Monday, December 15, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Arntzen:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges ministers of the Yukon government to ensure that their departments are meeting the Yukon Party governmentís election commitments by providing regular reports and updates to the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House condemns the Yukon Party governmentís proposed policy on outstanding government loans for its failure to recognize the principle that ministers of the Crown should be held to a higher standard of conduct than others with regard to their financial obligation to the Yukon people, as well as its failure to ensure that the Cabinet ministers with outstanding debts totalling more than $400,000 will repay these debts in full to the Government of the Yukon.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House rejects the Yukon Party governmentís plan to sell delinquent business loans to a collection agency, which could force Yukon-owned businesses into bankruptcy or serious financial hardship and add to the territoryís unacceptable high level of unemployment.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that many Yukoners on fixed incomes struggle to make ends meet during the holiday season and
THAT by not releasing January social assistance cheques prior to Christmas, as has been the past practice of government, the Minister of Health is depriving many Yukoners of the ability to afford Christmas presents for their children; and
THAT the expense to government to issue these cheques early would be minimal; and
THAT this House urges to Department of Health to immediately release January social assistance cheques to help relieve the pressure put on low income families at this time of year.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the squirrel problem in Whitehorse continues to run amuck; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to instruct the Department of Environment to partner with the City of Whitehorse to resolve this problem by following similar steps taken to curb the wolf population, namely:
(1) trap, release and relocate unharmed a significant portion of the Whitehorse squirrel population; and
(2) adopt a squirrel sterilization policy in order to curb the outbreak in the local squirrel population.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that legitimate reasons exist from time to time for the Yukon government to make loans to help achieve social and economic objectives.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Business loans outstanding
Mr. Hardy: Last week, the Premier unveiled his long-awaited solution for the outstanding loans issue. He even tried to get this House to endorse it during motion debate.
We support the idea of forgiving money owed by non-government organizations. However, we canít support a so-called solution that could put some small Yukon businesses into bankruptcy and allow his two Cabinet ministers off the hook.
Now, why did the Premier adopt a plan that will let his two delinquent Cabinet ministers avoid paying their debt to Yukon taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, as usual, the leader of the official opposition has missed the point and gotten it wrong. In fact, we are setting up a solution that puts in place a number of safeguards to ensure that there are no bankruptcies, which would include a six-month period to come in and renegotiate terms, conditions and interest rates, plus a three-year hiatus subsequent to the six-month period ending of any interest paid. However, the two members in question from this government do not have that privilege or benefit, and their loans will go forward in full, as they are today.
Mr. Hardy: The minister did not address the situation in regard to them being able to walk away without paying their loans. We can understand the Premierís eagerness to end the scandal involving his two ministers, but this wonít do. Itís a bad policy and it wonít work.
It took the Premier 13 months to come up with this scheme. It took the banking community less than 24 hours to shoot it down in flames. Local bankers, at least, arenít interested in buying up loans they canít collect on.
What financial institutions did the Premier consult about their willingness to buy up this file during the 13 months it had to develop this so-called solution?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me put it this way: after 15 years plus, to have taken 13 months to come forward with a solution is commendable, I think, in terms of the timelines. As the Member for Kluane put it so aptly last week, other governments have looked at this issue and problem and backed away from it because of the political fallout that would be incurred.
This government did not back away from the issue, took it head on and brought forward a solution in 13 short months versus past governments, which had 15 years plus to deal with this issue.
Furthermore, when we talk about banks, in most cases a financial institution would not have made these loans, and therein lies the problem for the delinquencies.
Mr. Hardy: As usual the Premier is completely wrong on this, especially when he refers to what other members on this side of the House said previously.
I would like to point out, since this minister seems to have a problem recognizing his responsibility in this, heís the one who created this mess. He put two Cabinet ministers in place that owe over $400,000 to the taxpayers of the Yukon. The Premierís two Cabinet colleagues have thumbed their noses at taxpayers for years now. If they wonít pay the government, thereís no guarantee that they are going to pay a private creditor. And even if they didnít, Mr. Speaker, Yukon taxpayers could end up getting only a tiny fraction of what should be coming to them.
Yukon people expect a higher standard of conduct from their MLAs, especially from Cabinet ministers who have squirreled away enough money to repay their debts. Will the Premier bring in a Cabinet ethics policy requiring his delinquent ministers to pay their debts to taxpayers in full, or else resign their positions?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís very interesting how that member and the opposition parties attack two individuals when there are 67 delinquent loans. Now, I take it the NDPís position is foreclosure. Well, this government takes a fair approach to this issue, and our members do not get the benefit of any renegotiation or any hiatus on interest. Their loans go forward in full. So the NDP has a position of foreclosure. This government is not going to foreclose on people, this government is going to give everybody else a chance, except the two members in this Cabinet who go forward in full to deal with a financial institution. Thatís the solution.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. Did the minister authorize his hand-picked supervisor of Dawson Cityís affairs to meet with the former mayor, who is now the Minister of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Dawson City is in financial difficulty and has been for some time. This is the responsibility of the past mayor and council and past governments. This is due in part to past projects that went overbudget, like the arena ó which, to make matters worse, is now in arbitration. The new supervisor is predicting that Dawson will be in a deficit situation of $725,000 due to a major error in Dawsonís financial plan.
On top of this, Dawson has outstanding loans in excess of all other municipalities. Under the last ministerís watch, a bylaw was passed at the city to extend their borrowing powers beyond the normal amount allowed under the Municipal Act, to around $4 million. I repeat, Dawsonís financials are dangerously stretched, and that can affect all Yukon taxpayers.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, that wasnít the question I asked. I asked whether or not he had approved the supervisor to meet with the Minister of Health and Social Services. The minister has already acknowledged that itís bad optics for the supervisor to stay at the Health ministerís hotel. Itís even worse for this consultant to have private discussions with the Health minister when that ministerís vendetta against the current Dawson City administration is well known.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to table an exchange of e-mails between the new supervisor and the chief administrative officer for Dawson. In his e-mail, the ministerís hand-picked consultant acknowledges having two private meals with the MLA for Klondike at the end of November. Does the minister think itís appropriate for the new supervisor to be conducting business in this way?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I just want to reiterate for the member opposite that he wasnít conducting business. The Yukon government is currently, with its payables ó we are right now current with all our payables with the City of Dawson. They are requesting over $700,000 as a loan. Of that, roughly $4 million can be borrowed. Only $730,000 is left. They could go to any bank and borrow this amount. The Yukon government will not loan the amount at the present time as we are awaiting the results of the arbitration on the arena.
I would like to repeat that a problem here is the state of Dawsonís finances ó a situation created by the past mayor and council under the last governmentís watch. As the Minister of Community Services, I take this situation very seriously. I must ensure Yukon taxpayers are not negatively affected by Dawsonís municipal financial problems.
Mr. Cardiff: I find it very interesting that the Minister of Community Services knows what was discussed between the MLA for Klondike and the new supervisor at dinner. He must have been there too, I guess. The chief administrative officer had expressed concerns about the new supervisor discussing confidential city issues with unauthorized people in a public place. The supervisorís response had a tone that I would best describe as patronizing, antagonistic and dismissive. The minister may want to correct me on this, but I would assume that he expects the new supervisor to deal with the Dawson City council and administration in a professional and respectful manner and to respect confidentiality.
Can the minister confirm the supervisorís claim that his contract does not include a confidentiality agreement, and if that is the case, can the minister explain why it doesnít have such a clause?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I guess he was there also.
Secondly, I would like to repeat that Dawson City has a financial problem. The problem is one this government inherited from the previous government and the previous mayor and council.
As outlined in the Municipal Act, I will take this situation very seriously. As minister, I have appointed a supervisor to review Dawsonís financial plan. Iím waiting for the supervisor to meet with mayor and council. He will then finalize his report and present it to me. If that report shows breaches in the Municipal Act, for the sake of Yukon taxpayers and especially those in Dawson, I will take the necessary actions required, as I am empowered to do so in accordance with the Municipal Act.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Ms. Duncan:I have some follow-up questions for the Minister of Community Services. Under instructions from the MLA for Klondike, the minister hired a supervisor for the town of Dawson. This B.C. resident is being paid $800 a day. The recent e-mail from the supervisor to the town of Dawson was tabled by the Member for Mount Lorne. In that e-mail, the supervisor had this to say, and I quote: "In view of the hot news item in the Yukon during my stay up there about Premier Fentie and all, it seems I feel rather special." The supervisor also referred to Dawson and he said, and I quote again: "The mayor has advised me that Dawson used to be a nasty place. Itís reassuring to find out it has not changed much."
This individual is being paid $800 a day, and heís busy attacking the Premier he works for and the town heís working in. Does the minister agree with the statements made by the supervisor that Dawsonís a nasty place?
Hon. Mr. Hart: To that question I will answer, "No."
Ms. Duncan: A straightforward answer out of the government ó a first. I guess the minister does have a problem with the supervisor badmouthing the City of Dawson. The City of Dawson is also very concerned about the fact that the hand-picked supervisor has no confidentiality agreement, as has been mentioned. In other words, heís free to discuss anything he learns at work with anyone he wants. This is not normal practice. According to the e-mail, the supervisor has been busy running up his expense account at the Eldorado Hotel having lunch with the MLA for Klondike, having dinner with the MLA for Klondike, no doubt to get his marching orders.
Why has the minister not insisted on a confidentiality agreement with the Dawson City supervisor? Why not?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The supervisor is operating under the full ramifications of the Municipal Act.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, judging by the ministerís response, it appears the only reason thereís no confidentiality agreement is so the supervisor can make such disparaging comments about Dawson. Judging by this e-mail, it appears the supervisor spent most of his time in the hotel owned by the MLA for Klondike ó Sunday through Friday, lunch, breakfast, dinner and drinks at the ministerís hotel. Iím sure weíre going to get the full accounting of those travel expenses.
Last week, the Premier announced a special deal for Cabinet ministers who are refusing to pay back their loans. The City of Dawson has a loan with the Government of Yukon. Is the minister prepared to renegotiate the terms of that loan with the city, or do these special arrangements just exist for very special fellows?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím waiting for the supervisor to meet with the mayor and council. He will then finalize his report and present it to me. If the report shows breaches in the Municipal Act, for the sake of Yukon taxpayers and especially those in Dawson, I will take the necessary actions.
Question re: Forest industry, First Nations relations
Mr. McRobb:The time has finally arrived for the territory to do wonderful things with its forest resources now that control has been devolved from the federal government. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has had ample time to give directions to the department for his road map to the future, wherever that might take us, Mr. Speaker.
Is the minister satisfied with the direction taken by his department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly are working with the department and we are progressing since devolution of the forestry industry in the Yukon. We are taking small steps to get the forest industry up and running and viable in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: The ministerís forest management branch recently provided Yukon comment to the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada. I will table that letter now. One of the comments was the suggestion to develop, and I quote, "explicit mechanisms for addressing the possibility of an indigenous community or representative making erroneous claims and creating false conflict are needed." Does the minister agree with that recommendation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In southeast Yukon weíre working with the MOU that was signed in 2002. Weíre working with the southeast Yukon Kaska forest management groups, and it has been a very positive experience.
Mr. McRobb: The minister was handed the wrong answer. He totally failed to answer the question. Many people are offended by the language that I just recited. It singles out an identifiable group in our society, in this case our indigenous community, our First Nations people. In addition, the ministerís approach appears to be a convenient way to stifle public discussion on important matters. This letter has been circulated across the country. The Yukon Party has found yet another way to embarrass our territory on the national stage. What will this minister do about that letter, and will he now apologize for that offensive statement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre working in a very positive way in the forest industry in the Yukon. Certainly we have our problems, but it has been a positive experience for both ourselves and the small communities outside of Whitehorse that depend on some sort of forest industry to stay alive. So we are working in a positive relationship.
Question re: Education standards
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, the minister tabled the Education annual report of 2002-03. In there, on page 13 ó 21 percent of rural students are on individual education plans while nine percent of urban students are on IEPs.
Now, of all the First Nation students in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, 23 percent of them are on IEPs while seven percent are non-First Nation members. So in how many communities are rural First Nations students on IEPs being treated ó not diagnosed but treated by psychologists from the department? Iím talking about clinical psychologists, not school psychologists.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, the Education department does a very good job of meeting the demands in the City of Whitehorse and the rural communities.
Mr. Fairclough: Whatís the use of asking questions in this House if the ministers arenít paying attention in their answers, Mr. Speaker? Mr. Speaker, let me continue, and hopefully weíll get one from the member opposite on this one.
On page 22 of the report, the departmentís annual report on Yukon achievement tests in grade 3, First Nations students performed below the established standard performance, while non-First Nation students performed above the acceptable standards. On the same page, in both grade 6 and 9, First Nations failed to meet the expected standards of acceptable performance. All students are expected to write the Yukon achievement test. Those who may not benefit, Mr. Speaker, from the tests are exempt. Exemptions from students writing the YAT have increased from 170 in 2002 to 275 in 2003. Thatís a 62-percent increase. Are the exemptions from writing the test being used to pump up the appalling results from Yukon students?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: What the member opposite fails to recognize is anything that is positive and everything that isnít. I say today to the member opposite that the results of the 2003 Yukon achievement tests show encouraging improvements in the success of First Nations and rural students. I would like to encourage those students and the teachers in every community to keep on with the good work, because this is an issue that didnít start yesterday, and itís an issue that is not going to be completed by tomorrow.
Mr. Fairclough: Like any other departments, this Yukon Party ó it just seems like there are no problems under them, but constantly we bring out issues, and they are skirting around them and away from them. Only 11 percent of the students graduating in 2003 are First Nation. While the First Nation population is around 30 percent, the percentage of First Nation graduates was 16 percent in 2001. This year it is at a decline of five percent. The minister must be very concerned about that, so what will the minister do this year to correct these unacceptable results? Tell us his plans?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to point out for the House today that the member opposite also spent four years as a minister in government, and I remember that time period very well. I did not register any miracles that were performed by that member opposite.
I want to state for the record today, Mr. Speaker, that this is an historical issue within the Yukon Territory. The other thing that we might want to note is that the Yukon also has the highest consumption of alcohol per capita across the Yukon.
In my opinion, I believe there is a direct link to the issues that are raised in the communities. I believe that the barriers to education are behind us. They are not in front of us. Those barriers that are behind us are what are stopping us from making a lot of good progress. However, I have to state for the record also that I believe that those issues are starting to be addressed more today.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre rebuild
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Justice. A few weeks ago, the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation told a local radio station that the new jail will not be built on the same site as the existing Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Can the minister inform this House to confirm this is the case, and will she explain how that decision was reached?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, I would like to thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for the question. Mr. Speaker, as I have repeated on a number of occasions in this Legislature over the last year, our government is very much committed to replacing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We have also been on record as having said, though, that our government is also committed to ensuring that Yukon First Nations are involved in the review, delivery and evaluation of correctional services in the territory, and that is exactly what we are doing. We are engaging in a public process that involves all Yukoners as well as all Yukon First Nations to this end.
Mr. Speaker, earlier this fall, the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini and I met with the chief and council and had an opportunity to discuss the matter of correctional reform.
Mrs. Peter: I mean no disrespect to Kwanlin Dun, but the jail is a Yukon government responsibility. It is a big project involving millions of tax dollars, so it is a legitimate subject to raise in this House. Very little is known about the deal the Premierís $200,000 consultant negotiated with Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Apart from a new site for the jail, what other aspects of this project have been decided and exactly who has been involved in this process?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No decisions have been made, let me be very clear. In fact, what we have committed to doing is to involve all Yukon First Nations, again in the delivery, the review and the evaluation of correctional services in the territory. And part of that process that we have entitled correctional reform will involve the Yukon public as well. We will continue to further those discussions with Yukon First Nations, including Kwanlin Dun First Nation as per our commitments that are outlined with the memorandum of understanding that was signed by the Premier and chief of council earlier this year.
We happen to think that involving Yukon First Nations in these discussions is a good one. We have heard time and time again that we have one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. The largest percentage of our clients within the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is of First Nations ancestry. So to simply put up another facility that will simply warehouse individuals with a revolving door is not something that we wish to pursue at this time.
Mrs. Peter: A number of people have expressed concern about certain agreements with First Nations that do not have land claims in place. Of course we are very happy that there is now a land claims agreement with Kwanlin Dun First Nation, although it hasnít been ratified. In the supplementary budget for Justice there is also a $200,000 item for correctional reform. I am hoping the Minister of Justice can provide some details on that and how it relates to the plans to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Will the minister provide a written update on any consultations that have taken place with other First Nations, as she had said they had done, or private sector companies regarding construction, ownership, management or programming for a new correctional facility?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker; and I thank the member opposite for the welcomed input. We welcome all input from all Yukoners, including the members opposite.
With respect to correctional reform, we want to ensure that consultation is done properly and done right and done in a timely basis as well. Letters have been sent to all Yukon First Nations asking them to put forward representatives from each of the self-governing First Nations and non-self-governing First Nations, Kwanlin Dun and the Council of Yukon First Nations, to oversee the Yukon-wide consultation on correctional services in the territory. That is exactly what we are doing: hoping to formalize those discussions so that we can get going on immediate consultation that will take place throughout the territory. So that is exactly what we are doing. With respect to any discussions regarding private contractors, Iíve had none.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to give the Minister of Community Services one more opportunity to correct some of the damage he caused with statements he made in the House last week.
On Wednesday, speaking about the former Liberal government, he said this, "When they were in power, they appointed a supervisor that put us in the situation weíre in today." On Thursday, I gave the minister the opportunity to withdraw his attack on the individual in question, but he ducked. Will the minister now withdraw his unfounded allegation that the former supervisor of Dawson Cityís financial affairs put the government into the current situation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The intent of that particular statement was for the Liberal government and not for the supervisor.
Mr. Cardiff: If the minister wants to know whoís behind the current situation in Dawson, he should look in the mirror, or maybe take a look to his left to the Member for Klondike. Dawson City had a legal loan agreement with the Government of Yukon. The Yukon government reneged on that agreement and manufactured a financial crisis in Dawson City. Why is it doing this? So it can exercise muscle over the elected mayor and council, just the way the Member for Klondike wants it?
Now that the minister has had a weekend to reflect on his pathetic answers so far, will he finally give a credible reason for the political decision to change the supervisors in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned before, the problems in Dawson are the result of what Dawson owes. Dawson owes on its loans and it is pending arbitration, which is another issue that will have some difficulty for the City of Dawson. As a result, the City of Dawson is asking for another loan of $730,000, which basically tops out their previous loan requirement.
The Yukon government will not loan this amount at the present time as we are awaiting the results of the arbitration on the arena, and Iíve said this many times. As the minister responsible for Community Services, I take this situation very seriously. I must ensure that Yukon taxpayers are not negatively affected by Dawsonís municipal financial problems.
Mr. Cardiff: Another pathetic answer, Mr. Speaker.
After the minister took the position he did in the House last Wednesday and Thursday, the former supervisor ó who lost his public service job ó was obliged to break the silence to defend himself from the ministerís allegations. Will the minister now do the right thing and apologize to the former senior manager of Community Services for injuries to his reputation caused by statements the minister made in this House?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have already indicated it previously in my previous answer with regard to that question.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
I understand that weíre going into the Department of Health and Social Services.
Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will rise for a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Bill No. 7 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Chair:We will continue on with Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services, on general debate.
Department of Health and Social Services ó continued
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate on Health and Social Services, there were a number of issues being discussed on the floor of this Legislature. For the record, Iíd just like to respond as to where we are at in the Yukon with respect to social assistance payments.
In the Yukon, if you look at the single employable rate ó those people who are single and are employable ó the annual SA rate here in the Yukon is $12,145. Contrast that to what B.C. pays, which is $6,251, and to what Alberta pays, $4,824.
This is the highest rate in Canada with N.W.T. paying $11,490 and Nunavut, $10,148. And virtually in all categories we are among the highest. If we look at persons with disabilities, in the Yukon they receive $13,645 and in British Columbia, $9,522; in Alberta, $7,380; Nunavut, $12,288; and, in N.W.T. itís a little higher at $14,830.
In the Yukon, a single parent with one child receives $16,664 per annum in social assistance; in British Columbia, $10,543; in Alberta, $8,565.
A couple with two children, for example, in the Yukon receive $22,246; in British Columbia, $12,973; in Alberta, $13,073 per annum. Again, we are among the highest. Nunavut and N.W.T. in this category are somewhat higher, Mr. Chair, but this bodes well for the social safety net that we have in place in the Yukon. We are very, very happy that as a government, Mr. Chair, we have enhanced it in some respects and in a number of areas. And if we refer to social assistance, seniors in need, with allowances for items of basic care ó and these are individuals over 60 years of age ó for food, shelter, clothing, incidentals, health care and supplementary needs ó for example, winter clothing and household furnishings ó the department has paid out $716,000 in this category from April of 2003 to November of 2003
This is another social safety net that we have in place here in the Yukon for part of our population.
There are many, many other areas where we have enhanced programs, and one of the other areas where we have come under the scrutiny of the opposition is the amount that we pay per day for those who are moved around for care outside of their home base. Itís $30 per day after the third day.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun went on at great length as to what the N.W.T. pays. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun is quite accurate about what he said on the floor of this Legislature, but it refers to only one category. What was not mentioned is that the N.W.T. has a very complicated medical travel program ó one with very different levels of coverage being provided to residents based upon which beneficiary group a person belongs to.
Thereís one area for status First Nation; thereís another for registered Métis, and thereís another category for those with chronic conditions; and then there are seniors over 60. The remainder of the population receives coverage based upon their family income.
So in the N.W.T., Mr. Chair, there is a means test with a deductible on all travel, and that was not mentioned. The medical travel coverage the Member for Mayo-Tatchun provided to this Legislature and tabled on December 10, applies only to those residents who have chronic conditions or are seniors over the age of 60. This document the Member for Mayo-Tatchun tabled does not reflect the other levels of coverage, so theyíre all different.
In the Yukon, we cover 100 percent of the cost of return airfare from Whitehorse to Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton or in the territory. In the territory, mileage is also paid for in-territory travel and for those who choose to drive to their appointments. In the N.W.T., as I said earlier, thereís a means test. If your family income has grossed over $80,000 per year, thereís a responsibility for a $250 co-payment toward the cost of airfare or the mileage cost, or $125 one way.
Those are the realities of the situation. So on one hand, weíre comparing a program in a neighbouring jurisdiction and saying itís better, but what the member opposite failed to put forward is that thereís a means test in the N.W.T. Thereís no means test here; itís provided equally to all.
The same holds true for a whole series of other programs. And under the previous Liberal watch, means tests were being entertained by the Department of Health at the insistence of the minister of the day. Fortunately, that didnít come into place and it wasnít subscribed to ó and rightly so, rightly so. And the previous Minister of Health and I had a number of discussions on that area, and I was vehemently opposed to providing any kind of means tests for any of the programs we have here in the Yukon.
What Iím saying to the members opposite is that the Yukon travel for medical treatment assists eligible Yukon residents with the cost of emergency and non-emergency medical transportation that is necessary, and itís all covered ó it is all covered. No means test, no examination of what money you have in the bank ó you have equal access.
We also have quite a program for patients who are not admitted to a hospital but who are receiving outpatient services. Theyíre also eligible for a subsidy of $30 a day, beginning on the fourth day. And that may go on for a maximum of three months, Mr. Chair. And also, subject to approval, escorts ó their transportation costs are paid for and covered, if a professional escort is required. Lay escorts are not covered. But by and large, escorts are pretty well all covered. Another policy we have is that all children under age 18 shall be escorted, and in that case, lay escorts are eligible for a subsidy of $30 per day, beginning on the fourth day, again, to a maximum of three months.
When we look at travel costs for both parents of terminally or critically ill children, they may be covered under the programís compassionate clause. In a lot of cases they are. Again, there is a maximum of $50 a day for both parents. That may be paid on the fourth day, again, to a maximum of 90 days or three months. So what this points to is in the Yukon we have some of the best programs for medical travel. We provide some of the best, most comprehensive benefits for medical travel, and we pick up the majority of the costs.
There have been a number of other areas that were discussed at great length. At this point in time, I believe that we should thank our federal Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, for his efforts on our behalf in the Yukon. The homelessness initiative money has flowed from the federal government to Yukon under the federal watch. Also, the youth counsellorís position with the Yukon Family Services Association ó that money has just recently started to flow under a new agreement to that organization. So these are federal programs with federal money flowing to programs. When they stop, the downside of it is that Yukon is asked to pick up the shortfall in financial considerations. In some cases, it is pretty well self-evident that we have no other choice, but in a lot of cases, itís best if we examine this area and work with our Member of Parliament and encourage him to go back to the minister responsible for this area and ensure that the funds flow.
And in this case I am pleased to say that the efforts of our Member of Parliament, after lobbying by me and, Iím sure, from other members here in the Yukon ó that he has moved forward on this initiative. I would just like to say thank you to our Member of Parliament. He works hard on our behalf.
One of the other areas that weíre always coming under the gun for ó the efforts, or not doing enough ó is the efforts of drug and alcohol services. We can never do enough in this area. There is always something more that we can be doing.
Drug and alcohol addiction is a very serious addiction ó and the Member for Kluane is pointing to the camera. Iím not sure if heís looking for camera time for himself or what heís up to, but given that we have our policies that we want to amplify here to enlighten the opposition, Iím sure that they can listen attentively and see what they can grasp.
Our Yukon Party platform is committed to address the addictions issue, the problems here that beset quite a number of Yukoners. Itís a very serious matter and one that requires a very thoughtful and a thoroughly planned approach.
Through the combined efforts of all of the people involved ó and we cover not just the Department of Health and Social Services, but the Department of Education and the Department of Justice in this area ó the partners in this area are moving forward on a combined effort, and hopefully weíll begin making inroads with this problem.
Sometimes we just touch the surface; sometimes we have an effect. By and large, the problem continues. Yukon has one of the highest areas of alcohol usage in Canada. Drug addiction is rampant. Iím given to understand that you can currently run downtown in some of our communities and find any one of a number of drugs faster than you can buy a six-pack of beer. That said, there has to be a determined effort that sees these initiatives slowed down or stopped. Itís not a sector of the economy we want to encourage.
Presently, Yukoners are consuming alcohol at a rate of three percent above the national average, but there is a promise thatís very promising. There has been a reduction since 1997 of approximately six percent, so we have been very, very much higher than we are today.
Currently thereís a program underway to determine the amount of hard and soft drug use ó how much, by who and where ó and that program is being undertaken by the federal government here in Whitehorse.
If we look at one of the other areas, one of the hardest addictions to overcome, Mr. Chair, is the issue of tobacco. Weíve had quite an initiative this year to address the issue of smoking here in the Yukon and to further reduce it. But once again, we have one of the highest levels of penetration of smokers here in the Yukon of any Canadian jurisdiction.
Mr. Chair, if we look at some of our other initiatives within the department, dealing with FASD, we can point to the Child Development Centre and the additional funding that was provided to them for the hiring of an FAS diagnostic coordinator. Weíre looking to develop a team to work with the coordinator for the purposes of identifying children who have FASD and putting together the necessary resources to help them and to help their families.
Funding of an FASD prevention position located within the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon, FASSY ó and that is another $210,000 that is being provided to FASSY for the funding of that position. That $210,000 will flow over the next three years. So there are many, many initiatives, Mr. Chair, that we are focusing on. We are hopeful that some of the workshops dealing with at-risk women for alcohol consumption and for drug use during the years that they can become pregnant might be possible. Then weíre looking at mental health and medical detox being incorporated into the Whitehorse Hospital, Mr. Chair. Weíre also delivering a number of these programs in rural Yukon, and plans are underway to deliver a youth-specific program with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation next spring.
So weíre moving on all fronts. There are a lot of initiatives we have underway. Weíre making some inroads, but it is not a perfect world, and weíre always going to have problems with alcohol abuse and drug abuse and use, as long as the federal government takes up the position that they currently have.
I look forward to entertaining further questions on this supplementary budget, which is one of the best additions in our supplementary budget. It shows our caring and respectful need in communities for the provision of health care, for the additional funding needed to pay for drugs, for the amount of money needed for the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Ms. Duncan: That was an interesting speech by the Minister of Health and an opening response. Unfortunately he did not actually respond to the questions that I had asked and to which he committed to providing a written response today.
Just to review for the minister opposite, I asked why he committed in previous budget debates that there would be an additional $1 million in Canada health and social transfer; the figure came in higher. He undertook to examine this with the Department of Finance and provide a written response. Unfortunately we havenít seen that.
The other item of note was that there is an additional $389,000 in this supplementary budget related to air travel costs, of which $200,000 is pledged to be recoverable. Detail on that would be useful as well.
I had also asked because previous Health ministers and previous Premiers had worked together with respect to a health initiative across the country toward a common drug formulary. Right now Saskatchewan and Yukon are the same. I had asked the minister at length about what progress had been made in working with other provinces. Unfortunately there was no thorough or complete answer on that.
The minister noted when last we debated on December 4, that the current government is examining the pharmacare and the provision of drugs programs to Yukoners. However, there is no further information on that at this time.
In the interest of moving this debate along and focusing the ministerís attention, I would like to follow up on the last comment he made in his just-delivered speech to the House. He said that weíre looking at, as I understand it ó and we donít have an electronic Hansard in front of us, thank goodness. But I understood the minister to say that the government was examining moving mental health and detox at the hospital. Is this the plan for the Thomson Centre? Is the Thomson Centre, once it has been fully repaired, going to house detox and mental health?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is one of the options that is being explored, yes. And there is a part of that area that is being looked at.
As to when the Thomson Centre will be up and running, we do not know at this juncture. There has been a team of engineers and a team of architects and other tradespeople who have examined the facility. The cost to repair and bring it up to standards that should have existed before it was occupied in the first place has not been completely identified, which is a sad state of affairs. The facility was never ever granted an occupancy permit by the authority having jurisdiction at the time. That authority is the City of Whitehorse.
The total cost that weíre looking at to bring it up to standards is additionally in the millions of dollars. Currently there is a team of engineers that is looking at it from a seismic standpoint, but because the facility hasnít been occupied for a year, it has to be brought up to all the applicable codes that currently exist.
That said, weíre hopeful to have this examination completed and an examination of the usage completed that we can dovetail into the facility by sometime early in the new year. Hopefully the next budget cycle will see the necessary funds allocated for putting it back into service.
Mr. Chair, all the furnishings and fixtures have been stripped out of the facility, by and large, and moved to other facilities under the Liberal Party watch. That said, itíll allow the government of the day to provide new interior fixtures and furnishings for this facility.
Going back to what precipitated all this, it was an issue of a small leak in the roof, which was identified by the Liberal administration as maybe costing $300,000. Well, currently weíre up to $1.3 million something to repair the small little leak in the roof, Mr. Chair, and the cost is growing, given the other deficiencies that were not identified by previous administrations. That is a sad state of affairs.
We inherited another ó well, thereís no other way to describe it ó mess from the previous administration, and weíre going to have to examine this. Weíve been continuing with that examination for quite some time.
The member opposite mentioned she had not received a copy of some correspondence I committed to. I donít know ó I canít explain the internal mail or how that works or doesnít work, but Iíll be happy to send over another copy of that correspondence, Mr. Chair. This copy is unsigned; the original was signed.
Mr. Chair, there is the issue surrounding one of the other requests, and that was for vaccine costs in the Yukon; and may I just outline what is currently spent in this area?
The primary vaccination series is offered to all children and adolescents in the Yukon and is administered by the Whitehorse Health Centre in Whitehorse and all of the health centres around rural Yukon. The series begins at two months of age, with immunization for diphtheria, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B and, as of 1998, haemophilus B. The last immunization in this series is a booster vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and polio given to adolescents aged 14 to 16 years. Additional vaccines are available for populations at risk. These include vaccines for persons who have a pre-existing medical condition that places them at heightened risks of serious complications if infected, persons travelling to areas where vaccine-preventable illness is evident and persons exposed to an illness, in order to prevent or control an outbreak. Costs for travel-related immunization are borne by the traveller, including the meningicoccal vaccine for departing university students, as are a small number of other vaccines.
In the chart below, if you want to look at the number of shots that have been done, I have that information for the member opposite. I have for the members opposite the cost of the vaccine ó yellow fever, $2,135; typhoid, $3,200; tuberculosis, $8,100; tetanus, $2,200; rabies, $2,000; polio, $170; Japanese encephalitis, $2,900; hepatitis A, $8,100; haemophilus B, $78; influenza, $25,000; and pneumococcal infection, $4,400.
To date, the $67,000 is the total cost borne by public health and $17,000 of that additional cost has been borne by the client. That is 2003-04, to date. I have the previous yearís statistics but I thought it would be more relevant to just amplify what currently is transpiring here in the Yukon. There has been quite an uptake year-to-date on quite a number of the vaccines.
We are moving on all fronts and the member opposite may have a few more questions. I trust the responses given in a number of the areas will probably not meet with the approval or satisfaction of the members opposite, but they are an accurate reflection of the problem areas that we are having to deal with as a consequence of the lack of attention paid to this area by the previous administrations, in spite of the fact that it was brought to their attention by the administration of the day. The main workforce here in the government has brought it to their attention but, by and large, they failed to react or didnít react adequately.
That is not our governmentís position. Our governmentís position is that we are going to meet the task head-on, we are going to provide sound fiscal management, we are going to look at how we can rebuild the Yukon economy, how we can move forward while, at the same time, addressing the social agenda.
I believe, by and large, this supplementary budget that we have before us today does exactly that. It shows a very, very concentrated effort by this Yukon Party administration to address the areas that require addressing and to move forward in step with all our partners here in the Yukon, save and except the Member for Kluane, perhaps, who has taken exception to ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, I take exception to the type of tactics demonstrated by this member. We have a limited amount of time in this Legislature to complete the supplementary budget, and he is clearly wasting time. This clearly indicates that there is a problem with these predetermined sitting days because it plays to the advantage of the government to waste time.
Under the old rules we would see a much more cooperative atmosphere in here, one in which the government would be eagerly providing this side with some answers and not wasting time.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, what the member points out is that he is not in favour of the Standing Orders that were advanced by the Liberal government. If he wants to check the voting record on it, I didnít oppose it at the time and itís just that the member opposite canít get his own way today and heís very much opposed now. I would encourage the member opposite to sit down, read the Standing Orders and conduct himself accordingly because there is no point of order.
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not standing on the point of order; Iím waiting for your ruling.
Chair:There is no point of order here. There is a dispute among members.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. I would be pleased to carry on debate and I would encourage the minister again to focus his answers. The minister said that they were examining moving mental health and detox into the Thomson Centre. He said that was one of the options. He said theyíre looking at other options and he also said he expected the work, which was fully examined and studied and begun, to deal with not just the leak in the roof but the mould and other issues at the Thomson Centre. It was initiated by the previous government ó a full and thorough examination. I encourage the minister not to get into the blame game argument. Letís focus on the issue at hand; the question is the Thomson Centre.
The minister is examining putting mental health and detox into the Thomson Centre. He said that was one of the options being examined. What are the other options? He also said that the anticipated work was to be done by early in the new year; however, thereís money required for whatever of these options are chosen in the next budget for furniture. So what is under examination and when might we anticipate whatever is being moved into the Thomson Centre being located there?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we are examining is the Thomson Centre and what it will require to get this publicly funded facility up and running again. If the member opposite had such a handle on the facility when handling the reins of government, Iím wondering why so small a sum of money was budgeted for the repairs, Mr. Chair, given there was just a small amount of money budgeted for a repair to the roof. It subsequently ended up well in excess of $1.3 million.
As I clearly indicated previously, what is currently underway is a planning process. That planning process will determine what repairs and upgrades are needed to the Thomson Centre structure to bring it to current codes ó codes that in some part existed in the same manner when the building was constructed but were not conformed to, in one method or another. We are examining and planning what the costs will be to bring that building up to the applicable codes, and weíre also looking at the various usage. One of the usages thatís being examined is mental health, medical detox, in the north wing of the Thomson Centre. Whether that comes to fruition or not, it has not been ratified yet but is an option thatís being examined.
As well as that, all the costs associated with refurnishing the facility ó just to give it a coat of paint is about $400,000. So weíre looking at a lot of money, and that money will be budgeted for in the next fiscal cycle, which commences April 1 next year.
Iím not in a position to advise the House whether we will be proceeding with any work prior to that, other than work perhaps of an emergency nature to protect the facility ó but that, I do not know. But we are underway with a complete review, a complete plan to bring the building up to the applicable codes and to examine the options for its interior use and what would best conform to what we currently have. We know that we are also going to have to be opening up more beds in Copper Ridge Place, and that will be done in the next budget cycle.
But there are a lot of areas that we are examining ó as we are rightfully charged to do ó but we are going to be right up front with the total costs and how they will be distributed and how they will be recognized. Virtually all the costs that Iím speaking of today, save and except the planning and the examination, will be done in the next budget cycle. That is not to preclude us advancing that, depending on the outcome of the examination and how quickly we can proceed through that planning and examination of the facility exercise.
I hope that provides the necessary response to the members opposite, and I am sure that it will precipitate more meaningful debate from the leader of the third party ó perhaps not the same for the Member for Kluane, though, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: The minister did not indicate who was involved in the planning process. We have seen situations elsewhere under his watch where there has been a significant lack of planning and consultation. I donít want to take up House time going back and forth with the minister as to who is involved with the planning process. I would appreciate a written response to this question: who is involved in the planning process for the Thomson Centre?
With respect to the hospital in the supplementary budget, there are a number of comments that the minister has made and what I would like to do is just perhaps ask a series of questions and then the minister can answer them.
There was the transfer of the outpatients therapeutic programs from continuing care to the Whitehorse General Hospital. Iíd like the minister to elaborate on exactly what that means.
There was also funding to the Whitehorse General Hospital for a health partnership position. What exactly is that and what is the person, or persons, going to be doing?
There are also some funding programs transferred to the hospital. How are decisions made on those funding programs? Is it the hospital board? They are part of the $2-million transfer to the hospital ó for example, the Liard Basin Task Force and a youth tobacco strategy. How are funding decisions on those being made?
There is also diagnostic medical equipment at the hospital. If I could just have an indication from the minister, exactly what is the governmentís position with respect to the purchase of new equipment for the hospital? There is an estimated $600,000 for new equipment. The government is sitting on a $60-million surplus. There is significant fundraising going on in the community, of which we are all supportive. We have fundraised for equipment in the past. Iím asking what the governmentís position is with respect to new equipment at the hospital. Is the committee that recommends new equipment still in place? Is the government prepared to significantly contribute? What is the position with respect to the fundraising for the hospital?
Those are my general questions surrounding the hospital and funding allocated in the supplementary budget. The minister will have them written in front of him when he receives and review the Blues. If he wishes to address them all now, that would be great, or he can provide me with a written response.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The whole purpose of general debate is to deal with these issues on the floor. We are not prepared to provide a written response to something that should be dealt with. With respect to ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I would remind the Member for Klondike that indeed there is another way to do things here to expedite the proceedings. We have only about five to six hours to debate the rest of this budget. We are all tired of hearing him go on at length. He can provide a simple legislative return to the questions asked and we could all move on. We would appreciate that.
Chair:There is no point of order here. Standing Order 42(3) states that speeches in Committee of the Whole are limited to 20 minutes. Standing Order 42(2) says that those speeches should be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration. Procedurally, the item under consideration is general debate in the Department of Health and Social Services. The idea of the item under consideration is not limited by the precise question put to the minister.
We will continue on with the debate.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much.
As I said earlier, we are not going to get into the position where we listen to a whole series of questions and have to respond to them in writing here on the floor. The purpose of general debate is questions and answers on various issues.
With respect to the examination of the Thomson Centre, the issue is being dealt with through property management agency as to the examination of the building envelope. There are outside contractors that have been engaged for that purpose. There are engineering and architectural firms here in the Yukon as well as structural engineers and other trades ó i.e. electrical, sprinkler system. As to the review as to the facility, that is being undertaken by the department ó officials within the department in consultation with the Whitehorse Hospital executive and their board. A lot of these initiatives will be precipitated on who can best deliver the service and who is best empowered to deliver services.
The exercise is to deliver the service in the most effective manner. The memberís second question deals with the outpatient issue ó the outpatient therapy, why was it transferred within the department to the hospital. Basically, it was a more efficient service delivery of this area of health care. What weíre cognizant of at all times is the amount of efficiency we can achieve, as well as primarily meeting the needs of the patient. That is why the transfer took place. The next question that the member asked had to deal with the position of the health care provider within the Whitehorse Hospital. This is an arrangement between the Whitehorse Hospital and Council of Yukon First Nations. There are two First Nation positions now currently staffed and paid for by the Hospital Corporation, and they are here in the Yukon. One is attached to Council of Yukon First Nations; the second one is also in the First Nationsí domain. These are initiatives that have been requested. These positions have been requested by Council of Yukon First Nations and other First Nations and funded by the department, with funding provided to the Hospital Corporation.
The other area the member opposite asked about was with respect to capital funding, and I can advise the House that the same committee is still in place, still used to determine what is required and what is purchased at the Whitehorse Hospital that is of a capital nature. Some of it is replacement of existing equipment. It does have an effective life, and that is an area that must be recognized, as well as the addition of new facilities and new equipment to enhance and improve not only the diagnostic end but the rehabilitation end of service delivery here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the answer on some of those questions. The planning process for the Thomson Centre ó the minister didnít identify in his answer any front-line staff, and I would just like to register that as a concern. The staff Iíve spoken with and speak with on a regular basis are quite concerned. In particular, the emergency room staff deal quite extensively on issues where theyíve worked with Crossroads and other facilities in the past, and they have a view on that. I would encourage the minister to look wide and listen wide. There are others who have a view on this issue who work directly in the hospital, and I would encourage the minister to hear from the front-line staff.
With respect to the transfer of outpatient therapeutic program, what was missing in the ministerís answer was from the point of view of patient care. I can understand how not all the therapeutic programs are required by continuing care, but there is the potential for concern, and I would encourage the minister to listen to the outpatients who make use of that particular service.
Iíd like to move on from the hospital. Iíve registered my concerns with the minister, and I would encourage him that there are points of view other than his own, and I would encourage him to listen to them.
The minister has also talked about ultimately providing health care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City. $252,000 has been allocated for equipment, software and feasibility studies in this regard. Is this $250,000 plus ó these are for multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City. Is the money allocated for the examination of P3s for this construction, or exactly what does the minister intend to do with this money heís asking us to approve?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís examine some of the questions so we can set the record correct. With the issue of speaking with the front-line providers in emergency at the hospital with respect to medical detox and drugs, the department is undertaking that review, and I rely on the expertise that we know we have in-house to complete an assessment of this area. So thatís not being overlooked, in fact. The consultation process is thorough and complete. Iím sure the member opposite will always disagree with the successes weíre achieving and the way we go about consultation. Itís one of the few areas that is open to a wide degree of interpretation, and the member opposite is exercising that wide degree of interpretation.
With respect to patient care and the transfer of the outpatient care, there were quite a number of cases where the department was providing care as well as the hospital. There was some confusion. In order to ensure that patients are provided the highest consistent level of care they require, the determination was made that the hospital would be the delivering agent, and weíve avoided a lot of situations there that occurred previously. Itís basically just setting up a program and administering a program effectively. There is no controversy surrounding the actual people who deliver the program. Itís just a management task to ensure that theyíre there in a timely manner when theyíre required. Thatís what weíve done.
Mr. Chair, the next issue surrounding the money for the multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and in Dawson City ó money has been earmarked in the previous budget for the examination of a multi-level care facility in those two communities. Whether they are constructed under what format has yet to be determined.
Ms. Duncan: The multi-level care is also a question that I would appreciate the minister addressing, but before he does that, there is a half a million dollars for diagnostic medical equipment fund in the supplementary. Is this another piece of equipment that is a contribution to the heart equipment, or is it replacing medical equipment that is past its best-before date? Exactly what is it, if he could just outline that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That was additional federal money, the half a million dollars. $250,000 of that will be going to the Hospital Corporation; $250,000 of that will be going to capital requirements in other areas, i.e., dental and other programs provided by Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that specific answer. I would just like to briefly touch on the issue of our medical health professionals. The minister stated earlier that there are 65 licensed practitioners in terms of doctors, and so there is one contract with those. I believe there are five doctors who are under contract. Could I have an outline of the current state of the negotiations with those doctors who are in a group and the individual contract? What is the expiry date on them, and are we in negotiations presently?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Negotiations for the fee-for-service doctors will begin next year, Mr. Chair. With respect to the doctors who are on contract, their contract expiry dates vary. I do not have that information before me, but perhaps for next time we come before this Legislature I can get the contract expiry dates of the medical practitioners who are under contract to Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: So if we divide the doctors into two groups, we have this one group and the negotiations will begin next year ó is what the minister said. We also have about five doctors who are under contract, and he doesnít know when we begin negotiations with each of those.
I would like that answer not next time weíre in the Legislature but prior to the Legislature so that we can focus our debate and prepare for it.
Would the minister also indicate when the negotiations begin with the hospital nurses, the territoryís nurses and the nurses in communities? I think there are three different bargaining groups of the nurses. I could be wrong on that. It may be two, but when do we begin negotiations with the territoryís nurses?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, PSAC covers most of the department nurses, and that has been concluded. The binding arbitration decision of the arbitrator has been provided to the bargaining unit and to Yukon. The issue of the hospital ó theyíre currently in negotiations with the nurses there. I donít know what stage that is at, but they hire their own negotiators, their own counsel, and they negotiate directly with the bargaining unit.
With respect to the five physicians who are on a contract basis with Yukon, their contracts expire at various times and at various dates. The relevancy of the expiry of that contract ó theyíre all not concurrent. Theyíre all different times, depending on the location, where these physicians ó there are contract physicians in a number of the communities, as well as there are contract medical professionals here in Whitehorse.
Theyíre all over the place, as far as the expiry dates. I really donít know what the relevancy of the expiry date of a contract for a doctor in Faro or Mayo might be, but the member might have some insight on that issue.
The other area that the member speaks of is the fee-for-service. Contract negotiations start with YMA next year. The mandate for their negotiations has been developed and will move forward. I am given to understand that the same negotiator who negotiated with them last time will be negotiating on behalf of the government. I have just been provided the information with respect to one contract with one of the physicians. It expired in July 2003. That was renewed. Another one expires on October 9, 2006, and another one has been the contract doctor that expired in July. There is another doctor who has replaced him and took over on October 10, 2003 for a three-year period. Another contract expires in February 2006. The other rural physicians are basically provided for visiting physician services through a contract with various medical facilities. I am given to understand that nothing has really changed from the previous administration, which I am sure that the member opposite would be thoroughly familiar with.
Ms. Duncan: Every member of the House has had, I believe, a concern registered with him ó certainly the Whitehorse members ó with regard to the availability of family physicians, and the only answer weíve heard so far from the government is that theyíre doing an exit survey because theyíre finding out why doctors that we had recruited under previous recruitment and retention initiatives have decided to leave.
The very real problem that we have right now is that many Yukon families are forced to present themselves to the Yukon Hospital Corporation with family medical emergencies. Constituents are certainly calling me; I know theyíve called other Whitehorse members; and the governmentís response of, "Weíre going to do an exit survey to find out why doctors have left," isnít helping the immediate issue.
Is there any progress or discussion currently underway with the Yukon Medical Association and others to find out how we can help deal with this immediate situation of Yukon families ó particularly those in the Whitehorse area ó who are unable to locate a family physician?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair, thereís progress being made on this front, not just for the immediate but for the future.
Ms. Duncan: That answer is not adequate for my constituents and others who have made similar representations to the Minister of Health.
What progress is being made on this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The previous examination that took place under the previous administration was for specialists. What we are looking for are family practices and access into a practice for a family or individuals here in Whitehorse. That is being examined with the YMA and it will be the subject of negotiations that are going to be taking place commencing early next year. As to the scope and the realm of this examination and what is being proposed, it is part of the negotiating process and I am very, very hopeful that the benefits will flow to Yukoners as a consequence of our prudent examination of this area and our enhancement initiative that we are proposing to the YMA in the bargaining unit realm. I am not prepared to negotiate a contract on the floor of the House, Mr. Chair, and Iím not prepared to discuss it in detail.
Ms. Duncan: No one asked the minister opposite to negotiate on the floor of the House. I wanted to be able to answer thoroughly my constituents who have problems. There are many of them who have been unable to locate a family doctor. There were significant recruitment and retention initiatives made in the last contract, and the accreditation initiatives that were undertaken by the previous government with the support of the YMA did show some progress. However, we have seen that slide and, so far, there has been not much of an answer from the government.
The social workers and family services are also under this minister. I would like to ask if the minister intends to make the childcare report from the contractor, which was done shortly after the government took office ó I think it was $2,000 some odd ó is the government prepared to release that report?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís just back up a little bit here and deal with the issue that the member opposite made mention of, and it was the issue of doctors and recruiting doctors here to the Yukon. There was a change made, and that was made by the previous Liberal administration. It provided for a ministerial permit to allow doctors to practise here in the Yukon. And that brought to the Yukon a number of doctors who hadnít received the full accreditations to practise in Canada.
What weíre finding out is that, as a consequence of the Liberal government initiative in this regard, Yukon is being used as a conduit for doctors to receive their Canadian accreditation and to move into another jurisdiction. Thus, there is quite a turnover of a lot of MDs in this category. In fact, when you see a doctor recruited to the Yukon who chooses to not bring his wife and family up here and just remain here for the period of time necessary to complete the applicable exams, we know we have a turnover situation that is imminent. But that said, it was an area where the previous Liberal government made the necessary changes to provide for this special permit. Itís still being continued with, but there is a great amount of turnover with doctors in that category. That is coming back to cause us some concerns, and we donít know where weíre going.
With respect to the children care issue and the childcare situation, family day home operators and daycare centres, Iím pleased to report that the final report from this group will be provided to me, Iím told, in the not too distant future ó Iím hoping before the end of this calendar year. Thereís a lot of effort and hard work that has gone into it. Mr. Ogdenís report during the transition period, which the member opposite refers to, was a very worthwhile and beneficial document. We have received it only in the preliminary report phase. There didnít appear to be a need to ask him to conclude that report, given that the substance of the report was working and was work-in-progress.
So whether we spend the necessary money at this juncture and ask Mr. Ogden to conclude this report or not ó it doesnít look like it would be a meaningful expenditure of the taxpayersí money. But I can assure the member opposite that the information that had been assembled in that report was extremely worthwhile, very beneficial and gave us an overview of what was occurring in the childcare field.
To that end, Mr. Chair, our government has subsequently provided considerable additional funding, through the good works and good efforts of not only Mr. Ogden but a lot of the childcare providers, who are members of the committee. We as a government have worked very closely with the childcare community to enhance the programs, and the DOG ó direct operating grant ó for homes has been enhanced and improved under our government.
The suggestions that will come forward after this final review is completed and presented to me will be examined.
Iím sure as a government weíll move forward on examining those initiatives and how we can enhance further our most precious commodity here in the Yukon: our children and their care.
Chair:Order please. Before debate continues, the Chair would just like to remind members to be very cautious when naming particular individuals as there is no opportunity for those individuals named to comment or defend comments made about them. So again, I would encourage members to follow past practice of this House and be very cautious when naming individuals outside of this Assembly.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not disregarding your ruling. There was a report done, referred to as the Anglin report. I would like an update on the recommendations ó specifically, the Anglin report was delivered to the previous government. There was also a subsequent report done on not just childcare workers but also the social services for families in the territory.
I would like an update on the recommendations of these reports; specifically, how many more social workers have been hired, which was committed to in the spring session? What is the current caseload of these social workers? Have the caseloads gone down? The minister will recall that was an issue that was brought to his attention not only by the Anglin report, but by the social workers and by YEU to the minister.
There is an additional $460,000 for a new group home in the supplementary budget; however, Professor Anglin said do not warehouse these children in care, and yet the government appears to be committing $460,000 toward a new warehouse. So I would like the minister to explain and respond to those three questions, please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the member to go back and really examine the Anglin report and carefully examine what it suggested. It made quite a number of recommendations and suggested that there be smaller group homes, that there be a separation as to sex and age of the individuals who were in these homes. The member fails to mention that part of the Anglin report. What our government has done is carried out a thorough and complete examination of this area. Ten more social workers have been hired: five social workers, five family support workers. In addition to that, the various group homes ó weíve looked at and rationalized. If we look at the various group homes, we have the Annex that presently has four males in that home. The staff complement is 12.5 FTEs in this government facility. We have a childrenís receiving home. There are nine males and nine females in there. We have 17 FTEs ó total staff complement ó and this does not include auxiliaries. In addition to that, we have another residence that has six males, and there is a staff of 14. We have another residence where there are four females and a staff of 13.5. We have another home that has two males; it has a staff of 10.5. We have another home that has three males. There are nine staff, and it utilizes quite a number of auxiliaries.
We have another residence that has three females and we have a staff of eight. We have another residence with three males. We have 11.5. We have another two categories here, but what Mr. Anglin suggested is that there be a separation as to sex and there be a separation as to age group and weíre examining options for another home. Weíve budgeted the $400,000 some odd for the capital cost of that home. Weíve carefully considered the options, and the last thing we want to do is warehouse the children who are taken into government care, but we have to be cognizant at all times as to the level of care that these individuals need. Some of them are there for one reason or another, but when they require a great deal of medical attention, the costs to the department increase tremendously.
There are a lot of things that could have been done differently. We are cognizant at all times of the welfare and well-being of the children in our care. That said, there are ways other than the way Mr. Anglin suggested that we approach the issue here in the Yukon, given the small numbers, given the small jurisdiction. And itís not necessary the bible on this area. Itís an approach that is being suggested. Weíve taken all of his advice, as well as the advice of others, and the department has made quite a number of changes that are proving to be extremely beneficial. A lot of initiative, a lot of personnel and a lot of costs have been incurred in addressing this area that had not been addressed under the previous two administrations. Weíre doing what has to be done, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister didnít answer the question with respect to the caseloads for social workers; have they gone down?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I havenít that information on those kinds of details. Whether itís a meaningful dialogue, I do not know. But we have hired additional social workers, but the pressures are up and down. The pressures usually rise before the holidays and then taper off early in the next year. Our government is committed to meeting the demands where the demands exist, and we will do so in the most expeditious manner.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this was one of the key issues: the hiring of more social workers. One of the reasons was that the caseloads were extraordinarily high, and it was an issue to such a degree that the union took time to raise it with the minister. The minister may find it a tedious detail. I find it very important, as do the social workers in the field, and itís unfortunate the minister cannot say how many more social workers have been hired. Has it met this burden and this need of the social workers, who are professionals, who want to do their jobs and who canít do them given the high degree of caseloads? We hired additional workers. Has this enabled the caseloads to go down? One would hope. The minister is unable to indicate that.
The minister has indicated that theyíve done a lot of work on this. Thereís more than just the Anglin report. Are there additional reports that have been requested by the department ó additional studies? And if so, will he make those available to the members of both opposition parties?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The other report that I referred to is by the Child Welfare League of Canada, done under the previous administration. If the member doesnít have a copy of it, I am sure that we can find one somewhere. It is a public document and has been from the time it was tabled by the Liberals.
Caseloads vary, as I indicated earlier. We have hired five more social workers directly in this area. If you want to look at the caseloads over the year or if you want to take a snapshot, we can make the statistics come out however you want. But the pressure is currently there on the department. It will be until early in the next year when it tends to peak and cycle down. But you never know what youíre faced with in this area. You never know what you are faced with, Mr. Chair. Itís very, very difficult to staff for that. If you want to look at some of the social workers in some of the other regions of the Yukon, their caseloads are some of the lowest. They might only have two or three, whereas some here in Whitehorse appear to be on the high side, based on an annual volume.
Ms. Duncan: When will the consultations be undertaken or initiated for the location for the new group home? Where is it going to be?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít know if there is a vacant lot right next to the member opposite, the leader of the third party, but we could probably entertain that. From there, consultation is going on and around the Yukon. There are various sites that have been looked at. One of the sites being looked at is in KDFN area. There is a multitude of options. We do not know at this juncture. We will rely on advice.
But one thing is for sure: unlike the previous administrations, consultation will take place with the immediate neighbours and the neighbourhood before a decision is made to go forward on a group home in any neighbourhood.
Ms. Duncan: The minister said two things: he said that consultations are underway, and then he said that consultations will take place. So if they are underway, with whom is he consulting, and where are the public meetings? What consultation is taking place? Would he outline for the House exactly whatís happening and with whom?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The consultations are currently taking place within the department as to what options are available and which way we can proceed. The consultations that will take place will be with the respective neighbourhoods once options are provided.
So there are two areas: one is currently underway and the other one will be conducted.
Ms. Duncan: This money ó $460,000 ó is in this supplementary budget, which takes us to March 31. Realistically, how does the minister intend ó without construction started or a definitive consultation date ó that $460,000 will be spent on a new group/receiving home by March 31? Weíre going to be revoting this money in the spring, quite obviously.
When is it anticipated this consultation and decisions will be reached?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is absolutely correct: there is the potential for a revote on some of this money, but itís an initiative weíve identified; weíre going forward with it. We have begun the in-house consultation. As to how weíre proceeding, thereís still the potential for construction early this next year and for that construction to be well advanced before the end of the fiscal period. The member knows full well that that could be the case.
Ms. Duncan: Has any of this money already been spent on the changes that were made and discontinued at the young offender facility? Whatís supposed to be going in there? Renovations have been undertaken, but thereís no clear commitment or statement from the government as to whatís happening with them. When does the minister intend to undertake consultations with the staff at the young offender facility as to their future?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The staff at the young offenders facility ó their future is secured by the bargaining unit arrangements and the member knows full well. So I would encourage her not to raise any alarm bells in that area and suggest that the government is going to be laying off. Any suggestion like that is patently incorrect. Thatís wrong information that the member is conveying to the general public. Weíre not going there.
With respect to the young offenders facility, there was a considerable sum of money. I believe it was $100,000 odd that was spent right at the end of the previous administrationís watch for electronic locks and things of that nature. It was over $100,000 for new locks. And the options for the young offenders facility to enhance its operation and dovetail it perhaps with some other function are being examined. Weíre not un-turning any stone.
But Iíd encourage the member opposite not to go raising alarm bells that the government is going to be shutting down this facility and laying off the staff, because that is not the case. The member is an alarmist and sheís sitting there snickering and making all sorts of gestures that are very inappropriate because we are talking about a very dedicated staff at this facility that are well-recognized for their capable way, their capable role in our society.
Ms. Duncan: For the member oppositeís information, I didnít raise this issue on the floor of the House, the member opposite did. Itís well and good for him to stand on the floor of the House and say: "Oh, absolutely, there is nothing going to happen to the young offenders facility and the dedicated staff there." Well, we heard members on that side stand on the floor of this House in April and say they wouldnít bring forward changes to the Yukon Taxpayer Protection Act either. Guess what? It happened anyway.
Thatís my concern. There are staff who are dedicated, who have seen changes in institutions before ó and a complete lack of changes in the institutions before ó and they are concerned. There are changes in legislation that have been brought forward by the federal government ó and the member opposite yawns into the record. I am terribly sorry that he finds questions that Yukoners want asked so tedious. Yukoners are concerned about their future and concerned about that facility and concerned about how they will or will not find future employment with the Government of Yukon. There are issues and the minister would be well-advised to address them. They are within his portfolio.
If the minister is unable or unwilling to state what the future of the young offenders facility will be and is unwilling to state when he might be undertaking meetings with the staff to discuss the potential, does he have any indication of what the future of Macaulay Lodge is? He has had a year to rethink his disastrous pronouncements of last year.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the member opposite, the young offenders facility will remain a young offenders facility and Macaulay Lodge will remain Macaulay Lodge. I am given to understand that the building envelope has a future effective life of 10 years plus, and there is no need to change the design or anything.
But if the member just looks back at what was occurring under her watch, there was an expenditure of some $5 million that was contemplated at Macaulay Lodge to turn the facility into a bedsit facility, which was not desired by the residents or anyone else that I spoke with.
That was a major issue. It wasnít a worthwhile expenditure of the taxpayersí money. What is needed here in Whitehorse is a seniors apartment complex of a respectable size, and weíre examining that option. I think in the next budget cycle the members opposite might be very, very pleased with quite a number of initiatives that our government is taking, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, just to follow up on this matter, Iím aware of at least one commitment made by this government to people in the Kluane area, regarding a facility for seniors. From what I understand, the Health minister and the Finance minister have committed to allocate funds from next yearís budget toward a planning study. That would be in the year 2004-05; and for the following budget year, 2005-06, it has committed to allocating funds for construction of this facility.
Now, Iíve been apprised by one member of the community that the government prefers a P3 approach to this facility. Can the minister undertake to provide us information on both what the study will look like ó will it involve consultation from the communities of the Kluane region, for instance ó and what types of models it envisions for the construction? Now, this is quite a bit of information Iím asking for, Mr. Chair, and I donít want the minister to stand up and waste further time today. I would like him to provide this information with a legislative return. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíll be happy to provide the member opposite with a response to his questions here on the floor of the House.
With respect to Haines Junction ó and for the member oppositeís information, I must also include Teslin ó our government is committed to providing money in the next budget cycle, which is 2004-05 and commences April 1 next year, for an examination of the options for a seniors or multi-level health care facility in both Teslin and Haines Junction, which would encompass the need the member opposite suggests or has identified.
At this time, it is premature to say how we would proceed, whether we would proceed under a P3 or how we would do that, Mr. Chair, but I have committed our government to proceed with this examination. That examination, subject to budget approval next spring, which Iím sure the member opposite will vote against ó shame on him. Heíll probably be voting against an initiative to examine such a facility for his community and his riding of Haines Junction, but thatís the nature of the opposition.
We will be proceeding with this examination and, subject to the outcome of that examination for Haines Junction and Teslin, in the next budget cycle we will indicate the method employed. But at this juncture, itís highly speculative as to whether we will proceed under what options we have available to us as a government, given the tremendous flexibility we now have with the amendment to the Taxpayer Protection Act.
So the members opposite voted against the Taxpayer Protection Act; theyíll vote against the budget next year that provides the money for all these wonderful initiatives that we can proceed with.
It defies anyoneís imagination as to where the members opposite are coming from on this. On the one hand they are asking for it ó how we are going to do it ó and on the other hand theyíre voting against it and opposing it all the time.
Mr. McRobb: We donít have time left in this sitting to allow for such speculation on how members are going to vote and why they vote for certain things. When the ministers stand up, they should stick to the questions asked and try to accommodate our requests, especially when we request time-saving initiatives like providing a written response. The minister has no compunction whatsoever to help us to move along quickly and thatís why he stands up and insists on orating a response. And in his response he takes a lot of cheap shots. In his response he avoided the question ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the Member for Kluane is imputing false and unavowed motives on me.
Chair:The Chair concurs and would ask members not to impute motives on others.
Mr. McRobb: Anyway, in the interest of time, if the minister would just expedite the information, weíre just about at the end of this. My question is: would he provide us with copies of any correspondence related to seniors facilities for any community in the territory that he is privy to? Would he agree to that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have written a letter to the three First Nations affected in the Member for Kluaneís riding, as well as the Village of Haines Junction. The letter was of a similar nature and we can provide the member opposite with copies of those letters.
Mr. McRobb: That wasnít my question. Iíve got a copy of the letter he referred to. I requested copies of any letters related to such facilities in all communities in the Yukon. Would the minister oblige that request, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the member opposite could be specific ó I probably have a great number of letters on file. To that end, I will commit to providing the member opposite with any letter that has gone out under my signature to any seniors organization with respect to a seniors facility. I can commit to that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís a partial answer and itís not quite good enough. Unfortunately we donít have time here to argue about details. It seems that the government fully realizes that itís to its advantage to spin the hands of time and delay as much as possible any progress on this budget, because it now appears very likely that the budget wonít be debated in its entirety.
Now, in the interest of time, I would like to ask the minister if he would provide us in writing, at some point after New Yearís, an explanation for each of the line items in this department. If he would provide us with that undertaking, we would then move the singular passage of all the lines in the department. Itís a very simple request, one that has been agreed to by previous governments. It is an established tradition. Itís the cooperative tradition, and certainly we donít have to remind anyone of campaign commitments made only a year ago. But it would be extremely helpful to us in opposition to understand what is happening in this major department of Health and Social Services. The government refused to provide us with a briefing on it. There isnít time to go through all the line items.
If the minister would undertake to get back to us in the next month or so with a written explanation of each line item, we can move on today.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím completely open to responding to any question on the supplementary that the members opposite want to ask here today. I am not prepared to provide a whole written summation of this supplementary to the members opposite, nor will I. Now, that said, Mr. Chair, itís up to the members opposite to budget their time in this House, and that they have failed to do so is indicative of the dilemma the opposition is faced with at this juncture, where theyíre going to have to clear millions and millions of dollars without debate because of their inability to budget their own time here.
Now, Mr. Chair, Iíd encourage the members opposite, if they have any questions about any line in Health and Social Services to which this supplementary budget ó our government was cognizant of the changes and we provided ó unprecedented, Mr. Chair ó an embargoed copy of this supplementary to the opposition parties well in advance of the day it was brought forward into this Legislature.
In addition to that, because of the unfamiliarity surrounding the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and the devolution transfer, we provided unprecedented briefings to the opposition on these areas. Now, that is unprecedented that any government would provide a briefing on a supplementary budget. Weíve gone the extra mile as a government for the opposition parties in this area, and Iíd encourage the members opposite to be more diligent in how they budget their time for debate in here.
If you look at the inordinate waste of time that theyíve spent on specific topics, you can only conclude that the Member for Kluane is currently at this point in debate where heís asking for written summations of various line items because he has failed ó failed to conduct himself in a manner that would allow him opportunity to debate these various areas. We will provide any response on the floor of this Legislature to any question about this specific budget. I specifically deal with Health and Social Services, and Iím quite open and accountable for that budget and will continue to be so. So if the members opposite have any questions on that area, please bring them forward, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I dispute almost everything the government House leader has said. Furthermore, he addresses me as "the Member for Kluane". I am raising this issue as the House leader for the official opposition on behalf of all our critics in this House. This is a major issue that supersedes his refusal to provide us with explanations of the line items for his department. Weíre now getting into the whole House rules on how this government is abusing the time of this Legislature and has consistently done so since day one.
Iíll point out, Mr. Chair, that this government House leader adjourned debate on the very first day of this sitting, right after the budget speech, even though we protested from this side that we would lose several hours that day. Mr. Chair, it continued into the next week when we didnít have full sitting days.
We saw again, on the very last sitting day, last Thursday, when this government introduced a government motion, which consumed the entire afternoon. The government deprived us of several daysí time we had in which to debate this budget. If you look at the debate from each of the departments ó Public Service Commission and Education come to mind ó continuous stonewalling by ministers and refusal to answer questions simply amounted to a big waste of time. It produced very little in the way of information to the opposition parties.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, in refusing to provide written explanations, instead standing up and giving us lengthy speeches containing very little information, is simply a continuance of that strategy.
These rules that weíre under regarding fixed sitting days, Mr. Chair, came into force about two years ago, and I believe they could have worked had the government of the day ó or any future government ó legitimate intentions of providing information.
It probably could have worked, but this government has no intention of living up to any moral obligations to be frank with the answers and forthright with the information. There are all kinds of examples to back that up. This whole system stinks and something should be done about it. This minister is playing along. He knows full well what he is doing.
He stands up and gives a hard-done-by speech about how he is willing to respond orally to each question. He blames it on us for mismanagement. I have already elaborated on our position. The real losers here are the people of the territory, because democracy isnít what it should be and this government is not accountable.
So I will ask the minister again: will he provide answers to the few line items in his department in writing to us, at some point a month or so from now? Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am sure that the member would have concluded questions and I would have concluded responses on those few line items that the member wanted to ask a question about. We are prepared to fully respond, to fully answer any question about any line item. But to request a written response ó it is not necessary, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the ministerís answer speaks for itself. We all know where he is going.
So, pursuant to Standing Order 14(3), the minister will not have to answer any questions on line items because I request unanimous consent of this Committee to deem all lines in Vote 15, the Department of Health and Social Services, cleared or carried as required.
Chair: Prior to putting forward the request, the Chair will ask if there is any further general debate.
Ms. Duncan: Prior to that request, I would like to request of the minister ó weíve had many discussions about the ambulance services in the territory. There have been discussions in Question Period; the minister has met with Teslin and with the ambulance attendants. There are three line items that are designated in health services for capital.
Could I have a written explanation from the minister of what ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: He doesnít want to give me a written explanation. Will the minister then, briefly, outline specifically how the issues around training will be dealt with for the ambulance attendants? And then that is my last question. Prior to putting the motion forward, I would like that one question answered.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are a number of ways that we are addressing the issue of training. Iím sure the members opposite are aware that a number of the communities have trainers in place. That said, in addition to that, weíre working with Yukon College and weíre buying a number of seats, commencing in January of next year, for part of the training program. In addition to that, weíre having the position of a trainer who can go out on flex time and provide training in the rural communities after-hours and on weekends ó that position is being examined.
So there are a number of ways weíre addressing the issue and itís coming to a head. But the issue surrounding the problems that the department has had are ó as I explained during Question Period surrounding the selection of one individual as a trainer, grievances filed and that whole area ó had to be dealt with by the Public Service Commission before we could move forward. So we are moving forward, we have got the programs in place, and hopefully we can be successful in this area, as we have been in the past.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services, read and agreed to
Chair:Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services, cleared or carried as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent. That clears that department.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $8,522,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $2,289,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Department of Tourism and Culture
Chair: I understand that weíre now moving on to Vote 54, the Department of Tourism and Culture. Do members wish to combine our brief recess to allow officials to change with our regular 15-minute recess?
Some Hon. Member: Disagree.
Chair: We will continue.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am pleased to introduce the supplementary estimates for the Department of Tourism and Culture. These supplementary estimates contain a decrease of $1,398,000 to its operation and maintenance budget and a $727,000 increase to its capital budget. Key in this 2003-04 supplementary budget is a demonstration of our platform commitment to Yukoners in the last election to establish a Department of Economic Development as well as a stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture.
The supplementary budget reflects a decrease of $1,531,000 in operation and maintenance funding and a capital budget decrease of $555,000 in program transfers to the Department of Economic Development. I should add that we will continue to work closely with Economic Development and Tourism in growing our territoryís economic future.
This supplementary budget also reflects our commitment to the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon to unite the tourism marketing product development and research functions of the department in one branch. The internal budget net allocation of $305,000 of the tourism-related O&M programs and $185,000 in the capital budget program to the marketing branch is the final administrative step needed. Although Tourism and Culture is not one of the most affected departments in devolution, $31,000 in O&M funds will support additional costs to appraise, acquire, process and conserve archival material at the Yukon Archives. Corporate services receives $126,000 also, primarily in association with devolution personnel requirements.
Now, other activities include the following revotes: the museum assistance program requires a revote of $89,000 in capital spending to complete several projects, such as training for museums board and First Nation cultural centre staff and to cover the cost of architectural plans for the Kluane Museum.
Also in capital spending, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre revote of $19,000 will replace a security camera system. There is also a revote of $19,000 for the new climate change exhibit. $13,000 of the climate change display is recoverable from our federal government.
The arts fund requires a revote of $75,000 in capital resources to bring forward approvals for projects that are underway in this fiscal year, such as the Dawson City Short Film Festival and the Youth of Today Society workshop and exhibition.
A revote of $32,000 in the capital budget is required to complete showcases, as identified under the craft strategy, for visitor reception centres throughout the territory, including Whitehorse, Watson Lake, and potentially in Faro, Mayo, Haines Junction and Teslin. This project was primarily delayed due to product development in marketing training that was needed prior to promoting artists in showcase displays.
Revotes of $33,000 will complete the Yukon business survey being conducted by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, and $19,000 is required to complete a tourism digital mapping project for the Whitehorse, Carcross-Southern Lakes and Teslin areas. A further $35,000 revote will allow the Kluane First Nation to participate in the mapping and documentation of heritage trails near Kluane Lake.
A revote of $132,000 will also provide landscaping and parking lot development at the Yukon Transportation Museum. This project was delayed to allow the federal government to complete the cleanup of contaminated soil.
In this supplementary budget I would like to highlight three important new initiatives that will enhance cultural and tourism opportunities in the Yukon. The cultural services branch is providing $300,000 in capital to the Carcross-Tagish First Nation for the planning and development of a cultural centre. This new project will enhance regional tourism initiatives, support heritage and cultural preservation, and create economic development in the Carcross area.
A new program will see $329,000 invested into the creation and maintenance of a Canadian register of historic places and the development and communication of the standards and guidelines for the conservation of historic places in Canada. This project is fully recoverable from Canadian Heritage.
The Department of Tourism and Culture, in conjunction with the Department of Community Services, is also working on a new initiative entitled "the decade of sport and culture". And we as a government are going to involve Yukoners and assist where we can to make the Canada Winter Games ó and subsequent games ó a tremendous success. This particular initiative will connect the many community-based sport and culture events that are being planned for the next 10 years, such as the 2004 Canada Summer Senior Games, the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and of course, the 2010 Winter Olympics.
As a government we are allocating a total of $320,000 to the decade of sport and culture. Our Department of Tourism and Culture will allocate $200,000 of this total to ensuring that we maximize benefits to the Yukon from all these events.
In addition, the marketing branch will transfer $25,000 in operation and maintenance funding to the Department of Community Services in support of the tourism potential of the Canada Summer 2004 Senior Games. Again, Yukonís participation in the 2004 Canada Summer Senior Games, the 2007 Canada Winter Games and the 2010 Winter Olympics will provide Yukon communities with an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from and celebrate these very prestigious events.
This concludes the supplementary estimates for the Department of Tourism and Culture, and I would be very happy to entertain any questions the member opposite has.
Mr. McRobb: I want to start off with product development. Can the minister explain what progress has been made since this spring in that area?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Product development, as the member opposite will recall, was one of the key priorities that the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon had identified. Of course we followed through with that commitment. Product development is, I should add, a very complex, a very progressive development, but we are committed as a department ó and as a government, I should add.
With respect to product development, we immediately went on to hire an individual to proceed with product development, so this individual is our product development officer, and in turn this individual has been onboard with our department for a few months already and has made pretty significant progress in various communities, working with partners such as Klondike Visitors Association, other entities within the territory, to develop and promote activities, whether it may be the Dempster Highway anniversary celebrations, whether it may be working with Holland America to expand day and multi-day packages. Also the individual has been working on N2K Learning Travel Product Club, also working on continuing the work on the anchor icon product initiative, as well as community product planning. So this individual has been working pretty diligently.
I should add that product, of course, is not just simply focused on tourism, but it is tourism-related. Whether it be roads, infrastructure, itís all part and parcel of growing our tourism industry industry.
Mr. McRobb: I would like some information on the terms of reference for this position, as well as a more detailed explanation of any progress made in this area, as well as a list of priorities for product development. Can the minister undertake to return to us with some written information?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I think that I have outlined as much as I can some of the initiatives that this individual has been working on. I should also add that this position also has been working very closely with our industry association. Again I refer to a whole host of activities that the individual has been working on. But I can certainly go back to the department and see what additional information we could provide the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: I am not sure if that was a yes. I did ask for the terms of reference as well as the priorities and a more detailed explanation. She said she will check with the department. That really leaves things up in the air. Can I get a commitment from the minister that she will provide whatever is possible to answer my questions?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, I believe that I just made the commitment to go back to the department and see what additional information I can provide.
Mr. McRobb: I will assume then, Mr. Chair, that any information she can provide will be provided. If I stand corrected, I will expect an elaboration from the minister when she gets up on her feet next.
In the spring, the minister indicated that one of her goals was to increase access to capital for our tourism operators. Can she explain how that is being done?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I donít recall that particular line of answering, but we work with operators on an ongoing basis. Whether it be through product development, marketing initiatives or our cultural services branch, we always undertake to work with tour operators, whether it be gaining further access to other markets, providing marketing assistance or assistance with business planning. We continue to provide those services and, of course, we always look to expand those services as well.
Mr. McRobb: For the ministerís convenience, on April 30, she said, and Iíll quote: "The new Yukon investment strategy will develop a strategy to attract investment and increase access to capital." She went on to talk about how that is one of her objectives.
So, once again, what is she doing in that area? Iíd also like to ask about the pan-northern economic development agreement the Premier promised people at last yearís tourism roundup. Can she update us on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: It has now hit home with me with respect to the Yukon investment strategy that I referred to. I was remiss earlier, but it has now come to light that that is a strategy that is actually being pursued by the Department of Economic Development, so this is an initiative that the Premier, as Minister of Economic Development, will be working on.
That has since been transferred over to the Department of Economic Development; therefore, I have no progress to report at this time.
With respect to the economic development agreement that the member opposite referred to ó and which is also outlined in our platform, I should add ó I can say, as Minister of Tourism and Culture, this is an issue that I have raised at various intervals throughout the last year in meeting with my counterparts, and in particular with ministers of Northwest Territories and Nunavut, raising this very issue at the ministerial table with the former federal Minister of Industry, Allan Rock, basically stating how we do not have access to any EDA funding of any kind, whether it has a tourism component or an economic development component. Instead there are other jurisdictions in Canada that have access to the western diversification fund, to the ACOA funds. I believe itís to the northern Ontario development regional initiatives. Similarly, regional initiatives identified through Canada Tourism Commission ó we are not eligible for those programs either.
So we continue to work as a collective at that end, and I certainly look forward to meeting with the new Minister of Industry, who was just appointed to Cabinet the other day, again raising this issue at the ministerial table.
I should also add that just recently there was a ministers meeting, in which I did not take part ó it was in Quebec ó and at that time the Council of Tourism Ministers did join forces and they came up with a new body called the Council of Tourism Ministers. They also, at the same time, released a draft document for a national tourism strategy for their discussion. That, I understand, has been somewhat put on hold, but part of that discussion ó we as a collective here in the territory will be making a pitch to the federal government, once again, that we are in need of some additional funding, whether it be making our territory more accessible to the rest of the world, enhancing our product, marketing it as such. But we are making those arguments at the federal table.
I know that the Premier, likewise, is also making those arguments.
Mr. McRobb: I assume that the minister was listening to the discussion that I had with the government House leader. Itís really important to stay focused this afternoon because of the lack of time remaining in this sitting, and there are still a number of departments to go.
So, if she is able to oblige our request for written information, that would be extremely helpful. Of course we are all mindful about keeping our questions and answers to the point.
I would like to follow up by asking what progress has been made along the lines of reintroducing the tourism marketing fund, or whatever program it may be. There was some discussion back in April about the need for such a program to assist small business owners to develop Web sites and so on in the territory. Could the minister update us on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, I have to say that itís not very often that I get to have the opportunity to talk about all the good things going on in Tourism and Culture. There are some really incredible things going on and I commend our department for taking those initiatives, and I commend industry out there for doing a very good job. So, forgive me if Iím doing my job and answering the member oppositeís questions. It seems like one moment Iím not answering the questions and then the other moment, I am. This time I am actually answering the questions and I will continue to do so.
With respect to programs being made available for marketing, for individual businesses, I refer to the community development fund, which has been able to assist a lot of initiatives to help promote their products, whether it be the Silver Trail kiosk, whether it be helping to construct a kiosk in Carmacks ó the visitor centre. There are a number of very positive elements that our community development fund has been funding in addition to the programs offered by our departments.
With respect to the memberís questions on marketing programs, in addition, we do have a number of initiatives available through our marketing branch that we will continue to deliver.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I do have a few more questions. First of all, what about the tourism stats for last year? Can the minister provide us with those in a complete breakdown, please?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair. There are a number of various statistics here. Iíd be happy to outline them for you. Tourism in Canada, as the member opposite knows, was affected overall ó not to mention the rest of the world ó by a number of factors.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, I would like to just clarify my question. It was for a complete breakdown of all the stats for visitations, and there are several categories and there are different kinds of questions. If the minister prefers to orate that, weíre going to be here for a period of time that exceeds the time we have available. That is not what I would like to see, Mr. Chair. So this exists on paper. She has it in her hand. Can she just undertake ó sometime in the next couple of weeks would be nice ó if she can provide us a copy of that, please?
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, the issue is that weíre in general debate, and any of the lines the member opposite wants to discuss, we will do so. But the issue of providing everything in writing is not an issue that weíre prepared to entertain. If the members opposite canít budget their time, so be it.
Chair:Order please. The Chair finds that there is no point of order here.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: In response to the member oppositeís questions regarding visitor visitation for 2003, I will relay to the member opposite, as I do have this information in my hand, so I would much rather relay it here versus popping it in the mail, having the department go through more paperwork here.
So, with respect to the member oppositeís questions, as I mentioned, tourism in Canada was certainly affected by what I had identified as the year of the perfect storm, which consisted of many various global events that resulted in visitation declines almost everywhere.
So, with that said, border crossing statistics captured at four ports of entry indicate overall summer season visitations declined 3.1 percent from last year. It also indicated that visitation at our visitor reception centres was actually down by just over a percentage point as well from last year.
When we look at May through September, we have private vehicle passengers down 7.1 percent and motorcoach passengers up 14 percent.
We have U.S. citizens down five percent; Canadian citizens we have up 309 individuals, so up by 0.6 percent; overseas visitors are up five percent, 1,089. Visitors travelling in private vehicles comprised 78 percent of visitation, with motorcoach at 22 percent. Of course, the U.S. citizens made up 71 percent of total visitation and this was a decline from 73 percent in 2002. Canadian citizens at 20 percent and the overseas market at nine percent; both increased one percent over last season.
So these are just some of the things that I have just reported with respect to the visitation for the last summer, 2003. Of course, in addition, it all depended on whom you spoke with over the course of the summer. I had an opportunity to speak with many different operators and, while some were down dramatically, some were very much up, having the best year of all their seasons. So it all depended on whom you spoke with and where they were exactly.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our customary time for a mid-afternoon recess. Do members wish a break?
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Letís continue on with debate. Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: I want to thank the minister for the summary. Now, will she provide us with the detailed breakdown in writing?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am not exactly sure what the member opposite is referring to. I believe I just gave the member opposite a detailed breakdown as best as I could. I am not sure if they would like a breakdown of the blue campers from Monday through Friday, but I think I gave the best detailed response that I can provide.
Mr. McRobb: What the minister gave was a summary. What I would like is a breakdown. I mentioned before that we are seeking information as to the visitations by category at each point. We did not get that. For instance, I will just give you an example: what are the visitation statistics like for motorhomes coming through the Fraser border crossing, for instance. I believe there are four border crossings in the territory. There are several categories and there is not enough time to orate all of these. The minister only gave us a summary, so I would like written information sent over at her convenience at some future point. Thatís what I am asking. Would she oblige that request, please?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I donít recall if that information has ever been released before but I would be happy to go and see if this is something that we have done in previous years.
Mr. McRobb: I can assure that it is something that has been done before, so I will look forward to receiving that information.
I want to ask her now about something related to tourism statistics ó probably for next year or years beyond, especially if Alaska continues with the wolf kill and there is the expected fallout in anti-tourism campaigns launched in the mainland United States, for example. What is the ministerís plan to reduce the impact of a wolf kill in Alaska?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Any time there is talk or threat of a boycott, particularly when it concerns our industry of tourism, there is always reason to be concerned. Since hearing about this particular threat of a boycott occurring, our department has been in contact with a number of various entities, including our Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, as well as various officials throughout the Yukon. And of course the department has been in touch with a number of different tour operators as well to gauge the level of concern out there.
In addition, I have also been in touch with the Alaska Travel Industry Association as well, to hear where theyíre coming from. All I can say is that, like industry in Alaska, we will continue to closely monitor the situation. At this current time, the only entity that has specifically taken a position is that of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce. They are supportive of the proposed wolf control plan, you could say, but the Alaska Travel Industry Association has not, as of yet, taken any position. Similarly, as for the Alaska Wilderness and Recreation Tourism Association, I believe they are also continuing to monitor the situation. We did speak earlier with the Tourism Industry Association, their board of directors, late last week, and it is their feeling that we continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, take the appropriate action.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for the information. If sheís able to keep us apprised of the situation and how she intends to deal with the fallout, if in fact it happens, that would be appreciated.
Speaking of Alaska and Haines, thereís the issue of the Alaska state ferries and regular service between Haines and Skagway and vice versa. As she knows, this came up during the recent tourism roundup convention. And I introduced a motion here urging the Yukon government to work with Alaska to try to ensure that thereís a quality service thatís continued with regular scheduling and work on other options.
I would like to know what she has done in that area.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Since this announcement was made ó and it was made just shortly before the tourism roundup here in Whitehorse. Unfortunately it was communicated incorrectly in the media that all service between Haines and Skagway would be discontinued, and that, of course, is not the case. There is a concern, however, that since 1998, there has been a regular scheduled day-boat service between the two port cities and what is being proposed now is the removal of that particular service.
So with respect to what we have done, Iíve been working very closely with the Minister of Community Services and weíve been in touch with the Alaska Department of Transportation as well. It is our understanding that they are looking at perhaps a dedicated ferry to be placed on the Haines to Skagway route, which could make one, if not more, daily trip.
The problem is theyíre looking for funding in their capital budget right now for a second vessel to serve this particular route, but that is perhaps likely two years out. What we have done in the meantime is, I as Minister of Tourism and Culture have just recently sent a letter to the commissioner for the Department of Transportation, requesting that they give full consideration to the proposed changes in their 2004 ferry scheduled service, and that they certainly consider adding additional capacity so as not to further impact our Golden Circle route marketing campaign and the tour operators who serve that particular campaign as well.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that, and I would ask if she can pass over copies of the letters sometime in the next couple of weeks or so. Would she be willing to do that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I will see what I can do.
Mr. McRobb: On a similar issue, and itís one I raised with the Premier recently in his Haines Junction budget meeting, thereís a need for a visitor reception centre display at Tok, Alaska to hold brochures marketing the Kluane and the Haines road, possibly Haines, Alaska, areas. Itís something the Premier undertook to actively investigate. Can the minister provide us with any news in that area?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That is actually the first time Iíve heard of this. I do know that minutes of each of the meetings are being taken, so we will be made privy to that information in our respective departments. So like everything else thatís raised in budget discussions, thatís up for due consideration.
Mr. McRobb: I was hoping that it would have been integrated by now, but we will keep the hope up and we will look forward to the spring budget.
On another matter that involves cooperation with our neighbours to the north and west, what is the minister doing about cellphone service in the territory. I ask the Tourism minister because responses to the last stay-another-day visitor survey strongly indicated the need for greater, comprehensive service throughout the territory. I just heard it again on the weekend while I was visiting in Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing from tourism operators. They continuously hear from our visitors of the need for communications. When they find out that their cellphones donít work and they are camping in the Yukon, they quickly find out where they have to go in order to reconnect to their families and they donít stay another day anywhere where there isnít cellphone service. We know that service only currently exists in the Whitehorse area.
There have been discussions in the past. I recall asking cellphone-related questions to several ministers in the previous government and to ministers in this government again in the spring sitting. Now that the federal government was very generous and they dropped off a big bundle of cash at our doorstep, the timing could be right to actually proceed and do something about this problem, at least in some strategic locations in the territory ó if we canít do it throughout the territory, possibly just some strategic locations on main highway routes, for instance, for now while we look at further options.
So, as far as the Tourism minister is concerned, could she give us an update on what is happening in this area?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I unfortunately cannot provide probably as best of an update as possible as that is outside of my purview as Minister of Tourism and Culture. Thatís not to say I donít have a dedicated interest in enhancing cell service, or enhancing our telecommunications in the territory. It just happens to be an area that doesnít fall within my particular portfolio.
I should mention though that itís like anything. We all have demands on all of our taxpayersí dollars for a number of initiatives, enhancing product, and again I refer to upgrading highways, upgrading our telecommunication system. Next year alone, I understand that Government of Yukon will be owing a $7.5-million payment to go back into the immigrant investor fund with respect to the Connect Yukon. So thatís a lot of dollars to be dedicated to a program that has already been spent and invested in accordingly.
I think that, like everything, we have to budget accordingly. We have to identify priorities and proceed from there on.
Mr. McRobb: I urge the minister not to dwell in the past. The time has come to look ahead. These are real problems facing Yukoners and our visitors, and we have to quickly deal with them in terms of problem solving. There are plenty of opportunities presently to address this problem. Furthermore, this minister should be fully aware of the situation in order to help her colleague, the Minister of Highways and Public Works, which houses the communication branch, at the Cabinet table get something in this area, and I would urge the other minister to solicit her support to do whatever is necessary to achieve something in this area. Because we all know that it is difficult to deal with some members and their favourite projects, and this one does cost some money but there is federal programming available to help deal with this matter. So that would be appreciated.
I said that I was out in the riding on the weekend. In Haines Junction yesterday I saw a semi-tractor trailer painted with huge advertising for Denali National Park and it reminded me of a previous government program ó we had something similar. Can the minister apprise us what is in existence now and, if there is nothing, what she plans for the future?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Perhaps the member could elaborate on that.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, there was a large truck painted up advertising Denali National Park and the Alaskan experience. It had a huge picture of a grizzly bear and other attractive icons on it, and it reminded me of a previous government program. I think the Yukon at one time, maybe a decade ago, had some sort of a symbol on some highway trucks. Mr. Chair, it seems to me that thereís an opportunity here ó these trucks are billboards. They donít necessarily have to be trucks that go through the Yukon. Thinking about it on my drive back last night, perhaps maybe a trucking company in Edmonton or Vancouver even, that just run around town. Whatís wrong with having a truck painted up ó theyíre basically a moving billboard throughout the city ó advertising the Yukon? We all know that those are major centres, where such advertising would be exposed to an unlimited number of potential tourists and would receive a wide market. So perhaps there is some room for maybe a pilot project or something. Is this something the minister might consider?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Any time we can help promote the territory, encourage visitors from outside the territory to come to the Yukon and experience our products here is a good thing. Just what the member was alluding to reminds me of, for example, the Yukon Brewing Company. They have a couple vehicles down in Edmonton, I believe, if Iím not mistaken, and perhaps in Vancouver as well ó or Calgary.
Certainly, it attracts a lot of attention to the Yukon as well as to their product. So I commend them for doing that. I think that, with respect to, again, the upcoming Canada Winter Games 2007, as well as the 2010 Olympics, there are some really serious opportunities for expanding the brand Yukon. Perhaps that is one way. But, of course, that will all be part of the brand strategy that our Department of Tourism and Culture is continuing to work on.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, obviously we will follow up on this in a few monthsí time.
I have another question. The minister mentioned that several repairs were made to VRCs throughout the territory. Is that something that she can provide us in writing ó exactly what was done at which VRC? Is that something that she would be able to provide us?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe that for many years, as far as I can remember, there is a dedicated schedule ó very similar to dedicated maintenance scheduled work for schools ó is also completed at each of our visitor reception centres. I believe that we could probably provide a breakdown of which visitor reception centres received money for renovations ó if thatís what you will call it. I can provide that for the 2003-04 budget that was approved earlier this spring.
Just while I am on my feet, with respect to the member oppositeís question previously about the product development officer, I do have in my hands their principal duties and responsibilities that I would be very happy to relay.
There are six of them. The first is, "Leads and manages the maintenance of the guiding documents", for example, the Tourism Yukon product development strategy and associated annual plan.
The individual also helps develop, coordinate, implement and deliver initiatives to achieve the goals and objectives set out in these guiding documents; provides a broad range of tourism business support to facilitate product development; manages and coordinates the development and maintenance of a database to monitor tourism infrastructure quality and capacity; carries out and conducts research to identify emerging tourism trends and related opportunities for product development; as well, provides guidance and assistance in sustainable regional tourism planning.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for her answer, which provides some of the information I requested on the product development officer.
Another question ó wilderness viewing stations. I usually request a priority list of potential stations in their order of development. Is that something she can provide to us?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thatís a question I would ask the member to refer to the Minister of Environment, as Iím 100 percent sure that he would be able to provide an accurate list of those sites.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, thank you for that.
A question Iím going to pass on Iíve heard from a few people ó highway lodge owners and people who work in highway lodges ó is there any assistance the minister plans to provide to such lodge owners that would help them with their labour costs or anything in that area? Is there any program on the horizon, anything at all that she can tell us?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: This was an actual matter that was raised at the tourism roundup that was held recently here in Whitehorse. As the member opposite will recall ó because he was also there ó the discussion surrounded human resources. I think that in all matters of professions here ó as our population continues to age rapidly in the next eight to 10 years, this is going to be an area that weíre going to have to address worldwide, not just here in the Yukon.
With respect to training, of course, we just reinstated $1 million in additional funding in our community training trust funds, of which some of that did go to the tourism training trust fund. So we are very much committed to providing accurate, quality service, delivery of services to our visitors who choose to come to the Yukon and will continue to do so, and weíll continue to provide support in that manner as well.
Ms. Duncan: I have some very specific questions for the minister, and Iíll ask them in general debate rather than the line-by-line surrounding some contracts from the Department of Tourism. Could the minister advise the floor of the House what the current status is of the marketing contract with Parallel ó thereís a term for it, but it has escaped me at the moment. But what is the current status of our contract with Parallel?
Chair: Agency of record.
Ms. Duncan: Itís the agency of record that I am referring to.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thatís correct. It was our agency of record ó Two Red Chairs, I believe. We are into the first of a three-year contract with that particular agency.
Ms. Duncan: So Two Red Chairs replaced Parallel as our agency of record. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe itís a combination with Parallel.
Ms. Duncan: That we are in the first year is what the minister has advised.
There are two other contracts that the department engages in overseas. One is in England with a marketing agency and the other is in Europe. In Europe, it was Bergold Promotions. What is the current status of these contracts?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: With respect to Bergold Promotions, there is a tender that is being prepared right now to go out to tender. It will probably go out in the spring and I believe itís anticipated to be for a three-year contract. So that is in the midst of being prepared.
With respect to our services in the U.K., I am to understand that that was renewed last year for a five-year agreement.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that update from the minister.
There was a sole-source contract to Polara for $8,000 for a gateway cities focus group testing. That was done in the spring of this year. Polara is an agency that has been used by the government before. Would the minister provide the results of the focus group testing?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Focus group testings, of course, are done on a repeated basis to help evaluate the effectiveness and quality of our campaign initiatives, and certainly gateway cities is one of those marketing initiatives that does hold a lot of merit.
So with respect to the actual results, I have not even seen a copy of those results myself, and they were prepared this spring. But I will certainly take a look at them.
Ms. Duncan: So the minister is saying that this focus group testing is important, of course; itís an evaluation of our marketing initiatives. The completion date was April 15, 2003. The taxpayer paid $8,000 to a company to do some focus group testing and the minister hasnít been given the results yet ó even just a précis of what happened with that. Would the minister undertake, once she has seen it, to provide it to me, and Iím certain that the official opposition would like a copy as well. And while Iím on my feet, I would just ask the minister ó she has undertaken to provide some information to the official opposition ó if that would also be forwarded to my offices as well. I would appreciate it.
If the information has been provided to the Tourism Industry Assocation of the Yukon, for example, I would hope that we would also receive it.
The minister signed off a sole-source contract for stabilization at Fortymile historic buildings. Itís not totally out of the ordinary for ministers to sign off these sole-source contracts, but this one is a little out of the ordinary. So there is likely a perfectly logical explanation as to why that happened, and I would just like that explanation from the minister. Why was it sole-sourced and why for this particular amount?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Going back then ó Iím trying to remember as best as I can, but I believe that that was a contract to do with the Tríondëk Hwëchíin First Nation final agreement. Within their self-government agreement, there are provisions for contracting opportunities, and I believe that was part of that contract.
Ms. Duncan: I will accept the ministerís explanation, and if there is more information that comes to light, I would appreciate it if she would advise members of the House.
The historic places initiatives ó the minister has indicated that there is $329,000 and the recovery of that amount. That appears to be all federal money. Is that correct ó the historic places initiative is, in actual fact, a simple transfer of federal money and there is no territorial money involved?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, thatís correct. Itís $329,000 of federal money from Canadian Heritage. What that money has gone toward since we received a majority of the funding was, basically, four or five different components, including improvements to our existing Yukon historic sites and inventory database to make it compatible with the Canadian register of historic places. This program has also enhanced the quality and quantity of information within our historic sites inventory.
Weíve also established an office of the Yukon registrar, as well as promotion of these activities. A number of activities have gone as a result of this funding, including service contracts, research documentation of historic places in Yukon, surrounding a number of different projects.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just need to go back to the European contract for just a moment, if I might. I donít intend to skip all over. There was just something I would draw to the ministerís attention. On the last Team Canada trip to Germany, Alberta and Ontario opened a joint office in Germany for tourism marketing and general promotion for their provinces. They offered the Yukon space, and I wonder if that was ever taken advantage of. It was to be dealt with through the contract, so has that ever been followed up on? If not, is it possible it might be followed up on and included as part of the tendering for the European promotion contract?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite for her recommendation. With respect to the Alberta/Ontario office, Iím not sure what the status is of that particular initiative. This is the first time Iíve heard of this initiative. Weíre always looking at new ways to capitalize on key markets, particularly German-speaking Europe, so we will entertain or look at the costs associated. I can only imagine there are a few costs associated with such an office, but of course it all comes down to dollars and cents.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the ministerís information, it wasnít at a cost to us. We were offered this space, and the contractor was to make use of that, follow up on the offer and work out of that office as part of their promotional contract. So I suspect itís one of the things that fell by the way, and I would encourage the minister ó the Premier of Ontario has changed, but certainly the Premier of Alberta has not, and he would recall the offer. Iíd encourage the minister to follow up on it. The former Deputy Minister of Tourism was well aware of that, so perhaps she would undertake to follow up on that.
One of the issues, of course, always in dealing with our European promotion is the availability of flights. Of course, the very difficult situation with Air Canada right now is extremely stressful and distressing to Yukoners. What is the current status of the European flights projected for this summer, and what discussions are underway with Air Canada with regard to future service?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, indeed, there has been a lot of turbulence in the air industry over the last year, to say the least. What has transpired with Air Canada is truly unfortunate. They have undertaken some massive restructuring exercises, not just recently but over recent years as well. This last blow, however, will be to the detriment of many of our long-time staff persons here in Whitehorse.
First of all, with respect to our flights, our charter service with Thomas Cook Condor, that will be continuing twice weekly, and we have received confirmation that this will, in fact, take place, again, for the summer of 2004 direct from Frankfurt to Whitehorse. I should also add that part of the reason why Condor is coming back is because it had such a successful season in 2003. In fact, it realized almost an 18-percent increase over the year before.
So we are very, very pleased, and I should also say that that is an increase in passengers deplaning in Whitehorse over the previous season, which is very important.
And of course, with respect to Air Canada, as the members opposite are very well aware, there was an announcement earlier this fall ó it came completely out of the blue, with no advance notice whatsoever ó that they were reducing their flights to one a day. Of course we took immediate action. We started discussions immediately with industry officials and also engaged the assistance of Air North, our regional airline carrier. As a result of those discussions we were able to accomplish the best case scenario out of one of the worst case scenarios ó if that makes any sense. But thanks to Air North and Air Canada, they have been able to work toward their inter-line partnership, which honours each otherís passengers, particularly from the overseas market in Japan, which is of particular importance to the growth of our winter tourism. So we were able to help facilitate that manner of travelling passengers from Osaka, Japan over to Whitehorse.
I should say that this isnít over; the turbulence is not over. In meeting with the president of Zip ó I met with him a couple of times, as well as having numerous discussions with him via conference call with industry. Again we urged the very importance of keeping the lines of communication open so that we have as much advance notice as possible so that we can provide our operators with some security and stability of being able to book, being able to present packages to our visitors.
Again, they assured us they would make their best efforts, but they also relayed to us that theyíre very unclear on what happens with air service on a day-to-day basis, as was just recently exhibited with the layoffs of Air Canada individuals.
Again, we continue to work with Air North; we continue to work with Zip; we continue to work with Condor and continue to also work with our two general sales agents in the U.K. and in Germany to provide affordable, accessible and reliable air service to the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister and I will agree that times have been turbulent for the air industry, but we need the minister to upgrade it from flying standby to being more proactive on these issues. Itís extremely important to the Yukon. Do we have an additional carrier, other than Condor, contemplating summer service from Europe? There was a contractor considering Zurich ó the Zurich connections are very difficult. People donít want to have to travel to Frankfurt and then to Whitehorse, so there was another company considering charter service in the summer months. Has that happened, or will we just see the one charter company this summer?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We will continue to have our charter service via Condor. There are no other charter services Iím aware of that will be coming into Whitehorse or into any part of the Yukon as of this summer but, again, I have to remind the member opposite that itís not just the Yukon thatís experiencing tremendous difficulties in this industry; itís throughout the world right now, and I feel very fortunate to have both Air North and Air Canada servicing the territory. Air North and Air Canada both provide a tremendous number of jobs, and weíre very pleased to have them both here servicing the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the minister three specific questions around policy issues. What is the current policy for funding First Nation cultural centres? $300,000 has recently been identified for Carcross. Would the minister table the policy around funding First Nation cultural centres?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: With respect to cultural centres and heritage, we are meeting our obligations as per chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which requires the Yukon government, as well as Canada and the respective First Nation, to work together in realizing these particular needs. We are doing so.
In the past, I can say that our previous Yukon Party government was able to fund First Nation cultural heritage centres in a number of communities, including Dawson City, Teslin, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks. Those were all under the Yukon anniversaries program.
So I believe those were primarily funded by Yukon government dollars. As the member opposite is also aware, we provided a sum of money to the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. As well, we are working with the Kluane First Nation, as well as other First Nations, to recognize and meet their needs on the cultural front. With respect to the broader base of heritage needs, we are working with each First Nation to develop strategic heritage plans at the table, which outline individual and collective principles, as identified within each of the First Nation governments. Of course, the Yukon Heritage Resources Board also has a role to play in this as well, which is that they review, I believe, strategic heritage plans.
There are a number of things that we have provided, in addition to capital funding ó I should add that we have also provided $1.25 million toward the Kwanlin Dun First Nation cultural heritage centre on the waterfront.
We provide through our Public Service Commission, for example, salaried support and technical training opportunities that are being made available to Carcross-Tagish First Nation as well as the Teslin cultural heritage centre. We also continue to work with Yukon First Nations on such initiatives as a Fort Selkirk virtual museum of Canada, including curriculum development and Web site development. We continue to work with the marketing branch to provide technical and other support. And, of course, just recently, our Minister of Education was also able to report progress on the development of a heritage training fund, on which various First Nations have also worked diligently and have accessed this particular fund to enhance and address their heritage training needs. So there are a number of things that we do provide in addition to capital dollars, and we are very happy to provide these dollars, as First Nations product is critical to growing our visitor industry and also to developing their needs on the heritage/cultural front.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for the lengthy answer, but it wasnít a direct answer to the question. Previous cultural centres were funded under the anniversaries program. Kwanlin Dun was funded as a pre-implementation of the land claim. Under what basis, under what policy, was the funding allocated to Carcross? Would she table the policy? Yes, I understand we have chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement. I understand we also have negotiated memorandums of understanding moving to what we hope will be a settled land claim. What policy initiative ó was it simply precedence, weíve done this before? If so, fine. Or was there a Management Board directive or a policy? Under what basis did she fund them?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Chapter 13, heritage, of the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Ms. Duncan: I would encourage the minister to look carefully and review the Blues on that question. Would she provide the House with the current status of the craft strategy and what initiatives have been implemented underneath it?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The craft strategy ó we did provide some monies toward the further development and enhancement of the strategy. I believe that a number of workshops were held over the course of the year. Also, I believe it was the second annual home buyers show that was also conducted just recently at Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre, which was just a huge success. I canít say enough about the tremendous potential of that venue as being enhanced in future years. But, just to see the participation of buyers as well as retailers, sellers, producers all come together from Alaska and, I believe, northern British Columbia, as well, was also involved. And, of course, individuals from all over the territory participated. So we are continuing to work on that front. I think itís one of the more exciting initiatives in the department.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have a similar update for the museums study that was an update to the Lord study?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, the museum strategy has been in the works for the last two and a half years ó I should say "consultation process". It has been widely distributed. The draft strategy was developed by the Museum Strategy Advisory Committee, which is made up of various entities including First Nation interpretive centres, Yukon Council of Archives, Yukon Heritage Resources Board, Yukon Historical and Museums Association, as well as the Yukon museums.
Theyíve all had a role to play in this as well. It has gone out for final consultation, at which time we will then take a look at it and it will probably be coming to Cabinet in the not-so-distant future for finalization.
Mr. Hardy: I have very, very brief questions. Most of the questions have been asked. The minister has responded to them. I am quite pleased with that. Could the minister tell me when the transfer responsibilities in regard to the microloans, film incentive programs, infrastructure and all that ó that whole group that transferred over to Economic Development ó could the minister tell me when that actually happened?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That is exactly what the supplementary budget provides, that distribution of funds.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís not the question I asked. The simple question is: when did the transfer of those particular items in the budget ó it demonstrates here that they have been moved to Economic Development. When did that actually happen and what was involved?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Effectively that took place when the deputy minister was hired. We had a ó you could call it a transfer, if you will, of particular areas of our department and, of course, the Deputy Minister of Economic Development has been working fast and furiously with the various stakeholders to help further define the shape and role of the new Department of Economic Development. So he has been doing that and I give him full credit. He has been meeting with a number of stakeholders and has been doing a very comprehensive job of that.
Mr. Hardy: Well, itís nice that one minister talks about another department that sheís not even involved in and seems to have all that information. However, again, I asked a simple question ó when it had happened ó and I donít get an answer. This is pretty basic stuff.
Was there any loss of employment in the transfer?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Unfortunately, I donít have the specific date at my fingertips, so therefore I canít provide the member opposite with the information specific to his needs. But with respect to whether or not there was any loss of jobs, any employment, I do not believe there was any loss of jobs.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the minister can always offer to send the information to us at a later date if she doesnít have it at her fingertips. Thatís perfectly fine. Iím not trying to trick the minister in anything. I would just like to know when these actions actually happened so we know what department we were talking about, at what period, and who actually is the minister and who is the deputy minister. Thatís all, really.
And Iím glad that she indicates there doesnít seem to be any loss of employment. Was there much of a transfer of personnel from out of Tourism and Culture into Economic Development? Does she know how many people?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have the information right here: 11 employees were included as part of this transfer, and the employees were transferred from what used to be our industry development and research branch, including a director and one administrative assistant, which included the business unit, the trade and promotion unit, the film commission unit and from the policy, planning and evaluation branch. So all of these individuals comprised 11 positions in total.
Mr. Hardy: There is one little area I want to ask a couple of questions in, and that is regarding the decade of sport and culture. There is $200,000 in this, and ó maybe the minister said it earlier ó how is the money being divided? Is there a separation between sport and culture? Is there a portion of money going to one side or the other, or is it based upon applications, or whatever?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I do welcome the opportunity to talk about the decade of sport and culture because, as I alluded to earlier, over the upcoming seven years, Yukon will certainly be participating in a lot of different events ó high profile events, I should add, starting with our Canada Senior Summer Games 2004, Canada Winter Games 2007 and of course the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
In addition to these events, there are also annual events, including the Yukon Quest, our musical festival, the Klondike Road Relay, and a number of sporting and cultural events as well.
The actual concept of the decade of sport and culture is basically how do we capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity to all Yukoners? As the member opposite just referred to, the sport and recreation unit does have a corresponding $120,000, of which we have, in addition to that, $200,000 within our Department of Tourism and Culture. What I envision will be happening right away will be a consultation period, during which we will take some time to look at the various cultural events that exist in the Yukon, actually identifying and inventorying existing events that contribute to our overall tourism product.
We will also be looking at how we can determine strengths and assets within each of our organizations that provide assistance to some of these various events and capacity building within these organizations. We will also be developing an overall brand for these various events and providing marketing support to market these events to Canadians and overseas visitors so that we can make the best of what we have to offer here in the next few years. So this stage will be to initially identify opportunities and see how we can capitalize on those opportunities.
I should also say that we will be working with the Yukon Convention Bureau because of the number of conventions and meetings to take place here in preparation for the Canada Winter Games; for example, the pre-national competitions to take place in the Yukon. That will certainly bring another opportunity to add visitation to the Yukon. As well, we will be working with the Canada Games Host Society, as well as our own 2007 host society representatives to discuss joint marketing and sponsorship opportunities. So all these initiatives are all going to be part and parcel of what we can do to try to make the best opportunities out of the decade of sport and culture.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask about ice patch research. Can the minister maybe get back to us with some written information on what work is being done this year and what work she expects to be done in the future? A simple yes will do.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iím always happy to provide information at my fingertips, and thatís exactly what Iíll proceed to do here. Last summer of 2003 generally provided a return to rapid melting conditions that have been experienced in the late 1990s at several of our ice patches. What in fact occurred over August and September is continued monitoring of the melt conditions and the monitoring of several significant new archaeological specimens which were also recovered.
The ice patch research team was shadowed in the field for four days by a film crew from the Discovery Channel ó a science program, Daily Planet ó and, of course, this research was showcased on two episodes of this particular program in September 2003. And Iím hoping that the member opposite had an opportunity to view it, because it was a very well done production.
So alpine ice patches continue to melt in southwest Yukon and continue to reveal archaeological collections and also provide us with additional opportunities to monitor of these items of interest.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that information, Mr. Chair. If sheís able to send over something of more detail, I would appreciate that. And that concludes our general debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I would like to request, pursuant to Standing Order 14.(3), the unanimous consent of this Committee, to deem all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, cleared or carried as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, read and agreed to
Chair:Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, cleared or carried as required.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent. That concludes Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Underexpenditures for the Department of Tourism and Culture of $1,398,000 cleared
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Tourism and Culture in the amount of $727,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism and Culture agreed to
Chair: I understand that weíre now moving into Vote 53, Energy, Mines and Resources.
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, understanding that because of devolution, we took a large percentage of the workforce ó and also taking over a big part of the land resources that came along with devolution, and the water, of course ó
What I would like to do first is provide a little background on what we did last year to bring us up to date so we can do this supplementary and all be conscious of what we as a department have been doing in the government.
In the mining sector, we extended the Yukon mining exploration tax credit for the year 2003 for the exploration season. That was one of the first things we implemented when we took office. We expanded and improved services to the public and industry through the creation of the Yukon geological survey. Again, when we met with the Minister of Northern Affairs during the Mines meeting in Dawson, we levered another $179,000 for our share of resources so we could expand this service to bring it up to date. Itís a moving target. We are working on it and I think itís proceeding quite nicely.
Then, of course, after devolution, we provided a one-time relief from assessment requirements normally expected of claim holders. This was a bit of an incentive that was first brought forward by the last government, the Liberal government, and we thought it was a good way to enter into devolution and give a big welcome to the mining industry. I think it was received very well by the industry. Of course, this was a one-year thing and it wonít be continued.
By working closely with our partners in government and industry, we were able to complete a record agreement between the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations to establish a process for developing a new regime to regulate placer mining. Understand that when we took office a year ago, we were hit with a decision made by the Minister of Fisheries that would have been very bad for the placer industry in our jurisdiction.
With the help of our Member of Parliament, Mr. Bagnell, and of course Senator Ione Christensen, we were successful in getting people back to the table. Again, this is work-in-progress, but Iíd like to report that weíre getting there; weíre having regular meetings and, at the end of the day, I think weíre going to see a balance between environment and the placer industry, so thatís a good-news story.
Our efforts have produced some results, Iím happy to report. We have large exploration programs underway in the Mayo area, in Dawson, Watson Lake and in the Whitehorse region. There is renewed interest in Yukon, especially in the important junior mining sector that is leading to more exploration. There is interest in precious metals and gemstones.
Exploration expenditures are up over last yearís figure of $6.9 million. The estimates to date are approximately $13 million for this season. Yukon prospectors and geologists are, once again, working in the Yukon. We will continue to support this important industry through the work of the Geological Survey, continued support for mining incentive programs and by improving the regulatory regime to create investor certainty.
Another thing we took over through devolution was managing of the orphaned and abandoned mines. Through devolution, we accepted the management of these sites but not the responsibility for the finances. So, we manage the sites; the federal government funds us to do the management.
We have secured almost $18 million from Canada for the management of Faro, BYG, Clinton Creek and United Keno Hill mine. About $9.5 million is being spent at Faro and $4 million is being spent at BYG, Clinton Creek and United Keno Hill. Another $3.2 million is being spent on investigative work to advance closure planning on some of these sites.
So, weíre working toward closure on many of these sites, especially when we look at a place like United Keno Hill, where closure would bring a sale of the mine. So, weíre very actively working on those files.
Now, at Faro, direct employment has been created for another 28 Yukoners for care, maintenance and special projects. Additional indirect benefits are also flowing from the purchase of goods and services and numerous contracts with Yukon businesses. Faro is again a work-in-progress, in the sense that it is in receivership, so itís the kind of site that has legal problems. So, what weíre doing now is just maintaining the site with the support of the federal government and the local First Nation.
In oil and gas, we have worked with First Nations along the route to establish an Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Group. This group will help ensure that there is a coordinated First Nation response to all matters related to the project as it progresses. The group will also play a role with First Nations and public government to streamline the regulatory approval process, where possible. This is a very important component for the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Weíre actively working within our borders to get our people, whether itís aboriginal or Joe Blow citizen, ready for when the pipeline is built.
Weíre working with Yukon explorers to collectively promote the natural gas potential of the north Yukon to ensure that the resource potential of this region is not forgotten as planning and development proceed for a Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. We are conducting a north Yukon pipeline assessment that will establish thresholds, reservoir volumes and proposed pipeline toll designs and lateral and expansive policy for Yukon gas that could access a Mackenzie Valley or other pipeline system. This work will be needed for hearings by the National Energy Board concerning the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. This weíve actively worked on over the six months, and we signed an agreement between us and the Northwest Territories ó a letter of understanding on how weíre going to proceed with the relationship between our two governments in the oil and gas industry. In other words, we want to have access to not only the pipeline, but to jobs for our citizens and also work for our contractors.
The Yukon government has also been working with the federal and provincial government and with the Government of the Northwest Territories on an intergovernmental taskforce on pipeline regulations. Weíre taking it a step further; the Premier is working with the federal government as well to make sure that weíre involved in the Mackenzie pipeline as well as an Alaska Highway pipeline.
We are also continuing our efforts to conclude an agreement with the Kaska First Nation that will pave the way for a disposition of oil and gas exploration rights in southeast Yukon. As we know in this House and as government through our YOGA agreement, when we work with a First Nation that doesnít have a signed self-government agreement, they have to sign a consent agreement, so we have been working with the First Nation in southeast Yukon to try to lever that ahead.
In forestry, in the southeast Yukon, we have engineered 128,000 cubic feet of timber leased for this winter. With that, so weíll have wood for sale in southeast Yukon, there are some engineering resources for engineering of access to the product, and weíre working with that. Hopefully weíll have that off the drawing board by the new year.
The timber is also available for permitting in all other parts of the Yukon, including Dawson, Haines Junction and Teslin. Weíre making strong progress on forest management plans in the Teslin, Haines Junction and Watson Lake areas. These plans are being completed in full partnership with the affected First Nations. We expect the Teslin and Haines Junction plan to be completed shortly, and then we will begin to work on forest management plans for Old Crow and Dawson.
We have released a forest policy framework discussion paper for public consultation. The paper is the result of collaboration between First Nations, renewable resource councils and Yukon government. When completed, the forest policy framework will be from the foundation of the Yukonís first forest act. So again, with devolution, we will have our forest act together so we can proceed with the forest industry in our jurisdiction.
Weíre also continuing our efforts to conclude an agreement with the Kaska First Nation that will pave the way for restarting the forest industry in southeast Yukon. We continue to collect and develop the Yukon forest inventory. This year we flew 5,000 kilometres of photo line in north Yukon, including Old Crow, and some around the Dawson, Carmacks and Ross River areas.
After some field checking, new forest-cover maps for these areas will be available by the end of next summer, so approximately 90 percent of our inventory will be inventoried at that point.
We will begin to work on a forest practice code for the Yukon forest which, when completed, will provide guidance and support for forest operators. Also in the Haines Junction area with the spruce beetle kill, we have worked with the federal government, NRCan and the First Nation to get a handle on how weíre going to address the spruce beetle kill in the Haines Junction area. The fire load in the area is at a very crucial stage. We have had meetings in Ottawa with NRCan on how the federal government would approach this. We ourselves as a small jurisdiction have put a quarter of a million dollars aside for forest health, and weíre looking at the Haines Junction area to see how we as a government can address the beetle kill in the area. We canít do it without federal government help and without working with the First Nation. So that will hopefully be activated this summer.
Now, in agriculture, weíre talking to First Nation governments, farmers, producers and industry associations and other interested groups and individuals about how they think the Yukon agricultural policy, first produced in 1991, can be updated to meet the industryís changing needs. We are working with an industry advisory committee to implement new programs arising from the agricultural policy framework agreement recently signed with the federal government. One such program presently underway will encourage and support the safe handling, slaughter, processing and transportation of beef. It will ensure Yukon beef producers have equal access to the licensed abattoir, no matter where they farm in Yukon. In other words, it will be a level playing field for all the producers in the Yukon.
We are carrying out detailed surveys with forage producers and measuring fields in order to help design an appropriate forage crop insurance and business risk management program.
I would like to take a minute now and give some credit where credit is due. I would like to compliment the federal Minister of Agriculture, Lyle Van Clief, who worked with us over the last 12 months to put this in place and find us the resources and went work to make sure our jurisdiction was addressed as well as the rest of Canada. So I would like to compliment him on the work that he has done and wish him all the luck in his future, now that he has left federal politics.
We are also carrying out a detailed survey. Fifteen agreements for sale on agricultural land, totalling 1,200 acres, have been issued thus far for the 2003 calendar year. In lands, we have standardized land management policy and procedures to ensure that land is available for community, residential, recreational and resource purposes. This has improved client service and eliminated unnecessary duplication and delay. We have developed a one-window approach for the review of land applications through the land application review committee. As a result of devolution, this process now applies to all lands in the Yukon. We consolidated federal and territorial land offices, so it makes it easier for Joe Blow on the street to get access to land and also information.
As of September 30, 2003, there were 389 developed mobile home, country, rural, commercial and industrial lots available for sale in 12 Yukon communities. Of these, 298 are available for sale by Energy, Mines and Resources.
Community Services remains responsible for the delivery of community land, functions such as local area planning, zoning, subdivision application and the development of new subdivisions, including recreational lots.
Energy and climate change ó understanding that in this day and age in the Yukon and probably in Canada we are very conscious of the climate change thatís happening around us. The further north you go in Canada, the more you live with it. What we are doing as a government, weíre taking action on climate change both locally and nationally, with past initiatives as well as new ones ó are being compiled in a draft Yukon government strategy for climate change management. The strategy should be available for public comment and review early next year. Programs and initiatives flowing from the strategy can be undertaken regardless of any requirements Yukon might encounter under the federal climate change action plan. The strategy will set out broad objectives and recognize the initiative of other stakeholders and governments. It will eventually form part of a broader energy strategy that will also be developed in the coming months.
Last August, the federal government announced an additional $1.7 billion in support of its climate change action plan. We are working to ensure that Yukon is able to secure some of those resources to help our energy efficiency and conservation programs and for innovative research and development. We believe there are many opportunities for Yukon that could arise from this federal spending.
Now, that is just a small breakdown of what his department has been doing over the last 12 months. Itís a condensed version. Now I would like to go on with the budget, the 2003-04 supplementary budget.
I am pleased to introduce the 2003-04 supplementary budget for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The department received a total increase of $22,225,000 in its operation and maintenance budget and $2.1 million in its capital budget.
O&M recoveries increased by $5,492,000 and capital recoveries increased by $1,402,000. These increases largely reflect the new and expanded role and mandate of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources following devolution on April 1 of this year.
As a result of the devolution transfer agreement with Canada, the department operation and maintenance budget increased by $15,462,000 and its capital budget increased by $862,000, of which $767,000 is recoverable. Additional devolution-related funding of $6,384,000 has also been secured for activities such as the care and maintenance of the Mount Nansen, Clinton Creek and United Keno Hill mine sites and development of the Yukon forest industry.
There was also a budget increase in revenue of $925,000. The major changes in the O&M budget are: $4,384,000 for client services and inspection, the departmentís new inspection monitoring and compliance service; $4,322,000 for the departmentís new responsibility to manage and develop Yukon mineral resources; $4,018,000 for new responsibilities related to the management of Yukon lands and forests; $2,143,000 for ó
Chair: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Lang: There is $2.143 million for additional responsibilities related to corporate policy and planning, human resources and other administrative functions. Other highlights include: the department welcomes federal support for a new two-year program for northern geoscience. The 100-percent recoverable amount of $179,000 for the first year is to fund improvements to the geoscience database, including Internet access to digital reports. The department received federal support of $4.284 million in order to support the commitment under the devolution transfer agreement for the care and maintenance of Type II mine sites, including Mount Nansen, Clinton Creek and United Keno Hill. These are 100-percent recoverable. The department also received federal support of $800,000 under the devolution transfer agreement related to Canadaís commitment to forestry and the Tough report. A further commitment under the Tough report provided the department another $300,000 as part of Canadaís commitment to provide the Kaska forestry council with funding. Devolution transfer agreement commitment to forest sector funding arrangements increased the departmentís funds by $1 million ó additional $200,000 for the Kaska bilateral agreement for resource management planning for southeast Yukon. The department welcomes federal support of $99,000 from the innovation and knowledge fund. The fund is Canadaís commitment to enhance knowledge and innovation. This budget item is 100-percent recoverable ó
Chair: Order please. The memberís time has expired.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is big on words when it comes to telling us what we donít need to know. Unfortunately, the result is leaving us with very little time in which to ask for answers we do need to know.
And again, itís part of the Yukon Party strategy, we all know, to wind away the clock, rag the puck and to leave as little time as possible for opposition questions. And it has been evident not only throughout this sitting, but the spring sitting as well.
I also want to object to the governmentís refusal to provide us with a briefing on Type II mine sites. This was agreed to by department officials at least three weeks ago, and they were prepared to give a briefing within a few days at that point. Itís a matter we have continuously raised with the government House leader but he has refused to allow us to have a briefing on Type II mine sites. That speaks to the lack of accountability by this government. In addition, this minister is also responsible for the Energy Corporation and we know what he has done there ó more than seven months hanging on to information without providing it to the opposition. I say, shame on this government and shame on this minister in particular for this is the very person ó he stands up at almost every opportunity and refuses to answer questions. The example earlier today really highlights that, when he didnít even address the substance of the question today. What we need from this government is more information, more topical responses, and for them to provide us with the briefings we request.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the Member for Kluane is imputing false and unavowed motives to the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources. I would encourage the Member for Kluane to get on with his line of questioning and donít deal with all the rhetoric that he is bringing to the floor of this Legislature.
Chair:There is no point of order here.
Mr. McRobb: I do want to turn to some questions because, as I indicated, time is very short ó unfortunately. We all know why. We can all go back to the beginning of this sitting and recall how this government shut down debate, where afternoons were wasted.
My first question is on the topic of mines. Itís rather unfortunate for the Yukon that ó Mr. Chair, the Premier is heckling across the way. I believe I have the floor. He should pay attention to this question, because it affects his constituency, and we all know how he feels about that. Itís about the Cantung mine shutdown.
I would like the minister to provide us with a list of numbers of layoffs and which Yukon communities those workers otherwise live in. Can the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím not privy to that information myself. Iím the Minister of Mines for the Yukon. The Northwest Territories is another jurisdiction.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if this government doesnít care where these workers come from within the Yukon, then why did they establish this task force? If the government doesnít know which communities are impacted, how does it know how to begin resolving the concerns and lessening the impact on Yukoners?
Iíll ask the minister again. If he doesnít know today, I can understand that, but will he get back to me with a list that indicates how many of those workers belong to which communities in the Yukon? Can he provide that list?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly have a taskforce in Watson Lake, and we are certainly concerned about all Canadians who were working at the mine, especially Yukoners. But as far as making hay with the unemployed from the Cantung mine, I am not prepared to do that in this House.
The other day, we got into a debate about agriculture, and the member opposite turned it into a bit of a charade. We are not prepared to do that. We are prepared to address the problems individually in Watson Lake and every community of the Yukon. We set up a task force to address those problems, and hopefully we can resolve some of the problems that were created by the closure of the Cantung mine.
Mr. McRobb: "Charade" is a word used by the minister that represents his opinion only.
Now he says that I am making hay with a question about where the workers come from within the Yukon who were laid off. There is no hay to be made here. I simply want a list that indicates how many workers are from Watson Lake, how many from Whitehorse, and so on and so forth. Can he provide us with that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The supplementary budget that I am presenting here for Energy, Mines and Resources is one of the larger budgets and supplementary budgets in this government. I think we have to go on to debate the budget, not debate individuals or individual situations. At this moment, I am not prepared to do that on the floor of this House.
Mr. McRobb: Really, Mr. Chair, we donít care what the ministerís opinion is about questions that we may or may not ask. Frankly, that is up to us. This is an important matter to us.
Can he provide us with a list indicating how many workers and in which communities of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, a ballpark figure for the member opposite: there were approximately 60 Yukoners employed at the Cantung mine when it closed last week.
Mr. McRobb: That doesnít provide any more information than what the initial newspaper reports provided, Mr. Chair. The minister is hiding this information. Iím asking for an itemized list of communities in the territory with allocations of workers. Itís a simple matter; the task force probably has the information at hand. Will he provide that, please?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Moving on with the debate, in my preamble on the debate, Iíd like to go through the operation and maintenance recoverables and the reductions. There was $71,000 for the agricultural policy framework agreement under sustainable resources, which is 60-percent recoverable from the federal government. This program is designed to provide for the long-term stability of the agricultural sector through innovation and development initiatives.
In the capital supplementary, major changes are: thereís an increase of $36,000 for land surveys related to the Whitehorse waterfront area, which is 100-percent recoverable; per the devolution transfer agreement, funds for forest inventory, which are 100-percent recoverable, in the amount of $767,000, plus $95,000 for office space, systems and operating equipment. There is funding for two new forest programs: $500,000 for forest engineering, which is 100-percent recoverable; also, $250,000 for forest renewal, an increase of $14,000 for land use planning initiatives to complete a project started in 2002-03.
There is an increase of $250,000 for our Yukon Aboriginal Pipeline Group; this is a new project that will assist Yukon First Nations to prepare for opportunities arising from the Alaska Highway pipeline project.
I would be pleased now to enter into general debate.
Mr. McRobb: For the record, we on this side do not condone such abuse of this Legislature.
I want to ask the minister if he has a legal opinion backing up what he did at the Brewery Creek mine in releasing securities.
Hon. Mr. Lang: He had best direct that question to Environment when the Minister of Environment is up. This is in his department.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I think the minister is mixed up. The Yukon government press release clearly quoted him in releasing the securities. Iím asking this minister, who was quoted in that press release, whether he had a legal opinion to support his decision. We can quote the release, Mr. Chair, but letís just stick with this question: does he have a legal opinion?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Energy, Mines and Resources was part of some of the meetings that were carried on, but the actual department that handles that is Environment, and hopefully weíll get on to that.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís very, very interesting. Why would the minister put out a press release quoting himself as releasing the security if it wasnít his department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Because of the devolution agreement ó and when devolution came into place and Viceroy was in the stages of reclaiming the mine, we worked with Environment and, together with Environment, they made the decision.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís right. I forgot. This minister was shuffled off this file. Obviously he has strict instructions not to answer any questions related to this matter. So maybe, if there is time, if we get to the Department of Environment ó and its debatable whether we will if there is time ó I will see about asking the minister to whom the file has been transferred.
Moving on, I donít know if heís the minister responsible for decisions about Teck Cominco; maybe that is somebody else, but my question is this: why does this government refuse to consider track records of companies before they do business in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly consider the track record of corporations that do business in the Yukon and the track record of Teck Cominco is above reproach as far as this jurisdiction is concerned.
Mr. McRobb: Again, that is very interesting because the minister has contradicted his own statements in this House in which he indicated that they did not track previous track records. Itís hard to get a straight answer out of this minister; we know that. But for him to give an answer of convenience one day, one way, and then a similar convenient answer the next day that goes the other way, simply doesnít add up. Where is the accountability from this government?
I have a couple of forestry questions. Letís try our luck in that area. Can the minister give us the order of forest management planning in the Yukon? Whatís the order of regions?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre working with all regions and weíre sort of working with ó the mapping is done based on weather so a lot of the flying was done last summer and again finalized this summer. So I canít give the member opposite the actual breakdown, because weíre working with jurisdictions as they arise and of course, working as weather permits. So it is a work-in-progress.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, so the minister canít provide a simple list of the order in which these will be developed ó amazing. What about a schedule for those that will be developed ó any timelines? Can the minister provide us with that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre working with Haines Junction at the moment, and hopefully that Haines Junction plan will be ready ó we were hoping before the New Year, but I predict it will be in January of next year.
The Teslin forest plan is in front of the board and it is being approved as we speak. Again, that would be in the New Year.
And we are working with the group in Watson Lake. Itís proceeding, and hopefully the timber will be released there in the New Year.
So, all three areas are getting attention as we speak.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the minister for the partial information. I would like to request any letters he has received as feedback to the consultation process used to develop the Yukon forestry policy.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíve been working diligently with all the stakeholders and, of course, all the First Nations. We have certainly had a very positive relationship with all the people pertaining to the forest industry. Hopefully, once we get these areas up and running, it will be self-explanatory as to how it works.
Mr. McRobb: I asked the minister for copies of the letters. Can he provide those?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would take that under advisement and see what I can do down the trail.
Mr. McRobb: I guess that means another seven months, maybe, before we see anything. The trail is a long one.
I want to return to the matter of the spruce beetle studies he alluded to. Earlier in this sitting of the Legislature, the ministerís own words were, "Weíve got to stay ahead of the beetle." Can he explain to us how heís going to do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The problem that we have with the beetle is ó again, going back to climate warming, we have a problem with weather, we have a problem with spruce beetles. Unless we get 30- to 40-below weather for a certain period of time, the beetle doesnít die. As you can see, we have got a huge problem in the Haines Junction area, which came through approximately 15 years ago. It has expanded into a huge portion of those valleys. How we are going to keep ahead of it ó Iíve been working with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nationsand we have been addressing some of the issues. We have put together $250,000 to do some work on the beetle kill.
I think that, probably from this governmentís point of view, we have pretty well studied it out. I would like to see the $250,000 go toward solving some of the problems around the community. The fire load is huge around Haines Junction. When you drive through the small communities of Canyon Creek, Bear Creek and the other places around Haines Junction, the issue is a very large issue and it encompasses a large portion of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation. It also encompasses a huge part of the park. So weíve got two or three different jurisdictions, two or three different responsibilities ó understanding that in devolution, the beetle kill was not taken into consideration. But when I met with the Minister of NRCan in Quebec City, Mr. Dhaliwal, and myself and Mike de Jong from B.C., we got a verbal commitment from the federal government to address this problem. So we are going ahead with the beetle kill. We are going to look at it from a federal government, First Nation, Yukon territorial government perspective. Hopefully the $250,000 is just a start of the money that weíre going to spend trying to solve this beetle kill.
Now, the beetle kill goes right down the west coast of North America. You got your spruce beetle kill here; youíve got pine beetle kill in B.C.; and in California youíve got huge beetle kill. So weíve got a problem in the whole west coast of North America that we have to address. And hopefully with working with the federal government and the First Nation, we can get this thing up and running and we can do something to at least eradicate the fire load in the communities to start with and then address the actual beetle itself.
Mr. McRobb: I would like an answer to my question, Mr. Chair, which was: what did the minister mean by staying ahead of the beetle?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I thought I explained it. Staying ahead of the beetle is a huge job. If we donít get the weather that we need, if we donít get a cold winter ó and we have to have not just one night of 40 below. We have to have ó now, this is what people tell me. I am not a spruce beetle expert. But I have been told that, until we get a real cold winter, those beetles are going to continue being a problem. Now, the member opposite, when he votes against this $250,000, which is the priming ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Pardon?
Explain to his community, when you vote against this $250,000, at least this government is prepared to put some money where the problem is, which is more than the last government did. This problem has been sitting on the back shelf for 14 years. This thing just didnít happen in 12 months. We are at least going to put some money toward the problem. Weíre going to work with the federal government and the First Nation to solve the problem in the community to start with.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister still didnít answer my question.
And Iíd refer him to my previous reference to the Member for Klondike about his speculation of how we vote and the reasons for why we vote, and I would say to this member that if in fact we vote against this budget, it wonít be because thereís $250,000 for a spruce beetle study in Haines Junction. There are far bigger matters that have raised concerns and are legitimate enough to vote against this budget, if in fact that decision is made tomorrow afternoon.
There are a lot of questions about what is not in this budget that can validate those concerns equally. I would urge the minister to stick to the script a little more and try to answer the question.
Iím going to return to it one more time, because when he said, "Stay ahead of the beetle," it raises questions about his misunderstanding about the spruce beetle and any other beetles. It tends to lend legitimacy in his mind, perhaps, on certain measures to address the issue. I want to ask him again: what did he mean when he said, "Weíve got to stay ahead of the beetle"?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find it interesting listening to the member opposite tell me why heís going to vote about the most important thing thatís going to happen to his community. Heís going to vote against this $250,000 project ó not to study the spruce beetle, but to start going to work and solving the spruce beetle problem. Heís completely out of touch with his own riding. This is a crisis in his community. If we do not solve this as a government ó and he can make wisecracks about it, but Iím telling you, to the people in Canyon Creek and those who live in Haines Junction ó not just the tourists, like himself, who travel through ó this is a very important thing.
So when he says that the $250,000 study is for the spruce beetle kill plan, heís dead wrong.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, did you wish to raise a point of order?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Going back to the spruce beetle kill and answering some of his questions ó we are going to work with the First Nations and the federal government, and maybe the B.C. government, to take a look at how we can address the problem with the beetle kill, not only in the community of Haines Junction and the other little communities around Haines Junction. Weíre looking at the parks, and weíre looking at how we can eradicate the fire load that that has created in those valleys.
Last summer when I flew through those valleys, it was not a matter of if the dead wood was going to burn; itís when itís going to burn. We have to address the fire load, we have to work with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation and, of course, get a commitment from the federal government. This was part of the liabilities that the last government didnít figure into devolution. This is a huge responsibility for the Yukon government. Itís as big as some of the mines we have. The cost of doing this project, if we donít get federal government support, is a monster. Itís a monster to address the problem but, even worse, if it catches fire, thatís going to be even worse.
Between the devolution agreement on fire protection for the Yukon Territory, which wasnít that good of a deal, and the lack of devolution agreement on the beetle kill in the Haines Junction area, we have a problem. So we have to get the federal government on line, and Iím happy to say our negotiations have been positive, so the experience has been positive; they are going to come to the mark, weíre going to come to the mark; weíre going to work with the First Nations and the community to get the fire load down, working this summer hopefully and going ahead with addressing what we can do with the dead trees.
Mr. McRobb: Weíre astonished by the ministerís lack of knowledge in the area of mines and now forestry. Letís just try energy. Whatís he doing to promote community energy management?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre working with Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Energy Solutions Centre to work with the communities to address the energy problems on a local level. Certainly, hopefully, we can probably do better, but we are going forward with it.
Mr. McRobb: Well, letís make it three for three.
On another question, does this government support the development of coal bed methane?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly have coal methane in our jurisdiction. We are, as a jurisdiction, looking at the legalities of the product ó in other words, how does it fit into our energy program. In other words, if a guy has a coal mine, does he own the coal methane gas? So there are all sorts of jurisdictional situations, challenges that we have to sort out.
Understand that coal methane in Canada is a fairly new product to be used. There is only one coal methane gas well in production, and thatís in the southeast corner of Alberta. Now, in the United States of America, itís a very large part of their energy, but we havenít had the necessity of that because of our resources that we have in Alberta with natural gas.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I assume heís speaking in support of that. What about a coal-fired electrical plant? Is he in favour of that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, I guess, if you needed one, Iíd be in favour of it, Mr. Chair. We certainly look at all aspects of energy. First of all, weíve got to find some customers so we can actually sell the power, but we havenít turned our back on a coal-fired generating unit somewhere. Itís not going to happen tomorrow, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Turning now to the area of agriculture and lands, the minister indicated there were several agreements for sale. Could he provide us with a list that identifies where each one of those parcels is and who the owners are?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I donít have a list of the people or the ownership of the land. All I have is what we put out as a department. I think that is probably public information on where the land is, and I imagine if you went to the land office, you would get a copy of where these transactions took place.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not in the lands office, Mr. Chair; Iím in the Legislature, and that person is the minister. Iíve asked him for a list identifying each applicant and the location of each parcel that he alluded to earlier. I would like that information in writing. Can he please provide that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíll take that under advisement.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if thereís a way to get out of a direct commitment, I guess, Mr. Chair, this government has obviously been trained very well to do exactly that.
I want to follow up on what is termed "cottage lot guidelines" and ask the minister what his intentions are in that regard.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite is getting the departments mixed up. Iím not in the cottage lot business. The Community Services minister will be talking about that tomorrow, if we get there.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go, passing the buck, Mr. Chair. It was only a few minutes ago when this minister himself was speaking about recreational land development and so on. That is what Iím talking about here.
I want to move to the area of the abattoir and ask him: what is being done to ensure there is money in the coming capital budget for this facility?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are on this capital budget, but we certainly have put money toward equalizing the cost to the producer so they can utilize Partridge Creek abattoir at the moment.
Mr. McRobb: All right. In regard to game farming and so on, the minister indicated that he is working with the farmers and so on. Does he have a list of game farmers in the territory and a description of their herds?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, that is under Environment. I guess he can write those questions down and make sure he asks the Environment minister the questions tomorrow.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously, Mr. Chair, there is a lot of blending of the departments in these big, long speeches, but a lot of separation when it comes to dealing with our questions. So we would ask for more consistency in that regard in the future.
On that note, I think that if I have any more questions, I will deal with them later. I will pass it to the leader of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to begin the discussion with the minister this afternoon, in the limited time we have available, with respect to the Tough report. Iíll just remind him of some thoughts, so he can perhaps be prepared to answer these questions tomorrow.
I am going to quote from the Tough report. His current Premier was against the Tough report when it came out. In fact, he said, "The Tough report the MLA suggested puts Yukoners right back to square one, where they were when the federal forestry branch implemented the moratorium." Mr. Fentie said, "The federal government failed over the last seven years to" ó
Chair: Order please. A member canít do indirectly what they canít do directly.
Ms. Duncan: The now Premier, the MLA for Watson Lake, said, "The federal government failed over the last seven years to provide the necessary expertise and resources to establish the same regional plan for southeast that the Tough report is now calling for. If Mr. Nault accepts George Toughís report on this, certainly we are back to square one, and thatís very disappointing, to say the least. And Iíll tell you something, itís the people who are going to suffer." And that was the Member for Watson Lake on May 3, 2002.
Now, with respect to the Tough report, we now see the government quite willing ó although they do not support the report ó to spend the $800,000 and have the minister go on at great length indicating that they were prepared to implement the Tough report.
Perhaps the minister can come prepared tomorrow to discuss why there has been such a dramatic change. And there are a few other points with respect to forestry that Iíd give the minister some food for thought on overnight, some questions related to his department. He talked about the $250,000 to deal with the ó I believe he mentioned to the Member for Kluane that that money was going to be spent ó
Chair: Order please. The time now being 6:00 p.m., the Chair will report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Tuesday.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.
The following documents were filed December 15, 2003:
Dawson City supervisor, attendance in Dawson, emails from Scott Colson, CAO Dawson City to Andre Carrel, Dawson City supervisor and from Mr. Carrel to Mr. Colson (both dated Dec. 1, 2003) (Cardiff)
Forest Stewardship Council Certification process: Yukon Forest Management Branch comments on the FSC NBS Draft 2.1 (including table of specific comments) from Gary Miltenberger, Director, Forest Management, Energy, Mines and Resources (dated Oct. 22, 2003) (McRobb)