Monday, November 5, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Billy Blair (Enoch)
Mr. McRobb: I rise today to pay tribute to the respected elder Billy Blair of Beaver Creek, who passed away on August 28 from a heart illness that he battled bravely for 10 years.
Billy Blair was born at Snag village in 1932. He treasured traditional life, had a close connection to the traditional and spiritual teachings of his ancestors, was a skilled hunter and trapper, and used a dog team in his early years.
Also known by his traditional name, Billy Gai raised seven children with his wife Mary. Billy was an early pioneer of the land claims movement. He participated in establishing the Council of Yukon Indians and was elected for a term as chief of the Kluane Tribal Council.
Later, Billy played a pivotal role in correcting the improper amalgamation of the White River and Scottie Creek peoples into the Kluane Tribal Council. One of his proudest days came in 1989, when he, as co-chief with Stan Peters, took the helm of the re-established White River First Nation, the territory's fourteenth First Nation. Billy continued to demonstrate his leadership and, at the time of his passing, he was a councillor with the White River First Nation. He maintained a youthful sense of wonderment about the world around him throughout his life, and never retreated from the future.
He had a rich view of the world and accepted the differences of others. Billy Blair will always be remembered as a good listener, for being a reliable provider for his family and people, and for his commitment to preserving the rights of his First Nation. Billy leaves behind many family members and friends. He will be sadly missed but not forgotten.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I, too, rise to pay tribute to a proud Yukoner and respected elder, Billy Blair. Elder Billy Blair was a member of the Crow clan, and we would like to offer our condolences and heartfelt wishes to the family members, as well as the community of White River and the White River First Nation. His advice and his leadership have been sadly missed.
Mr. Blair was an activist who fought very hard for the rights of the White River First Nation and for aboriginal peoples, generally. He was a pioneer in the land claims movement. I was honoured to have met with him in my role as Premier and to attend the memorial service this summer in his honour.
In his younger days, Billy Blair helped to establish what is known as the Council of Yukon First Nations from the Yukon Native Brotherhood and the Yukon Association of Non-status Indians. White River became the fourteenth First Nation of the Yukon because of Billy's courage and leadership. He was also skilled in traditional pursuits like trapping and hunting and, as was stated at the service, he knew his way around a dogsled and he knew how to tell a good story.
Obstacles did not deter Billy Blair although he experienced polio, heart troubles and the loss of both parents at a very young age. It was a great strength of character that motivated him to keep going. There was always work to do and he was always willing to do it. As noted, Mr. Speaker, he was an advisor both to his First Nation, his community, and of course to his family, and he is sadly missed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of the Red Ribbon Campaign - Tie One On For Safety
Hon. Ms. Buckway: On behalf of the Yukon Legislature, I rise today to pay tribute to a terrific project: the Red Ribbon Campaign - Tie One On For Safety.
As Minister of Justice and Community and Transportation Services, with the support of my colleague, the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, I am happy to talk about this worthy campaign.
The campaign started today and ends on January 1. It is sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD. This grassroots organization was formed in 1990 to eliminate impaired driving, give support to those injured and to support those bereaved because of drunk drivers.
I am very pleased to announce that this year the national Red Ribbon Campaign was launched here in the Yukon just this morning. This honour is in recognition of the work our government has done to stop impaired driving.
I am told that over four million red ribbons will be distributed throughout Canada during this campaign.
In the Yukon, donation boxes and ribbons will be available at the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the motor vehicles office in Whitehorse and all government liquor stores.
I would like to welcome MADD's national president, Louise Knox, who has come from Lakeland, Alberta, to launch the Red Ribbon Campaign, and she is in the visitor's gallery today.
I would like to thank Louise Knox for the recognition that MADD gave us last June when it announced that the Yukon is one of three jurisdictions in Canada introducing legislation to save lives and make roads safer.
The Yukon government is grappling with the issue of impaired driving. We implemented the graduated driver's licence - or GDL - program in September 2000. The GDL program requires the learning driver and co-driver, regardless of their ages, to be totally alcohol-free. There are also stern penalties in place for those caught breaking these rules.
Our government is also putting more teeth into the vehicle impoundment program. It will double the current one-to-four-month impoundment periods when a driver is caught with a blood/alcohol reading that is double the legal limit.
Later this year, the Yukon government expects to implement a new program targeting repeat offenders, called the ignition interlock program. This undertaking will see the installation of a device that will lock the ignition of a vehicle if there is alcohol on the driver's breath. This program will apply to those convicted of impaired driving who want their licences back.
I lost a cousin here many years ago in a crash that involved a drunk driver. I make no bones about it: this issue is close to my heart.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask you and everyone in this Legislature to reflect on the enormous loss to society of the four to five people killed daily in Canada and the 125 Canadians seriously injured every day by drunk drivers. These broken lives and the lifelong effect on their loved ones is a price we are no longer willing to pay, so I would ask you to support the Red Ribbon Campaign. You can do that by tying a red ribbon to your vehicle as a sign of respect for those injured or killed as a result of an impaired driver. With this gesture, you are also making a personal commitment to drive sober during the hectic Christmas season and all the rest of the year.
Mr. Speaker, I am aware that the season for celebrations is coming. During this time, we put in long days between our work routines and holiday social events. These things can all contribute to impaired driving. In fact, many behaviours that can lead to auto crashes can be avoided, so pull over to use the car phone, be alert to the behaviour of other drivers in case they are impaired, avoid medications that cause drowsiness, and don't drive when you're tired. Finally, whatever you do, don't get behind the wheel if you have been drinking. Your life and those of others could depend on it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have already noted that Louise Knox, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is with us in the gallery from Alberta. Please make her welcome.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return. On October 30, the Member for Watson Lake asked an oral question regarding spending for Watson Lake in the 2001-02 Supplementary No. 1 budget.
And, Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return. On November 1, 2001, the Member for Klondike asked an oral question in Hansard, page 2465, regarding the First Nation relations Cabinet position.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, in accordance with section 19 (3) of the Yukon Development Corporation Act, I am pleased to table the 2000 annual report for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 4 - response
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, in response to Petition No. 4, a public inquiry into policies and procedures and practices of family and children's services branch, I wish to thank the signators for the petition you delivered through your MLA, Mr. Keenan, on May 3, 2001.
You requested a public inquiry into the policies and procedures and the practices of family and children's services branch. It is important to this government to help those most in need. Children can be most vulnerable and need to be protected and served well by government. A public inquiry would have subjected individual children to a judicial process. In the best interest of the children, our government chose to do a public review of services. This government is very nearly finishing a public review of government group homes. We understand that many of the signators participated in this review. We expect a report to be made available to the public when it is finalized.
The second stage of this review is being done by the Child Welfare League of Canada. They are proceeding with a technical review of the Yukon government's children-in-care services. Again, I thank the signatories for taking such an important step in the best interests of Yukon children.
Speaker: Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the actions of the Member for Whitehorse West in attending meetings and holding discussions about the Whitehorse school busing contract, and the Liberal government's desire to achieve cost-savings that resulted in prolonged and intensive questioning during this legislative sitting;
(2) the Minister of Education has, on several occasions, provided information to this House that is incompatible with the information provided outside the House by the Member for Whitehorse West and by the local representative of the Teamsters Union;
(3) senior members of the Premier's political staff directly intervened to have information given by the union representative to the media substantively changed, leading to the appearance of a cover-up emanating from the Premier's office;
(4) it is in the best interests of the Member for Whitehorse West, the Minister of Education, all other Members of the Legislative Assembly and the Yukon public that full, accurate and consistent information about the actions of the Member for Whitehorse West with respect to the Whitehorse school busing contract be made public; and
THAT this House urges the Premier to commission a fair and independent review of all the facts surrounding this matter without delay, and to report the results of that review to the Legislative Assembly during the current sitting.
Mr. Keenan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act tabled almost a year ago as a private member's bill was designed to protect and advance the rights and interests of Yukon children, youth and their families related to designated services;
(2) the Yukon Liberal government has had more than enough time to make changes it deems necessary in order to bring a bill forward for debate in the Legislative Assembly; (3) in spite of the reluctance by the Minister of Health and Social Services to acknowledge ongoing problems in the area of children and youth in government care, the Liberal government did eventually undertake to commission a two-phase review of that issue, and
THAT this House urges the government to take its responsibilities to Yukon children, youth and families seriously and to bring forward a Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act for debate and passage by this House during the current legislative sitting.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Community recreation leadership endowment fund
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am pleased to inform the House and all recreation enthusiasts that this government is creating an endowment fund targeted at developing leadership in community recreation.
Yukoners have told us that development and training in community recreation leadership is a very high priority for them. Mr. Speaker, we listened.
Specifically, we are committing $750,000 to the community recreation leadership endowment fund. We hope this will encourage further contributions over time from government, private sector, and individuals.
We have good infrastructure in place for community recreation, and more facilities are under construction and being planned.
The community recreation leadership endowment fund will provide support for the human infrastructure, which is just as crucial in sport and recreation as is the capital infrastructure.
This government is determined to make active living a reality in this territory.
It is important that we support programs and events that encourage Yukoners to lead active and healthy lifestyles.
For our strategy to succeed, we recognize the need for more First Nation recreation staff in the communities, and we recognize the value of community recreation directors and volunteer coaches in shaping healthy communities.
The community recreation leadership endowment fund will cost-share Yukon-based training and development opportunities for these individuals.
The fund will be beneficial to communities, especially those for whom recruiting and retaining qualified recreation program leaders is often a struggle, and for those with less access to alternative funding sources.
Mr. Speaker, the fund will be administered by a board or committee at arm's length from the government.
In conjunction with community-based recreation stakeholders, we are now developing the board selection process as well as the framework and criteria for annual fund disbursements. There are now over 10,000 registered participants in more than 30 sport and recreation groups in the Yukon.
With this initiative, the Yukon government is reaffirming its commitment to encourage the well-being and active lifestyles of Yukoners and of Yukon communities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to start by commending the government for recognizing the importance of recreation to our Yukon society, especially in the area of development and training.
However, the immediate impact of this initiative is in doubt, given its funding is accrued mainly from interest on the $750,000. That, Mr. Speaker, amounts to only $2.00 per registered participant in the territory. Only a toonie. Hardly anything to get excited about. I wonder if that's even bus fare from Riverdale to the new multiplex.
So, in order for all recreation enthusiasts to become qualified recreation program leaders, obviously much more in the way of financial assistance would be required. I'm wondering about some of the information missing from the minister's statement, such as the noticeable omission of any time frames. This is something the Liberals asked for when in opposition but aren't able to deliver on when in government.
Is that doing things better? And do the Liberals, at any time, plan an evaluation of the endowment fund models? Ditto with that, Mr. Speaker. And, can the minister explain how the board selection process will work? Is it just another opportunity for political patronage and appointments of Liberal Party members, or is it really independent? Perhaps when the minister is on her feet, she can answer those questions.
As for the financing for the endowment funds, I would like to commend officials within the Finance department, who for years worked on the special adjustment to our census adjustment. The $3 million set aside this year to establish various endowments is a direct benefit of their work. But using this money to establish endowment funds that cannot be accessed now does little to improve the current bleak economic situation in the territory. And using interest-based models to deliver program funding at a time of modern-time record-low interest rates is questionable logic. To prove that, I will send the minister a chart printed today from the Bank of Canada's Web site.
On a related matter, I want to bring some fire to the feet of the Liberals for slashing the training trust funds. No longer will Yukoners and community organizations be able to access this important funding as in the past. Shame on the government for that. What the Liberals are doing here is tinkering with success. The training trust funds were highly successful. If it ain't broke, why fix it? And with a budget surplus of $99 million, it is not as if the government couldn't afford to continue such good programs as training trust funds. Look at what it has done to the community development fund. It was slashed in half this year and half again next year.
In summary, Mr. Speaker, we in the official opposition support community recreation and our volunteers, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of them and encourage them to continue to improve life in our communities for the future.
Mr. Jenkins: This is the third endowment fund to be established. We have the $250,000 youth endowment fund that was announced just last Monday; the $750,000 teacher mentoring endowment fund was announced last Wednesday; and now we have the $750,000 community recreation leadership endowment fund. I'm sure I've left out another one.
While the purpose of these funds is very good and can be supported, Mr. Speaker, let us expose what is going on here. This Liberal government has an embarrassment of riches - a $99-million surplus - and it wants to give the impression that it is spreading some of that wealth around. What better way to do it than to create an endowment fund? Because $250,000 or $750,000 sounds like a lot of money to the average Yukoner, and it is, but not all people realize that the only money that the various groups can actually spend is the interest earned on that fund. If the interest money totals five percent of the endowment fund, the committee distributing the money would be very, very lucky indeed. For example, the interest on the $250,000 youth endowment fund was purported to be $20,000 per year. It's more likely to be in the range of $12,500.
Similarly, when you examine the $750,000 trust funds, we're probably going to end up with about $37,000 to spend. If you take that $37,000, divide it by 30 sports and recreation groups with this last fund, or by the number of registered participants - 10,000 - then you can see, Mr. Speaker, that we are not talking a great amount of money. Why not give each group, say, $50,000 for the purposes intended, and save yet the formation of another committee?
How about an evaluation of these endowment funds? What we see is all smoke and mirrors to give the impression this Liberal government is being generous. In reality, this endowment fund strategy is designed to give the impression that this Liberal government is giving like Santa when, in fact, they are saving like Scrooge.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In response to some of the comments from the members opposite, this investment reflects the priorities of Yukoners. Like all of the endowments announced to date, this is a permanent investment in our future: $750,000 for the community recreation leadership endowment fund; $750,000 for the teacher mentoring endowment fund; $436,000 to bring the Yukon historic resources fund to $1 million; $250,000 for the creation of the Youth Voices endowment fund and our decision to put $10 million into the new Yukon permanent fund will provide lasting benefits for this and future generations of Yukoners.
Yukoners will have a direct say in how these funds are allocated annually and review will be built into the criteria for this fund.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Before calling Question Period today the Chair will provide a ruling on the point of order raised on Thursday, November 1, 2001.
During Question Period that day the Member for Klondike made reference to a "minister for parks in the Yukon." A point of order was raised because other members believed the Member for Klondike deliberately misstated the name of a Cabinet portfolio.
The events of last Thursday are of concern because the deliberate misstating of the names of ministerial portfolios has unfortunately become somewhat common. We have heard the Minister of Education called "the minister of damage control" and "the Minister of Education for Riverdale." The Minister of Health and Social Services has been called "the minister of flip-flop."
It is a long-standing tradition that members are to refer to one another by their constituency, ministerial portfolio, or other position they hold in this House. While inadvertent mistakes do happen, deliberate misstatements are not acceptable.
Clearly there is no "minister for parks" in the Government of Yukon. However, the Member for Klondike raised an important issue in his defence. The member defended his use of this term on the grounds that he was not referring to another member. The Chair thanks the Member for Klondike for providing the opportunity to address this issue.
Members are advised that the distinction made by the Member for Klondike offers members no protection. Guideline No. 8 in our Guidelines for Oral Question Period states:
A question must adhere to the proprieties of the House in that it must not contain inferences, impute motives or cast aspersions upon persons within the House or out of it.
While the guideline refers specifically to Question Period, members should adhere to this principle during all proceedings in this House. As The House of Commons Procedure and Practice notes at page 524:
"The Speaker has ruled that members have a responsibility to protect the innocent, not only from outright slander but from any slur directly or indirectly implied, and has stressed that members should avoid as much as possible mentioning by name people from outside the House who are unable to reply and defend themselves against innuendo."
To put it simply, inventing names of portfolios to embarrass members of this House, or persons outside this House, will not be accepted.
On a related issue the Chair has also had to intervene in clear cases of unparliamentary language. For example, we have heard words and phrases like "bullying", "circus clown" and "the Hyland hyena", and a suggestion that government ministers have contradicted their oath of office.
These examples are only some of those that have invited interventions by the Chair. There are many other examples - phrases like "gong show" "pork-barrel politics" and suggestions that some members operate on the basis of fabricated information, rumour and innuendo. These words and phrases, while not ruled unparliamentary, have clearly contributed to disorder and a lack of decorum.
As bad as the use of particular words and phrases is the general atmosphere of disrespect that seems to permeate so many of the proceedings in this House. Members frequently question the integrity and competence of other members and the truthfulness of their statements.
Members also interrupt proceedings on points of order to, in their words, "correct the record". They do this even though the Chair has told members repeatedly that efforts to correct the record are not points of order and should not be raised as such. Members will have a chance to correct the record the next time they have the floor.
The Chair would also like to remind members of the role of the Chair and of the relationship between the Chair and members in maintaining order and decorum in this House.
According to Standing Order 6(1) "The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum, and shall decide questions of order."
While the Speaker is responsible for enforcing the rules of this Assembly, all members have a duty to preserve order and decorum and uphold the dignity of this House.
Members can fulfill this duty in two ways: first, by adhering to the Standing Orders and practices of this Assembly. Members can also fulfill this duty in the way in which they deal with points of order in this Chamber. In deciding questions of order, the Chair often entertains submissions from members. Members should remember that they are to advise, and not direct, the Chair. It is not helpful to the Chair for members to simply tell the Chair that there is, or is not, a point of order. In advising the Chair, members should refer to a specific Standing Order or practice that they believe has, or has not, been violated.
Finally, the Chair assures members that great care is taken in dealing with issues of language in this House. Freedom of speech is a fundamental parliamentary privilege and it is only with great reluctance that the Chair intervenes in debate. At the same time, members must keep in mind that parliamentarians have historically been guaranteed freedom of speech so they could debate issues of public concern, not so they could abuse or belittle each other.
Members on both sides of the House should remember that dealing with the public's business is difficult at the best of times. Members will do both themselves and all Yukoners a favour by striving to create and maintain an atmosphere of civility and mature decorum in this Legislative Assembly. I thank members in advance for making the efforts I know they are capable of in this regard.
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Education. Why did the minister suddenly and secretively dissolve the Education Act Review Steering Committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I did not secretively dissolve or unilaterally dissolve the steering committee. It was at the request of the remaining partners group of the Education Act Review Steering Committee that I dissolved the committee. The remaining committee members also offered to continue reviewing the public comments and provide me with their advice. I have accepted their gracious offer. I have also extended this invitation to the First Nation representatives as well.
Mrs. Peter: The draft recommendations were already compromised by the first rejection of recommendation 120 and then by the introduction of Bill No. 47. The committee requested an extension to rework the recommendations, which was denied. Does this mean that there will be no final report of the Education Act Review Steering Committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't believe that we have compromised in any way, shape or form the recommendations that have been presented by the Education Act Review Steering Committee.
Just to further on the information with respect to the review committee, I have also sent letters to the working groups that each of the partner groups represented and thanked them for the support of their members. It is unfortunate that the committee had to ask for dissolution, Mr. Speaker. However, their own terms of reference did not permit them to operate unless all partner groups were involved. Therefore, the Education Act Review Steering Committee did have to stand down.
Mrs. Peter: The minister has frequently referred to the hard work of this steering committee over the last two years, yet he was unwilling to listen to them and they felt they could not continue. How will the minister guarantee that the voices of all parties will be represented in the new legislation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Speaker, I did answer the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin's first question with a response that the committee has requested that I recognize that they act on an advisory capacity to the public comments on the draft recommendations that came to them. I have also directly extended an invitation to the First Nations to maintain representation in the advisory group. I have chosen to accept the offer of the remaining Education Act Review Steering Committee members because they have gained a considerable volume of knowledge over the past two and a half years.
I and they felt that they could still contribute something to the review, Mr. Speaker, and I am very much looking forward to their advice and to their report on the comments they did receive.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: My question, again, is for the Minister of Education.
The process was flawed right from the moment the minister hired a former Liberal president. It was further flawed when the minister cherry-picked from the draft recommendations.
Why should we have any confidence in this new process?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I am sure that Yukoners, overall, have confidence in the decisions and actions that we have taken.
The members opposite know full well that the person who was hired to lead the review steering committee was fully competent to do the job, regardless of what political ilk he was from.
I have trusted his judgement. I have trusted and respected the whole review committee's actions. I respect the consultations that they've done and I look forward to the advisory committee's report.
Mrs. Peter: Despite that, this illusion of the steering committee - there are apparently meetings occurring now to advise the minister regarding the public responses.
Will the minister confirm that the Education Act review secretariat is meeting November 4 to 6, and can he explain what he hopes to have accomplished as a result of these meetings?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, if the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin would just listen to the answers that I am providing, they are full and complete in advising her that the members are still there working in an advisory capacity and that they are reviewing all the comments that were received on the draft recommendations.
They have asked me to maintain the group in an advisory capacity in order that two and a half years of work does not just get cast aside, Mr. Speaker.
I am respecting their wish. I am respecting the information that they are now reviewing and I am respecting the long work that this group has put into this study.
Mrs. Peter: There is no guarantee that the partners in education will be represented. There's no guarantee that the public responses to the draft recommendations will be properly reflected. Will the minister commit to another round of public input on the work of the secretariat prior to making any further changes to the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite is not listening to the answer. We have been at this for two and a half years, and they have done a tremendous amount of work. Their consultations have been exhaustive throughout the territory. I am respecting the work that they did, Mr. Speaker, and they are reviewing the input that was provided by the public on the draft recommendations and will, in an advisory capacity, be providing me with their summaries.
Question re: FAS/FAE registry
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
During the 2000 election campaign, the only political party to tackle head-on the serious issue of FAS/FAE was the Yukon Party. The Yukon Party proposed a five-step action plan, including prevention programs to reduce alcohol consumption of high-risk parents, early diagnosis before the age of six, the provision of a wide range of support services to create a stable, nurturing environment, the establishment of a team of professionals to provide both diagnostic and support services, and investigating the feasibility of providing group homes for adults with FAS/FAE.
The Liberals didn't even specifically mention FAS/FAE in their platform, and they chose instead to emphasize the creation of a new alcohol and drug secretariat. Now, dealing with FAS/FAE wasn't a Liberal priority. Now that the FAS/FAE registry isn't working, with only 11 persons being registered, will the minister agree to implement the five-step Yukon Party action plan, particularly the establishment of a professional FAS/FAE diagnostic team?
Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: First of all, I want to correct the member opposite. To say that the registry isn't working is not an appropriate statement. It is not a perfect system - nothing is; it's the first year that we have had it in operation, so it has to have some time before we really can flush out all the problems.
The FAS registry is a high priority with our new medical officer. The medical officer of the Yukon and department officials are currently looking at options with respect to the FAS registry. They believe it has a very valuable place in trying to identify our problems, and they are going to be stressing the importance of this registry with our physicians. Our physicians are very much on side and obviously if there are problems with it, we hope to address those.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just look at the minister and the Premier. They both have attended conferences and made the erroneous claim that the Yukon is a leader in dealing with FAS/FAE. For one year the registry has been in place and we have 11 persons. The minister can't explain how he is going to tackle this very important problem. There isn't even a professional team in place to diagnose the persons suffering with this affliction. Can I once again encourage the minister to establish a team of professionals to diagnose the existence of FAS/FAE in our population? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Our government believes that FAS is a very important issue in our communities, and I heard that in community after community. And, we are committed to finding solutions and finding ways of trying to ensure that we identify those who are afflicted. But that isn't the answer. The answer is trying to prevent it and that is really where we are trying to go. We really want to prevent this. This is one of the issues in our society that is preventable and we don't necessarily, as I have said before, have all the answers. We never said we had all the answers, but we are working toward coming to some solutions and we will continue to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I do agree with the minister that prevention is part of the process, but we have to deal with those in our population who are afflicted with FAS/FAE - and the earlier the better, but at least by the age of six.
Therefore, will the minister give a specific commitment here today that he will establish a professional team to provide diagnostic and support services for those afflicted with FAS/FAE? Will the minister make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The previous administration supported the FAS registry, and I think today they still support that registry. We, again, don't believe it's the be-all and end-all of trying to resolve the problem. We know it isn't.
There is an all-committee working right now. This is a group of professional people and community people who have been working together to try to come forward with a suggestion of how we could identify even better our afflicted people. That report is basically in the process of being submitted to me. I haven't got it yet. My understanding is that it will be coming within the next couple of weeks.
We will, as a government, then look at it, evaluate and assess it, and see what we can do. Obviously, we're committed to that, Mr. Speaker; otherwise they wouldn't be submitting a report in that area.
So, we're very positive about moving down the path of trying to come up with better solutions, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: School busing contract
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education.
To the minister's own knowledge, what was the date the Member for Whitehorse West discussed the Whitehorse school busing contract with the owner of Diversified Transportation Ltd?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I do appreciate the members taking suit to how we answer questions on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, by spreading it among themselves over there. It was a little bit of a surprise coming from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Mr. Speaker, quite frankly the head of the Teamsters Union was on CBC Radio this afternoon, as a matter of fact, at about 12:05, and he confirmed that the meeting attended by the Member for Whitehorse West occurred in early February.
He went on to say, "It would be nice if the NDP would phone me and get the facts straight."
He went on to criticize the NDP for attempting to make an issue out of this, Mr. Speaker. I would urge the members opposite to review the transcripts for those comments. They have challenged me on how I respect the unions. I would challenge them to do the same.
Mrs. Peter: I have a related question for the minister. To the minister's own knowledge, what were the dates the Member for Whitehorse West met with the company's drivers to discuss the government's desire to achieve cost-savings on this contract?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I don't think, quite frankly, if I provided the information the member was asking that she'd hear it anyway. So we have said time and time again that the Member for Whitehorse West was just doing his job. The meeting took place well before the House sat, well before the tender was even let, Mr. Speaker. I have spoken with the head of the Teamsters, and he has confirmed these facts. The Member for Whitehorse West has also confirmed these facts, Mr. Speaker. I would again ask the members opposite to stand in this House and identify whether or not they have contacted these individuals directly to get the facts.
Mrs. Peter: One more question for the minister, Mr. Speaker. And I don't recall letting the minister know that I have anything wrong with my hearing.
To the minister's own knowledge, what was the nature of the cost-saving measures the Member for Whitehorse West discussed with the drivers?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I was only challenging the member opposite to listen to what I had to say, Mr. Speaker; I wasn't questioning her hearing capabilities.
Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I have it on good authority that the members opposite have not bothered to speak to anybody in the union or with the owner. So I would challenge the members to do that, Mr. Speaker, because I have. I do have the facts, and I have presented the facts in this House soundly, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: School busing contract
Mr. Fentie: I have some follow-up questions for the same minister.
Now, the minister has said that we should be going out and calling people about the facts; however, it's the minister's job to provide this Assembly the facts. Herein lies the problem.
During questioning in this House over the last couple of weeks, the minister has created a very murky situation, and it's getting murkier.
First, we have discussion of efficiencies - only at Timmy's, but then we find out later that there were actually three meetings that took place: one with the owner, one at Timmy's - a coffee meeting - and one with the union.
That shows, beyond any doubt, that the minister has provided information in this House that is contradictory to what was happening.
My question to the minister: when he provided incorrect information to this House, was the minister acting alone or was he acting upon the directions from the Premier's office and/or her staff?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's a good one, Mr. Speaker. The members opposite don't have the stomach to check the facts, so they would rather cast - and they're very good at it - aspersions on this side of the House.
As a matter of fact, to answer the question, Mr. Speaker: I am aware that the Member for Whitehorse West did meet with the owner, did meet with the union and did meet with the union leader. I am aware of all those facts, Mr. Speaker, and I have provided the facts to the House.
So, I would ask the member again if he would have the courtesy to contact these individuals themselves so that he could confirm the facts that I provided in the House.
Mr. Fentie: That's the problem. Those aren't the facts that the same minister provided this House day after day in questioning. It's only suddenly, out of the blue, that he is now providing the facts. Very interesting.
I think it's well documented that this minister has provided information that contradicts information that was released to the public, showing clearly that the minister's information to this House was incorrect. And I might add, Mr. Speaker, it's the minister's duty to provide the correct information in this Assembly. That's the minister's job.
When the minister finally realized that the information that he provided to this House contradicted the Member for Whitehorse West, why, when asked to apologize, did he not apologize in this House and correct the record?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't know what copy of Hansard the Member for Watson Lake is reading. I have no idea. I have provided the facts, all along in this House, on this situation, but the members go on and on and on. As I explained in my previous answer, they don't have the courtesy to validate the facts, right from the sources, that they are challenging. They are challenging those public members, whom I have contacted myself, to verify the facts provided to me by the Member for Whitehorse West. They should validate those facts themselves to be responsible to this House.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that is interesting. It's a very interesting spin on this issue, because those people of whom the minister speaks are who provided information that clearly showed that what the minister was telling us in this Assembly was incorrect. Will the minister admit that, once again, he gave this House incorrect information, and will he apologize to this Assembly or do the honourable thing and step down?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the official leader of the official opposition just chirped across the House, of course not. No, I am not standing down, Mr. Speaker, because I have done nothing wrong. The Member for Whitehorse West has done nothing wrong.
The Member for Watson Lake is continually creating credibility issues based on the facts that we have provided in this House, which he is choosing to ignore. And if he doesn't like the answers and facts that I am providing, I have offered, and so has the head of the union, to provide the facts to the member opposite. But, as of noon today, they haven't bothered - or haven't extended the courtesy, not necessarily to the members on this side of the House, but at least to the public whom they say that they are always representing or hearing from in this House. Or are they choosing not to listen to the public as well?
Question re: School busing contact
Mr. Fentie: I'd like to follow up with the Premier on this issue. First off, Mr. Speaker, it may be a fact that the Minister of Education has been duped in this matter by the Premier's office and/or her staff. Secondly, it's the minister and his answers that have provided credibility problems for the government on this issue. Furthermore, let's look at what the union head did say, and what he called this Minister of Education. I believe the word starts with an "l", has an "i-a" and ends in an "r".
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Premier has a really serious issue to deal with here.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: The Minister of Education, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, we're all capable of spelling in this House, and I don't believe that was parliamentary in any way, shape or form, what the member opposite just did.
Speaker: On the point of order, the letters uttered by the Member for Watson Lake spell out "liar", and that is unparliamentary in this House. After the warnings I have previously delivered, I'll ask the Member for Watson Lake to withdraw that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I was only providing this House what a member of the public had called the minister, but I certainly will retract that.
May I continue?
Speaker: You may ask a question.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This minister has constantly provided various dates and information to these issues. Now, we know that, originally, a member of the union had told the news media that there was a meeting that took place on March 27, a meeting that was well within the timelines of the sitting, and two days before the tender for the school busing contract closed.
My question to the Premier: how is it, then, that this minister's facts have changed again today from the March 27 date that was provided publicly, upon the call from the Premier's office to the union head? Will the Premier answer that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Watson Lake is very skilled at asking a question. I noticed that in the question, yes, there was a date of March 27 mentioned, but it was not implied that the Member for Whitehorse West was there. Very good. Very good.
There may well have been a March 27 meeting, Mr. Speaker, but the Member for Whitehorse West was not there. Again, I'm going to quote from the news this afternoon where the leader of the Teamsters had suggested, "It would be nice if the NDP would phone me and get the facts straight before they mouth off. We've got enough people out of work in the territory, and it's about time they started working with the government in trying to get jobs created."
Mr. Fentie: Well, the reason, Mr. Speaker, we are asking these questions is because people have come forward with their concerns about what has taken place. Now, the Premier cannot sit silent on this issue. We have, no matter what the members opposite may try and spin here, the appearance of political interference in the tendering process. We have a minister who's providing contradictory information to this Assembly, and now we have an implication of the Premier's office calling people in the public, jogging their memories, and conveniently they have changed the dates. The Premier has to act. Will the Premier now undertake an inquiry or an independent investigation into this matter simply to clear the air? Will she do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, again, I would invite the members opposite, as the public has also publicly asked, to contact them to get the facts. They are always espousing in this House, Mr. Speaker, that they are hearing all the time from Yukoners. Well, Mr. Speaker, are they being selective in whom they talk to? Is that what they're suggesting, Mr. Speaker? Their union friends - why don't they talk to them and get the facts straight? They've been invited to do so, and I challenge the member opposite to do just that. Call the union leader and see exactly what did happen.
Mr. Fentie: The minister is right about one thing: we haven't talked to the union leader but we have certainly talked to a number of the workers. And quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, that's what's at issue here, because this all began with the possibility of a government member trying to convince workers that, because cost-cutting measures were to be undertaken by this Liberal government, those workers should take a cut in pay so that those cost-cutting measures could be realized. The Premier sits silent on this. Through all of this issue, the Premier has sat silent, and now her office is implicated. It was her office that made phone calls on Friday to suddenly change the facts in this matter. The Premier now must act.
We have a situation with the appearance again, I say, Mr. Speaker, of political interference in the tendering process. We have a minister who has, day after day ...
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Fentie: ... provided incorrect information, and now there is the implication of the Premier's office. Will she conduct an independent review to clear the air and provide full disclosure on this matter to this House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Education has provided the facts to this House. I will not ask, as the member opposite has suggested. The Minister of Education has provided the facts to this House. The only individual who has failed to check the facts is the member opposite.
Question re: Septic tank leakage
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that.
I have a question for the Minister of Health.
Now, we know that a complaint was filed on May 31, 2000. That was filed under the Environment Act. We know that a complaint under the Public Health Act was filed on June 27 of this year - and I've got to point out that this is all within the time frame of this Liberal government. I raised the issue repeatedly in this House. And now, just last week, a senior official stated that the problem with sewage holding tanks, if compared with a vehicle, is a minor problem and not a major problem.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to clarify and point out that I truly hope that is the truth. I really hope that's true. But I sit back and I think of Walkerton, I think of North Battleford, I think of what has happened in Vancouver, and I don't think we can just sit on the fence on this one.
I do believe that we have to err on the side of caution -
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.
I do believe that we have to err on the side of caution, so I would like to ask this minister to do the right thing, establish a process and to resource that process to track faulty tanks in the Yukon.
Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We take this issue very seriously, Mr. Speaker. We have said that right from the beginning. Again, we as government, YTG, we are the regulator of CSA standards. We began this role in 1999.
In different stages of septic system installation, there are different responsibilities. The supplier, the owner, the installer, CSA, environmental health officers, each have responsibilities. Our Yukon government regulations are in place to ensure that the health of Yukoners is not in danger.
CSA is responsible for policing its standards and taking corrective action. We continue to follow up with CSA to ensure that they are investigating the complaint.
We are using the information that we have at this point. We are not aware of any environmental health concern.
We are aware of the problem, but there is no environmental concern at this point.
Mr. Keenan: That is exactly what I am pointing out - exactly what I am pointing out, that we do not know. We have a senior official who says, "I think it is just a minor problem. It's not a major problem." What was that decision based on? I have brought repeatedly to this House and have had aspersions cast upon me saying that is not so. I am bringing forth legitimate concerns that have been brought forth to the official opposition and have been brought to the government previous to that. This has been around for two years and, I am again asking the minister - I know that he is the regulator - I know that. I would also like to point out that the CSA has said that there are faulty tanks in the territory. I am asking the minister simply to put into place a process of accountability, resource that process so that we might be able to know for sure. People deserve that. So will the minister please put into place a process of accountability?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I realize, and I think that the members opposite realize that everybody has a responsibility here and there is no health hazard at this point. There has been one tank that has failed and I know the member opposite has made a suggestion that there are many more tanks. We only know of one tank. It is not just the tank that counts in the septic system; it is the whole field and the whole system. That is why it is very important that it be done properly and the way the regulations are set. Now, we are going to be looking at the regulations. There will be a submission made to Cabinet to look at how we can "beef-up" - if that is what the member is asking - the process, because we recognize that being new at this in the last couple years - we have only taken this on in 1999 - that we have a ways to go in making sure it is foolproof. So obviously everybody has a part to play and we committed to improving the system.
Mr. Keenan: Did I just hear the minister say he was willing to listen to this side of the House and to work with this side of the House as we bring something out? I have to say congratulations, because that's exactly what this side of the House wants. We want to be able to work with the member opposite, and I'm very pleased that the minister is going to be bringing to Cabinet that we're going to be looking at the regulations to find out if there is a problem. I'm very pleased with that, Mr. Speaker.
It's unfortunate though, Mr. Speaker, that I have to take this minister, kicking and screaming, through every exercise and question that we ask on every issue to do the right thing. That is the terribly unfortunate thing, but if the minister would consider looking at and providing resources to a process to find out how many faulty tanks are in the territory, it would be much appreciated.
So I will ask the minister to confirm that, just one more time.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm not sure if the member opposite mentioned in his previous question - and I'll have to go back to the Blues to check that out - whether or not, when he was in government, they knew there was a problem. I'm not sure if the member said that; I hope not, because I would hope we're not trying to clear up problems that have been around for a long time.
Obviously we know we have issues here that are really within our jurisdiction - to ensure we are following the proper rules - and everybody has a part to play. The CSA has a part to play in it; the standards have a part to play; our environmental officers have a part to play in it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite asks if the Minister of Health has a part to play. Obviously the Minister of Health and Social Services has a part to play in it.
What we're trying to do is to ensure that we have due process. We're not condemning before we find out the facts, Mr. Speaker, and that seems to be a favourite motto of some people - that you don't get all the facts, and then you make statements that are maybe not close to what the real process is.
So this is what we're doing; we're ensuring that we have all the facts before we move ahead with the next step.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself 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
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Would members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Deputy Chair: I'll call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Deputy Chair: Ms. Buckway had the floor.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of matters that the members opposite will be receiving legislative returns on - most of them tomorrow because of the length of the replies.
There are a couple of things I did want to reply to directly today. The Member for Kluane had been inquiring about the number of change orders for the contract on the Champagne revision since it was tendered, and he asked, "How do we know the changes weren't made as a result of some interference by this Liberal government?" He asked, "Was the minister involved in any discussion whatsoever on those changes with anybody, including her colleagues, the deputy minister or anyone in the department?"
Madam Chair, what we are dealing with here is actually five change orders, not four, representing 1.3 percent of the contract value - $59,763.75 on a contract of $4.5 million.
All of the change orders are well within the approval authority of the transportation engineering branch staff. These all deal with minor increases in quantities. They are not something that the minister would have been involved in.
Change order no. 1 represents a total increase of $4,559.10. The breakdown is as follows: brush and weed control - an increase of .063 hectares, $201.60; to supply and install geotextile - the addition of 2,905 square metres, $4,357.50.
Change order no. 2 represents a total increase of $16,820.75. The breakdown is as follows: to supply and install CSP, 1,200 millimetres by 2 millimetres - that's an increase of 11 metres, $6,875.00; produce and stockpile granular A - an increase of 1,547 cubic metres, $8,121.75; to supply and install geotextile - an increase of 1,216 square metres, $1,824.00.
Change order no. 3 represents an increase of $13,316.55. The breakdown is as follows: to supply and install geotextile - an increase of 3,829 square metres, $5,743.50; granular bedding and back-fill, an addition of 227.03 cubic metres, $6,073.05; interceptor and off-take ditching - an addition of 100 metres, $1,500.
Change order no. 4 represents a total increase of $2,000. Excavation rock - the addition of 30 cubic metres, $1,500. Hand-placed rip-rap - the addition of 5 cubic metres, $500.
Change order no. 5 represents a total increase of $23,067.65 to supply and install geotextile - an increase of 765.7 square metres, $1,148.55; interceptor and off-take ditching - an increase of 150 metres, $2,250; and training costs for two First Nation members on heavy equipment, $19,669.10
Mr. Chair, I spoke to the contractor about this on Thursday afternoon, because the Member for Kluane was expressing concern, and I asked if there was a problem. He said that, as contracts go, this is as good as it gets. So, there is nothing there. Those were the change orders. All are perfectly routine. As I have said, change orders are a perfectly normal part of a contract. And that was all there was to that. They are all perfectly normal.
On brush and weed control, the Member for Klondike had asked what is going to be done about the fingers of trees or vegetation left between the right-of-way and the highway clearing on the right-of-way done for the transmission line. He had also asked about getting the tenders out for the brush and weed control earlier.
The fingers of trees were left uncleared where the transmission line curves away from the highway right-of-way clearing, and when the contract is tendered for brush clearing on the other side of the highway it will include a provision to clear those remaining fingers where necessary for safety.
In past years, the brush and weed control contracts weren't tendered and let until midsummer. As I have already explained, there were some unavoidable delays in the 2001 tendering process and it was difficult to find enough contractors to carry out the increased work this season. I have made the commitment to have tenders out by May 1, 2002 and, in areas where site conditions are suitable for viewing by potential bidders, we will attempt to have the tenders out earlier than that.
The Member for Klondike had a number of questions about the Sunnydale Road. One of them was about a portion of it that is located on private land, and the private property is Lot 1020, Plan 71460CLSR. And it is subject to any public highway howsoever created upon the land. The Sunnydale Road is a highway under the Highways Act and was in place when the title was issued to the current owners of Lot 1020.
The public has the right to use the road, travelled surface and shoulders, and the government has the right to maintain it. The Sunnydale Road is maintained for a length of 5.2 kilometres, including the section across Lot 1020.
Pursuant to the Highways Act, liability lies with the government for maintained roads and not with the owner of Lot 1020. That is as I had suspected. A land swap has not been considered necessary in the past because land for a future alternative road has been surveyed adjacent to Lot 101, in conjunction with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in land claim agreement. However, a land swap is an option that could be investigated at the request of the property owner and subject to suitable land being available.
The member had also been comparing the work done on the Sunnydale Road with the work done on the Nahanni Range Road, implying that the economic potential of the Sunnydale area was equal to that of the mine, I believe, at the end of the Nahanni Range Road. There has been $93,000 expended to date on upgrading the Sunnydale Road, and that included significant reconstruction of a short two-kilometre section, and it calculates to a cost of $46,500 per kilometre.
The Nahanni Range Road did not require significant construction or improvements, as the road and infrastructure had minimal maintenance on an annual basis to ensure its longevity. The majority of the Nahanni Range Road work involved relatively low-cost grading, brush clearing and maintenance of existing structures. The estimated cost per kilometre to open this road is $5,000 per kilometre - considerably less than the work that has been done on the Sunnydale Road to date.
The Member for Klondike asked about the planning and design of the Klondike Highway access into Dawson and what specific work has been done. Functional planning, including community consultations and a questionnaire, were conducted in 1996 for the section east of Callison industrial subdivision phase 1 to Crocus Bluff, kilometre 705.5 to 710.6 - that is the new kilometre designation. This was followed by a geotechnical investigation, field survey and sign inventory collection.
Reference to existing fisheries concerns on several adjacent ponds was also obtained.
A preliminary design was then completed, considering all of the above, and plans of that design are available for viewing, should the member wish to do so.
Before final design can be completed, the impact of recent and proposed developments in the area - Callison industrial subdivision phase 2, the Trans Canada Trail, and the First Nation C-block opposite Dome Road - must be addressed. For this reason, I would prefer not to actually prepare final plans until a firm reconstruction schedule is established for the project. Community consultation will again be sought before finalizing the design.
And regarding accesses between Dawson and Callison that are similar to the Goody's Gas Bar access, which the Member for Klondike had raised on Thursday past, Madam Chair, there are several accesses between Bonanza Creek Road and Dome Road. Major movements on the left side of the highway are generated from Bonanza Creek Road, Guggieville RV Park, Bonanza Gold Motel and RV Park, Bonanza Esso and the proposed First Nation development. The First Nation has very recently provided a proposed plan of their development. It has been in the works for quite some time now. Their proposal was developed in January of 2000, and no access permits have been requested.
Some consolidation of all approaches will be incorporated into the final design, and consultation will happen. There are a number of cases where there used to be two accesses and they're only using one now, et cetera, and we will be looking at the First Nations development. Their preliminary plan indicates seven accesses within a length of less than 1200 metres. I believe that with that and some of the other accesses, some realignment will be required with consultation, some will be eliminated, and there may be a need for some frontage roads.
Looking east of Dome Road and the area in the vicinity of Goody's Gas Bar, there are significant differences, and that would impact on acceptable design. None of the accesses in the Dawson area are as close to a major generator of traffic such as Wann Road, which requires a protected left turn into it from the Alaska Highway, which would conflict with Goody's left turnout possibility. There's also a merging lane for right turn from Wann Road on to the Alaska Highway, which conflicts with Goody's highway access, and Goody's Gas Bar has alternatives but the Dawson businesses do not. The average summer daily traffic is considerably different, with most of it being in the Goody's Gas Bar area, as opposed to Dawson.
A wider turning radius isn't required except for large semis and B-trains, which cannot, for a number of reasons, be given access to the Alaska Highway at the current point by Goody's Gas Bar. We are happy to explore options with the owner to meet the standard and, in fact, some of that work is being done. I will provide, by legislative return, a number of the answers to the other questions raised on Thursday.
I would just like to touch on two more briefly, Madam Chair. The Member for Klondike had enquired about security problems at the Dawson Airport and the Old Crow Airport with respect to boarding and deplaning passengers. Passengers flying from Dawson or Old Crow to Fairbanks require clearance from Canada Customs, and the procedures for the air carrier to obtain clearance for ongoing passengers is by phoning from Canada Customs in Whitehorse. If Canada Customs isn't available, the local RCMP detachment is contacted for customs clearance, and that is the approved procedure by Canada Customs for these transborder flights.
Once the plane lands in Fairbanks, passengers deplaning are subject to the laws and customs of the U.S. government, and we and the federal government have no jurisdiction in this area.
Transport Canada has issued a number of enhanced security measures following the terrorist attacks on September 11, and they apply to air carriers and airport operators. These enhanced airport security measures do not currently apply to the Dawson and Old Crow airports. The security measures in force meet current regulations.
The Member for Kluane had inquired about other landing locations, again related to September 11, that could have avoided the whole problem. There are a number of considerations when an aircraft in distress needs to divert to an alternate airport: they include the urgency of the diversion and the time frame available, weather conditions, suitability of the airport for the type of aircraft, runway length and width, the current runway surface condition, runway load rating, approach aids, type of instrument approach, terrain constraints, and the availability of trained ground support personnel and ground handling equipment, such as air stairs, and the availability of emergency response personnel and equipment, including airport fire fighting, RCMP and ambulance medical facilities.
I know that the CARS operator in Burwash is a very capable person but, on her own, could not have coped with a 747 or two landing at Burwash.
The Whitehorse Airport provides the required infrastructure and trained support people to respond to the needs of any large aircraft. The Watson Lake Airport is an alternate for Boeing 737 type aircraft.
Other community airports can accommodate aircraft as large as a 737 in the event of an emergency, but the ability to respond to the aircraft and passengers after landing is very limited due to the availability of trained ground support people, emergency services and supporting infrastructure.
Madam Chair, the Member for Klondike had inquired when the current CARS contract expires. The current contract with Nav Canada for CARS expires March 31, 2002. The department and Nav Canada have begun negotiations for a long-term Nav Canada-Yukon CARS agreement, and we expect the negotiations will be completed by February 2002.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the minister for providing the information on a number of the topics. There are a few areas I'd like to take exception with the minister as to the information provided.
With respect to Wann Road-Alaska Highway intersection, could the minister confirm that the traffic count at this intersection warrants traffic lights, pursuant to the provisions of the highway code?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'd be pleased to check into it with the highway engineers and, once again, I would offer the Member for Klondike a briefing on the highway code and these questions he has been asking, and urge him to take advantage of that.
Mr. Jenkins: I would be happy to attend a briefing if the minister would come along with me so that we could both be brought up to speed. The amount of time that I spent in research on these initiatives and the amount of time the minister spends responding would lend itself to a briefing for both the minister and myself. Madam Chair, can I ask the minister, if she could set up the briefing, would she be able to attend along with me for the duration of this briefing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The officials are available to brief me at any time. The Member for Klondike, I believe, has a more restricted schedule and I would like him to feel free to ask any questions he would like. I wouldn't want my presence to inhibit his questioning. As such, I think a briefing for him would be a better idea.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me assure the minister that her presence at a briefing would certainly not inhibit my ability to ask questions. I just wanted to provide the minister with that assurance, but I would encourage her to give consideration to a briefing on highway safety code and the National Safety Code so that the minister and I can both be brought up to speed. I would encourage her to set that up forthwith. I would be happy to attend as long as it fits into both our schedules and we both attend at the same time. I think we can accomplish a lot by this course of action, so I will await the minister's response on that.
With respect to the highway lighting, I would like to thank the minister for turning the lights back on in Carmacks and having those repaired at Pelly. I notice that there are new sets of lights going in at the Takhini River bridge. And yet, in previous years, I've inquired into where the next highway lighting is going to be extended and the process, and I was never apprised of this area, yet I see it under construction currently. This is a new initiative that appears in the hopper. I was aware of when it was going to transpire at Liard. We pinned that down the last time we spoke in general debate last Thursday.
But with respect to the Takhini River bridge, how long has this initiative been in the hopper and how do we find out about them, if the minister is not aware?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, I am so sorry that I neglected to inform the Member for Klondike that those lights were going in at the Takhini bridge.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, but if the minister cares to reflect on Hansard for last year, I asked where the next initiatives were, and none were forthcoming. It was a previous administration that brought forward the initiatives with respect to the bridge lighting in Upper Liard and Pelly Crossing, and the access into Ross River.
But under the minister's watch, I asked about new initiatives and I was not advised of any. Yet I see this new initiative - which is welcome, Madam Chair, I might add.
But I bring the minister back to the entrance into Dawson on the Klondike Highway. I have been after the previous minister and this minister, and yet it is still in the study stage. When is this initiative going to come to fruition in that area? I refer specifically to the access to Dawson, along the Klondike Highway from Callison to Dawson. What are the timelines for this project being undertaken?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We talked at length about that particular issue on Thursday. As I believe I indicated to the member, there is some work yet to be done on planning, and there is no point putting up lights and then, within a relatively short period of time, having to move them because of highway construction. I have indicated this to the member several times.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Madam Chair.
The point I'd like to make is this initiative has been in the hopper under the previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services. In fact, it was begun by that minister as a consequence of the vehicle count that goes back to the mid-90s. And that study - the highway vehicle count - at that stage, supported the installation of lighting and the upgrading of that section of the Klondike Highway. The NDP started the initiative, and this Liberal Minister of Community and Transportation Services is procrastinating on this very, very important safety issue.
Now, what I want to know from the minister, Madam Chair, is when will we see this study completed? Because I was given to understand it would have been virtually completed under the previous watch, and what budget cycle is the money going to be budgeted to undertake this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Madam Chair.
As I had already said, before final design can be completed, we have to look at the impact of recent and proposed developments in the area. I had indicated that that was Callison industrial subdivision phase 2, Trans Canada Trail and First Nation land in the vicinity of the Dome Road. Therefore, we need a firm reconstruction schedule for the project, and final plans will be prepared before that, and we will be again looking at community consultation prior to finalizing the design because of the number of things that have occurred since 1996, when the functional planning was carried out.
I note also that the addition of a trail has relieved some of the pedestrian problem that had existed on the road, as the pedestrian and bicycle traffic is now using the trail, where available.
Mr. Jenkins: If that were the case - that the Trans Canada Trail has relieved a lot of pressure - the minister is sadly mistaken, Madam Chair.
What is it going to take for the minister to budget the necessary funds to bring this highway into conformity? Is it going to take another death along this section of this highway before this minister reacts? Because I haven't heard any firm commitment other than study, study, consult.
What I want from the minister is a firm date, a budget cycle, when we're going to see this initiative take place. Will it be this summer? Because surely an initiative of this important a magnitude can be done within that time frame, and all of this other window dressing that the minister is throwing out, Madam Chair, is strictly that.
We have known about the First Nation's land selection in that area and their desires and what they had anticipated doing with that land for quite a number of years. Government of Yukon officials were in attendance at a number of those sessions when it was decided that that land in that area, from the Trans North helicopter pad to the bridge and Lousetown, be provided to the First Nation under land claims. What they wanted to do with it was clearly understood, and their access and requirement for access was known. Now, with respect to the planning for the Callison subdivisions and the new subdivisions in that area, I'm sure these subdivisions have been planned, developed, delayed from being sold for over a year, and then put on the market, so that has been around for a considerable length of time.
What is it going to take for this minister to get on with this initiative? Is it going to take somebody being seriously injured or killed along that section of the Klondike Highway before this minister is going to react? Is that what it's going to take, Madam Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have explained twice to the member the work left to be done. That work is being done as quickly as possible. I cannot give him a firm date when this will appear in the budget, but I am confident that when that happens, this side of the House will still be the government.
Mr. Jenkins: A timeline - we go back to 1996. I want some assurances from the minister that this section of the Klondike Highway is going to be budgeted for and in the hopper for this forthcoming summer.
Now, I think it's very, very important that the safety issues and concerns of this region be addressed. They require an expenditure by the Department of Community and Transportation Services to address their responsibility.
If the minister does not address their responsibilities to safety in that area, we will take that in my community as a signal from this minister that she is negligent in addressing the safety issues.
Now, when are we going to see some action? Is it going to be this summer, next summer - this forthcoming summer - or the summer after it? Can the minister be specific?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have told the member that I cannot be specific. Work for next summer is in the capital budget, which will be before us in a couple of days when we clear this supplementary. So I would ask the member to look beyond that to the summer after, but until the work left to be done is done, I cannot promise when it will appear in the budget.
Mr. Jenkins: And what the minister might also say is that she has no desire to do this work, that it is not a priority and that it is just going to be left there on the back burner to fumble along. I am very disappointed in this approach from this minister.
Before we leave the issue in Sunnydale, I might point out to the minister that her comparison to Highway 10, the Nahanni Range Road - to say that they are putting more into the Sunnydale Road per kilometre than the Nahanni Range Road - is completely false. What I was getting at was the economic activity that the Sunnydale Road does support -
Deputy Chair's statement
Deputy Chair: Order. References to "false" are unparliamentary. Please keep that in mind and proceed.
Mr. Jenkins: Madam Chair, the issue of Highway 10, if you want to look at it over four years, is that there is going to be a minimum of $3 million spent in O&M plus the capital of three-quarter of a million dollars per year. And, if you look at Sunnydale over the past four years, it has been $86,000. The order of magnitude of these two initiatives - I don't know how the minister can speak of them in the same voice.
And on the issue of the land in Sunnydale where the road crosses private land, that road was built by the owner of the land to access their property, and what subsequently transpired was that that road was better than the road the government had and it became the main road. So the minister might want to research the issue more carefully, but there is an issue in that this individual is very concerned with his liability resulting from the fact that he constructed the road for his own use and it is being used to the greatest extent by everyone. And the minister knows of whom I am speaking, and unfortunately they are absent from the Yukon currently. But I would urge the minister to follow up because this is a very, very important issue, and I would urge the minister to put some more money into that Sunnydale Road because the economic benefits not only to the Klondike region but to the Yukon are very, very important.
Another safety issue in the Dawson area is pullouts for the school bus on the Dome Road. I'm sure the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' officials have been contacted on this important issue, and officials from the Department of Education have been involved in discussions and there has been an exchange of correspondence. But the buck seems to be going around in a big, big circle, Madam Chair, as to who is responsible. Is it a City of Dawson initiative, a department of highways initiative or a Department of Education initiative? Madam Chair, the fact remains that the most important issue is the lives and safety of Yukoners, especially our youth. Now, they have to take the bus to get to school, they are required to go to school, and the location where the bus is currently stopping to pick them up is, for all intents and purposes, not safe. It requires a pullout, and we're talking about on the Dome Road and we're talking about right opposite Derry's driveway.
Now, can I ask the minister to become involved in this safety issue and bring it through to a conclusion? Because what is required to effectively deal is a pullout, preferably on the west side coming down, so that the buses stop coming down rather than stopping in the middle of the highway. Because if somebody ever comes around the road and it's slippery, even though the bus is legally parked with all of its four-way flashers on and the stop on, there could very well be a potential for a major, major accident.
The best and most practical thing to do is construct a pullout so that the school bus could be parked just off the highway, the school children could cross and gain access to the bus, and they could then be let off on the return down also.
I want a commitment here today from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to get together with her colleague, the Minister of Education, and seek a resolution of this matter.
Can the minister provide that kind of assurance?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be happy to look into the situation, to look at the need and see where the responsibility lies.
Mr. Jenkins: I am very uncomfortable with that, Madam Chair. The minister is going to see where the responsibility lies. I would submit that the responsibility lies with the Minister of Education, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, along with the City of Dawson, to seek a satisfactory arrangement so that the safety of these school-age children is not jeopardized whatsoever.
Now, let's not just spin this around again. Let's bring it through to a conclusion. I would encourage the minister to take that initiative.
The other area that the minister spoke on at great length during the last session was the repowering of the George Black ferry.
Could the minister advise the House why this didn't take place this past summer, as the minister indicated it would?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There was no intention to repower the George Black ferry during the summer. That is when the ferry is in operation. It was shut down for the season on October 24, a week after the scheduled shut-down date, and it is going to be undergoing a major overhaul. The work may have actually already started. If it hasn't, it will be starting shortly. This will include the installation of new engines, marine gears, and some controls to ancillary systems. I believe that the Member for Klondike is quite aware of the work that was scheduled to be done and is about to be carried out.
Mr. Jenkins: The work was supposed to have been done before the ferry went into operation in the springtime. That's the information that was out there, and the government went out, tendered the engines and, from what I was told, they came in overbudget. Could the minister confirm that the tender for the necessary equipment for the repowering of the George Black ferry has been tendered? Is it within budget? Are they on-site? Are we repowering with the same type of equipment, or are we going smaller or larger? What are we doing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will be glad to get specific details for the Member for Klondike. My recollection is that this work was always to be carried out in November of 2001. That was the plan, and that is what is going to happen. As for the remainder of his questions, I will be pleased to get him the details.
Mr. Jenkins: Given the cost of repowering, given the cost of upgrading the steering gear, probably the next cycle, and given the length of the season, the increase in personnel costs with the extra deck hand, where is the government with respect to the cost-benefit analysis of a bridge to replace the George Black ferry? It's an initiative this Liberal government supported. A number of the studies were undertaken under the previous NDP watch and under the previous Yukon Party watch, which all supported the construction. Even one with respect to the fish in the Yukon River concluded that a bridge would enhance the fish migration.
So, with that in mind, could the minister advise the House where this government is at regarding a bridge over the Yukon River at Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe I had already noted this in this debate. We aren't presently in a financial position to commit to such a major project. The annual O&M costs associated with running the George Black ferry, including building the ice bridge, are $776,000. The O&M savings alone to the government in replacing the ferry with a bridge won't generate sufficient funding to pay for the bridge.
We do continue to look at the situation and, in developing our long-term capital plan, we're listening to the priorities identified by Yukon communities and Yukoners.
In Dawson City, there's a large investment in improving the Dawson City Airport, recreation facilities and sewage treatment infrastructure. The community has identified paving the runway as a future key priority and, in addition, as the member has just been saying, Madam Chair, there is a need to improve sections of the Klondike Highway.
With all of those things in the hopper at the same time, a bridge is not in the cards at the moment as the cost is expected to be in the order of $25 million. However, we do continue to look at all possible options for that situation.
Mr. Jenkins: The option is to construct a bridge. Could the minister confirm that the O&M figure she has presented for the operation of the ferry and the construction of the ice bridge does not include amortization and depreciation of the ferry, nor does it include initiatives like repowering it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: These are the O&M costs. No amortization is included. The repowering is a separate item.
Mr. Jenkins: So would the minister be prepared to bring forward the costs of the operation of the George Black ferry, including the charge for overhead administration, standby charges for the maintenance crew, for, say, the last decade, which will give her a very true indication? Because, Madam Chair, the ferry was constructed in 1966. It went into service in 1967- the late 1960s. And what is the effective life of a vessel of this nature? All of these questions are up in the air. We know it has been repowered. We know there was a failure to install the proper shaft bearings in the vessel this summer, which resulted in a considerable length of down time for the ferry. We noticed the inconvenience of waiting for the ferry as an impediment to the development of our visitor industry. So on one hand, this government touts that they're doing something and, on the other hand, they're crying poverty. Madam Chair, never has the Government of Yukon had a better surplus than what there is currently.
May I suggest to the minister, Madam Chair, that the whole reason that the bridge isn't going in there has nothing to do with the justification of it. It could easily be justified, but there is no political will in this government to see Yukon grow and develop. Could the minister confirm that that is indeed the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, the member is incorrect. That is not the case.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, can the minister agree to provide the total cost of the operation?
There must be a record kept of the original capital cost and what we've expended over the years on this ferry. What is the effective life of a ferry? Is the minister aware?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will endeavour to get that information for the member as quickly as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: Given that the ferry is between 30 and 40 years old, it's not going to last forever. So, in a very short period of time, it's either going to have to be replaced with a new ferry or a bridge.
Now, there just seems to be a mental block on the part of the Liberals to entertain any kind of initiative or any kind of upgrading of the ferry, and I am just so tremendously disappointed. The minister can't even be specific as to when the safety issues along the Klondike Highway are going to be addressed, or the issues of safety regarding busing of our students in the Klondike. It just seems like there are two sets of rules: one for Whitehorse and one for rural Yukon. We are seeing that more and more every day.
Let's go to the Klondike camp. It was recently repowered. What was originally budgeted, and what did it cost?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be pleased to get that information for the member as well. Contrary to what the member believes, I don't have all of the information in my briefing book, which the department does a wonderful job of keeping up to date.
Mr. Jenkins: I thought she would have in her briefing book those areas of her department that came in considerably overbudget.
Now, what we have here is a situation in Klondike camp. It is a total electric camp. All the heating is electric - everything. There are a number of gen-sets installed to provide the power. Its prime purpose is for the purpose of department of highways and, from day one that it was constructed, it was powered by Caterpillar. They are a very reliable engine and have a rated output and, further to that, they can stand an overload of about 10 percent for two hours with no adverse affect on the equipment. But what transpired is that a different brand of engine was subsequently installed there because we were going to realize some cost-savings. At the end of the day, after everything was said and done, it appears that it has cost us more to install these units than the original Caterpillar. But then, along comes another government initiative from another department to fund the Tombstone Interpretative Centre, which is great - it's another attraction - but the personnel for the Tombstone Interpretative Centre are going to be housed at Klondike camp, which necessitates an expansion to that camp. I believe it is a four-room expansion. Now, what is transpiring is that there is not enough power currently there to meet the obligation to the camp, let alone this added - you know, where is all this forward planning we hear about in this government? Where is it? It's going to happen in the future, Madam Chair, because it certainly isn't happening now. But at the end of the day, it looks like this one initiative - the repowering of the Klondike camp is probably coming in at 50 percent overbudget.
Now, the minister has agreed to provide the information so I guess we can't get on this initiative until the next session because she is very unaware of the areas within her own department that are going overbudget.
Let's move on to the Connect Yukon project. Could the minister confirm for the record that the debt servicing of Connect Yukon is within her budget now. It has been transferred from Government Services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, the debt servicing is in the numbered company. The contractual payments are in our budget. Connect Yukon is on time and projected to be on budget, and the capital construction is essentially complete.
As of October 10, high-speed data and Internet service is available to all communities included in the Connect Yukon project - Haines Junction, Watson Lake, Teslin, Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay, Pelly Crossing, Mayo, Carcross, Carmacks, Dawson City and Old Crow. Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay have local dial-up access as a result of this project.
Getting back to Klondike camp for a moment, Madam Chair, the existing generators, which were 60 kilowatts, were at the end of their life cycle and they were scheduled for replacement or rebuild in the 2001 fiscal year.
In February, an assessment was done on existing camp infrastructure and power needs, and it was determined that 35 kilowatts was normal use for the camp.
The Member for Klondike is laughing. With the increasing cost of fuel, more fuel-efficient power plants were desirable and the three 60-kilowatt generators were replaced with three 40-kilowatt plants, and we expect a 30-percent saving on fuel costs each year.
The cost to rebuild the existing 60-kilowatt plants was estimated to be in excess of $21,000 each while the new generators were purchased for $14,382 each. That is a cost-saving, Madam Chair.
There were some technical difficulties, as the member had alluded to, matching the Kubota generators to the existing electrical panel, but those difficulties have been overcome by working with the supplier and Yukon government mechanical staff.
Additional costs involved in replacing the generators include upgrading the fuel supply to the generators, as well as cleaning and maintaining the heat exchange units, done as an efficient step in the generator exchange.
As to Tombstone Park staff, transportation and maintenance staff met with the Tombstone Park interpretive staff early in September for what were very preliminary discussions, Madam Chair, about putting staff for the centre in the existing camp infrastructure. Park staff are looking at a number of scenarios for both interpretive centre and staff accommodations, and park staff were told at this meeting about the generator change and that any additional staffing or infrastructure to the existing camp would need a complete assessment of all the services that are there to ensure we could support adding people.
To my knowledge, the parks branch hasn't yet made a decision, so we don't know if any additional staff or facilities will be put into the existing camp. However, our understanding with parks is that any additional staff would involve a small, summer-type operation and, during the summer, we have excess power with the existing system, so there would be no problem.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that explanation. Is the minister aware that there is currently not enough surplus to heat the facilities that are heated on the heat exchanger, and they're pretty well maxing out on the power side of it? It's not even cold, Madam Chair.
Further, the price of fuel has dropped considerably this last little while. It hasn't gone up. It's ironic that the minister would submit that there's going to be a fuel saving. A fuel saving will come with the decrease in the cost of fuel. If you have to run two gen-sets versus only running one, or three instead of two, the resulting cost in fuel consumption is virtually the same.
You still only produce about 17 to 18 kilowatts from a gallon of fuel. Some get a little better, but the efficiencies don't appear to be there as they were laid out by this minister, Madam Chair.
So I'd encourage her to go back to her officials, and I'd like her to report back to the House the final cost that the government has incurred to effect this engine change and gen-set change out at Klondike camp. What was it originally budgeted at, and what did it finally cost? Would the minister agree to provide that information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike is suggesting that there are problems at Klondike camp as a result of the generator change. I would be pleased to look into that and, while I'm doing that, get the information he has asked for.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the information I asked for - and I would like the minister to go on the record - is the original budgeted cost for the gen-set change-out and anything related and what it eventually cost, given the tremendous problems on the electrical side. Because the cost overrun, I'm given to understand, was almost double the original budget. Is the minister aware of that order of magnitude of overexpenditure in this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That isn't my understanding. However, I said I will check into it and provide him the information, and I will.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a number of other questions about the areas of road upgrading and the Top of the Word Highway. Now, there are quite a number of sections of the Top of the World Highway, and I would just like to know what this Government of the Yukon's policy is going to be in that area, Madam Chair.
Is it the intention of the government to upgrade a number of kilometres each year with a good solid base and then go back and chipseal every year until the project is completed?
What is the intention? How are we going to proceed on the Top of the World Highway?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have identified structurally weak areas on the Top of the World Highway and plans are underway to rectify the problem over a period of several years, as the member has suggested, and we're monitoring the effectiveness of the repair work we have completed.
Part of the problem was that the road was originally chipsealed in haste and there were a number of BST failures. The road base will be stabilized by removing the soft areas, applying quality granular material and improving the drainage so that the BST surface will last longer.
This summer, BST was applied from kilometre 67 to 75.5, and in the previous year, drainage improvements were made from kilometre 74 to 76.
In the spring budget we had extensive discussion about weight restrictions with the Member for Klondike. We put on weight restrictions during the spring thaw due to the weakened condition of the highway at that time of year. That is an important factor as structural damage would occur to the road if overloads were permitted.
It is the intention that we will repair the failed areas and replace BST over a period of a few years so that the entire road will be chipsealed, Madam Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's get to the specifics. How many kilometres of the Top of the World Highway are substandard with the basic construction?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't have the exact number of kilometres but upgrading to a BST surface, initially on that road, took place from 1992 to 1998, and the thickness of the base course has proven to be inadequate at some locations. I don't have the specific number of kilometres, and we are doing selective repairs. A lot of the original road remains in good condition, but we are working on the rest. For the coming year, we are going to be restoring the base and chipping kilometre 85 to 102. We are planning on doing that work, I think, over the next three to four years and that should see the restoration of BST to the entire road surface.
Mr. Jenkins: What I want to know from the minister is specifically how many kilometres of the Top of the World Highway are substandard? What is the order of magnitude of the expenditure required to bring it all up to date or all to current standards? Because the minister has indicated that next year they are going to be chipsealing 17 kilometres. In the total 17 kilometres that are going to be re-chipped, I am sure that the whole base for that whole distance will not be upgraded. There will probably be some upgrading in that section but I don't know if the minister has any ideas as to the order of magnitude of expenditure to rebuild 17 kilometres of highway base. We are talking serious dollars. So, what I want to know from the minister is how many kilometres in total need repair and upgrading, how many kilometres need more drainage and culverts, and what is the order of magnitude for the total expenditure over, say, the expiring of this project?
Because the minister indicated four years.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the coming year, as is outlined in the capital budget - well, for the coming year, the plan is $400,000 worth of work for those 17 kilometres. I think the total estimate for restoring all of it to a good BST surface would be just under $2 million, Madam Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go back to the Connect Yukon initiative and the debt-servicing of it. Are the monies to debt-service currently now being budgeted in C&TS? Because what the government had to do to get the money out of the immigrant investor fund was to set up a numbered company to invest the funds or give the funds to Northwestel. The immigrant investor fund is not to be used for direct government initiatives. There are restrictions on the use of the immigrant investor fund, and the immigrant investor fund requires that it be paid back with interest.
Previously, Government Services debt serviced the immigrant investor fund through this numbered company. Could the minister sketch out how the procedure is currently working?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon government entered into an agreement with Northwestel in which we contributed a total of $23.5 million to the Connect Yukon project. The immigrant investor fund loan repayment is $1.7 million per year for five years from my department, and there is a one-time final payment, which I expect will be around $6 million, based on the fair market value of the infrastructure.
Madam Chair, we have explained this to the member in every session. I can only think he asks about it every session in the hope that he might catch me out on a word or two. But I have explained this several times before.
Mr. Jenkins: Madam Chair, it was a political decision that the money was going to be transferred or given to Northwestel for infrastructure development - the Connect Yukon project - which, contrary to popular belief, wasn't to provide everybody in rural Yukon with a telephone but just access to the Internet - and not everyone, I might add. This money would be without a rate of return. Could the minister just shed some light on why we can do that, or undertake an initiative for Internet, when we cannot do the same for electricity? There just seems to be whole different policies in here with respect to the provisions of utilities.
The same holds true with water and sewer in this minister's department. The minister is charged with providing water and sewer in all the areas where this minister has the taxing authority, and yet the rate charged for the provision of the water and sewer in these areas doesn't bear any relationship to what it cost the Government of Yukon. Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be any consistent policy on the provisions of basic service, let alone these add-on services, Madam Chair. And in many areas of Yukon, Yukoners are still awaiting the arrival of a decent phone system.
Well, could the minister advise the House what initiatives she has undertaken during her watch to bring adequate phone service to rural Yukon? Because there are still communities like Ross River and Faro that do not have adequate bandwidth. The minister might say that this is an issue for Northwestel, but now that all of this area is under this minister's bailiwick, she is responsible for it and she has put some $23.5 million into this initiative. When are we going to see some results in the provision of basic telephone service, which was what the Connect Yukon initiative was originally purported to be and which we have subsequently learned wasn't even anything about the provision of basic phone service?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There were a number of questions in there. The member was again referring to the rural services policy for the provision of other things that I have said we are looking at.
The Connect Yukon project was something signed shortly before the election that put the Yukon Liberal Party in government. We had been told, as Yukoners had been told, that it was about telephones, but, lo and behold, Madam Chair, it turned out not to be; it turned out to be about Internet. We merely carried out that contract that had been signed by the previous administration.
The original contract left out a number of communities - Faro and Ross River were among them - and we know that the infrastructure capable of providing high-speed data and Internet service to those two communities is coming in 2004 anyway, as part of Northwestel's service improvement plan. However, in the interim, we have been working on a solution to provide higher speed Internet access for the school and college campus and improve the existing dial-up service for public access, because we felt that it was unfair to make the school, the college and the other government departments lag behind while everybody else was on-line.
The Department of Government Services is working with those communities, and I believe we are getting close to a solution. Once we know, we will certainly let people know that there are some options in place and some consultation meetings that have happened.
As for rural services, I believe I had given the member some information on Thursday last, and we will provide more information as it becomes available. It is something that we are working very hard on to provide a more equitable system in rural Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to remind the minister that Government Services is currently sending Northwestel $100,000 a month for bandwidth between Whitehorse and the communities. That is a significant sum of money, and we have Ross River and Faro that are completely out of the loop.
I want to know from the minister what discussions have taken place and where we are at, because all I hear is that they're going to do some consulting. When can Faro and Ross River expect to be in the loop, other than when Northwestel receives the funding under the cross-subsidization program that they have requested. Isn't there any initiative underway by this government to ensure that this service is provided equally across Yukon, or is the only service that this government is prepared to provide equally across the Yukon the price of a bottle of whiskey?
Surely, Madam Chair, if they can do it for a bottle of whiskey, they can do it for some of the other services, like water and sewer, like high-speed Internet access. Why is there only one area that this government is capable of addressing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, I am sorry. I don't think the member was listening to my previous answer. We have been working very hard with Faro and Ross River on options for interim service to give higher speed Internet access for the school and college campus as the main priorities and to improve the existing dial-up service for public access.
I had said that I believed we were getting close to an interim solution that would serve the communities until the service improvement plan kicks in in 2004. We have been working very hard on this project because it was unacceptable to us that those communities with the college campuses and the school were not a part of the original Connect Yukon project. That is why we have been attempting to solve the problem, and I believe we are getting close.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, at the end of the day, the Government of Yukon has provided Northwestel with a $23.5-million gift and we can't use it for servicing all Yukon communities on an equal basis. That is disappointing. Well, I listened to the minister, and we went through a whole series of initiatives and the rural service policy is being looked at. And I quote the minister: "the Klondike Highway into Dawson, studying and consulting." For the Connect Yukon project, it's wait and see and they are consulting. With respect to highway access, the minister is going to offer me a safety briefing that I urged her to set up for both of us so that she could have an understanding of the order of magnitude of her responsibilities and a comparison. And I am sure that at the end of the day, we have at the helm of this department a minister who has sadly neglected the interests of Yukon. I am just very, very disappointed at the way the money is being used and that there is no confidence being restored in the investors into Yukon, no forth-thought as to the future of Yukon.
We're going to have a highway system that does nothing but connect a series of parks, and the work that this minister's going to provide is in the Northwest Territories. Very, very interesting, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair, I'm sure after I listen in general debate I'll have some questions in line-by-line, but at this juncture, I'll turn it over to my colleagues.
Mr. Fentie: I just have a few riding-specific issues to explore in general debate with the minister. The first issue, Madam Chair, is in regard to community recreation, and I'd like to just give a very brief backgrounder to this particular issue. The Village of Upper Liard, which is some nine miles from the community of Watson Lake, has a significant First Nation population with many young children, and the village itself seriously lacks any recreational facilities, those types of things, for the children. It's very difficult for the children to travel out of the village into the community of Watson Lake itself to utilize some of the facilities that are there. I've been instructed and directed by not only the chief, who has taken this particular issue on as a very high priority, but also the elders, and it is to do with the skating rink in Upper Liard that is in terrible disrepair and is completely unserviceable and simply is not in any shape to be used.
I wonder if the minister would take some interest in this particular issue to see if there is some way we can address that. The expenditure would be probably quite limited, and it would go a long way to providing some positive activities for the children of Upper Liard and also go a long way in ensuring that some of these children's time is spent doing things that are much more constructive than what they have today.
Would the minister entertain having some officials come down to Upper Liard and have a look at the existing facility and determine what we can do with that facility to provide some improvements and put it back into use?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, the Yukon government's responsibility is for municipalities and unincorporated communities in the territory. We do not normally fund First Nations that have access to other funds. However, the Liard First Nation is the local authority for recreation and it does receive some funding - I believe up to $6,000 a year - for which it must set priorities. The First Nation is also eligible to apply for funds under Project Yukon, and I would encourage them to do so.
Recreation in the communities is very important; however, in my budget, I simply do not have the funds to give everybody everything they want, and I would ask them to utilize first the avenues that are most commonly open to them before coming to the Yukon government for funding. Lotteries Yukon is a possibility as well, and I cannot direct Project Yukon or Lotteries Yukon to fund anything. Applications must come in through the normal process, and I would urge the Liard First Nation to follow those processes.
Mr. Fentie: In the first instance, the First Nation itself lacks the capacity in this particular case to put together what would be an acceptable application to such things as the Lottery Commission and/or Project Yukon. The first request is in regard to providing some personnel from the department to assist them in going over this existing rink and provide advice and some direction on how to best proceed with trying to fix this particular skating rink in the village. This is an issue about which there is already a request to the minister's office from me, in writing. And given the millions of dollars of increase in this supplementary, I would like to engage with the minister somewhat to see if there is a way that the village, the First Nation, the minister and her department could come to some arrangement on how to proceed with this.
Is the minister willing to take a serious look at this by providing some officials to go down, meet with the First Nation representatives, have a look at the facility and see if there's any advice that can be provided to the First Nation - firstly on the basis of what to do and how to proceed in terms of what level of rehabilitation is necessary - and then from there discuss possible sources of funding - not just Project Yukon and the Lottery Commission? But given the huge surplus that the government has, this certainly would be a noble and worthy project for the government itself to involve the department in.
Is the minister willing to have a look at this, at least by providing her officials some direction to have a look at this facility?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be willing to send an official down, along with, I would hope, the DIAND representative, who has responsibility, and perhaps the Member for Watson Lake as the MLA for the area would be present as well. I'm sure that he could also provide assistance in funding applications if Lotteries Yukon or Project Yukon would be ways they would go. But I would be prepared to send somebody down with the other proper authorities to have a look at the situation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that is certainly an option that may or may not be available to Liard First Nation.
I want to point something out to the minister in regard to her own department's objectives. One of the objectives states, and I quote: "To support the development of Yukon people and communities through sport, recreation and active living." I don't see anywhere in this departmental objective, or the listing of those objectives, where it includes the necessity of involving the federal government, other agencies, other funding areas. I'm dealing with this particular objective and the minister in regard to her department itself. Does the minister fully support that objective that I have just quoted?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am merely concerned about stepping on the toes of the federal government by interfering in an area that they have responsibility for. That creates difficulties.
Yes, I am committed to recreation and recreation in the communities. That was the reason that we announced the community recreation leadership endowment fund earlier today. But I can't leap in and exert my authority where the authority properly belongs to DIAND. We will do what we can in this situation, but I cannot interfere with the proper operation of another government.
Mr. Fentie: I can assure the minister that stepping on the federal toes in this particular instance is not a reality. Their feet are nowhere near these types of projects and I don't think that the federal government has a lot of interest in these specific-type projects. The federal government is more inclined to allocate small amounts of dollars toward the First Nation for the First Nation to distribute or allocate as they see fit, but those program dollars that come from the federal government are simply much too small to address this issue.
I think, in this particular case, that the minister and her department do have a responsibility here to give this serious consideration, not just on behalf of concurring and supporting her own program objectives but on behalf of children who definitely have a need. So, would the minister now enter into or engage in a limited debate on how best she and her department could approach this and not get bound up in all these other areas that to this point in time have not delivered anything.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is an area that is larger than the Upper Liard First Nation. It is something that I have had discussion on with the federal Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, and we are looking for a national solution to the problem, and my discussions with the federal minister are ongoing in this area. When it comes to DIAND, it is their fiduciary responsibility, and I have to tread very carefully.
I can certainly, once again, remind them of that responsibility but, as I said, we are looking at a national solution with the federal Secretary of State for Amateur Sport and DIAND. We have been working for some months now toward this end, and I speak with him on a regular basis. Next time I speak with him, I will bring up this situation as well. He is becoming very familiar with the difficulties with recreation funding in small northern communities.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's go about it this way. The Premier herself is very quick to stand on her feet and make claim to the millions of dollars that she has acquired from the federal government through her efforts. Out of those millions of dollars that came to this territory, somehow this particular issue has fallen through the cracks. Secondly, I think the minister is well aware of how the federal government's processes are very slow moving, cumbersome, and when it comes to these small, specific issues, they seldom ever target those types of issues. The federal Liberal government is very good at providing seed money for projects and initiatives and then, once they get started, they walk away in the following fiscal years. We've seen far too many examples where the federal government just simply has not delivered or lived up to any commitments they have made in the past in regard to recreation and active living in small northern communities.
What I'm really interested in is this $99-million surplus that this Yukon Liberal government has in its coffers. This small allocation of monies out of this surplus would go a long way in assisting the Liard First Nation to improving facilities in the Village of Upper Liard and to addressing the needs of children. Can the minister not see the merit or the value in that approach?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that I will send an official down to Upper Liard to look at the situation. We will involve the DIAND representative and hopefully the MLA for Watson Lake as well, and we will undertake to take a look at the situation as quickly as we can.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I can conclude then that the minister would like to see a partnership arrangement in this regard. Can I have the minister commit to her department and the Yukon government taking a lead in this matter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, that is not what I said. I have said that I will undertake, after we speak with the chief, to send down an official from my department and involve the DIAND representative and the MLA for the area to take a look at the situation. It is inappropriate for the Yukon government to take the lead in something - I will undertake to take the lead to get somebody down there to have a look at the situation. But beyond that, it is DIAND's fiduciary responsibility, and it's not in my power to change that fact, Madam Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would argue that it is in the minister's power to allocate Yukon government monies as the minister sees fit. The members opposite have made claim that they have talked to Yukoners throughout this territory, and the reason the budget is as it exists today, including the supplementary budget we are debating, is a reflection - may I put it that way, Madam Chair? - of community priorities. This is a priority, not only for the Village of Upper Liard, but for the Liard First Nation. If somebody had made contact with representatives of the village and/or the First Nation, the minister would have been well aware, prior to this supplementary budget being set, that this was very much a priority - so much of a priority, I might add, that the chief has taken it on as his own priority, and the elders are involved.
Can the minister not see that she has the latitude and the authority to allocate funds toward the rehabilitation of the Upper Liard skating rink?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I cannot change the fact that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development federally has the fiduciary responsibility for such work within the Liard First Nation. Once we send someone down and learn what the need is and if it is eligible for a Yukon program, we will advise the First Nation of that. I am not doubting for a minute the word of the MLA for Watson Lake that there is a need, but I will send some trained eyes down there to take a look at it and see what could be done, and we will so advise the First Nation. However, we must follow the processes that are laid out for us by the various levels of government.
I will do what I can in that area, Madam Chair, but I cannot change the fact that it is the federal government and not the territorial government that has the main financial responsibility for the Liard First Nation.
Mr. Fentie: I accept the minister's offer to send officials down. I think that's a great first step. I would point out, though, that if we're going to wait for the federal government to do something in this area, those children will have grown up and will have missed the opportunity of enjoying some very positive-type initiatives toward active living and recreation.
Maybe let's do it this way, Madam Chair. Is the minister aware of whether Upper Liard village is a reservation or not a reservation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am sure that the Member for Watson Lake, had he chose, could have said whether Upper Liard village is a reservation or not a reservation when he asked his question.
The fact that he didn't shows only that he is attempting to embarrass me, and if that's the case, he has succeeded very nicely because I do not know, Madam Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister is much too quick to give me credit. I don't know either. However, I would point out that if it's not a reservation, then the minister's argument is simply not an argument that will make her case as far as involving the federal government.
So let's go about it this way. Although I can't guarantee this, I don't believe that Upper Liard is a reservation. I believe it's not a reservation as reservations are defined; therefore, all the more reason, then, for the minister to take this initiative as her own and make it a Yukon government initiative.
Will the minister now rethink this and, beyond sending down her officials to look at this, go down with the focus on the Yukon government addressing this issue. If there is a possibility of recoveries from the federal government, that's fine; that can be addressed at a later date, but at least we can act quickly and address this situation for the children of Upper Liard.
Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will do what I have said I will do. I will send an official down there. We will speak with the chief. We will involve the DIAND representative and the MLA. We will take a look at the situation and determine how it can best be addressed. Beyond that, without further information, I am not prepared to commit to anything in this House, at this time.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that. Would the minister then provide to me or my office a date for when an official will be prepared to go down so that we can notify the chief and make sure that when we visit this site, the appropriate people on the First Nation side are available also. And I certainly will endeavour to involve myself.
Another issue is playgrounds. Is there any ability of this minister to address the need for a playground in the Upper Liard village and also the villages of Two Mile and of Two and a Half Mile for the use of the children in all three of those villages?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would refer the member to the answers I have just given regarding the fiduciary responsibility of DIAND in this area. If he can provide me further specific information on what is and isn't in those areas currently, that is something else I can take up with the federal minister responsible for amateur sport the next time I speak to him - to add to our growing list that is demonstrating an urgent need for the federal government to take action in small northern communities.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I have to take exception to the minister's answers here. I don't think the minister should be fobbing this off on to the federal government's hull. There are millions of dollars being spent right here in the City of Whitehorse, money that's coming right out of this Yukon Liberal government. I don't believe there's any federal involvement in the swimming pool, but I could be wrong. And I don't think there's any federal involvement in the endowment fund just announced. Those are Yukon government monies, Yukon taxpayer monies. And why is it, then, that this minister, when it comes to some of these facilities and initiatives that she supports and has already allocated funds to, does not use the excuse of the federal government's fiduciary responsibility, and yet when it comes to a riding that the Liberals do not hold, she suddenly brings up the federal government's spectre with regard to addressing these issues?
We have a serious amount of money in surplus here. Surely the minister could understand that, in a time of much-needed winter works, a project like this would not only provide some much-needed jobs in the village and the communities but would address the needs of children. Why do we have to waste our time waiting for the federal government, which, in all likelihood, is not going to involve itself in this type of thing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe we've gone as far as we can go with this discussion. The member knows well my commitment to all areas of the Yukon as I myself am a rural person. And I have given the member all the answers I can. Community and Transportation Services does not have a playground -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: May I continue, Madam Chair?
Deputy Chair: Yes, Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Community and Transportation Services does not have a playgrounds program.
The potential exists for assistance in Project Yukon. It should be pursued, and I'm sure the MLA for the area would be pleased to assist in writing the necessary applications.
Mr. Fentie: I must point out to the minister again her program objectives within her department. I think those are very clear.
Furthermore, the reference to Project Yukon - it's this very same Liberal government that has gutted the community development fund monies and made it virtually useless in terms of addressing the many, many, many needs that are out there. The dollar values that the Liberals have budgeted in not only the capital mains but also in the supplementary - how they have slashed the much-needed money for community development projects is actually ignoring the needs in communities. The minister can stand on her feet all day long and espouse how she supports all communities. The facts are here in these pages. The facts are in these pages, Madam Chair, for all to see.
There are limited funds going into the community of Watson Lake and surrounding area in comparison to other areas, and I'm somewhat puzzled by the minister's comment that the minister is of rural living, that the minister is a rural MLA. I would assume that that's what she meant. I can certainly understand that if she lived out in the community somewhere and was representing a rural community, she could stand on the floor of this Legislature and make that statement. But given the fact that the minister represents the riding of Laberge, that certainly can't be deemed as a rural riding and be compared to ridings like Watson Lake and villages like Upper Liard, given the access to facilities and amenities that the riding and the people of Laberge have available to them.
We are talking of areas that have limited access, limited facilities, and have a great need. I am interested in hearing from the minister that there is a willingness - at least beyond having an official go down to look at this particular project - a willingness to proceed, should recommendations be coming forward from her officials, that this can be done in a cost-effective manner and a manner that is not very complicated for the Yukon government to manage.
Is there a willingness there to address this particular initiative in that manner?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said what I would do in this regard, and I will do that. I look for the cooperation of the Member for Watson Lake in that effort.
The member brushes off too easily the possibility of applying to Project Yukon or Lotteries Yukon. One cannot have a successful application if it isn't submitted.
Mr. Fentie: Well, given the amount of money that is in Project Yukon, I would argue that it's this Liberal government that is now pitting project against project, community against community - something very similar to what her Premier accused the former government of doing in pitting community against community.
That's exactly what's happening with this gutted, watered-down version of community development. In fact, it smacks of political interference.
Project Yukon is nothing but a creation of this Liberal government, and they ultimately control the expenditures - what project will receive those monies - and I think, quite frankly, the minister should rethink how she answers these particular things.
I said I accept the fact that she has committed to send an official down but let the record show that the minister's priorities simply do not lie out in the communities, but the focus remains on the home front, where the Liberals mistakenly think now that the majority of their vote is. That support is depleting rapidly, given the government's management of this territory's affairs.
For the last 18 months, there are ripped up Liberal membership cards lying all over the place, and it's quite a waste of paper. Unfortunately, that's how the minister wants to play it. I will pass on to the Liard First Nation how seriously she took something that, to them, is a symbol, something the minister should be well aware of.
We'll leave that issue for now, Madam Chair, and move on to another issue. The collapse of the multiplate at Iron Creek on the Alaska Highway poses another huge problem in terms of traffic flowing to and out of Watson Lake. In the first place, to now cross the creek where the multiplate once was and, before that, a reasonable bridge across, there is now a one-lane Bailey bridge, and both ends of that bridge have a very adverse grade on the road. The big problem here, in the winter especially, is the truck traffic. It poses some serious problems for truck traffic managing these adverse grades, given the fact that they must come to a complete stop at the bottom of the hill, cross the Bailey bridge, then try and climb the other side. There is a serious safety matter here, given what can happen during our long winter months and the adverse conditions that we experience on our highways.
I understand that this again, as the minister will point out, is a federal responsibility. However, I also want to point out that the Liberal government is quick to say their priorities are for infrastructure, and here is some infrastructure that is in bad need of fixing.
So, will the minister at least commit to have her officials investigate what is going on at this crossing and to see if there's a way that we can jog the federal government into dealing with this very serious matter so there's not some serious accident that takes place, or that people who are travelling that highway to and from Watson Lake do not have to experience unnecessary hardship in trying to navigate across this creek and go up these hills?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is Public Works and Government Services Canada that has responsibility for this part of the Alaska Highway in British Columbia, and they did indeed put in a single-lane replacement bridge. The member is yelling across the House that Iron Creek is in the Yukon. This section of highway is in British Columbia and is the responsibility of Public Works and Government Services Canada. We can certainly talk to them and bring them up to speed on some of the concerns, ask that they be vigilant, provide a high level of maintenance until the structure is replaced. I'm confident that they will install a replacement full-service crossing in the fastest, most efficient and safe manner possible. Transportation engineering does monitor the situation on an ongoing basis, and we will continue to do so. We can talk to Public Works Canada. That is not a problem. However, we cannot interfere with the operation of another government, Madam Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let me for a moment, then, with the indulgence of the minister and her government, point something out: when that particular section of highway was let out for contract, it's a well-known fact that some road builder out of Montreal, Quebec, was the low bidder. The former NDP government lobbied tirelessly the federal government to ensure that a local Yukon contractor was given preferential consideration for the job, given the logistics of a Montreal contractor moving equipment all the way out to the Yukon, basically, to do this job because, no matter how low the bid was, no matter how great the intentions of the contractor from Montreal were, this simply was not a logical step for the federal government to take, and through those efforts from the former Minister of Economic Development and the former government leader, the contract was then awarded to a local highway contractor here in the Yukon.
Does the minister not believe that maybe that same zeal should apply in this matter? We have spent many, many months now experiencing this mess down there at this creek crossing and nothing has materialized, other than what the minister has just stated - that the officials are monitoring the situation. Well, that's nice. I guess they are watching people struggling across this Bailey bridge and trying to climb these hills. Cannot the minister agree that she and her government should apply the same zeal as the former government did to address this particular section of highway?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will speak with Public Works. And it has not been many, many months; it has been five months today since the culvert failure, and on Wednesday it will have been five months since the single-lane replacement bridge went in. We will do what we can, but what we can do is limited, given that this took place in another jurisdiction. We cannot leap in there and maintain the road, which is going to be the next thing the member suggests, because that is the responsibility of Canada's Public Works and Government Services, and they are maintaining the road.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it is also the case that it is this minister and her government's responsibility to represent and protect Yukoners' interests, and this is one of those areas where that particular responsibility is falling down. I would suggest that the minister should have acted on this matter quite some time ago, given what happened five months ago.
Quite frankly, five months could turn into five years here if we're going to wait for the federal government. Why won't the minister influence some of that special relationship that the Liberals in the Yukon here have with Ottawa? The Premier has been very, very clear in trumpeting that relationship, especially when it comes to receiving the millions of dollars that the hard-working Department of Finance officials were instrumental in receiving after solving the formula financing glitches, and the Premier being lucky enough to be sitting on the throne when those formula financing glitches were solved by those hard-working financial officials.
Will the minister not immediately contact her counterparts in Ottawa and make a demand on behalf of Yukoners that the federal government stop dilly-dallying around waiting for the legal processes to be completed, and get on with solving that problem of the Iron Creek crossing? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already said that we can talk to Public Works, and we will. I cannot imagine how they can install a new culvert or a replacement bridge before next summer. It is now November and they are not going to be installing a bridge or a culvert this winter, Madam Chair, no matter what I say to them.
I can urge them to make sure that their signage is thorough and visible so that truckers who are unfamiliar with the road will see the signs and perhaps slow down, as they need to. We will do what we can, but that Bailey bridge is not going to get replaced this winter and that's the long and the short of it, Madam Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I've got to explore a little further on this issue with the minister.
The minister has said that the Yukon government will not involve itself in areas that the federal government is responsible for. Where did the Bailey bridge come from?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I misspoke myself when I called it a Bailey bridge. It isn't exactly a Bailey bridge, it's a two-part bridge with a different name. I believe that it came from the Fort Nelson area.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's go on about this issue this way. I am asking for the minister to make this the highest priority, not just discuss this with her counterpart in Ottawa, but inform her counterpart in Ottawa that the federal government must do something about this immediately.
Now I want to point out something. Bridges can be built in the wintertime and there has been many a bridge built in the wintertime.
I will give the minister an example. At the Tuchitua crossing, during the winter, a bridge was built there. No problem.
Some of the Hyland River bridge on the Nahanni Range Road - the completion of that bridge was during the winter. Not a big problem.
The federal government is the one doing the foot-dragging here and they are just going to ignore this issue unless somebody gets in their ear and jolts them into action. That's what I'm asking the minister to do.
Will she make this a priority and demand that the federal government, Department of Public Works, act on this immediately?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that I will get in touch with Public Works, and I will do that. I cannot order them to build a replacement bridge this winter. I can suggest it and I might do that.
The scope of this project is such that I believe they looked at it and decided that they could not make a permanent repair until next summer. That is my belief as to what has happened. I will do what I can. I realize that it won't be enough to satisfy the member opposite, however.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that comment is a little premature. I am not that hard to satisfy. In fact I am quite easy to satisfy. Ask anyone.
Would the minister, in inquiring with the Department of Public Works, provide this House with the schedule - the timetable, if you will - for the federal government to act on this particular section of the Alaska Highway? Would the minister also provide this House with the correspondence that she will have with the department in this regard? And I would urge the minister to inform the Department of Public Works that this is a serious matter and that they must get serious about dealing with it. There is too much information out there that is pointing toward the legal aspects of what is going on there versus the federal government committing the necessary resources to fix this problem.
I don't think that serves any of us, if we're going to allow the federal government to proceed in that manner. It wouldn't serve any of us well, and I think the minister underestimates the power she has as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services in demanding the federal government get off their tushes and do something with this particular section of highway as quickly as possible.
I'd like to move on to another issue now, Madam Chair: the Nahanni Range Road. The minister has got an agreement with the up-and-coming North American Tungsten mine for travel on the Nahanni Range Road. Now, I would like to take the minister back in history, if I might. The Nahanni Range Road was built decades ago. The Nahanni Range Road, for most of the time that the Cantung mine was in service - the truck traffic travelling in and out of Cantung from Watson Lake consisted of five-axle loads. Now, that's important, because five-axle loads carry a gross weight of up to approximately 80,000 pounds. I'll deal in pounds because it's a smaller number.
Today our transportation systems deal, for the most part, with what we call a "configuration of super-B-train", which probably has a gross of 120,000 pounds. This highway that the minister is responsible for, this road - it's not really a highway; it's a road, and a very dangerous road to travel on, especially if there're any number of trucks travelling it, given its crown, its narrowness and all that goes with it.
How is the minister going to deal with the fact that this truck traffic has changed so dramatically in configuration? Is the minister comfortable that the Nahanni Range Road itself can manage this dramatic increase in weight in terms of the truck traffic that will be travelling on it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am confident that transportation engineering had a look at it and that transportation and maintenance are doing everything they can and that the road is in the appropriate shape for the loads that the company has informed us will be on the road.
Deputy Chair: The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will adjourn for 15 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on Bill No. 7, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02. We are in Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Fentie: Before we left off for the break, I was discussing with the minister the Nahanni Range Road and the configuration in terms of truck transport that has dramatically changed from past usage of the Nahanni Range Road to what we're facing to date.
I would just like to explore with the minister the existing agreement that has been reached with North American Tungsten. Is that strictly for road maintenance, or does it include any upgrades?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's primarily for maintenance. It does deal with upgrading - you know, the possibility of upgrading bridges to allow for increased load capacity. I will be providing this to the members opposite tomorrow as a legislative return. So the Member for Watson Lake can then see for himself what's included in it.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that and I look forward to being able to review what the existing agreement includes. However, in looking through the supplementary, there is obviously nothing in here that would indicate that the government is prepared to allocate any monies toward upgrading the Nahanni Range Road beyond what is in that agreement. That is why I am posing this question.
In all likelihood, the Nahanni Range Road simply has neither the base nor the construction necessary to handle any consistent truck traffic of this weight.
Now, I think it's safe to say that the road base will certainly survive the winter months, given the fact that it's frozen; however, this mine must operate year-round. I can tell you from past experience, even with five-axle loads, the Nahanni Range Road takes a serious pounding when there is consistent truck traffic on it.
I am wondering if the minister has any plans in the future to allocate large sums of money toward the upgrading of the Nahanni Range Road.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We've been informed that the expected length of work at that mine is approximately three years. With that in mind, I would certainly not foresee expending large sums of money on the road.
The member was concerned about weight. The bridge strength restricts the weight to 48 tons gross vehicle weight for semis and 50 for B-trains. There is not the quantity of traffic that there has been on some ore hauls. I am confident that my staff has evaluated the situation and that there should be no difficulties.
Mr. Fentie: I appreciate the minister's response in that regard. Ultimately we don't want to see a situation arise where access in and out of the mine will restrict the necessity of getting fuel and the much-needed supplies in, and/or getting concentrate out to market. It obviously would impede the operation of the mine.
That was quite a loud bang. I wonder if we are safe?
Anyway, I would support and do support, wholeheartedly, the minister's approach with North American Tungsten. The Yukon government began allocating funds to the Nahanni Range Road with the bridge that was put in at the washout at 86 Mile. I am certainly pleased that the minister has seen her way clear to further enhance those expenditures with the existing agreement and I thank her for that.
I think the community of Watson Lake is going to benefit somewhat from the operation of that mine and is certainly looking forward to its start-up and operations in terms of the ore concentrate coming out of there and the necessary supplies flowing in.
The other last question on the Nahanni Range Road: given the First Nation desires around empowerment and building capacity, is there any movement within the department to see if there is a way to address the Nahanni Range Road to involve First Nations in training for operation of equipment, those types of things, and that includes all people in the region who are in need of employment and training? Does the department have any desire to look at those aspects and see if we can't even increase the benefit that would flow to people within a community like Watson Lake and, indeed, First Nation communities like Upper Liard and the villages of Two Mile and Two and a Half Mile?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the member is asking whether or not we would entertain privatizing road maintenance on that road. Is that what he's asking?
Mr. Fentie: No, I'm not, Madam Chair. What I'm saying is that my experience in history in the area tells me that the camp at Tuchitua is a necessity to provide the appropriate maintenance needed, especially in the wintertime when the snowfall can be quite extensive and travel in and out of the mine site requires immediate action by the department. So the camp at Tuchitua, situated where it is, gives it ready access so that they can get out on that road as quickly as possible. What I'm looking at is, within the department, is there any willingness to look at an extensive training program? I say this because the Nahanni Range Road, given its location, is certainly a good candidate to see if we can't increase the capacity of people in the communities in the region so that they can become trained and much more involved in being able to obtain employment in this area.
I'm just assuming now that Tuchitua, the camp itself, may have people being transferred in from other areas, and I think that if there's a lack of capacity in Watson Lake and the villages, this may be an excellent opportunity to increase our list of capable workers with regard to highway maintenance, and this particular road is certainly a candidate that would go a long way to assist in that particular initiative.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member must believe that we went elsewhere to staff Tuchitua camp for the winter. I believe all of the recruitment for the staff this winter that was in addition to the people already there was local, although some local people had been working elsewhere and I believe were brought back.
Mr. Fentie: No, I didn't mean that the department had staffed Tuchitua from elsewhere. What I'm pointing out is that there certainly is a need in the villages with the First Nations and others in the community. This may be a good opportunity for the department to look at training people in the villages and the community of Watson Lake so that, in future times, they have the capacity to take on work like this. I do know some of the people involved right now out at Tuchitua. They have been with the department many, many years and are getting close to that time when some of them are facing the age of retirement, given their long, long service with the department, and I just want to ensure that we have a group of people within the villages and the community who are prepared and ready should any vacancies occur so that we can draw from within our local capacity.
That's exactly what I was trying to point out to the minister.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department is obviously always looking for equipment operators. Gravel road operators are especially hard to find. So, if there are vacancies, I would encourage them to apply.
As for anything further, we could consider it. There's nothing on the books at the moment. We do have ongoing training, and we recruit as required, and recruitment from areas is generally done from the fairly local area.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that. That's all I have in general debate, and I look forward to the minister making contact with me with regard to our date in going down to take a look at the Upper Liard skating rink, and I will endeavour to make myself available.
Mrs. Peter: I have a few questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. My first question for her would be about federal responsibility, so I would be grateful for any assistance she would be able to offer to my constituents because this would not be the first time we would meet this kind of challenge.
It's an issue up at Canada-U.S. Customs. Today there is a family in my community of Old Crow that is facing a tragedy in their family. They are trying to get from Old Crow to Fort Yukon, Alaska, without having to divert all over the place.
They have the situation under control at present; however, we will be facing these issues in the future. And if there is any assistance that we can receive for future situations, it would be very much appreciated.
The situation right now is that a chartered plane cannot leave Fairbanks, Alaska, and come directly into the community of Old Crow without first having to stop at a port of entry. In today's situation, they had asked if that were possible - they had to fly either into Whitehorse for a port of entry or into Inuvik, Northwest Territories. So that is unfortunate and unacceptable.
The First Nation in Old Crow spoke with Immigration in Fairbanks and the family is now travelling to Fairbanks tomorrow on a regularly scheduled flight. However, in the future, like I said, there will be times when we will probably have to face this problem again.
So I would just like to ask the minister if it's at all possible to have some assistance from her department to help us to resolve this issue.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will give the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin what assistance I can. It may be difficult, as the issue revolves around national security, and it's difficult to make exceptions. That doesn't mean we can't ask. I will do what I can to help, but I certainly can't promise that anything will change.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate any assistance the minister can offer to us.
Just a friendly reminder that we are having our Gwitchin gathering coming up next year, and people come from all areas of the Gwitchin Nation, including Alaska. And we have had the RCMP in Old Crow handle our Customs issues before, and earlier today I think I heard the minister make reference to that effect. I'm not sure if I heard the minister correctly. If there is any way that we can continue that service, it would alleviate a lot of our problems.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had referred to Canada Customs clearance being required for people flying from Dawson or Old Crow to Fairbanks. I know the current Air North schedule requires that, and that has been causing some problems. But the local RCMP detachment often does handle Customs clearance.
For the Gwitchin gathering next summer, I would encourage the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin to have everyone take into account the ID requirements in advance so that they can have the proper identification to facilitate cross-border travel.
There have been a number of enhanced security measures instituted by Transport Canada following the terrorist attacks on September 11, and they don't currently apply to the Dawson and Old Crow airports, as I said. Transport Canada provides the Yukon government, as the aerodrome operator, all relevant directions and procedures pertaining to the security measures, and the air carriers are required to abide by the air carrier security measures, as well.
So if the member can give me full details of the first problem that she mentioned, we will see how we can help. Again, I can't promise that it will be successful under the current international situation.
Mrs. Peter: I will address those issues to the minister in a letter form. And again, just for clarity purposes, with the Gwitchin gathering being held in the community of Old Crow, planes would have to come directly from the communities within Alaska and land directly in Old Crow. So, that is what we would like to see. It has been done before and we hope it can be done again in the future. However, it is a federal issue, I understand, but if we can try between now and next year to alleviate some of those problems, then we would appreciate that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That is a very practical approach that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is taking - to plan ahead. That is encouraging to see, and hopefully, by that time, there should be no difficulty. I understand that people could also be arriving by boat and we would take that into account. We will be in touch with her to get more details so that we can get to work on that one right away.
Mrs. Peter: That is a very practical approach, and thanks for the reminder that people will be arriving by boat. In this winter season I am not thinking about boats. So the minister and I will work on that, and I do appreciate that help.
And on to other issues for my community, I see that $115,000 is earmarked for Old Crow in the 2001-02 supplementary, and I just wondered if the minister would be able to provide me with a breakdown of that amount?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Madam Chair. In the supplementary budget, the increase of $120,000 consists of a $90,000 revote for Old Crow riverbank erosion protection, to carry out drilling exploration and geotechnical evaluation - that's $90,000. I'm still looking for the rest, because I believe the member said it was $120,000 in total. The other $30,000 of that was for another community, Madam Chair.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to bring to the minister's attention some of the concerns that I've heard from my community in regard to any work that my constituents might do over the winter season and in regard to any kind of road maintenance or working on the erosion of the bank. That kind of work is done in the springtime, and right now, in my community of Old Crow, people are hoping for jobs. And their expectation last year and their hope was that we would see the new terminal building being built in Old Crow very soon, and they were hoping to see the project starting this summer. I realize that the new airport terminal is in the long-term plan for 2003-04; however, right now, that's too long in the future, and we were hoping for something sooner than that.
There is work being done on the airport itself - an upgrade to the airport - and the only people who are working on that project are the people at the maintenance camp - the truck drivers and the grader operator.
Would the minister care to give me a commitment at this point so that I can let people in Old Crow know that this long-term commitment would actually happen for sure in the years 2003 and 2004?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, it is my intention that that work will happen in 2003-04, with the bulk of it in 2004-05. And I note that in the capital budget, which we have yet to get to for the coming year, there is $50,000 worth of work for Old Crow for run-up pad construction.
It is unfortunate that not every project that Community and Transportation Services does will necessarily create a number of jobs in a community. Sometimes the work is done by those who are already employed. I appreciate the difficulties of living in a small community where there is little employment.
Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to address that in every budget, as I'm sure the member understands.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like also to extend an invitation to the minister or a member of her department to come to Old Crow, speak directly to the people who are working at that maintenance camp in Old Crow, and see first-hand the equipment that they are working with.
I brought this forward last year and I'm going to bring it forward again this year: they are working with 1979 equipment. Most other camps throughout the territory, I believe, are working with equipment that's up to par and up to standard, and I don't see why the community of Old Crow needs to work with 1979 equipment. I'm not familiar with trucks and graders and loaders and equipment such as that; however, I believe that our community deserves better service than that, especially when we have before us the type of budget that we do see within this department.
Would the minister consider that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The primary function of maintenance equipment in Old Crow is runway work, and I think it speaks volumes to the calibre of people who work there that they keep that equipment running so well. New isn't necessarily better, as we see if you have bought a new toaster recently. I'm still using one that's older than my sister, but we won't go into that. Older equipment sometimes does the job just as well as new equipment.
The Member for Klondike is saying "Just look at the minister."
Yes indeed. I have looked with envy over the past year and a half as many of my caucus colleagues have been able to go to Old Crow for various reasons. The one time I was supposed to go, I had to cancel because something came up. I am looking forward to going to Old Crow sometime in the next few months, I hope.
My deputy is going up on November 15, assuming that we are finished with Community and Transportation Services discussion in here. I will make sure that he takes a close look at the equipment that is there and that he speaks with the employees as well.
Mrs. Peter: I am sure that the deputy minister would hear all of the issues and concerns of people who are working in that camp and yes, the people who do work at the maintenance camp in Old Crow do their work extremely well, especially with the equipment they have to work with, and especially in the wintertime. They actually do the work on the airport, and yes, we do have a few roads in Old Crow that they maintain during the winter and summer seasons.
While we're talking about the issue of equipment, I brought up a concern of our community last year and again it's a concern for our community this year. It's with the fire truck that we have in the community. The fire truck itself - last year it came from the community of Faro, and it definitely belongs in a museum by now.
I am sure that you can appreciate that in the winter months, if there is a fire, that truck is not going to be able to do the job that we need it to do. Especially now with the two subdivisions that Old Crow has, we do need the services that are going to be able to respond to an emergency such as a fire in as little time as possible.
We do have access to the YTG water truck, and they often assist in any fires that happen in the community. However, again, just because we are isolated and it costs an enormous amount of money to transport this type of equipment from Whitehorse to Old Crow doesn't mean we're not deserving of that type of service, especially if it means the loss of lives. There are many children who live in these subdivisions and many elders who live in the subdivisions. Some of the elders live alone in those homes. In case of fire, we do need the necessary services. So, I would like to hear how the minister will respond to that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are, of course, concerned that every community has adequate fire protection. I think the truth of the matter is that by the time a fire truck arrives, it's often a very dicey situation, and a trained crew is usually the difference there.
I know that the public safety department is constantly evaluating which piece of equipment gets replaced next, and we can certainly double-check to ensure that Old Crow is receiving the level of service it should have and that the fire truck is at least functioning as it should. I will find out for the member where on the replacement list that the director of public safety maintains where Old Crow sits. I don't have that information in front of me, but I can certainly get it.
Again, it's a credit to the volunteer fire department in Old Crow that they have kept the equipment they do have functioning so well.
Mrs. Peter: The most important aspect of our community is the volunteers we do have to keep our communities going and to keep our communities functioning, and that brings me to the issue of recreation.
We have before us a $750,000 endowment fund that we received a statement on today. The community of Old Crow is very, very fortunate. Our recreation department is run by a very capable director, and she has the only paid position in our community - the rest of the work that is done to keep the community going in activities or to keep the gatherings happening is done strictly by volunteers. And I know the volunteers are only too happy to do that because it involves their children and it involves our family as a whole. And I have mentioned many times in the Legislature how we have a vision for our community, and that involves living a healthy lifestyle and bringing our community together in a healthy way. We look forward to any type of wellness programs that we can tap into and any kind of resources that we might need from outside. This fund that is before us - the $750,000 - will not be accessible for - I am not sure how many years. And if we are depending on the interest that this money will bring us in a year or two, then it is going to be a very small amount, especially with the interest rate that we have today.
If there are any other resources than the community recreation endowment fund, I wouldn't mind hearing about them so that I can bring that message back to my community.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, the community recreation leadership endowment fund is a start. I would rather put this money aside and use the interest than just spend the money, because once we spend the $750,000, it's gone, and I am hoping that with it set aside as a permanent endowment fund, it can be added to through contributions from individuals, the private sector; perhaps government will be able to add to it. But I think that is the most secure way to provide some money for community recreation leadership.
As I have said, I am working with the federal Secretary of State for Amateur Sport. He is extremely committed to recreation and understands the problems of recreation in small northern communities. He knows that everybody can't be an NHL star. He realizes that, you know, a lot of people do smaller things in their own way, and we are working to develop something that will be of benefit to our communities and will help our children lead more active lives.
I could use the support of the member opposite in that endeavour. The work that is being done in Old Crow with the recreation director and the volunteers is to be commended. They are doing a great deal of good work, and I hope it will continue. They have available to them the same programs as other people, and programs that they have used, I hope they will continue to do that.
I hope that the leadership endowment fund, in the not-too-distant future, can be a benefit to Old Crow people as well. We need to get using that interest. I realize it's not a large amount, but at least by doing this, we will have a certain amount of funding every year, whereas if we spent the principal, we would have nothing all too soon.
Mrs. Peter: I have always committed to being a voice for my community, and I will continue to do that and I will cooperate as best I can in projects pertaining to my community.
I have one more last question for the minister, which is mostly out of curiosity. I know the community has put forward a plan, called a physical development plan, for Old Crow. It is a five-year plan.
We have run out of space available for building within our community - for more houses and other buildings that we might need in the future. I'm just curious to know if the minister has met with anyone in leadership pertaining to that plan and if they have brought it to your attention.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have not specifically spoken with anyone in Old Crow about the plan, but I know my officials have and we are happy to continue working with the community of Old Crow in developing the multi-year plan.
Mrs. Peter: Would the deputy minister be willing to meet with the leadership on his visit to Old Crow?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, he'd be pleased to. Old Crow has the advantage that you fly in, and you're there until the plane leaves. So, he'll have plenty of time.
Mrs. Peter: I would invite the deputy minister to tour our beautiful administration building and meet all of the workers from the First Nation at the Vuntut Gwitchin building.
That concludes my questions for the minister.
Mr. McRobb: I'd also like to make note, Madam Chair, that this is the first time in nearly a decade that term has been used in this Legislature, and I congratulate you for that.
I would like to follow up on some issues raised on Thursday, when we first began discussions on the department. The first area is regarding water and sewer, safe supply of water, distribution and so on. Now, the minister said they have done an assessment of the infrastructure in municipalities. Is this something she can provide to this House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I explained, I believe, on Thursday, we have been doing the assessment, and I expect to be tabling it in the Legislature this month. So, there is no need for the member to ask me for a special copy. He will be getting a copy when it's tabled in the Legislature.
Mr. McRobb: I just wanted to follow up and ensure that.
The next area is with regard to community recreation centres. Now, the minister indicated that there would be a working group established. In reviewing the Blues, it seems that that might pertain to the community of Carcross. Can she just clarify that understanding and also indicate if she has any plans to use a similar model to address the needs across the territory with regard to community recreation centres?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I was indeed referring to Carcross. They had, as you will recall, petitioned the House for a start on a new recreation facility, so a working group has been struck. That is the way my department will normally proceed when we are working on a project. It is to involve the wide representation of the community in the planning process.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to turn again to the area of public/private partnerships, or P3s, and ask the minister if the Liberal government has developed a policy for P3s yet.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As this is a Finance discussion, I would like to advise the member opposite that, as advocates of public/private partnerships, we are certainly continuing our investigation into them and have the matter under review at this point in time.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm glad the Premier responded to that one because, back on January 11, 2000, just a few months prior to the election, in a luncheon speech to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, she said, "Schools, hospitals, housing complexes and the highways all could be built using this model."
So, Madam Chair, I'm particularly interested in the area of highways. I would like to ask the highways minister how she sees a P3 model working in that regard.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Madam Chair, the P3 model is a method of financing. As the Finance minister, I have advised the Member for Kluane that the discussion of public/private partnerships is under consideration by this government. We're examining it as a financing model. I would caution the member opposite that we're simply looking at this issue. If the member is interested in how the P3 model works with respect to highways or any of the other items he mentioned, I will be pleased to send over to the member opposite some examples. There are several Canadian examples I can send over to him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm aware there are several different models in regard to P3s, and I'm most interested in knowing which model this Yukon Liberal government prefers. So whatever example she sends over, if it can pertain to this government's preference, I would most appreciate it. And especially in the area of highway construction, I would most appreciate that, too.
I realize that it's a mechanism to finance projects. In other jurisdictions, usually this would result in some kind of toll charge to the public - at least in some models that is the case. So, it's probably premature at this point to ask that particular detail with regard to P3s, and I will be most interested to review the material with regard to P3s that I expect in the near future.
Now I would like to turn to the area of the SHIP, or strategic highways infrastructure program, and ask the highways minister: is the SHIP related to the national transportation investment strategy? Can she indicate if it is, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm not sure. I will have to check and get back to the member. I know it's the strategic highway infrastructure program, but how it relates to other parts of the federal minister's responsibility, I'm not exactly sure.
Mr. McRobb: I believe there is a strong likelihood that this debate will be continuing probably tomorrow afternoon, so if the minister can undertake to collect that information and get back to us then, certainly that would be appreciated.
In regard to airport security - this is a topic discussed on Thursday - I've got a few questions, starting with how much of the federal program initiative dollars will the Yukon get? Does the minister know?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: At this point, we're not aware if we will be getting any or, if we are, how much. We're looking at what additional costs there might be first.
Mr. McRobb: I don't have the details on the federal program at hand but I'm sure the minister does, especially given the background of her deputy, and I wonder if she would oblige us with some basic information at this time, such as the name of the federal program, what the funding level is for that program. And I recall something about targeting electronic scanning equipment. Can the minister indicate what the primary objective of the program is? Let's go with that for now, Madam Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of different programs. I will undertake to find some information for the member opposite as to how any of the programs will apply to the Yukon. We do not yet have that information.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Madam Chair. I'm looking forward to receiving that information as well. I think many Yukoners realize that, with the exposure the City of Whitehorse received on September 11, certainly the federal government should be aware of the security issue here on a national basis and try to give us more priority than what our capita numbers would indicate, or maybe our flight numbers would indicate, as a result of that.
Has the minister looked into the issue of increased security on direct flights from Frankfurt at all? I know this is an issue, especially on intercontinental flights. Because we have direct flights from Frankfurt, Whitehorse could be seen as an easy arrival point, and possibly leading to other destinations in North America. Can the minister give us an update on what she has done in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I was concerned about the direct flights long before September 11; however, I can't give the member any more information. The federal government is developing the new rules, and Transport Canada does not permit disclosure of security measures, except authorized personnel, in order to ensure that the security of the travelling public is maintained. So there will be some things about increased security that I cannot provide the member with.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister what her position is on what is called the North American security perimeter. Can she give us an update on that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Madam Chair, in the context of debate on a supplementary budget, I don't think that question is relevant, with respect.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think the question is highly relevant, and surely we are not going to begin to scrutinize the relevancy of the answers or the questions in here. We know that there are a set number of days for this sitting. Let's just leave it to the wisdom of the opposition as to how they spend their time. And if the government answers responsibly and is forthcoming with information, then we know that everything should work out.
Now, I would also take note that within the amount of time that the minister took to stand up to object, she could have answered the question. So I am wondering if really the minister is trying to avoid answering the question. Once again, the question is: what is this government's position on the North American security perimeter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is not a Community and Transportation Services issue, and there is not a line about this matter in the supplementary budget before us. With respect, I would submit that the question is not relevant to the debate at hand.
Mr. McRobb: I would point out that we are in general debate and that this debate does not adhere strictly to any line item. As a matter of fact, debate can address questions about such broad matters as departmental objectives, which, in anybody's line of thinking, certainly would not have any line items developed out of them that could be directly connected.
So, it is a tradition of this House that any question relating to policy or practice or expenditure or any matters of responsibility within the department can be asked. Now, of course the link here is transportation to the Department of Community and Transportation Services, so I rest my case, Madam Chair. That is the direct connection.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Madam Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Point of order.
Mr. McLachlan: Clearly, questions must relate to matters that were in the administrative responsibility of the Government of the Yukon. If Canada or the United States wish to implement a North American security corridor, that's their choice, and the Government of the Yukon would have no other choice but to obey it or fly with it in the same way as we fly with national defence and immigration.
Deputy Chair: On the point of order, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Quickly, could the government House leader advise the House what Standing Order is being violated here? There are none.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. Historically, general debate has allowed wide-ranging discussion and debate. The minister is free to answer or not answer the question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As this is a matter that is currently in the preliminary discussion stage between Canada and the United States, it would be improper of me to provide the member with my opinion, my position, which is what he asked for. I am unable to give him the answer he desires, Madam Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Madam Chair, isn't this surprising? The minister once again refuses to answer a question, yet will certainly stand up and take the time to argue why she shouldn't answer the question. When the issue is brought to you for clarification, Madam Chair, and it's found the minister is wrong in her reason for not answering the question, we still get a non-answer.
Madam Chair, this is a very important issue. I'm aware of media stories on this matter, in very recent times, and I can recall an article from the Vancouver Sun on, I believe, Tuesday, October 16, entitled something to the effect of "Waits at the U.S. border are hurting the economy". In that article, it indicated that all provinces and territories, except Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Yukon, signed the letter to Prime Minister Chrétien.
Now, the letter that was referred to is a letter from British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, which urged the federal government to agree to a continental security perimeter around North America to lessen border delays between the United States and Canada. Mr. Campbell, who has met with the Prime Minister on this matter, lobbied other provinces and territories that shared these concerns over border delays slowing down trade in the last couple of months.
This has been an issue of serious magnitude, Madam Chair, for some time now, and in the Yukon we have very serious concerns about border delays slowing down our trade, including of course the tourist trade.
In the letter, Mr. Campbell wanted the Prime Minister to know that his province was very concerned with the degree of impact of delays at the border and how they were already having an impact on the economy of British Columbia. He argued that, given the vital role of cross-border trade between Canada and the United States, the continuation of a free and open border is very important. He urged the Prime Minister to do whatever he could to avoid prolonged delays at the border.
Now, in the Yukon we have several border crossings with the United States. I believe there are three such border crossings - one at Fraser on the Skagway Road, another one at Beaver Creek on the Alaska Highway, and another one at Pleasant Camp on the Haines Road.
The Yukon didn't sign on to this letter, and I'm wondering why.
The minister refused to answer the question when she had the opportunity. She had the opportunity twice, Madam Chair, and still didn't answer the question. I am curious, as I am sure many Yukoners are. Why is this Liberal government ducking out and then refusing to discuss this matter?
Now, returning to the letter from Mr. Campbell - and I want to clarify something else, Madam Chair, please. Don't assume I'm a fan of Mr. Campbell because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I disagree almost completely with the way he's "Campbell-izing" the province to the south of us. And Madam Chair, given the current desperate economic trend south of our border, it won't be long before most British Columbians agree with that perspective, especially since there is a very good baseline for all of the columnists, reporters and the people of B.C. to gauge the economic performance of this Liberal government - and that is the accounting review done of the government's books at or near the time of the election by a hand-picked group of accountants - hand-picked by the Liberal government itself. So, it's a very good baseline.
Anyway, back to the letter. The Premier of British Columbia wanted Ottawa to consider allowing a continental perimeter around North America, including increased border resources and shared intelligence between American and Canadian authorities. And we know that the Premier raised this issue during his visit in Ottawa with the Prime Minister, and probably also when he was in Toronto and Quebec meeting with his provincial counterparts. There were two other premiers, both Ontario's Mike Harris and Bernard Lord of New Brunswick who joined Premier Campbell in calling for a security perimeter. And this perimeter is very similar to the perimeter that surrounds the European Union.
Now, the Prime Minister and the federal government have steered clear of this proposal. They have cited concerns over sovereignty and other matters. I know that Foreign Affairs minister John Manley called proposals for a North American security perimeter "simplistic". That was his own word, Madam Chair. But there are a growing number of Canadian business leaders who are worried about the impacts on trade and investment caused by delays at the country's 130 border crossings.
And, Madam Chair, they are calling on Ottawa to consider this security perimeter. They say the countries want to collaborate with one another while maintaining sovereignty, and if there's a big wall erected at the Canadian border, it's going to be a disincentive to businesses considering relocating here.
And that has the potential to scare away investment in our country. So it has to be done very carefully, Madam Chair, if it's done at all. I'm quite surprised that the Yukon apparently does not have a position on this matter, given their Liberal cousin south of the border who is lobbying all his counterparts across the country to join with him in this initiative, urging the federal government to consider this North American security perimeter.
My question to the minister was merely what is she doing in this regard, and she was unable to answer the question. That's very disappointing, because the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which represents 170,000 businesses, passed a resolution calling for a North American security perimeter. And this so-called business-friendly government - how many times have we heard that in here? - is now ignoring the call from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Well, they can't have it both ways, Madam Chair.
Now, there have been severe problems with delays along the borders. Some people, trying to cross the border, have been delayed more than half a day.
Madam Chair, I move you report progress.
Deputy Chair: Mr. McRobb has moved that the House now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Deputy Chair's report
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You've heard the report from the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 5, 2001:
Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation 2000 Annual Report (Roberts)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 5, 2001:
Spending for Watson Lake and other Yukon communities in the 2001-02 Supplementary No. 1 Estimates (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2410
First Nations Relations Liaison Cabinet position: information pertaining to (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2465