class of town for estimated populations of 500 to 3,000, and for the class of city for the estimated populations of 2,500 and larger.
The current act in section 16(1)(b) provides for towns for estimated populations of 300 or more. "City" is the classification for a municipality with an estimated population exceeding 2,500. The rules governing the process of change in status are outlined in section 17 of the act.
Section 15(3) allows communities formerly designated and named as a "village" to continue to use the term village, even though they become towns under this legislation, as indicated in section 14(2). I hope that clears that up. The choice of name in many cases under this is up to the community.
On May 23, the Member for Kluane asked about the emergency measures public awareness campaign. He asked when it would begin, how much money it will have, who will be involved and will the local fire departments and other organizations be consulted. As I had indicated at the time, raising public awareness is an ongoing program. A more focused public awareness program was started in December 2001 and ran through the holiday season. Additional public awareness activities continue on a daily basis.
For 2002-03, the O&M budget has identified $8,375 for public awareness advertising, homeowner preparedness, volunteer recruitment, public education, and communication strategy development.
Awareness materials and programs are made available to EMO coordinators in all communities, EMO member agencies, all departments, federal departments, utility providers and so forth, media representatives, private sector business associations, the travelling public, retail outlets and tourism-related businesses. Local fire departments and other organizations have been consulted in the past and they will continue to be consulted on ways to integrate public awareness and recruitment activities.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane also asked about the critical infrastructure protection program within the territory, what stage we are at now, which departments and groups have been involved in assessing critical infrastructure within the territory, if there will be public input and what security provisions there will be.
Mr. Chair, an inventory of critical infrastructure was completed for the Yukon in 1999, leading up to Y2K. The Yukon is participating in a federal program to determine regional, national and international infrastructure. Seven working groups will be established regionally under a national framework, and the Yukon is participating in the first of these groups to have been set up. There are a number of departments and groups that assess critical infrastructure in the Yukon: all Yukon government departments during the development and ongoing revision of business continuity plans; all federal government departments, through the leadership of the federal office of critical infrastructure protection and emergency preparedness; the RCMP; municipal governments; private sector owners of critical infrastructure, as part of normal business planning, risk assessments, et cetera, such as Yukon Energy Corporation, Yukon Electrical Company, Northwestel, and Internet service providers, also financial institutions and transportation providers. Public sector interests account for nearly 90 percent of all critical infrastructure. They are including the interests of their customers in critical infrastructure planning. Security provisions are included in the planning for critical infrastructure protection.
Mr. Chair, I have quite a bit of information about the Yukon overview. Critical infrastructure is the following: facilities, assets and human-made structures that support energy and utilities, generation, extraction, refining and distribution; communications, telecommunications, cyber, satellite, voice data and so forth; financial services, banks, securities, insurance, exchanges, and so forth; transportation, air, surface, rail, ferries, urban transit, bridges and borders; public safety, health, water supply, emergency response services, and so forth; and government services, facilities, information networks, detention facilities and so forth.
This became an issue many years ago, in the first instance in the World War II era when Emergency Preparedness Canada and the RCMP developed the vital points program. Thatís virtually unchanged and not maintained since then. Planning for Y2K recognized the need to revisit infrastructure issues, so business continuity and resumption planning was done in 1999 for the Yukon. The government and private sectors worked together to identify, survey and correct critical business components. The Prime Minister announced the creation of the office of critical infrastructure protection and emergency preparedness in February 2001.
The federal ADM responsible for that office announced that the new national critical infrastructure protection program consultations would occur starting last year. The events of September 11 propelled that group, NCIPP, to the front of the queue.
Critical infrastructure is important now to demonstrate a national commitment to support international activities against terrorism, to portray a credible security network capable of protecting internationally critical infrastructure, to provide the U.S., our neighbour, with a level of comfort that will encourage greater economic development dependent on infrastructure, and to enhance real security of critical infrastructure and reduce the threat to public security.
There are a number of things that are being done about it, and hereís how the Yukon is participating. The manager of emergency measures, as I had indicated last week, is the contact for the national critical infrastructure protection program. The Yukon will encourage participation on sector working groups as theyíre established. To date, one working group has been established to work on telecommunications issues, and we are represented on this group by someone from the Department of Infrastructure who used to be with the EMO office.
The Yukon continues to work with private sector providers of infrastructure, supporting energy, telecommunications and transportation. An inventory of our critical infrastructure will be underway shortly to update the information collected three years ago, in 1999.
Planning for protecting critical infrastructure is done on a continual basis and in many cases is being revised due to current global events.
Mr. Chair, the question was asked last week about travel for this minister and the costs. I know the members opposite have been given details of that, so I donít see the point of reading through it again. If they have a specific question, Iíd be glad to answer it.
Also, on Thursday last week and again today in Question Period, the Member for Klondike was asking about the Dawson City sewage treatment review. As I had indicated, we are undertaking an independent review of the proposed mechanical treatment options for Dawson City. A Yukon environmental engineering firm is conducting the review with assistance from an outside engineering firm. Both companies are independent of the work that has gone on to date in Dawson City. The review will examine the rationale for selecting a mechanical treatment plant over a land-based treatment system, and assess various waste water treatment plants for application at Dawson. Consideration will be given to capital cost, ability to meet water use licence effluent quality limits, operational complexity, availability of technical support, availability of spare parts, operational costs and life cycle costs.
Specifically, the consultants have been asked to assess the following treatment plants: sequential batch reactor or SBR plants; moving bed bioreactors ó Hydroxyl's BCA clear water system; membrane systems; and submerged fixed film bioreator ó the SEEWOLF system. There will be a progress meeting, as I said, early in June, with the draft report being 95 percent completed by about the third week of June.
If members have any further questions about the operation and maintenance for Community Services, I would be pleased to answer them.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate last Thursday, there was a much more extensive debate on a lot of subject matter that the minister has not provided any response to, and the bottom line is that the minister is playing politics with Dawson City with respect to the recreational complex. We have a recreational complex that will not be up and running this winter due to the inability of this minister to address her responsibilities. What we have is an arena that wonít be available again for another winter. The foundation, as designed, as installed, will not work. You cannot build a building on top of a lake, basically, with flowing water underneath it, not in the manner that it has been designed. It just will not work, and itís at an impasse. The arbitration case has been put off once again until the end of July ó July 29 ó which means that there will not be a resolution of that situation until probably some time late in the summer at the earliest, unless the minister does her job, takes the bull by the horns, and addresses the issue. Because all this is going to do at the end of the day is cost the Government of Yukon ultimately millions of dollars above and beyond what it should be costing, and the minister is going to pass the buck, saying she has no responsibility, sheís not the owner, but we know that this is the minister who is funding the project, who has a supervisor in place over the City of Dawson.
Mr. Speaker, the city has also embarked upon another course of action that could prove to be not the correct course of action, and all indications are that itís not, and thatís the pre-engineering of an SBR system to satisfy the federal Department of Fisheries, primarily ó their requirement for a secondary waste-water treatment.
I am sure that the minister is in receipt of a letter from Hydroxyl Systems, a proposal to pilot test the Hydroxyl technology for secondary treatment of Dawson wastewater, and the letter goes on, and I will table a copy of that letter. I am sure that the minister already has it, but she hasnít done anything with it.
"Several years ago, Hydroxyl technology was introduced to Dawson through SEEWOLF Enterprises Ltd. with a view to possibly contributing to your efforts to upgrade sewage treatment for the city. At the time, we were told that secondary treatment was not required and, consequently, our technology would not be appropriate. We understand that, in the interim, the city has proceeded with a program to implement secondary treatment without a public bidding process. We respectfully submit that the technology selected for water licence application (sequencing batch reactor, or SBR) may not be the most appropriate choice for the low temperature and high infiltration conditions in Dawson, and that substantial savings and better performance can be realized by implementing an alternate technology."
The minister has indicated that a Yukon environmental engineering firm has been hired. I would like her to send over the name of that Yukon environmental engineering firm because, to the best of my knowledge, it is one individual. It is not a firm that has a broad base of understanding of all of these various issues. I understand that there is an in-house engineer from YTG who is working on this initiative also. It is very interesting as to where we are.
The system that Hydroxyl is proposing is a pilot test outline. Hydroxyl is willing to perform our scope of work, as indicated, for $44,200. I am sure the Government of Yukon and the City of Dawson has spent more than that on telephone calls dealing with this issue.
This includes shipping the pilot system to and from the site, commissioning an operational assistance and a pilot test report. Along with a pilot test report, Hydroxyl will submit a firm price proposal for both technologies that Dawson can use for direct and thorough comparison with an SBR option. This firm goes on to say that a 6,820 cubic-metre-per-day-system was recently delivered to a site in Jamaica less than four months from contract signing in January this year. Start-up is planned for June and the Hydroxyl-UVO systems have similar lead times. These are the same systems ó the shipboard version of their system ó the Hydroxyl CleanSea ó is certified by the international marine organization, IMO, and has been proven in challenging marine sewage treatment applications. So, these systems are in place and, you know, all we get is a smirk from the government ó a smirk from the government. We are talking a multi-million dollar system here that will result in O&M costs, Iím told, that will be about $2,000 per annum per household in our community. Thatís out of the range of possibility for most households to even understand or comprehend. Why? Because this minister is not doing her job.
We even look at the current situation in Dawson where the minister instructed the city, Iím given to understand, to invoice Yukon Housing an additional charge for sewer and water services currently. That they did; we know where thatís headed now and where itís at because Yukon Housing has said, "No, weíll pay the same amount as anyone else." Thatís before the courts.
I donít know what itís going to take because it virtually looks like everything thatís ongoing in our community is going to end up before the courts.
Now, Iíd encourage the minister in her responsibilities for community services, given that she has a supervisor in place over the city ó sheís at the helm. This minister is responsible for what goes on in the community.
Now, there are contractors being hung out to dry because of this ministerís inability to address her responsibility. There are sewage treatment systems that have been embarked upon, and the minister just sits back, says itís not her responsibility, that itís a City of Dawson initiative ó they are the owner. Then why, Mr. Chair, did the minister appoint a supervisor? There has to be some other agenda.
I submit that the supervisor is in charge, oversees all the financial dealings of the city, according to the terms and conditions of the Municipal Act. What the minister is trying to say is, yes, the supervisor has been appointed and the supervisor is there, but only in an advisory capacity, not according to the terms of the Municipal Act.
Itís like the minister trying to stand up and say, yes, sheís just a little bit pregnant ó thereís no such thing. The minister is in charge. It has to be 100 percent one way or 100 percent the other. Thereís no middle ground in this issue. The minister must come to her senses and realize that there isnít a middle ground. The minister is responsible.
Now, this hydroxyl system, with respect to the City of Dawson, is a system that was advanced to the city some years ago, Mr. Chair, and there had been no movement on it until I brought it to the ministerís attention some time ago, and said, "Look, enough is enough." I donít know what it takes to get this minister to come to her senses, Mr. Chair.
Enough is enough. Dawson and the residents there cannot afford the treatment or the cost associated with some of the programs and some of the decisions that are currently being made, that this minister is a big part of and has the overall responsibility for.
I urge the minister to get involved and deal with the recreation centre issue expeditiously, Mr. Chair, so that we might see something happen with respect to an arena this winter.
I encourage the minister to deal with the matter of secondary sewage treatment expeditiously also.
This system could be up here, in place and operating late this summer, Mr. Chair. And if the minister didnít agree to it ó thereís a $44,200 bill. Theyíll put in the system. If it doesnít work, they take it out. Thereís a system in place in British Columbia that would be a little bit larger than what the community needs. Itís there now. Itís working. Itís doing a fine job and itís cost-effective.
Now, I donít know who is making the decisions for the minister, or advising her, Mr. Chair, but that minister has to come to her senses very, very quickly. We cannot afford what is going on and what is transpiring in these areas.
Itís a sad day for Yukon, Mr. Chair, when the minister hides behind her responsibilities and will not address them in a forthright manner.
Mr. Chair, this minister is just playing politics on the backs of the residents of my community, and I would urge her to come to her senses and deal with the issues in a forthright and expeditious manner, because thatís not occurring currently.
Now, I sent over a copy of the letter from Hydroxyl Systems. This would be an excellent program to go into Dawson ó if not Dawson, Carmacks, where they wouldnít need a system of this same size. And this firm is willing to install it at very little cost, just to prove that they have a product that will work in the north, in cold water treatments. So Iíll see what the minister has to say in regard to these main issues, and I hope sheís going to be more forthright in her responses, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, Iím sorry the Member for Klondike had to repeat himself so many times until the camera finished.
As I have already said, the Yukon government is undertaking an independent review of the proposed mechanical treatment options for Dawson City. The consultants will be assessing sequencing batch reactor, or SBR, plants; moving bed bioreactors, which is Hydroxylís system; membrane systems, which is Zenon Environmental Incorporatedís system; and submerged fixed-film bioreactor, the SEEWOLF system. Now, the Member for Klondike has criticized the City of Dawson for going with a sole-source contract with EPCOR, yet he is suggesting that the City of Dawson do the same thing with Hydroxyl. Now, it seems to me that assessing a number of options is the more logical solution, and that is what weíre doing. Carmacks, as I have told the member in this House, is already looking at the hydroxyl system and other systems.
Now, as for the issue of the supervisor, once again, Mr. Chair, in January 2001, I appointed the director of the former community services branch as supervisor for the City of Dawson, and that was done because the city was demonstrating financial difficulty related to its capital projects.
The supervisorís role is to provide advice and assistance to the city while it is developing its financial plan. The supervisor does not take the place of council and does not have the power to overrule council decisions. He is not required to monitor the cityís programs and services, and he is not directly involved in the development of the financial plan. The city tabled a plan with the supervisor last November, which the supervisor has conditionally approved subject to some outstanding items. The supervisor will remain involved until all outstanding matters have been addressed, and he will continue to assess developments in relation to evolving liabilities and the success of the plan.
Mr. Chair, the City of Dawson acknowledged that it needed some assistance from the government and has expressed appreciation for the supervisorís assistance.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: I just have a few questions, following up on my earlier ones. Iím interested in getting some information regarding the Burwash Landing sewage lagoon. What Iím looking for is an update on the timelines for this project, the total cost for this project, broken out on an annual basis, and especially some detail with respect to what work will be done this year.
Can the minister undertake to get back to me with that information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can certainly get back to the member with the details that heís looking for. As I indicated last week, preliminary design work has begun on a new lagoon treatment system to replace the existing lagoon, and this new site will better serve the community of Burwash Landing, and I believe it will also serve Destruction Bay. I will get the member the information heís asking for.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister about water testing laboratories. I note that, back on January 21, there was a request for information on this, and the minister indicated there was a request for proposals being drafted to provide some analysis on the business case for establishing an accredited water testing laboratory in the Yukon.
Can she give us an update on that and indicate whether there is any study that is available?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím aware that there is some work being undertaken. I can check with the Minister of Infrastructure and get back to the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Well, here we go, Mr. Chair. Trying to hold these Liberals accountable is like trying to nail Jello to the ceiling. They keep passing the buck, and this particular matter seems to be skating around from department to department. Soon weíll be out of this budget and there wonít be an opportunity to ask the minister questions. Certainly a lot of our questions have gone unanswered, and this is another such example.
I want to turn now to the issue of community recreation facilities. In light of the pre-announcement, if I may, Mr. Chair, from last Thursday with respect to the Canada Winter Games 2007 coming to Yukon, I want to ask the minister what plans she has to upgrade facilities in Yukon communities and hold events in Yukon communities. Iím particularly interested in knowing what plans she has for the Village of Haines Junction, which, for some time now, has been deliberating over the issue of building new facilities and obtaining funding for such facilities.
Can the minister also indicate if there has ever been any request for a multi-year funding agreement such as in the case of Dawson, or just straight YTG funding such as in the case of Carmacks? Can she give us an update on this matter please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Unfortunately, I donít write that quickly and the member asked a number of questions. In one, the current focus for extraordinary grants, as I have indicated several times, is water and sewer. I have outlined those. As well, the Association of Yukon Communities is undertaking an assessment of total infrastructure and we have provided an individual to help with that. Our staff and community services are working with community representatives in Mayo and Carcross to develop long-term plans and we are doing community consultation right now as we travel around the Yukon. We are also hopeful that the Canada Winter Games 2007, if we indeed are hosting, will generate opportunities in Teslin and Haines Junction.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us some ideas as to what those opportunities might be and respond to my previous question? Has there been any formal type of request from Haines Junction with respect to multi-year funding, such as has occurred in Carmacks?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are no outstanding requests from Haines Junction that I am aware of. The type of facilities that we are talking about with respect to the Canada Winter Games 2007 would be arena facility upgrades.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Deputy Chair. Arena facilities upgrade ó does that rule out the construction of new facilities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Construction of new facilities was not something that was contemplated in the Canada Winter Games 2007 bid.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís interesting. I imagine this matter will deserve further attention in the days ahead.
Can the minister indicate whether, on a specific community issue, indicate whether this government will be funding the construction of a skating rink in the community of Upper Liard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I havenít checked with sport and rec branch on this issue since winter ended. I remember last year there was an issue, and it turned out that the community had not applied for their recreation grant. They had wanted some repairs to their skating rink, but I will have to look into that for the Member for Kluane to see where the situation currently stands. There had been some recreation grant that had gone unasked for ó I do know that.
Mr. McRobb: I note in the contract registry, tabled in this House last week, that there were a number of studies done with respect to land planning. Iím looking at one, for example, on cottage lot feasibility in the Pine Lake region. Iím interested in obtaining copies of any such studies. Can the minister undertake to provide us with any such material?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can do that.
Deputy Chair: Any further debate?
Mr. McLarnon: Just a few questions to sort of catch up on the department and make sure we have everything closed off for what happened over the last year.
So, weíll go back to September 11. There was certainly a review after September 11, as far as the emergency measures evacuation plans and what happened in the Yukon Territory after that. We know there were briefings and we know a report was put out, but has there been anything done about it? I would ask the minister what concrete actions and plans and changes to plans have been put out since September 11 to ensure that we never see what happened in Whitehorse that day happen under real circumstances?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The public findings report contained a number of recommendations. This government has been at work on all of those recommendations, and this is leading to improved service for all Yukoners and, in some cases, it has led to improved service. Numerous activities have occurred to update and enhance emergency procedures, not only in the Yukon but across North America, and the Yukon has worked hard with all governments, agencies and the public to enhance our emergency preparedness.
Specific recommendations from the public findings report, Mr. Chair, include the following: internal government communications protocols and procedures be fully developed and conveyed to all staff and elected officials ó all government departments were involved in that and it is partially complete; management representatives of local media be included as part of the Yukonís emergency planning team. That involves communications people and emergency measures, and an emergency public information committee has been established. Two meetings have been held to date.
One of the recommendations was to increase public awareness of emergency threats and how the public can better prepare for emergency situations in their homes and workplaces. Emergency Measures have the lead on that, and it is ongoing. The public awareness campaign ó the specific campaign was delivered in December and January. Emergency Preparedness Week was held earlier this month, and emergency exercises help to raise awareness. As well, the public awareness in this area is ongoing.
Another of the recommendations was that all levels of government, agencies and businesses make a greater commitment toward emergency planning and preparedness, and that involves all departments and Emergencies Measures ó that is ongoing. There is a continuous process there. There have been presentations made to a number of community groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and the historical societies, and the departments are continuing to review and revise their plans.
Another of the recommendations was that integrated emergency telecommunications training be developed and made available to all response agencies. Emergency Measures had the lead on that, and that work is substantially complete. Four courses have been developed to allow better integration of emergency telecommunications; one course has been delivered and additional courses are planned throughout the year.
Another of the recommendations was to promote recruitment of emergency response volunteers in communities and develop a greater integration of these through a combined administrative function. The EMO response agencies and the NGOs are doing that work, and that is ongoing. The Yukon Volunteer Bureau has been established. There was promotion through Emergency Preparedness Week, and there are ongoing activities with volunteer fire departments, search and rescue and so forth.
Another of the recommendations was to develop an inventory of language translators and other specialty services that may be required for emergency response and training. Emergency Measures, Emergency Health Services and the Executive Council are doing that work, and it is underway; the process has been established. I understand that we should be seeing a Cabinet submission at some point, and I know that, on September 11, a number of people came forward and expressed their willingness to serve as translators.
So that contact was valuable.
Another of the recommendations was that occupational health and safety committees be reinvigorated, both in the private and public sector, to address local building and worksite emergency plans and procedures. The Public Service Commission, chambers of commerce, Tourism Industry Association of Yukon and Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board were involved there. That work is underway. Templates and planning aids have been developed for evacuation plans.
Another of the recommendations was that the plans for the relocation of school students during emergencies be clarified and communicated to parents and guardians. The Department of Education has done that work. Theyíve developed plans for each school, in many cases involving parents, and have done department-wide planning to coordinate wide-area applicability.
There was a recommendation that a wide-area public alerting system be established for the Whitehorse area that can provide members of the public with emergency notification. Emergency Measures is working on that with the City of Whitehorse; they have done some work to look at options, and the Emergency Public Information Committee has been considering some specific systems that could work.
As well, in conjunction with that, there was a recommendation to implement building-wide alerting systems such as public address systems for emergency situations.
The Department of Infrastructure and the occupational health and safety committees were doing that work, and that is underway. There was also a recommendation to name essential roles and responsibilities during emergency situations by departments, and that work is ongoing to identify emergency coordination group members.
There was a recommendation to develop regular emergency drills for government buildings and more emergency training for staff. That work is ongoing. There had been some building evacuation exercises initiated. There has been some training coordinated by EMO. There were three basic courses delivered in March and, as well, there is advanced training available in the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College in Arnprior.
There was a recommendation to refine department emergency plans to the individual level so that each person knows what they are supposed to do. That work is ongoing, and it became obvious that revisions were required as a result of renewal.
There was also a recommendation to create a single information source in government to answer questions that may come up, and Emergency Measures was doing that work, and it is complete. A communications protocol was developed as a component of Executive Council Office and EMO, and the Executive Council Office emergency plan provides for communications support for EMO.
I do hope that answers the memberís questions.
Mr. McLarnon: I think it does, and the conclusion is that nothing has been done. A lot of things are ongoing, but thatís a code word, in many cases, in the bureaucracy for "ongoing forever", and thatís a problem. Because September 11 was definitely a definite, and Iíll tell you why Iím worried about that.
I went down my street on Sunday, and I was going through the department, and I asked my constituents for questions. One question I asked: do you know where to go if we had an emergency? Where would you go? They all pointed up the clay cliffs to the airport. They donít know, and thatís where you really find out if youíre being effective ó not internal government communications, not protocols with each other.
Iíll ask the minister: from all that briefing, does the press know who to phone as the one central contact? Has it been developed so the press knows?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I mentioned, the media is involved, and the Emergency Public Information Committee has been established. I believe the media has a much better idea whom they need to deal with now in the event of an emergency.
To me, that the work is ongoing is not a code word for "itís not done" or "weíre not going to do it". Itís a code word meaning that itís ongoing, and the work will be completed at some time, hopefully not too far in the future. This is a concern that all of us share and, rather than rushing into something, Iím happy that these groups are analyzing the situation thoroughly and will then be able to give us a good, solid response we can rely on.
Mr. McLarnon: So I guess the other thing that I would be looking at, then, is, since September 11 was such a priority and we know that there needed to be some changes and extra resources, Iím looking at a budget line amount that has a zero-percent increase, not an extra cent of priority put to it. So I guess the simple fact of the matter is that since the public doesnít know what weíre doing, since nothing has changed in their minds since September 11, I would ask the minister: is there a measurement? Do we have a measurement to find out if all this work and extra effort is actually doing anything? And where you know if itís doing anything is if the public knows, because those are the people weíre trying to protect. Do we at least have a measurement, or are we just expending effort for reasons that thatís what weíre supposed to do instead of actually finding out if it works? So can we find out any measurement or any criteria used by this government to find out if their programs are working?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, one change that I can instantly point to is under the new Department of Community Services in the protective services branch. Weíve pulled together the Emergency Measures Organization and the fire marshalís office, and next April, fire suppression will come in there, and weíll have a community-based response. I think the measurement of whether something is working or not is not necessarily whether the public knows. The public knows at one level that things needed to improve after September 11. There was a specific campaign aimed at individual awareness, individual emergency preparedness, and itís the responsibility of all citizens to take that on themselves, because you canít expect the government to be as effective as possible in protecting you if you havenít taken those initial steps to prepare yourself. An informed and educated Yukoner is the kind of Yukoner that EMO wants to deal with. I think the best measure is a couple of good exercises that have happened recently in the city and with EMO.
There is increased public awareness. Admittedly, we havenít reached everybody yet, but we are continuing to work on that. The best measure is when an emergency happens and no lives are lost and no people are injured. The bottom line is thatís still the best measure.
I could go through more of what has been happening. but I think the member gets the idea. We have been looking at new communications equipment, personal protective equipment ó yes, I could go on for another 20 minutes, but I think the member knows where Iím going with this. All people involved in emergency response have been working their butts off to get this job done.
Mr. McLarnon: Iím certainly not looking at the people involved, and Iím in no way criticizing. I feel that the plan involved is definitely to improve our internal workings and, unfortunately, EMO ó or the Emergency Measures Organization ó doesnít have a choice of when an emergency happens. Whether the person theyíre dealing with is informed or not, a person is in trouble, and if that personís driving the wrong way across a bridge and causes an accident, that makes us all in trouble.
So, just as a simple thing, I am asking the minister to point to the last evacuation plan and the last public announcement and newspaper advertising showing people which evacuation route they should use if they are in an area affected by an emergency. I may just have missed it in the paper. Was anything like that put out?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If it was in the newspaper, I missed it, too, because normally you donít disseminate emergency information that way, and there are various levels of responsibility ó individual, city, territorial and federal.
The information is available. Brochures are available and the chances are, Mr. Chair, that had it been in the newspaper and there was an emergency, neither the Member for Whitehorse Centre nor I would be able to find that piece of newspaper. So, itís more a case of getting involved and getting the plans, having your survival equipment handy and being prepared. Again, individual responsibility plays a big part in this. A prepared Yukoner is in a much better position than someone who isnít ó and that information is readily available.
As well, during an incident, having good communications is important, and the work that has happened with the media over the last few months has been invaluable in preparing for the next emergency.
Mr. McLarnon: Iíll leave it with that. I would just say, though, that unfortunately we are in a society where people donít take personal responsibility. Unfortunately in an emergency, weíre all in that same boat at that point. Thatís why itís important, and civil defence organizations throughout the decades have put information out like that in public, and it has saved lives.
So those are the kinds of things I would suggest the minister look at.
There was something related, and this is the MDMRS system that I understand now is being declared obsolete. Is this technological obsolescence? Does the equipment still work? Is it just because we canít get parts, or is it because there is something better out there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The MDMRS system still works. The equipment is old. There is work being done on its replacement, and that system is now the responsibility of the Department of Infrastructure and they are doing work on it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McLarnon: Okay, Iíll leave it alone then, because it was in Infrastructure. I would just point out, though, that the system still works, and it sort of baffles me that since emergencies havenít become technologically huge ó not like military, where weíre facing a new weapon every day. Weíre still facing the same forest fire, the same flood. And if the radios work, I donít understand the need to spend on more radios unless they are broken.
This is unfortunately another example of government waste that Iíll be telling other people about at the door, unless this can be explained better, because there is no reason to fix a system that ainít broken. So weíll leave it at that.
Community Services is responsible directly with Association of Yukon Communities. I have a few issues that were brought up at AYC that I still havenít seen any response to. In fact, in leaving emergency measures, I find it strangely compelling that as much as hoopla went on about September 11 and afterward about the responses we were going to give, one of the motions at the AYC was to actually set up an emergency measures training organization right here in town or somewhere in the Yukon. In fact, communities came up with $4,000 to do a feasibility study. At that point, the government said that the feasibility study was essentially too rich for their blood and that they would have to buck up another whole $20,000 to get the study done, which may have improved our emergency measures across the territory and actually may have given us an area and a forum where we could get together other than formalized meetings. But, for a measly $20,000 we have abandoned the idea.
Can I ask the minister why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This was an issue that went back to the previous AYC meeting before September 11. A survey of groups that might be interested in using such a facility was done, and there was not as much interest as I think the original movers of the motion might have hoped. Currently we are heading for devolution with a new structure. We had advised the mover of the motion last year that the College has the capacity to look into training if there is a demand. In terms of being able to construct a new building to do this work, we arenít in a position to do that right now. With devolution and fire suppression coming over to the government, there will be a whole new dynamic there.
Getting back to MDMRS for a minute. I think it is very, very important that the planning work for the replacement of this system be done before the system is broken, because if it is broken and no planning has been done, it would take a couple of years to replace it. It is becoming hard to get parts; it is older technology.
The new system thatís being considered will have some advanced security features, as well, and itís important that that work be done now, while the system is still functioning rather than risk a total loss of service for a considerable period of time to rush something new into service. I believe this is a responsible approach to the planning for the replacement of the MDMRS.
Mr. McLarnon: First of all, there are two things. If there was a study saying that there wasnít interest ó and that certainly wasnít reflected by Association of Yukon Communities members who have obviously take care of the fires and emergency services in their own communities. They were rather disgruntled at the Association of Yukon Communities meeting that that was treated so poorly. So it would help the minister if she would release that survey so that a lot of the municipalities can understand the rationale of why that was so flatly refused. Thatís the first part.
In the MDMRS, I understand, for example, that the United States military sells surplus equipment that is already more modern than what we have in the Canadian Armed Forces. We can buy systems off the shelf through the United States Army that are better than anything weíre going to be buying in a planning stage because our own military doesnít have it. So there are lots and lots of options. Thatís only defined by the budget of this. What are we looking at for a planned cost to replace the MDMRS system?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: While I would love to discuss the intricacies of the MDMRS system and its proposed replacement, that line item does now live within the Department of Infrastructure, and Iím sure the Minister of Infrastructure would love to discuss this subject with the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. McLarnon: Iíll leave that. Weíre going to touch on a few subjects today. I guess the first thing weíll talk about is the assessment of property taxes. It has been discussed before. I just wanted to bring the situation up with the minister that has a lot of people hopping. In fact, Iím surprised the Member for Klondike didnít raise it. The reality is, in Dawson City, for example, the assessments have been skewed beyond peopleís ability to pay, and the reason why is that assessments have taken in, for example, market value in houses. Well, in Dawson City, the largest real estate for sale is the old Viceroy Mine houses.
Viceroy is a large corporation, and their asking price is not negotiable. Those prices are significantly higher than what the rest of real estate in Dawson City is selling for. Unfortunately, itís in the assessment rates.
Has this come to the ministerís attention and, if it hasnít, could she look at it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, it is not a situation that has been brought to my attention. If people had concerns about assessments, I know the appeal board route is open to them, but if the member wishes to provide me with more information, Iíd be happy to look into it.
Mr. McLarnon: Iíll follow up, but itís actually something Iíve discussed with an official in her own department, so theyíre certainly aware of it. I was just trying to find out if this information had gone all the way up from the civil servant level to the ministerís level. It will certainly be a point of contention when people understand.
Again, Iíd like to know if all the municipalities have been able to adjust their mill rates in time? Are we getting a higher amount of property assessment appeals this year than is normal?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, there were more complaints in 2002. Going back a ways, in 1997 there were 341 complaints; in 1998 there were 73; in 1999 there were 46; in 2000 there were 39; in 2001 there were 34; and in 2002 there were 148. There was a complete reassessment in 2002. Again, in 1997, there was a reassessment in the City of Whitehorse and the Whitehorse periphery.
So, when a more complete assessment is done, the complaints do go up.
Mr. McLarnon: The reason why I think there were more complaints as well is because of what the assessments were based on this time. I understand, for example, that building permits were one of the factors in there, and the length of time on a building permit proved that renovations were going on.
Many places in downtown Whitehorse are in a state of permanent renovation. They are old places and there is always work being done on them. I know of three neighbours who have had building permits for three years. Unfortunately, it correlated. If you had a long-term building permit, your rates went skyrocketing.
So, Iím going to ask the minister this: did the length of time of building permits have anything to do with it or is this a natural coincidence?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, thatís a good question and Iíll find out. Iím not aware of any relation between building permits and the reassessment. But we have been in the process of converting building data to a new system, and the time is a lot closer. The assessment is done based on current information rather than older information, and that was the reason for value changes from the previous assessment in many cases.
Mr. McLarnon: I understand that. The system needed to be updated and that was a complaint from earlier. But unfortunately what happens is that if you introduce a system without people having the information necessary to understand the system, it creates a level of frustration out there and it becomes irreparable when the information finally does get to them, because people have their own theories. Talking as a guy on the street right now, Iím saying that people want to understand this if theyíre being charged for it. This is how you sell products at a higher price. Now what they have to understand is the cityís part in adjusting the mill rates.
Were all the municipalities able to get their mill rate adjusted in time so that people didnít pay unnecessary taxes or, if their assessments went up, pay taxes that they would not have to pay had municipalities had time to adjust their mill rates?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít know whether the municipalities had adjusted their mill rates or when. I will ask the AYC if they can help me with that information. Setting the mill rate is the responsibility of the individual municipalities, and I would not necessarily be aware of when they did or didnít do that.
Mr. McLarnon: To ensure that revenues for municipalities remain constant and easily predicted, I understand they base it on assessment rates. So, if assessment rates were not given in advance or if a municipality had no idea they were going to get a boon because of hugely increased assessments on their properties, the question remains then: how would they know? How would any city, to ensure fairness and fairness of taxes to the people they serve, or any municipality ó how would they know not to take advantage of a huge assessment raise?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The municipalities have been aware that the revised assessments were coming for some time. It would be hard to know the specifics, however, until the work was actually done, in my belief.
Mr. McLarnon: Then thatís the problem. We have a communications problem where we have the territorial government running around setting assessment rates, and the municipal governments have to collect and also answer to the taxpayers for how theyíre being taxed, based on those assessment rates, and they are having a problem because they donít have the communication in advance. They cannot make informed decisions. So the question Iím asking ó and I will wait for the answer ó were there any problems? Because this certainly was reflected to me at Association of Yukon Communities.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, itís my understanding that the assessments are done on behalf of municipalities on schedules agreed to by the municipalities. It would be impossible to determine what those updated assessment values would be until the work is actually done. You couldnít say what they were before youíd actually gone and done the work. So the municipalities all knew this work was happening, and they knew it well ahead of time, I believe. For example, for areas reassessed in 2000, the taxing authorities got the updated values as part of the 2001 assessment roll; and the areas reassessed in 2001 get the updated values as part of the 2002 assessment roll. Thereís no way to provide the information before the work is done.
Mr. McLarnon: I would suggest a further lag. I hate to say it, but if you use information on a rolling average over five years, like we do in the Yukon territorial government with the federal government, you give stability to funding to communities so that they can gauge long-term projects based on assessment rather than the yearly lottery that they must go through. That is the way that you do it ó you do it for a longer term with a rolling average.
Anyway, we will leave that alone because we do have, coming right from taxes to land use ó and we are going to go right down to my constituency now.
I do congratulate the government on finally landing the funding for the Canada Games. This will be a good boon to the Yukon Territory and it will be something to look forward to. I canít wait to put my name on some of those buildings in 2007. But at the same time, we do have other questions.
First of all, we should remind the government that Whitehorse was actually tentatively given these games before they were even elected. Landing the money, while nice, is certainly no great feat. It was something that any government would do. Any government would attempt to do it. So we do congratulate the government on getting it. We certainly know that there were a lot of other people involved, and we certainly know that this was promised in one way or another before any of us were elected in the last election. So we arenít going to be trumpeting too much on that but we do have questions about it.
Are we going to be using any of the lands that we have on the waterfront for permanent cultural facilities or any of the lands on the waterfront for facilities at all for the Canada Games to leave a lasting legacy downtown? Facilities have been stripped from downtown to the point right now where, at one point, you would be able to go to the gym downtown, go to the pool downtown. This is where you would come to do all your entertainment and go to theatres. All of these have been moved further out. Will they be looking at rejuvenating downtown to give it some cultural life outside of the bars? One option out there being presented for waterfront development ó and this is on Yukon territorial government land so I know it is in the right department ó is a cultural centre, community centre, cultural community convention centre ó call it what you want. Have we got any initial plans to include that in the downtown area, or will downtown again be more of a commercial venture and hands off for the government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iíd prefer to wait until the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport is actually in Whitehorse and makes the announcement before I start spending the money.
There are no specific decisions yet on facilities that Iím aware of, whether theyíre on City of Whitehorse property, Yukon government property or anybody elseís property. The announcement we are expecting will be made on Wednesday morning, and letís see where that takes us.
Mr. McLarnon: I just want to raise these issues now. The reason why is because Yukon government is currently being asked to provide input into the official community plan for Whitehorse on waterfront development. Currently weíve got a number of options there. None of them that I have seen have included Canada Games facilities. Currently we are in a position where those plans for the City of Whitehorse will be passed long before decisions are made.
What Iíd ask is this: is this government at least holding options open to use these lands for Canada Games, or is it already committed to an integrated community plan for Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I must admit that Iím not up to speed on the Whitehorse official community plan as it stands now. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no final commitment to any specific facilities because weíve all been waiting for word on whether or not the funding is available. So Iím sure that the wheels will start turning on Wednesday morning.
Mr. McLarnon: Well, then we must have some miscommunication between governments because, listening to the Mayor of Whitehorse, he has already said that weíve passed the go date as far as making sure that the projects could be brought in under cost. That was already earlier this month. What that means is that the city certainly knows what itís going to cost to put facilities in, and I guess the question I have is, if the city knows, why doesnít this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thought the member had been asking specifically for location of facilities, not specifically for cost.
Mr. McLarnon: Itís hand in hand; itís hand in hand. Certainly, a project thatís going to be built on land down here is going to have a higher value than one thatís going to be built out on the highway or on land that doesnít have any related areas around it. So itís hand in hand. The city certainly knows the engineering cost and understands that the costs go up in certain areas more than others. Costs will be higher along a silty riverbed than they are going to be up where thereís bedrock and good construction materials available. So the city has costed this out. If they were costing it out, they must have been costing it out on some plan. What plan does the minister have now that, obviously, the city hasnít seen at the same time.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There were broad numbers established by the bid committee for the Games. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no detailed design work done. That would be a little foolish, considering we didnít know until last week that the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport was coming here to make an announcement, and weíve all been sharing the same numbers. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no firm decisions on specific facilities in specific locations.
Mr. McLarnon: Okay, then, weíll go right to the waterfront because this is what weíre skirting. Can the government tell us how far removed or how close we are to getting involved with our land and development and getting our part of the waterfront developed, or at least put into a park or a heritage area or any decision at all that affects at least a positive move down in that area? We have seen the destruction already. Now we want to see what else is going to happen there. The lives of the people who lived there have been wrecked, for the most part. They havenít enjoyed where they have gone and so there has to be some benefit from all the costs borne by these people.
We have taken away peopleís houses; we have taken away peopleís lifestyles down there, and we have an empty lot. So, those people ó the people who have been moved from there ó are saying, "Why did we move? What was the rush?"
The question I am asking now is, what was the rush? Is anything going to happen there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There have been no firm decisions on the future of that land. The official community plan will determine the types of functions that will go on there but, to the best of my knowledge, no firm decisions have yet been made as the city is busy deciding what to do with the adjacent land.
Mr. McLarnon: Has the department made an official presentation to the official community plan, since this is Yukon government land that weíre talking about, as part of zoning ó things that theyíd like to see on their own land? If so, can the minister present to us that official presentation to the city and the community plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No presentation has been made to city council on that land at this point.
Mr. McLarnon: So, even though the Yukon taxpayer paid for it, even though people were moved from their houses in our name, even though weíve taken steps to depopulate that part of town, we havenít made any submissions as to what it would be used for. Am I understanding that correctly?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The whole waterfront planning process started some years ago. There may have been presentations before my time that Iím not aware of but, in the last two years, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no official presentations to the city on that land. I suspect a great deal of that work was done before that, and it does take a certain amount of time to undergo the planning necessary. I think the city is about getting to that point now.
Mr. McLarnon: So we are going to be making submissions in the next year? Weíve been told that? Weíre at that stage, where the city is ready to hear submissions from a large landowner on the waterfront?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will consult with my department on this specific issue and get back to the member.
Mr. McLarnon: Just to explain the reason Iím asking, this is a constituency issue, and itís one the minister has said, properly, has been going on for 32 years actually. We thought it was a positive step when the Yukon government became involved, because it seemed like the city couldnít do anything with it. Unfortunately, now we find out that the Yukon government has joined the city in sitting on their hands on this project.
Unfortunately, at the same time, we have problems with leases there because people donít know if theyíre going to be year to year. Theyíre trying to set up businesses. They understand the commercial value.
So Iím just going to impress upon the minister that Iíll be bringing this subject up over the next session a lot, because people want something done. They know we are a role player, and to find out weíve done nothing over two years is not something theyíll be pleased with.
Thatís where Iíll leave it on that.
Now, the next question I have is ó I just want to ensure through renewal that the Project Yukon is still through the community services branch, or where has that gone to?
Iím being nodded to.
Then Iím going to raise a problem that has been created by the way we distribute Project Yukon funding. In fact, it will make the use of this project ó this part of the funding ó completely useless to community groups in a few years. This is the green spaces portion of the Project Yukon. It was a beautiful idea to start with ó create parks in the area, create green spaces and liveable areas. Except by municipalities ó what they see this as is downloading O&M costs for every park that we pay for.
Now theyíve gone to the point where they are not accepting submissions for parks at the city level and will not pay for any parks built as part of O&M because they were not consulted on this.
Will the minister at least consider putting forward recommendations so that, if parks is money granted for places in a municipality, the municipality will be given some consideration for the added cost of having to maintain those parks. Well, it does improve ó if you put five to 10 new parks across Whitehorse, that will add significantly. Iíve been told that five parks across Whitehorse will add another two person years to an already strapped city budget. So the question we have right here is, did the government at least consider the downloading of the cost on municipalities when they put a project like this together as part of Project Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The eligible projects fit under one of three categories: structures, community spaces, or people. Project Yukon would not authorize a project in a municipality without the support of that municipality, so if there was a proposal for a park and the municipality didnít want that park, then it wouldnít happen.
Mr. McLarnon: The problem now is that the municipalities used to want those parks because they were not defined as community spaces. Now they see an entire funding avenue holding them up in the Yukon government, and they know they are going to have to pay the O&M once those are built. They have had enough projects like that throughout the territory not to take another one. We are in a situation where groups and communities, especially urban areas like downtown Whitehorse, which needs parks, are handcuffed in the fact that the O&M costs for the parks, which cities used to pick up for, will now not pick up because of this policy and the way it is being granted. They will not put in for it because of the specific possibility that it could create more parks than they can pay for. So they donít fund any. So what we have is, with a policy that has been created, we have punished the whole because the minister thought municipalities were reluctant to pick those parks up. If it had been left alone, the municipalities were not reluctant to pick those parks up. So now what we have is that this policy will actually create less green space in our city. We have money that we will be throwing on projects where there are no municipalities blocking them. In inner cities, where green spaces are needed, this will not create one park no matter how many people are good for it downtown, how many people sign petitions ó the municipality will not pick it up because of the O&M forced upon them. So the policy is actually working negatively. It is working to hurt.
I am asking the minister: will she consider changing the framework of this or at least adding some O&M dollars to the communities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Municipalities receive funding through their municipal block grants for however they choose to allocate the money. Project Yukon could not in perpetuity provide O&M funding for parks. That would be very difficult. There are a number of parks that have received Project Yukon funding over the last couple of years around the territory, including a skateboard park, a flowerbed and welcome sign, LePage Park, a park in Dawson City, a park on the escarpment in Whitehorse, and a number of things like that.
So there are some parks of various sorts included in Project Yukon, but this project could not fund ongoing O&M. That would restrict the program far too much.
Mr. McLarnon: Yes. Iím just interested in one of the parks mentioned by the minister, because one of the parks she claimed has been built in the last two years is a park on an escarpment in Whitehorse. I live there. There have been no new park on the escarpments in Whitehorse over the last two years, so can I ask the minister where that is?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would be Cook Street Escarpment Park. The applicant was the Escarpment Park Society, and they received $25,718.
Mr. McLarnon: It was done recently, then?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít have a date on that one, so I donít remember whether it was this spring or last year.
Mr. McLarnon: Iím going to a meeting tonight. That must be what theyíre announcing to their membership, then. Thank you. That helps. That was one of the problems that was stopping that, so obviously theyíve come up with designs that are maintenance free, and I appreciate that. That is a good grant, and that will go further. That actually stops a lot of the questions, because thatís the park I was getting to. So very good, and I appreciate the ministerís response on that.
The next question I have is along the lines of the Member for Kluaneís question, and it was toward Canada Games funding, and this is again to the fact that we do have some opportunities here to really get some projects that are needed out in the communities. Within a 100-mile drive, we have three communities: Carmacks, Haines Junction and Teslin ó all with good rinks, all with facilities that can be used.
Teslin, unfortunately, if the Canada Games are held in a warm year, will be useless at the moment to any Canada Games participants because they canít make any artificial ice. Itís the same in Carmacks. Haines Junction does have that ability. Now, to spread the wealth and the joy and the happiness around for Canada Games ó and this is really important to make all Yukoners buy into the Games ó will the government initiate a rural development program to make those facilities out there practice sites for teams, even possibly holding a few games but at the same time bringing the infrastructure up to a level where people can use it year-round? It broke my heart, as I was going to Teslin with the Member for Riverside, to go to the community centre in January and find out that the ice had just come in that day or it was coming in three weeks later. We know that this is good for the health of the children, we know that it is extremely well-used when it is in operation and, for communities that are looking to keep families in those communities, these facilities are vital.
So, will the minister at least commit to trying to make sure that all communities within, say, a two-hour drive radius of Whitehorse will be considered for Canada Games funding or some part thereof?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That is already being considered because there is a shortage of practice space, and those communities are being looked at.
Could I ask the Member for Whitehorse Centre please, when he is speaking, to stay in front of the microphone. Itís very easy to hear him when he is on microphone but very difficult ó I know he likes to pace, but itís difficult to hear him when he wanders off- microphone. Thank you.
Mr. McLarnon: Thanks. I didnít go to broadcastersí school. Iíll stay right in front of the microphone here.
I guess the other side of it, then, is ó when weíre talking about sports, I understand the sports programs are still being housed under Community Services. Am I correct there?
There is one proposal out now by a group, and their hands are tied because, to play in a hockey league and to bring competitive hockey to the Yukon Territory, they cannot be a non-profit association. So theyíre a for-profit group but have never made a profit, and these are the Claimjumpers. Now, the Claimjumpers are a community group, people who are not only hockey enthusiasts but they understand that the main audience for that hockey team is youth under 18. I have been a volunteer at many of the games there and I can see this. Fully half the crowd is under 18 there, on a Friday and Saturday night, rather than somewhere else, rather than at a bush party. Itís a safe environment.
Not only does it help use facilities and bring the cost down to users across the city when they use it, they also bring in teams who spend a lot of money here throughout the winter. They canít get funding under the rules that we have because of their profit.
This is a valuable part of the community, this is something that is needed by the hockey community here to establish not only a competitive hockey regime but a form of entertainment for our youth that is positive and helpful.
So, will the minister at least find ó or is there any way to develop criteria that would help out groups like this? Again, they are not in any way a profit organization but, for the ability to play, they have to be in their league. Will the minister ó I know she is aware of the Claimjumpers situation. They are starting up again. Their AGM is next Tuesday. Will the minister give any light on the subject of how we handle a group like Claimjumpers?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís a tough situation because the Claimjumpers are on the edge of professional sport. They, I guess, could be a profit-making body, even though the member says they arenít at the moment.
Sport governing bodies receive the bulk of sport funding, and it would be difficult in the short term to change that. Iím recalling ó although I donít recall the team involved ó there was a great outcry federally a couple of years ago when the ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, when the federal government was considering support for the Ottawa Senators. I know the Minister of Infrastructure is going to tell me what type of sport team they are, because I canít remember that either.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Theyíre a hockey team.
There were those in the government who thought it was a good idea but the Canadian public thought otherwise. Although I see where the member is going with this and the benefits it brings to the audience, it would be difficult at this point to say, you know, yes, we could change it. I donít know if it could be changed. I donít know what changing it would do to the sports organization, because if they want to work toward professional hockey, then theyíve got to be on one side of the line or the other.
I donít know what could be done. I will take advice from the sport and rec branch on this and get back to the member.
Mr. McLarnon: The reason why is because we come back to the Canada Games again. Can the minister give us an idea of whether we will be spending more money in sports on the developmental side? Are we going to try to give the training opportunities to produce a competitive team ó or teams ó in these areas? When you take a look at what they did in Australia, not only did the Australians hold the Olympics, but they put millions ó close to a billion ó into their sports programs to raise the standard of their athletes and raise the training abilities across the country. It was a positive move. Australians loved it; it was good for their program infrastructure across the country.
Here we have an opportunity, and Iíll just put this to the minister, where the Canada Games teams are actually around the same age as the kids in the Claimjumpers. Would it be incumbent for developmental costs to help pay the travel costs of these kids when they go on trips? They are coming back to play for the Yukon. They are amateur athletes; all they need is amateur athlete status. Unfortunately, theyíre not covered by Whitehorse minor hockey, and the players are not paid. Their per diems are paid when they eat, but theyíre not paid to play hockey games. Their equipment is bought ó thatís it.
What we have is a situation where these are amateurs. They are not under a sports governing body; they are amateurs on their own. Can the minister find a place for amateurs, at least at the Canada Games table, in talking about developmental possibilities that way?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, itís a difficult situation when the Claimjumpers are on the edge of professional sport. They are, in one sense, amateur in that theyíre not being paid, but they are playing with more professional hockey players. The Canada Games will give us better facilities to improve opportunities for our athletes. As I said, I will take advice from the sport and recreation officials on what may be possible with the Claimjumpers. I think they have looked at everything that might be possible in the past and found it very, very difficult.
Mr. McLarnon: And thatís why Iím opening up this possibility, because this is developmental. It goes toward the Games. The other thing, too, is that we have no problem sponsoring elite cross-country skiers out of this territory, nor do we have any problem finding money for sending elite bicyclists out of this territory. I will point out to the minister that when they go to competitions Outside, they are skiing against professionals. They are skiing or biking against professionals. Even in the Olympics, we allow professionals now, so the contact they have or the world they play in does not limit the ability for them to remain an athlete of amateur status. Thatís fundamentally what weíre dealing with here. All junior hockey players are allowed in the Olympics and were always allowed in the Olympics because they were amateurs. Thatís how theyíre defined by the Olympic organization, the IOC.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. McLarnon: So then thatís the point: how do we define an amateur athlete, then? The problem is, when the minister goes back to the department to look for solutions, the answer from the department is going to be the same one she has received for two years: "Thereís nothing we can do." Iím pointing out that there is something we can do, and Iím asking the minister to look at this again. The real reality of bringing this level of hockey back to Whitehorse, this level of competition, this ability for our children to see it, practice it and play it, is not expensive to the government. The private sector carries most of this. No assistance at all is not very excusable, though; and thatís where weíre at, especially when I look at the minister responsible for youth over there, who has been to many of the Games and knows the value this has to the youth in this territory. This is the priority that we would like to see this government follow.
Thatís all Iím going to bring up on that. Iíll allow the minister to respond. I think fair debate doesnít mean that I get to end up on a soliloquy, so if the minister doesnít wish to respond, I can go to my next question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The government funding goes to the sport governing body. The sport governing body administers the dollars, based on the priorities for that sport. For each organization, each sport governing body defines how participation levels are defined and set. The member is suggesting that we change the rules to permit this hockey team to have some funding, but then where does it stop?
You have to draw the line somewhere, and the system has been set up this way for many years and has worked very well. I have no answers for the member at this point. I said I would take advice from the sport and recreation officials. He says "yes, but theyíll just tell you, no."
Weíll be taking advice from YRAC, which administers the funding as well.
Mr. McLarnon: I have to point out the fundamental problem: there is no governing body for junior hockey in the Yukon Territory, so they have no place to go to get through the door. Thatís the problem ó they donít have a governing body to go through, so they can never get through the door, so they can never be found a solution. Whitehorse minor hockey and Yukon minor hockey donít have this mandate and canít fit this mandate within the junior hockey ranks, so there is no room for them.
So, how does a team with no governing body go to a group that only deals with governing bodies?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, I have no answers for the member. It is a very difficult situation, and I can try to gain more information, but Iím not in a position to promise to change the situation. Certainly, in the short term, itís unlikely to change.
I realize itís very difficult. If the team were wildly successful, then they wouldnít have this difficulty, but they are on the edge of professional sport, and thatís the problem.
Mr. McLarnon: Iíll leave it at this ó the team is actually wildly successful. The attendance numbers for the league theyíve gone through are the highest in the league. The problem is travel dollars. We know that the team is within a few thousand dollars of breaking even; thatís how close it is. When youíre dealing with volunteers, a few thousand dollars is a lot, and thatís where weíd ask the government to recognize there may be some responsibilities and possibilities here.
I only have a few more questions. I guess weíre going to go back to the Dawson City arena. I realized, at one point, the Mayor of Dawson City was bringing forward a proposal, asking for bridge financing, so the arena could be built this year. Was that bridge financing rejected?
He was claiming in his letter ó which I have in my possession ó of around the first week of April, that he had a Yukon government legal opinion, saying that they had been to arbitration. He was asking, since they couldnít get the rink in this year, could they pay for it and win the difference in the arbitration. Did that die, or is it still possible for Dawson to get that ice this winter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have made no comment on the arbitration situation. We responded to the letter that the Member for Whitehorse Centre refers to, and asked specific plans for the bridge financing they were inquiring about and, as yet, we have not heard back from them on that issue.
Mr. McLarnon: The last two questions I have are essentially on AYC motions. One of them actually made a lot of sense to me and that was to turn, where applicable, YTG airport lands and lands surrounding the peripheries of airports over to municipalities for economic development uses. The way I look at it, if somebody at the municipal level wishes to try to generate economic development dollars out of their community ó is this something weíre going to act on? I see a smile over there. Is this something we have already acted on?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As discussed during infrastructure debate, airports are my responsibility. I know that the Town of Watson Lake is very interested in air park development and residential development in the vicinity of the airport. Itís something that weíre working on with the Town of Watson Lake. I donít have the notes with me right now, but I would be happy to discuss this further with the Member for Whitehorse Centre, as it relates to other communities and other similar initiatives throughout the Yukon.
Mr. McLarnon: The only one that I was aware of that put its name on that motion was Teslin, and Teslin is still interested in that motion, so I would hope that the extension of building these opportunities would go to the Mayor of Teslin, as well.
The last question I have is ó and this may have changed; I donít know if it has ó the question that most rural municipalities have is the fees for dumping ó the dumps. Now, we know that there were some successful pilot projects in Haines Junction, but there are other areas that would still happily refuse to stop burning unless the Yukon government comes in. In fact, Iíve heard two municipalities say theyíd happily turn the dump back over to the Yukon government and say theyíre not paying for it. So the position from the municipalities is that we are downloading costs from rural users or downloading costs because they are now in charge of a whole bunch of new regulations that they have to take care of in a dump. Are we going to get this problem fixed, or are we going to be in a situation one day where the Yukon government has, on its hands, a new dump that we are completely responsible for that we didnít want in the first place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have had discussion with several municipalities who are concerned about non-residents using their dumps, and they suggest that costs associated with non-residents should be covered. The municipal grant that municipalities receive is intended, in part, to cover that. Where a dumping fee is charged at a landfill, as happens in Whitehorse, that fee applies to whomever uses the dump, no matter where they live. So that is one good solution to the problem. Strictly regulating landfills so that only residents of an area can use them results in dumping of material in the bush, unfortunately. Itís a situation that we are certainly aware of.
Mr. McLarnon: This is my last question, but just to give the minister an idea of how prohibitive the costs of landfill are for municipalities and how much the costs have gone up, they are seriously considering a proposal in Carmacks of just putting the garbage collected there in the back of a semi, coming to Whitehorse and dumping it off at the dump here, because itís so expensive to run the expansion on their dump.
What we have, actually, is that we will be in a situation where there wonít be dumps at all, in that case, just collection points. Weíll lose a dump in an area and then, when people want to dump, we go back to where we were in the 1940s and thatís everywhere they want. So, the system may be actually starting to fail because people are searching for cost alternatives, and while shipping the garbage to Whitehorse may be good for Carmacks, itís going to increase the amount of load we have on our own. What we find is that, because this policy is now adding so much expense to our municipalities, theyíre going to go to the one area. I donít blame them if they can dead-head down the Klondike Highway or the Alaska Highway eventually and bring everything here, but that will put extra pressure on the Whitehorse dump, and then weíll have to put more landfill here.
Because of the policies here, technically, we could turn our own city into a garbage collector as one of our larger industries, which is sort of silly and doesnít need to happen. It shouldnít be cheaper to ship it to Whitehorse than it is to put it in the ground in their own community, but itís turning out that way.
So, the question I have is can we look at the cost to this community? Is there at least the ability for the department to look at the additional costs that cities have had to pay over the last five years to truly prove if this is a download or not and, if it is a download, to compensate the municipalities for that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is something that the department is looking at. Weíre evaluating the true cost of the solid waste regulations and of a contemplated ban on burning garbage. There were three main sites selected for the pilot project: Haines Junction, Dawson City and the Yukon government Mile 9 dump. The primary initiatives include investigating mechanical compaction of domestic garbage, animal control, site supervision with somebody there when the dump is open, recycling cardboard products, composting and sorting to further reduce the waste stream. Weíre also supplying power, looking at the potential for transfer station operations, as the member mentioned, and looking at the preparation of solid waste management plans.
Weíve spent about $100,000 to develop a waste management strategy in Haines Junction and to assist the village in implementing the initial stages, including preparation of the solid waste management plan required by the solid waste regulations. We have spent about $50,000 on a composting trial and other related work in Dawson City. There, cardboard baling and recycling was investigated and found not to be feasible at the Mile 9 dump in Mount Lorne. At the Yukon government dump, we have spent about $15,000 to supply electricity, convert the mechanical compactor motor to single phase power and to construct recycling sorting tables. The Mount Lorne dump is certainly an example of a way that a community gets behind their landfill facility.
Under the solid waste regulations, all dump operators must submit a waste management plan by this August. We expect that the Haines Junction plan will serve as a model for other municipalities and for our facilities in unincorporated areas. A final report is being prepared to summarize the pilot project activities and to make recommendations to improve solid waste practices in the municipalities and in the communities.
I hear the memberís concerns and I have heard those from most of the municipalities as well, and it is something that we are trying to deal with.
Mr. McLarnon: Thank you for those answers. I look forward to the written responses that are still forthcoming, and I thank her for the answers.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. McRobb: I have two quick questions to follow up because the subject matter of dumps does not fall within any line item in the O&M budget. I do want to put on record my support for the people in Haines Junction for the strides they are making in regard to recycling peopleís waste. I think there are a lot of solutions within their approach in reducing the need to haul garbage anywhere.
With respect to the dump in Haines Junction, I know there is a no-burn order. Unfortunately on the weekend, someone set the refuse pile afire, and it was smoking away all weekend. It raises the question about liability. Can the minister indicate to us who has the ultimate liability in the event that a wildfire starts from the Haines Junction dump?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís impossible to answer that question about liability if someone breaks the law by starting a fire in a no-burn dump ó it would depend on the situation. In communities where they have determined that they will allow burning, when the dump is set on fire, the community has someone sitting there monitoring it while itís burning but, with respect, to someone not authorized to set a dump on fire, it would depend on the situation.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I was hoping that the minister would be a bit more forthcoming on the issue of liability because, when it comes to cases like this, itís virtually impossible to identify who lit the fire. At least it would be very, very difficult to do that. Of course, if there is a forest fire as a result, there could be a cost to that. We know that DIAND is now pursuing the originators of fires to recover any costs in fighting the fire. The recent fires on the Carcross Road are a case in point.
Mr. Chair, my other question was in regard to the dump near the Village of Champagne. Iíve received some concern recently with respect to the atrocious condition of that facility. Can the minister tell me what she is planning to do to alleviate that situation, and can she provide for me a copy of the agreement with the contractor?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe part of the problem in Champagne is that there is no contractor. Iíll be looking at that dump next week, and once Iíve seen it, I will have a better idea how to proceed.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, weíll proceed directly to line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Deputy Ministerís Office
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I note a 57-percent increase in this item. Can the minister justify that for us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The increase is an internal reallocation and not a real increase to the departmental budget. Itís the result of the decision to consolidate administrative support functions for the deputy ministerís office and corporate service areas instead of a decentralized option, which was considered in an earlier stage of the renewal exercise. So there were salaries and benefits for two administrative assistant positions reallocated from community development branch and corporate services to the deputy ministerís office.
Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $310,000 agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $310,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services
On Human Resources
Mr. McRobb: I would request a similar explanation, since this is an increase of 99 percent. Can the minister give us whatever validation she has, along with a breakdown of that cost, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of the $217,000, $158,000 is for personnel, including the salaries, wages and benefits for a director and one human resources officer; $59,000 is mostly for training, a bit for other program needs, some for travel in the Yukon and some for communications.
Human Resources in the amount of $217,000 agreed to
On Finance, Systems and Administration
Finance, Systems and Administration in the amount of $638,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy and Communications
Mr. McRobb: Can we get an explanation as to why there is a 26-percent increase in this item?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: $424,000 of that is personnel, salaries, wages and benefits for a director, two policy analysts and two communications analysts; $8,000 includes some for communications, some for travel and some for other program materials.
Mr. McRobb: The minister did nothing to explain why there is a 26-percent increase.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Previously there was one policy analyst. We recovered one policy analyst who was on loan to another department.
Corporate Policy and Communications in the amount of $432,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $1,287,000 agreed to
On Protective Services
On Fire Suppression
Fire Suppression in the amount of $112,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
Emergency Measures in the amount of $366,000 agreed to
On Fire Marshal
Fire Marshal in the amount of $604,000 agreed to
Protective Services in the amount of $1,082,000 agreed to
On Community Development
On Sports and Recreation
Mr. McRobb: I would like to follow up for a moment on an issue raised previously about the promotion of athleticism in the Yukon given the announcement we are expecting very shortly about the Canada Winter Games 2007 coming to town. It is somewhat unbelievable to note a 24-percent reduction in this item, given that Whitehorse will be hosting a national event of great magnitude within such a short period of time, especially when we look at some of the other line items we have just questioned that have such huge increases because of additional personnel apparently needed in these branches.
Can the minister tell us why there is a decrease to sport and recreation funding and not an increase, as one would expect, and can we anticipate an announcement about an increase at some point in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The reason for the decrease is Arctic Winter Games related. Arctic Winter Games money was required in 2001-02 but is not in 2002-03, and we consider that the budget for this year is adequate for the initial planning stages for the Canada Games.
Sport and Recreation in the amount of $2,102,000 agreed to
On Property Assessment and Taxation
Property Assessment and Taxation in the amount of $3,146,000 agreed to
On Community Affairs
Community Affairs in the amount of $16,823,000 agreed to
On Community Infrastructure
Community Infrastructure in the amount of $878,000 agreed to
Community Development in the amount of $22,949,000 agreed to
On Service Yukon
On Motor Vehicles
Motor Vehicles in the amount of $978,000 agreed to
On Service Centre
Service Centre in the amount of $223,000 agreed to
On Public Libraries
Public Libraries in the amount of $1,583,000 agreed to
Service Yukon in the amount of $2,784,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Safety Services
On Consumer Services
Consumer Services in the amount of $460,000 agreed to
On Corporate Affairs
Corporate Affairs in the amount of $415,000 agreed to
On Building Safety
Building Safety in the amount of $1,098,000 agreed to
On Labour Services
Labour Services in the amount of $453,000 agreed to
Consumer and Safety Services in the amount of $2,426,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Community Services in the amount of $30,838,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Community Services in the amount of $13,449,000 agreed to
Department of Community Services agreed to
Chair: We will proceed to Education.
At this time, Committee will recess until 4:30.
Department of Education ó continued
Chair: Iíll now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate on the Department of Education. Is there any general debate?
Ms. Tucker, you have the floor if you want it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Okay. Mr. Fairclough.
Mr. Fairclough: I only have a couple questions.
As we left debate in this department, the minister had basically a week to go out and talk to First Nations and communities and so on in regard to the Education Act review. I would like to know if a decision was made to put this off and not have it dealt with in this sitting.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Any decision that is made in regard to the Education Act amendments will be communicated to the principal stakeholders before I discuss it on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís not a negotiation process ó just a yes or no. Obviously, it hasnít ó the minister could just say no; no decision has been made to pull it off ó unless a decision has been made and the minister is now waiting to communicate that to the affected members in the communities ó you can get a couple of different messages out of the answer from the minister.
I would like to know about the Yukon native teacher education program and whether or not that is going to be opened up to the general public.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The Yukon native teacher education program will continue as it is at this time; however, I have asked the First Nation leadership if they would like to look at that program and evaluate its effectiveness and if thatís where they would like to keep those training dollars.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít my question. I was asking whether or not this program will be open to the general public.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Part of the ongoing discussions with the First Nation leadership is how they perceive that program and whether they feel they are getting maximum for it and whether they would like it to continue as is or whether they would like to see those training resources put elsewhere. That would be part of those discussions.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister still didnít answer the question. Right now, the program is for aboriginal people in the Yukon Territory. Is it going to be opened up to the general public?
I know there could be improvements, if you talk to the leadership and so on about the programs, or even move it somewhere else. Is that program going to be available for Yukoners, or is it the desire of this minister to open it up to the general public?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There are no plans to change it this year. The program will continue as is for the upcoming school year and I am hoping to have some very productive discussions with the First Nation leadership and other interests in the territory to find out where we can best put the resources in education.
Mr. Fairclough: That the answer is looking for ó whether or not the government had interest in looking at moving this beyond what the program was put in place for.
In regard to training trust funds, there have been cutbacks in this capital budget and in the budget through the department for training trust funds to Yukon College and really affecting the communities. Has the minister been looking into the cuts and how they affect Yukon College and its ability to leverage additional dollars elsewhere? Is there any interest to ensure that the training trust funds are topped up?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The government is very concerned that we get value in education. During the last four months, while the minister, Iíve been travelling around the territory to listen to the community campuses and to the College and to the communities at large to find out what the needs are and whether the funding needs to be refocused. So the short answer is that I donít have an answer for the member opposite at this time. I am still collecting a lot of information before we make a final decision for the fall capital budget. The main concerns, I believe, as the member opposite ó and we would like to see the best outcomes for the Yukon as a whole and Yukon communities individually and the College, as well.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe, if the minister is looking into this, then she will find there is value in this program ó a tremendous amount. As a matter of fact, they had a nice arts and crafts display at the Yukon College from all the different communities that were set up and showing off their products to the Yukon public, and this was a result of training trust funds that were in the communities.
I would like the minister to look at this seriously, because the training trust fund dollars that are in the communities right now cannot just be left alone. It must be topped up so they can continue to use the fund and not have it depleted. Iím glad to hear that some work will be done to look at what to do with the training trust funds next.
Has there been any direction at all from this minister to look at the communities and the Yukon College to deplete the fund? Is there a desire to discontinue the training trust fund altogether, or are we still going to try to address this in the capital budget next fall?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The money in the capital budget went to create capital projects that provided employment opportunities for Yukoners. It was our understanding that that was what the Yukon public was asking for ó jobs so they could be gainfully employed.
If I can refer the member back to my previous answer, one of the things facing the Yukon is how to decide to spend our resources to get the best outcome for Yukoners as a whole. Training trust funds have proved very valuable over the years, and I think we can see those continuing. In what forms, or where the money is best put, has yet to be determined.
As the member opposite has said, there has been some great value and some great outcome from the training trust funds.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister really believed that, we wouldnít have seen a cut in the training trust funds. We wouldnít have seen that. All he needed to do, all the government needed to do, was do a review of this, talk to people at Yukon College, and so on.
This fund obviously was important to the College. It gave them leverage to increase the amount of money coming in. Is there any interest at all by this Liberal government, by the minister, to increase the core funding to Yukon College?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Yukon College is in year 2 of a three-year funding agreement. The budget for the College has been slightly increased to accommodate wage increases and benefit increases. What the Yukon government will be doing with the College Board over the next year is looking at the needs and priorities of the College and looking at education throughout the territory on a more global level, again to see where some of our resources are best put.
When we look at education in the broader context, we look at education right from birth to death, and we donít have unlimited resources, so the Yukon government is faced continuously with, "How do we get the best results and are our existing programs and our existing allocations the best use of resources today?" This is one of the reasons why the training trust funds were allocated to capital projects. There are still millions of dollars in training trust funds, more than was actually used in previous years, and we were trying to assist people to access alternative funds and, at the same time, create more job opportunities by putting money into capital.
We are going through the ongoing priority evaluation and performance evaluation on a lot of these programs.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer my question. I asked whether or not the government or this minister had any interest in increasing the core funding to Yukon College. I know that they are basically in year 2 of their three-year contract, and I would say it is the governmentís duty to look into the effectiveness of programs, and so on. That should always take place. I am hoping that this did take place with this government over the last couple of years, and that we havenít just started it now. I will ask the question again, whether or not the minister is looking at increasing, not by the settlements of wages and so on, but by the increasing of core funding to Yukon College?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I did answer the member oppositeís question. What I said was that I will be speaking with the Yukon College Board of Governors to find out what their needs are and what the priorities are of education in the Yukon as a whole and trying to fit those together to come up with a reasonable and successful plan for expending funds. It could be that the Board of Governors comes back to us and says, "You know, really we donít need any more money; what we need is something else." I donít know what they will say.
You are asking me to judge the outcome of a process that hasnít occurred at this juncture yet. What I need to do is go out and listen to the communities. I need to listen to the board. I need to listen to the public at large and find out where we are going to get the best results. That may be at Yukon College and it may not, and I am not going to prejudge the outcome of that at this time.
Mr. Fairclough: I donít want to go on and on about this, but I can. I think the minister maybe should look at the notes from the previous minister to see whether or not the previous Minister of Education did any meetings, and take the notes and go from there. It appears that weíre starting from scratch again, more than halfway through the term of government.
So, Iím just going to leave it at that and let others ask questions.
Mr. Jenkins: I just had a few similar questions of the minister. Dealing with the Education Act ó we got a non-answer there that the minister doesnít know what sheís going to do or when sheís going to do it but sheís going to tell others first before she tells the House. With respect to training trust funds, I see this as a wonderful opportunity that the minister is going to miss if she doesnít come to the party and ante up the money necessary to keep the programs at Yukon College alive and well.
Given that the basic amount of money levers a lot of additional funding and it does impact significantly on rural Yukon much more than the minister would give credence to. But that said, I will give the minister credit in that when she was appointed Minister of Education, she probably has had some amazing issues to deal with and has had to reverse quite a number of decisions after common sense prevailed. I recognize that and itís appreciated. I encourage the minister to deal with a lot more of these other issues in the same manner as she has dealt with some of the others ó make the right decision even if it means making a change from the original decision.
One area that hasnít been broached is the Association of School Councils and their situation with respect to their ó I guess we could call it an issue of government wanting to reclaim its money and sending them a threatening letter. Now, given the tremendous number of individuals involved in this association, I guess weíre ultimately going to call this minister the "queen of torts", if she follows through on her threats. Just where are we at, or is the minister going to hang her hat on "this is before the courts," and she canít comment?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Personal references and name-calling are somewhat inappropriate in this Legislature and reflect more on the person who makes the comment than who it is directed at.
The Association of School Councils was supported by this government, and we were the first government that ever supported such an association. Under the act, the association was specifically created to support school councils. Thatís what gave them the mandate, and thatís how they were empowered. Funding of over $100,000 was associated with that. The governmentís concern was that the association was expanding beyond supporting school councils to supporting other groups around the territory. The mandate letter was there to support school councils directly because the government wanted to get direct feedback from the school councils and have an association supporting them. That was their association.
So, the dialogue going on in the past between the association and the government was the government saying, "The mandate that you were created under was to support school councils. If you donít have the support of the school councils then, or you broaden the mandate without the agreement of the government, which has funded you to support school councils, then weíre very concerned that the school councils arenít getting what we had anticipated supporting."
So, the original correspondence was ó the previous minister and I supported this decision ó that if the school councils did not support the associationís expansion of the mandate, then the money should be taken back from the association and redistributed to the individual school councils, and then they could make the decision about whether they wanted to fund the association or not.
It would be a council-by-council decision because of some conflicts. After that, the association is supporting school councils directly. That is where the funding is going, and this government is quite happy to continue supporting an association that does directly support school councils and has the school councilsí support.
Mr. Jenkins: The question wasnít answered. Where are we at with these threats against the Association of School Councils? Is the minister going to instruct the department to proceed with the threat that was sent to that association? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I frequently enjoy the somewhat simplistic, yes-or-no responses that the members opposite require.
May I repeat my previous answer, and that is that as long as the Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees continues to support school councils directly with their funding ó and thatís what they use the money for ó then this government is happy to continue to support the association. That is true of any group that is funded by the government. They have a mandate; they agree to that mandate; theyíre given funding, and their expenditures are reviewed by government to ensure that their mandate is being fulfilled. The association is working to support school councils, and weíre continuing to support them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís synthesize this down to a product that we can all understand. What the minister has said is that as long as this body does what she wants it to do, sheíll continue to fund it but, should it not continue to do what she wants it to do, sheíll sue them, thus the title, "queen of torts."
Mr. Chair, I guess we only have to look at the suggestion by the minister that the funding could be broken down and supplied to all of the various school councils around the Yukon and they would have to fund the parent association. This is simply, in very, very basic terms, a divide-and-conquer technique that the minister is employing. It has been around for a long time and, fair ball if thatís how the minister wants to deal with these associations.
But the association was set up under the previous watch of the NDP government and it was bought into by the Liberals and moved forward under their watch, Mr. Chair. It looks like it has some merit, but communication is a two-way street and I would encourage the minister to maintain the dialogue that she has become accustomed to with this association and the respective school councils and to continue to analyze what she receives by way of information.
Mr. Chair, I donít think Iím going to get an answer with respect to training trust funds or the Education Act, but a simple yes-or-no answer as to where weíre going with the Education Act ó given that it is tabled and we only have a few short days in which to deal with it, and we still have to deal with some of the follies of some of the other ministers in this session as of yet.
So, as to what the intentions are of the minister with respect to the Education Act ó it would certainly be information that would benefit all Yukon. It would provide a measure of certainty around where the department is heading, where the minister has instructed the department to head, and thatís all I can say. The sooner that information comes out, the better, but the timelines are right up against the wall. If itís coming down to the wire and itís going to go to second reading with a shotgun clause in the Standing Orders, it means it passes, and I donít believe the current Education Act, if it passes this session under the shotgun clause, would benefit anyone.
In fact, it might see the demise of this government as a governing government. The sooner we can get that information out on the Education Act as to what the minister is going to do, it would be appreciated. The training trust funds are of paramount importance and it's a sad day for Yukon to see them reduced to where they are. I would encourage the minister to go back to the rural school study as to what school should be constructed next in the Yukon and not listen to the former Minister of Education, who led her astray in quite a number of areas. Shame on the former Minister of Education. I encourage this minister to apply some common sense
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I believe that the member opposite is violating section 19(g) of the Standing Orders.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order. The minister just has really thin skin.
Chair: One minute please. I heard what was said. I am just trying to figure out if it was in violation.
On the point of order, there is a point of order. Claiming that one minister has led another minister astray is certainly something that is not be prudent in this House, and so, as a result, it falls into the category of false or unavowed motives to another member. We will continue now. I will ask Mr. Jenkins if we can just avoid that line of conversation.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess when the shoe fits, you have to wear it sometimes, Mr. Chair. I just encourage the current Minister of Education to look at the issues surrounding the schools that need to be reconstructed. There was a rural school review. This Yukon Liberal government has abandoned it. It should not have been abandoned, and they should concentrate the efforts of the department where they should be concentrated.
Iíd encourage the minister to look in her own riding, and she would recognize that that school in that ministerís own riding is just about maxed out as far as capacity. Thatís where the growth is occurring. Address the needs where the needs are, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iíd just like to go back to one or two points that the member opposite raised. Firstly, Iíd like to encourage the member opposite to more statesman-like comments. They reflect poorly on all of us. Secondly, I would like to say that the ministers of this government and all of us as a caucus work very hard to do the best job that we can on behalf of Yukoners. I understand that the role of opposition is frequently to oppose; however, there are ways and means of accomplishing opposition without being either abusive or denigrating to members on an individual and personal level.
Having said that, the Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees was created under section, I believe itís 121, of the act. When any association or group is funded by the government, the government is responsible to the public for how that money is expended. We answer on the floor of this Legislature as to whether or not that money is being used and used for the purpose for which it was voted. In looking at the Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees, thatís what the government is doing ó ensuring that the school councils get the support that they believe they were getting when the association was created and funded.
In terms of the amendments to the Education Act, as I said earlier in my comments last week, I have asked for feedback from both the general population, the stakeholders and First Nations. When I have received that and when it comes to an announcement, they will be the first to be contacted, because theyíre the principal stakeholders and, after that, Iíll be happy to make an announcement in the Legislature.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it sounds like the review is under review and is on hold, if you could sum up succinctly what the minister said. I go back to my original statement that the sooner the minister makes an announcement with respect to her intentions on the Education Act, the better it will be for all. To procrastinate like the minister is doing is not fair to anyone here in the Yukon.
I have no further general debate.
Mr. Roberts: I have a few comments Iíd like to make, then I have some specific questions Iíd like to ask the minister. Once again, I made a few comments when the budget was initially presented about some of the initiatives of the Education department, and I support those. I think theyíre long overdue, particularly the issue around First Nations curriculum building. I have said for many years ó itís interesting this has suddenly come about under the current government, when past governments had just forgotten about it over the years.
Iím kind of taking a little hit at past governments, as well, and giving kudos to the current government for coming forward with that. I believe it should be much more, and Iím sure that will take place in the future. One of the significant partners in our whole education programming is First Nations people and, many times, I think they feel marginalized and not a part of it and start talking about taking down education because, quite often, theyíre not involved in it.
I know there have been a lot of attempts over the years of playing with it, but I donít think they have been sincere enough, and I believe this is a sincere way of trying to build that trust for the future.
I believe, as many of you know, in lifelong learning, and I again applaud the government for some of the long-term vision ó for example, the math resource person theyíre putting in place. I think this is long overdue.
Itís interesting. I went to the graduation for the Porter Creek students on Thursday night and met the first group that was my last year of teaching and administration, who were in grade 7 in the school I was at, and this was the first crop to graduate. When I wandered around, talking to a number of them, they were very pleased to see me there. But one of the things I found with other students who had come back from university, in talking to them about how they have fared in their science and math programming ó because I asked them that question, because I believe itís important to find out how our students fare in the wider expanse of Canada ó and there were very few of them who said they had a major problem in math and science. They may not have taken the right extension of courses; for example, taking Physics 11 and not taking Physics 12, and then wondering why they had some problems. But my suggestion to them is that, if theyíre being advised not to take Physics 12, go back to the school and talk to the counsellors and say, look, this is needed. But not one of them I heard ó and I didnít talk to all of them, but some of them ó they were very pleased about the math and science basic skills that they had, and these are our university students. Now, theyíre a select group, obviously, but I think putting more resources in that area will be very positive and advantageous to our students.
The area that I would like to see us promote ó and, of course, the minister opposite will know what Iím coming forward with ó is Iíd like to see more activity in the area of active living. We have heard over the last number of weeks and months the problems with obesity in our young people right across the world ó not only here in Canada, but weíre almost at epidemic situations here with our young people. I really feel that, if weíre going to start looking at ó putting on my Health hat at one time ó that if weíre going to really look at health, these are some of the basic issues. Theyíre as basic as math; theyíre as basic as science.
I know I sometimes have arguments with my colleagues about whether itís as basic as reading. I say they are. If you donít have basic fitness to carry on and to build your skills, then youíre going to have problems in a number of areas. So I would encourage the minister to sort of promote and continue to promote that particular area, because Iím a very strong believer in it, as well as in the arts and what I call the experiential and MAD programs.
I think these are very positive as well.
We are unique here in Canada for a lot of things weíre doing because we are small. Some of our children are receiving experiences that, in many jurisdictions, theyíre not even close to. I know that a lot of our elementary kids are now out camping for two days. To me, these activities have to be encouraged. Please, letís not find obstacles for them not to take place.
I know that sometimes the department gets very worried about liability. And I know itís something we should be worried about, but provide the training, skills and ability for teachers to do this. Whatís happening in some cities right now, particularly large centres like Calgary, which has a very active education system, they have almost cut their outdoor education programming because of the liability factor thatís coming to haunt them because of some problems they have had.
I would hate to see our children lose out on this. I have many grandchildren coming forward, and I definitely want to see them experience those kinds of what I think are unique, skill-building activities that will hold them for life.
In the area of consultation, Iíve sort of hammered this session on consultation. I really believe in consultation, and I am pleased to hear that the minister is doing a lot of consultation. I would hope that through all of the reversals that have happened here in the last little while, the consultation will take place long before the decisions are made. This is very frustrating for the public.
I mean, the intentions are good ó they really are. The intentions of setting up a youth centre in a school somewhere is very good. The idea of balancing out dwindling populations in some of our larger schools ó large buildings with small populations ó and mixing them with other students is not a bad idea. Thatís a good idea.
The problem we have is that if one does not prepare the public for this, we get the kind of reaction that we received here over the last two months, and that should not take place.
I think the Education Act was another one. I think we overconsulted on it. Itís hard to speak from both sides of my mouth. On one side, weíre saying we didnít consult enough or we didnít do it in the proper manner or the proper order. Maybe weíll do the consultation, but maybe itís the order in which it takes place and the timing. But in the Education Act ó my gosh, we have consulted for two years, and one would think we would have our pís and qís together to make this go forward, but unfortunately it seems like we have hit a roadblock, because some of the partners are not on board with us. Iím not sure how one defines "consultation," but itís a very tough one in a small community. Basically, I believe that that experience hopefully will lead us to a better way of consulting in the future.
I know the Education Act backward and forward. I suppose having a review and making some changes is for the betterment of everybody. There are some very good things in the new education proposals, but unfortunately they have been clouded by other things that are not going to, hopefully, see the light of day.
Iíd like to see us move forward, but there seems to be a lot of concerns about two major things in the consultation. One has to do with the governance recommendation and the other one is the accountability part. I have had lots of discussions with a variety of people, who have said, "Is there any other way that we could try to build this together? We are very small and yet we have difficulty trying to get all our things lined up to make sure that it will work."
Well, I want to talk a little bit about Grey Mountain. I went to the public meeting the other week. I was challenged by the former Minister of Education in a very rash way ó actually printed in the paper ó and when I approached the former minister and asked him about that, the minister said, "Well, Iím not sure I said that, but papers print whatever they want anyway."
So, I went to the meeting and I sat through the meeting, and I felt for a lot of those parents and for some of those students who got up and talked about their experiences there, because I was the principal there when one particular student was moved back to that school, who happened to live in that area, and who received, as have all students who have ever gone, a very fine education.
It is a wonderful example of what we can do when we have conditions that are going to support a good learning environment. One of the key factors there is the pupil/teacher ratio. It has always been around 16 or 17 to one. There might have been the odd time when there were heavy loads that were in the low 20s, but I can tell you, if they were in the low 20s, the other schools were in the high 20s.
They have always benefited from the smaller classrooms, which I think is wonderful. I would like us to use that example ó use the example of Grey Mountain ó and letís put all the primary classrooms, if we want to look for a number, at 20 to one. Right now, it is 23 to one, and I am trying to be very moderate, particularly here in Whitehorse. The rural areas have a different spell. They have smaller numbers because they are smaller, and they have many grades in one particular classroom.
If the PTR is at 20 to one ó it takes time to play those things out. It is going to take at least five years for the low PTR to show what kind of action can come from having fewer numbers. That means a teacher gets around to the students more often. I think that is a very good example of how we could do it.
Those teachers we have over there are the same teachers who were there when I first became principal of that school, way back in the 1970s. They are wonderful teachers ó they are master teachers. Those teachers would be master teachers at any school. They would be an asset to any school.
I am not opposed to the structure, in the sense of the school itself. I am opposed to how we cannot use numbers to build something that we donít necessarily need now. We need that group of parents and students in Selkirk School. They are a very solid group of parents and are very supportive parents. What needs to happen is what happened before Grey Mountain was even built ó all those students went to Selkirk School.
It was a wonderful school; it still is a wonderful school, but it needs building. Like any schools, they go through ups and downs. There is a marvellous staff at Selkirk School.
So I would encourage the minister to ó you know, if weíre going to move down the path of trying to build on the successes of Grey Mountain, letís try to duplicate those successes and some of the things in other schools. I think itís only fair.
In the area of grade reorganization ó now this is something that I had a lot to do with when I was a school principal. For many years I was a principal where we had the grade 7s in the elementary school and I really felt they were a good asset to have in the school. Then it changed; it went to kindergarten to grade 6, and then the junior highs were built. Then we found that that didnít work too well because the grade 7s are at that sort of changing physiological and emotional stage so that they didnít quite fit into the junior high school. We did the junior high experiment for a number of years and found that, wow, there were a lot of problems with that. So we brought back a position paper on trying to look at how we could change it. Then the decision was made ó a former government, long before this government, and even the last NDP government didnít make that decision. It was the Ostashek government that made the decision to go ahead with it. The government before that sort of sat on it for two years because they knew it was very controversial. But Iím glad the decision was made.
When I talk to parents ó I talked to a lot of parents Thursday night about their children staying in the elementary school for grade 7, and they said hooray, it was great for their children.
There were a few problems with some children, particularly in some schools, who were looking forward to going to the big school but I think that once they adjusted to it, it was a very good move. I really believe we are on the right path.
When I asked the minister a few days ago if we are complete, physically, I wasnít trying to upset the minister and I wasnít trying to do an end run on the minister. I was just trying to present a reality. We had just completed the Christ the King physical plant. Next year there will be a full grade reorganization, from kindergarten to 7.
The same with Holy Family. There will be a kindergarten to grade 7. Vanier School is getting a new cafeteria, and that will make them a high school in a sort of total context like the others.
Now, the problem with Porter Creek, which is in my riding, plus the riding of many ministers over there ó actually, four other people over there ó they have some problems. One is the cafeteria. They want to see a larger cafeteria, because that cafeteria was built for barely 300. Now they have close to 700 and they have young people eating in the hallways and everywhere else. In the winter, itís pretty tough, and I think we really have to look at that. That was my objective in trying to promote a capital program for the coming fall.
The second thing was the whole area of the shops. They are junior high shops. I think the minister went through there. Theyíre not built for high school standards now. They were promised at that time that they could use the College shops, and thatís how they were going to complement the shop program. But somehow that may have happened, and they do use them sometimes, I gather, for some things, but itís not as fully used as the programs that are offered there. So I really want to encourage the minister to look at how we can complete the physical structure of that school, because it is not complete. I went to the last school council meeting, and I listened to all the concerns and the issues, and I asked the council what I could do for them as the MLA for the area, and that was one of the issues.
Iím sure the department is well aware of their concerns. I gather there is going to be a little carpeting that goes on, and thereís something about a confused corner there, where there is all kinds of kids coming all different ways, and they were going to move a beam or do something. That may not be as easy as it sounds, because it seems like itís holding up the building, or a good part of it.
So, sometimes one cannot come to a conclusion very easily.
I have just a couple of comments about the Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees. I want to encourage the minister to continue her journey of consultation. But, I think, as the Member for Klondike said, "Letís make some decisions fairly quickly." Some of these things are outstanding.
The council, from my perspective, is made up of very honest parents and honest volunteers. They want the best for their children. Now, they have some issues and, of course, some of the issues are, as weíve talked about, are not in the Education Act, and theyíd like to see those addressed. Is there not some way of trying to meld this together, so we do get some resolution to this?
One cannot have First Nations out there saying, "Weíre not going to be a part of this, and weíre going to take down education because weíre not getting any cooperation," and having the school councils association saying, "Weíre not part of this, either, therefore weíre not going to be contributing." Being a volunteer in the school system is a very tough job, because what volunteers do when the pressure starts to come up, is they quit ó theyíre gone. Iíve seen this over the years, and we shouldnít have to put our parents and volunteers through this. They are very noble, and theyíre very excited about what they do, but after one, two or three years of butting heads on a variety of issues, they give up and say, "Iíve done enough."
So I applaud the minister. Again, letís not wait too long. Letís move on it. Consultation is very important. Letís be proactive, and letís build on it.
Thatís sort of all the comments I have to make. Now Iím going to ask a few questions.
The issue of looking at counselling in the communities is a really tough issue. Has the minister thought of working with the Health department and trying to pair up some unique ideas around the social worker/counsellor concept? I know itís an out-of-the-box idea, but is some work being done in that area that we might see this happen in the future?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I was quite fascinated when the member opposite brought this issue up, I believe when he was the Minister of Health. I think that the concept has a certain amount of merit in putting the best use of our resources where we can get the best outcomes. There is an assistant deputy ministerís harmonization group that looks at these types of issues for us and I will get back to the member opposite tomorrow in a letter, if I can, to say whether this has actually been under discussion. I did hear the member opposite when he was in government and the concept certainly does have some value.
Mr. Roberts: I have a couple questions around Porter Creek Secondary School. I think the minister knew I was going to ask questions about it. I wasnít just going to editorialize on it. Are there any plans in the near foreseeable future? I was asking for the fall, as I know how budgets are put together, to look at trying to complete grade reorganization in Porter Creek, at least as far as its physical structure?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: What I have been doing is going around to all of the communities and trying to get to all the schools to see what their capital needs are. Porter Creek Secondary School has made a very eloquent and heartfelt presentation, and I will be taking their concerns forward during the capital budget process. Better than that, I canít do for the member opposite right now because, again, we have to weigh out the priorities coming forward. F.H. Collins is also looking at their high school and how they see it evolving and what the needs of the community are, location and things like that. All these issues will be coming forward to the Cabinet table, and you know what the process is like.
Mr. Roberts: Good. Iím glad, for the record, that the minister is moving down that path. I think thatís what the school council would like to hear. I believe itís long overdue. It should have been part of the package when they initially formulated that school as a high school, and there should have been plans in place right from the beginning. Itís too bad it has to come around this way. And when people are saying, you know, that 700 students later we donít have the capacity and things didnít work out, well, thatís fine, but letís hopefully admit it and get on with the planning of it. So I appreciate the ministerís comments on that.
The other issue ó and I guess this again comes back to some of the realities that are happening in the communities and also in Canada ó is the declining enrolment in the primary grades. We know that this is a reality. This is happening. I know some people in some school areas donít like to hear that, but it is a reality. One of the issues that came forward from this was the school capacity study that was sort of cancelled in midstream. Is the minister considering maybe restarting this school capacity study? Because it gives us far more than just what schools are currently doing. It also maybe gives us a futuristic view of what could happen with some different scenarios, whether we have a sudden increase in population or a dwindling population, what old schools should be maybe decommissioned as schools? Because we know that there are some schools that are very old ó some, for example, F.H. Collins, that weíre looking at replacing. I know thatís on the building cycle somewhere, but there are other situations, too, where we could do some tweaking and some changing. Is the minister considering maybe restarting that study to look at the long term, not try to find an answer for next year, but probably two years down the road?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Just a couple of things for the member opposite ó I have more members in this House lobbying for Porter Creek Secondary than just the member opposite. And, as I said, the school itself has done a marvellous job of raising their concerns and showing me whatís involved, both for the cafeteria and for the shops.
Just a note about the shops generally, nationally the prediction is that there will be a great demand for qualified trades people in the future and that anybody who comes out with a certified trade certainly can find employment in Canada, from what I am led to believe.
In terms of the capacity study, itís not going to be just the capacity study. What the government needs to do is to gather as many facts as possible about education and to constructively share that information with the public so that we can reach a decision point together. Frequently, the experience is that the professionals know what they think the decision should be, and because they are immersed in the information on an ongoing basis, they sometimes donít realize that a lot of other people are operating under misinformation or they donít have current facts or they havenít had the time to devote to the issues.
I see the task that I have as the minister is to go out and get the information from the capacity study thatís out there and to get the information on outcomes in education that we were talking about ó for example, teacher/student ratios where, according to the numbers, we have the best student/teacher ratio in Canada. The national average is 1:16. In the Yukon, weíre operating at 1:13. And how do we get these good outcomes? We keep putting more money into the education system, but are we getting better results for that money? We talk about some of the schools getting these great results, and part of that is the community itself surrounding that school valuing education, saying that education is the best thing we can do for human beings generally, to give them those learning skills.
So how do we take the successes that are happening and translate those successes to a broader community ó and that would be with First Nations? You mentioned experiential programs ó those are some of the ways that the First Nations are leading me to believe at this time that we might be able to make a difference ó not just a learning through the arts but more traditional experiential learning. There are a number of models already in existence through Alaska that weíre looking at.
We would really like to see the best things happen in education. I think there is a whole bunch of issues there that need to be looked at. The positive thing that Iím hearing from the community at large is that they want to see productive change ó not change for the sake of change, but productive change.
Youíre right on active living. We have a number of active living programs. Are they appropriate for the schools in the community that theyíre in? Do they need to be customized for each community? Some communities donít like some activities, so how do we customize that and get people excited about being more active?
I probably have as many questions as the member opposite. What Iím looking for right now is all the data to go out and have that dialogue with Yukoners. One of the other things thatís going to be happening in October this fall is council elections again. So some of the people will stay and some new people will be brought on, and Iím hoping that we can have some very constructive dialogue this fall.
Mr. Roberts: I think thatís very positive coming from the minister. I actually believe what the minister was saying the other day, that education is in a constant flux; itís always changing. I guess thatís where I want the department to be, as well. I want the minister to engage the department in ensuring that consultation is started long before we actually make decisions and we go down those paths.
The decisions are probably good decisions but, if one does not have the population or the parents or the students to go along with the decisions because theyíve not been involved in the process ó and I know that isnít easy in a small population, because we know what happens here when we step on peopleís territories. They believe itís their holy ground and there are no changes that are ever going to be made on the great programs that theyíre operating.
I guess one of the motions that I brought forward was the idea of looking at the downtown area. Maybe we should be building a new school for French immersion. Maybe we should be looking at providing a small, if that is the term, two- or three-room school for the English stream downtown ó somehow, not necessarily building, maybe using another facility ó but using Whitehorse Elementary for other things like a community centre. We know that building is the oldest building in town, besides the Wood Street building ó and, by the way, we are using it for a very productive use. That could be a family centre. There are all kinds of options that we could look at. We canít try to make those decisions today and then do them tomorrow. They have to be discussed now, and then one has to look at the future as to how we will carry on.
I have a couple more questions. One is around the school councils association. I know that they were quite concerned about the Education Act, and I am not going to go over that ground again, but I believe that the school act has a few deficiencies in it. I believe that, unless the school councils come forward shortly ó and I noticed the minister didnít offer an answer as to whether the school act is going to come forward, and I donít know if the minister has had some time to think about it now, but there are only three days left. I am going to ask that question again: is the school act going to be delayed until the fall?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: One of the things that has become important to me, as a minister, is that I talk to the principals involved before I start articulating decisions on the floor of the Legislature. I recognize the time constraints for the member opposite and for all of us here. However, I am not prepared to make an answer until such time as those principal stakeholders are notified.
Mr. Roberts: Then Iím assuming ó and Iíll just be presumptuous here ó that unless the minister has heard from all the school councils by tomorrow or Wednesday, the minister is going to wait until she hears from all the stakeholders. Is that what Iím hearing?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iím not sure to whom the member opposite is listening. I have given the answer that Iím comfortable with, and thatís that Iíll be contacting the school councils, the association and the First Nations before any announcement is made on the floor.
Mr. Roberts: Iíll sort of not go down that path any more because Iíve obviously run up against a roadblock here. I would encourage the minister to ó and I think the minister has done this ó go back to the stakeholders and ask them where the deficiencies are and what we can do to build the package so that we can all believe in it and be part of it. Because one would not want to bring an act to the floor where some of the partners are not with us ó some of the major partners.
I guess, Mr. Chair, thatís sort of my concern. And I know that isnít easy because, boy, everyone is an expert ó all parents, all of us. We are close to 30,000 people, and weíre all experts on education because we all went to school. And thatís the reality. So, what we have to do is respond to that accordingly. We have to make sure that we involve our partners in the process of trying to build for the future.
Something obviously went off the rails here, otherwise the act would have come through and we all would have endorsed it because itís the right thing that the community and Yukon wanted. But that doesnít seem to be the case.
So, Iím just encouraging the minister to keep that open mind and follow through on those issues, particularly when we look at the future, because I think there are probably many more hot issues that are going to come forward.
With that, Iím going to cease my discussion, and if anybody wants to take over, they may.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, weíll proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Education Support Services
Administration in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in the Education budget cleared or carried as required.
I think all the opposition benches are onside with clearing this department in the budget, so I would move that we just clear the whole department.
Unanimous consent re deeming lines read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Fentie has requested unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent to deem the entire Education budget read and passed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent in the House. Weíll just do the formality, then.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $92,328,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: Now weíll proceed to the Executive Council Office. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iím happy to introduce the Executive Council Office budget for 2002-03. This budget is focused to support the objectives set out in the Executive Council Office accountability plan. We have passed the March 31 land claims deadline. However, we still treat the settlement of outstanding claims as our highest priority and to further develop and promote government-to-government relationships with First Nations.
Executive Council Office is also responsible for achieving an effective devolution transfer and for overseeing the renewal initiative.
The next budget period will see some significant milestones in the history of the Yukon, and this budget will allow us to achieve these things.
This budget forecasts an overall spending of $15,423,000. This is a net $64,000 increase for Executive Council Office over the 2001-02 forecast.
The financial summary on page 4B-1 of the estimates speaks clearly to our efforts to follow through on land claims and building government-to-government relationships with First Nations, devolution, overseeing the renewal initiative, and development assessment, or the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act.
Our top priority, land claims, has a full $6,209,000 of funding included in this budget, or approximately 41 percent of the total ECO O&M budget.
ECO will provide corporate oversight to the renewal initiative, which came fully into effect as of April 1. Throughout the year, Yukoners will see new benefits unfold as the departmentsí service improvement plans are implemented. This is one step in the long process of restoring confidence in government. Yukoners said they wanted better access to services and programs, and we will deliver these.
This government and each department will be held accountable. Each government department has developed accountability plans that have been posted on our Web site for all to see. This is how we will be measured. The departments have established targets and objectives. The performance of this government will be determined by how well we meet these targets and objectives.
We are just beginning this process and there is still much to learn about moving into an era of streamlined service delivery. We have, however, rounded a corner where we, as a government, are not shying away from seeking new, innovative ways to serve our citizens and being accountable for the results.
The proposed budget recognizes that the government must continue to use our limited financial resources wisely and ensure priority initiatives are fully supported.
The land claims implementation secretariat budget has been maintained to dedicate the resources necessary to complete the negotiations work and meet governmentís obligations for implementation.
The March 31 land claims negotiations deadline is behind us and we are, of course, extremely pleased and proud of all of the parties who contributed so much to reaching agreements and initialling the memoranda of understanding. There is, of course, a great deal of work still to be done, as members know very well.
Over the next several months, we will dedicate the resources necessary to complete all of the legal and technical work and implementation planning to bring the outstanding agreements toward ratification. As that work nears completion, we will shift our resources to increase Yukonís efforts to the implementation side of the land claims process. We recognize that the greater focus of land claims has been on the negotiation of agreements. Itís time to refocus on implementing the agreements, to ensuring we have the resources to meet our commitments and to contribute to giving life to these agreements.
The LCIS, or land claims implementation secretariat, budget has therefore been maintained at the current level so that we have the flexibility to make the necessary shifts. The staffing and operating costs are necessary to support the completion of the final and self-government agreements and, as negotiations work is completed, will be applied to our implementation needs. As before, the budget will continue to provide resources to support the ongoing needs of umbrella final agreement boards and councils and implementation projects as committed to in the First Nations final agreements.
This yearís total budget estimate for the land claims implementation secretariat, therefore, includes continued support for the negotiation and implementation of the Yukon development assessment process, or, as I mentioned earlier, the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act.
The budget this year for land claims reflects this governmentís continued commitment to completing land claims agreements, to the future in supporting the effective implementation of agreements and our dedication to building and maintaining strong and respectful government-to-government relations with Yukon First Nations.
First Nation relations ó this is part of our ongoing development of positive intergovernmental relations with First Nation governments. The 2002-03 budget contemplates that $1,304,000 will be spent on First Nation relations.
As land claims are now nearing completion, we now begin to implement the agreements that have been negotiated.
The budget for the aboriginal language program is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government and amounts to $1.1 million.
Discussions continue with Yukon First Nations over the transfer of aboriginal languages into one house of language. Iím very pleased to report that aboriginal language services, the Department of Education and the Yukon Native Language Centre are all working together to address this issue.
Devolution ó on March 26, the Canadian Parliament gave royal assent to Bill C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act. It was truly a watershed event in the history of the Yukon and for the work we do in this House. We are extremely proud of all of the efforts that have brought us to this historic milestone.
Iíd like to take this opportunity to recognize that previous governments also worked hard to get us to where we are today. With thoughtful input from a great many Yukoners, First Nations, organizations and other interests, and through negotiations with Canada, we have effectively developed a Yukon constitution.
While the effective date of transfer will be April 1, 2003, there is still much work to be done between now and then to address issues related to the DTA. Completing devolution has been one of the seven priorities for this government. I am very proud of this achievement and the promise it holds for all Yukoners.
Between now and April 1, 2003, we will work cooperatively with Canada, specifically the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, to make the transition of programs and staff to the Yukon a positive one.
Government audit services is also contained in Executive Council Office. Over the winter we hired a senior professional auditor in Executive Council Office who was charged with the task of focusing on effectiveness and efficiency in government.
A specific project will be set out in the audit services branch work plan that will be reviewed by the audit committee and approved by Management Board. Key initiatives in 2002-03 include developing a new audit workplan, recruiting staff for two vacant positions in the audit unit, and completing an audit and evaluation risk assessment.
A critical component of the renewal initiative is the role of the accountability and planning unit. The principal activities of this branch are to sustain and develop the governmentís framework. The intent of the governmentís accountability framework is to enable Yukoners to call government to account by comparing what it did with what it said it would do, and to provide the opportunity to respond to feedback and act on lessons learned. This branch will work directly with departments to refine the accountability planning process and establish ongoing performance measures and the systems to track performance and outcomes, validate and evaluate effectiveness of departmentsí reported performance measures, track overall progress against accountability plans and produce a consolidated progress report. The position works under the direction of the assistant deputy minister of policy and planning.
In conclusion, with respect to the Executive Council Office, our strong focus is on completing the land claims process and advancing self-government implementation, following through on the devolution of transfer agreements, moving forward the development assessment process, or the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act, and Executive Council Office corporate oversight for all of government has yielded significant results. Executive Council Office work has also positively influenced our relationship with other governments and will continue to play an important role in restoring confidence in government for the benefit of all Yukoners.
I am looking forward to a detailed discussion of these estimates. I would just advise my colleagues opposite that the minister responsible for the status of women will answer any specific questions with respect to expenditures for the former Womenís Directorate. The minister responsible for youth will answer any specific questions with regard to youth expenditures in the budget.
I am now prepared for any general questions on Executive Council Office.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a number of questions Iíd like to ask the Premier, the minister, in regard to this department. I am going to ask questions on devolution, land claims, development assessment process, the First Nation secretariat, but I would like to start off first asking the minister about travel and the travel budget they have for ministers.
We have seen an increase in travel in the past couple of years. We donít know whether or not there is an increase this year over last year in travel. So maybe that will be the first question that the minister can answer ó whether or not there is an increase and why there is an increase in travel.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If I could just advise the member opposite that Iíll just be a moment. I had these figures in the House several times, and I will just pull them forward. Iíll just be a moment.
I have the travel figures for last year, and that information has been made available to the members opposite, as I understand it.
We have tracked our travel in terms of out-of-territory as well as in-territory travel. The point, of course, of travel is that the Yukonís voice is then heard on national issues affecting Yukon people, which is, of course, a key responsibility of this government. Yukon ministers, or their representatives, take part in intergovernmental meetings when itís important for the Yukon to advance its position affecting the territory for the betterment of residents. For example, there was a recent ministers of environment meeting held in Charlottetown ó unfortunately, our Minister of Environment was unable to attend, although the department officials did.
With respect to travel, the travel figures for the 2001-02 fiscal year, the year just concluded, there has been $211,812.06 spent on travel. That is within the territory and outside the territory. Of course, Mr. Chair, I also must note for the members opposite that our in-territory travel, which is quite substantial, is also included in this; of course, we are not reimbursed in any other method for our travel, but that is part of the expenses, as recorded here.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, Iím interested in knowing what the increase was over the previous governmentís travel budget. Is this double the budget that, say, was budgeted for the last year of the NDP? Is this double the amount that was there? Can the Premier elaborate a bit on that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can elaborate. In fiscal year 1999-2000, which was the last year of the NDP government, not all costs for Cabinet travel were charged to Executive Council Office. Various trips were charged out to specific departments.
So there was a difference in the recording. In 1999-2000, about $30,000 was charged out to various departments and not reflected in the Executive Council Office. So there is a difference there. All Cabinet travel is being recorded in the Executive Council Office budget. So in 1999-2000, the year I just spoke of, travel was in excess of $79,000 but, again, $30,000 was charged to departments. So in actual fact, the figure is closer to around $100,000, or slightly over. In 2000-01, which was the first year in which all costs were tracked to the Executive Council Office, then that figure was $181,000 ó just slightly over that ó and then 2001-02 was $211,812.06, as I outlined to the member earlier.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for that answer, Mr. Chair. I would like to know what the Premier is doing to curb the travel when, in opposition, the Premier was quite vocal about the amount of dollars that were in the budget for Executive Council Office for travel of ministers. Iím wondering where it is going from here? Weíve seen the travel budget increase. Whatís the Premier doing to keep people home here in the Yukon Territory and take on the issues here in the territory versus how they felt in opposition?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, there are a number of comments Iíd like to make in response to that.
First of all, itís fairly standard and expected that most governments, in the first year, where there are a number of ministerial conferences, that ministers are represented. That is fairly standard procedure for most new governments, and that certainly occurred with this government.
We have also had a number of other initiatives that previous governments have not faced, one being the promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline, of course. Second, we have had more than one annual premiers conference a year, which is an additional travel cost, as well as the events that necessitate travel, such as attendance at the state funeral and then, of course, there was September 11. Also, there have been increases in prices, not only for fuel, as the member knows well because the fuel allocation has increased. That would account for an increase in travel within the territory, as would some of the other items.
In terms of the Yukon-specific, the attendance by ministers enabled Yukon to host and obtain the Prairie Northern Conference on FASD, which the Minister of Health just hosted. Women from across Canada will gather in Whitehorse this fall for the ministers responsible for the status of women conference. Thatís a result of travel. I will be hosting the western premiers and western governors conference in Dawson City.
As well, of course, devolution necessitated several trips. The Pacific Northwest Economic Region ó the Minister of Education has participated in a number of their meetings, including participating now as an elected member of their executive and vice-president of PNWER, which is important for the Yukon. We will hopefully be hosting them. We will certainly be bidding to host the Pacific Northwest Economic Region meeting. And there have been the trade missions closer to home, including to Inuvik, and the Cabinet tours, as well as a number of other initiatives that have resulted from the travel of this government. We certainly have the results to show from the trips, and the results are there for all Yukoners in terms of, we hope, a positive announcement with respect to the Canada Winter Games and, of course, for the attendance at Arctic Winter Games we had two locations to travel to ó Iqaluit and Nuuk. Of course, some of the other travel done by the other ministers bears results as well.
Mr. Fairclough: Weíve seen some of the results of travelling in the Yukon. For example, weíve seen the Minister of Renewable Resources travel with an RV, and the result we have is increasing campground fees. Thatís what weíve seen. That was the result of the travel. Mr. Chair, you can bet that they did not go to many of the campgrounds in the Yukon Territory. Did they stop in Carmacks, the two campgrounds in Carmacks, Mr. Chair? I donít believe so.
Itís obvious from the comments that we got back from my community that they were not there. The minister was not there. Obviously, there was an interest to do some upgrading to campgrounds, and thatís what we see as a result of travel. So the Premier is right. We do see some results, and thatís one of them.
Iíd like to ask the Premier about travelling, the type of travelling that takes place. Because what we saw last summer with the RV, there was nothing put forward out there in the general public, but I could tell you there were a lot of people who phoned us in the opposition about the fact that the minister went out and rented an RV, and this is something people can only dream of in the Yukon Territory ó and thatís what took place.
I would bet that the minister did not even pay for the campground fees as he pulled into these campgrounds ó and the private campgrounds for that matter. That was expressed tremendously around the territory. Iíve talked to those owners, and they are not happy with what took place.
The time being close to 6:00 p.m., Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fairclough that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 27, 2002:
Banking agreement with TD Canada Trust: Yukon Government obligations re loss or theft (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3719