Tuesday, April 27, 2004 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.
In recognition of National Immunization Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the House to pay tribute to National Immunization Awareness Week. The week of April 25 to May 1 is National Immunization Awareness week, and this provides an opportunity for Yukoners and other Canadians to focus their attention on the importance of on-time childhood vaccination. Fortunately, infants are immune to many diseases, because they receive antibodies from their mothers. Unfortunately, this immunity does not last and wears off during the first year of life. There is something we can do to protect our children from these diseases: we can immunize them. We are fortunate, Mr. Speaker, that in the Yukon we have a very comprehensive childhood vaccination program, and weíre also fortunate that Yukon parents have had the wisdom to use this program.
Our most recent statistics show that 90 percent of one-year olds in the Yukon have received their vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella, and 94 percent of six-year-olds have been vaccinated against those same three diseases. At the same time those 94 percent who are vaccinated are also vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.
But thereís room for improvement with two-year-olds who are vaccinated against hepatitis B, but with good persistence and good awareness and educational campaigns we will increase the 78 percent of two-year-olds protected from hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine consists of three separate shots, which is why its uptake has not been what it should be, but it is equally important to help protect our children from contracting hepatitis B at a later age.
Recently we changed our booster program for the grade 9 students and they will now receive a new vaccine that will protect them against whooping cough into adulthood, along with the other boosters they receive at the age of 14.
Immunization is very important in the health of our children and ourselves. In fact, the Canadian Public Health Association calls immunization the single most important public health triumph of the 20th century, and the World Health Organization attributes immunizations with saving three million lives each and every year.
We are fortunate that the Yukon has such good programs for our children. It is hoped that, by recognizing this week as Immunization Awareness Week, we can also create an awareness for those who are not as lucky as we are.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb:Iíd like to ask all members to join me in welcoming two visitors to the gallery. They are Debbie McLaughlin, Public Service Alliance of Canada representative in the Northwest Territories and Jim Brohman, Public Service Alliance of Canada representative for the Yukon.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling a report of the Chief Electoral Officer on political contributions to registered political parties during 2003.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, segregation cell
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Premier. For over a week, the Minister of Justice has refused to answer legitimate questions about her department policies. The Minister of Health has come up with all sorts of excuses on the Justice ministerís behalf, but no matter how imaginative he gets, his answers just donít wash. Meanwhile, the Premier has stayed as silent as the Justice minister on this very disturbing issue. Itís time the Premier took some ownership of this matter.
Does the Premier disagree with the judges, lawyers, mental health advocates and others who say it is not appropriate to use the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for people with serious and mental disorders?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this issue falls under the Health Act and we are quite cognizant of our responsibilities. In some respects, the capacity of the Yukon is limited. We have to buy excess capacity in other jurisdictions, the same as the heart transplant/bypass operation. We do not have the demands here in the Yukon for a lot of the medical services that are required from time to time. We buy those services in British Columbia and we buy them in Alberta.
Mr. Hardy: I will continue to ask the Premier the question. He does have a responsibility.
Now, over and over, the Minister of Health and Social Services has insisted itís not a Justice matter, since the person in question was found not criminally responsible. But for more than a month before he was found not guilty, he was kept in a solitary punishment cell by corrections branch officials. The Minister of Health and Social Services has no credibility on this issue. The Minister of Justice has lost her credibility by refusing to accept any responsibility. That leaves the Premier. Thatís why the question is going to him.
Will the Premier ask for a full review of this case, including an explanation of why Justice officials ignored the findings of a Supreme Court Justice for over four years?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, once an individual has been found to be not criminally responsible, it is no longer a criminal justice matter. It becomes a health matter. Thatís the situation. Itís now under the Department of Health and Social Services, and hopefully this individual that the member opposite is referring to is on his way to being rehabilitated with proper treatment and becoming a contributing member of society once again.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, this is one more example of how the Yukonís reputation is being tarnished across Canada because of the failures of this Premier and his government. The Premier doesnít like to hear this, and Iím sure he will try shooting the messenger because he doesnít like the message, Mr. Speaker. But the fact is simple: the buck stops at the Premierís door.
Iíd like to see the Premier stand up and respond to this. Now, what is the Premier doing to guarantee that the disrespectful treatment of this mentally disturbed person will never happen again in the Yukon? Letís see if the Premier will answer a question.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue is that there are three designated facilities under the Mental Health Act here in the Yukon. It is the courts ó the judges in the courts, the justices of the peace in the court system ó that make the determination as to where someone is to go. They have a choice. We are just the service delivery agency. As a government, we provide those services. The courts could have also made the determination that this individual was to go to the Whitehorse Hospital. They could have also made the determination that this individual could have gone to a facility in a neighbouring jurisdiction like British Columbia or Alberta, but it was the courts that made the determination to place this individual in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. It wasnít anyone in this government. It is the court system that makes that determination. We are the service provider, and once an individual is found to be not criminally responsible, it is no longer a criminal justice matter, it is a health matter.
Question re: Youth of Today Society, facility options
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Premier. Yesterday I asked the Minister of Health and Social Services about some comments made last week by the manager of a downtown shelter for young people. Since the minister didnít answer the question, I wondered if it was because he didnít know the answer. The comments had to do with the Premier directly, so I would like to ask him the question again. Did the Premier and his senior advisor suggest to the executive director of the Youth of Today Society that the young offenders facility might be a suitable place for the societyís programs?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can confirm that our department has been working very, very diligently with the principals of the Youth of Today Society, but the issue of the purchase of the Roadhouse Inn is where the member opposite is going today, once again. Our government has provided the Youth of Today Society with $110,000 for programming. We are not committing $1.77 million for the purchase of the Roadhouse. The government has facilities in place to look after those below the age of majority. The Youth of Today Society is referring primarily to individuals between the age of majority and 30 years of age.
Mrs. Peter: This is not about anyone asking the government to buy a hotel. Itís not about this government buying shelter space or shelter beds. My question was for the Premier, about whether or not he and his senior advisor had suggested that the Youth of Today Society might consider moving its operations to the young offenders facility. I would appreciate hearing from the Premier, Mr. Speaker.
Did such a conversation take place and, if so, is that option still available for the Youth of Today Society to consider?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the government has worked very closely with the youth societies here in Whitehorse and of course out in the communities. Another agency that is charged with the responsibility of addressing issues for youth is the Youth Directorate, which is under my purview. It is the Youth Directorate that is now funding the Youth of Today Society, the Blue Feather Society. A few years ago, this society was receiving absolutely no core funding from any government in the Yukon. Today they receive $110,000 of annual core funding to help them with their program delivery.
As far as the young offenders facility, the young offenders facility has a specific use, and that specific use continues today.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the Premier for standing on his feet and answering part of that question. My question now is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Will the Minister of Health and Social Services tell us exactly what services are now provided at the young offenders facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, weíre examining the use of the young offenders facility. Presently there is no one sentenced to serve any time there by the courts under the Young Offenders Act. That said, we currently have five individuals on remand in that facility, and they have the full range of facilities, teachers, social workers, as well as the sport and recreational aspect of the programming that is provided currently at the young offenders facility.
Question re: Liquor Act review
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. About a year ago, I asked the minister if this Yukon Party government was going to bring forward the amendments to the Liquor Act. He said, and I quote, "We are in the review process. We will be bringing forth the changes to the proposed Liquor Act when we are finished." It has now been 18 months since the government came to office and started the review of the Liquor Act. When is the new legislation coming forward, or has the government decided not to proceed?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the member opposite knows full well, we have a number of pieces of legislation that we would like to address over the course of our mandate. The Liquor Act review, which has been taking place over the last few years, certainly will continue. I should also point out, however, that our government did not identify this piece of legislation, this review, as a priority. It is not identified in our platform, and therefore we will treat it as such.
Ms. Duncan: What we have is one minister standing on his feet some time ago ó about a year ago ó saying that the Liquor Act would come forward when they were finished looking at it and another minister standing up today and saying, no, theyíre not going to do it all. I would remind that minister that there was a great deal of work done on bringing forward a new liquor act. A group of very well-respected Yukoners ó including a lifelong member of the Yukon Party ó completed full public consultation on this act. The act was ready to go when the Yukon Party came to office and started their stalling. The new act included allowing neighbourhood pubs in the Yukon. Would the minister confirm that the reason the act is stalled is because of opposition from MLAs who have a financial interest in seeing that neighbourhood pubs stay banned? Does the minister have a better reason why itís stalled?
Speaker:Order please. Is the leader of the third party implying that members are benefiting financially from this transaction? If so, that is out of order.
Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Speaker, that is not what I am implying. I am asking the minister why this act is stalled.
Speaker: That I can understand.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iím not sure exactly how to respond to the leader of the third partyís comments with respect to perhaps perceived conflicts of interest. We certainly take our jobs very seriously over on this side of this House. Again I will reiterate that our legislative plate includes a number of pieces of very important legislation, such as the Childrenís Act review, which the Minister of Health and Social Services has undertaken. This is a very comprehensive process. It will take some time; it takes additional dollars, and it takes a lot of consultation with Yukoners. Again, the Liquor Act review was not identified as a priority of our government. It was not identified within our party platform. Again we will treat it as such.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, itís very clear to every Yukoner that there was full and complete consultation done. It was done by a well-respected group of Yukoners. That well-respected group of Yukoners included a lifelong member of the Yukon Party. The government has given no reason, absolutely no reason, for their stalling on this act that was done.
Now, would the minister give the Yukon public ó a majority of whom spoke and said very clearly they wanted this age-old legislation dealt with and they wanted the age-old legislation to include neighbourhood pubs. That recommendation came from Yukoners. Why is the government stalling on it and refusing to act?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Just to clear the record, I did not say that we would not proceed with a review of the Liquor Act. I just said that it was not a priority of this government at this time. Thatís not to say that the review will not proceed or ever take place. What I have been saying ó and again Iíll reiterate it for the member oppositeís benefit ó is that we have a number of priorities as identified in our party platform during the territorial election that was held just recently, in 2002, and it outlines a number of initiatives that we are very much committed to. We have placed dollars to those initiatives. We will place emphasis on those initiatives through legislation, through our legislative sitting to be held this fall.
Again, we are concentrating on initiatives, legislative agenda initiatives such as the Childrenís Act review and the adult decision-making legislation that was brought forward in the last sitting.
Mr. Speaker, we are very much committed to forwarding the views of Yukoners, placing the priorities as they have been identified in our Yukon Party election platform, and we will proceed as such.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Act review
Mr. Cardiff:The minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board has referred to the review of the Workersí Compensation Act as "a work in progress". I have a simple question for the minister: what work and what progress?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Lots of work and lots of progress.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister can say what he likes. The fact remains that his work in progress isnít progressing. The draft recommendations were supposed to go to the minister and the stakeholders and the public back in January. Check it out ó itís on the Web site; itís in the timelines; itís in the terms of reference that the minister drafted. Now itís the end of April ó itís way past January. There was supposed to be a series of community meetings for the public to comment on the draft recommendations. Itís pretty hard to do that without the recommendations. It looks like one more item has dropped off the governmentís radar screen, along with the Education Act, the Liquor Act, the captive wildlife regulations and a new jail.
Is this minister serious about the Workersí Compensation Act review, or is he planning to bring in new terms of reference and timelines to stall the process even further?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government is very concerned with the health and safety of workers in the workforce. We want to ensure that the standards are the highest and that they are maintained. To that end, we have begun a review of the Workersí Compensation Act. Currently the suggested amendments and the changes have come to my desk, and weíll be moving forward. In the process thereís a facilitator that will be hired, and the review panel will be going back out for a complete and thorough consultation on these issues.
The member knows full well that that is taking place and itís underway. I donít know why the member is taking the tack that he is, but itís totally unfounded.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, there was a request for proposals last fall for research and facilitation support to develop an options paper during phase 2 of this review. That time period has come and gone. As of this morning, the governmentís Web site still lists this request for proposals as "pending". The award of that request for proposals is pending, but the call closed December 16. We are wondering whatís happening. Heís saying heís going to hire a facilitator. Maybe the minister has too much on his plate. He is having to answer for other ministers who wonít speak for themselves, so letís ask the Premier this: does the Premier plan to rescue the overworked minister by announcing an extension to the timelines for this review the way that he rescued the Minister of Environment on the Wildlife Act regulations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what the member fails to recognize is the cost of the review, and the facilitator came in somewhat over budget. We have to go back out and find a facilitator. Itís going to cost more money. That money is contained in this new budget envelope in the budget that is before the House here for debate. Now, Mr. Speaker, this member and the official opposition will vote against it. We need the authority to go out and spend the money on this review. The opposition wonít give us that authority; well, weíre going to be going ahead with this review. Weíre going to be going ahead with hiring a facilitator, but it is contained in this budget envelope, which these members opposite will be voting against.
Question re: First Nation involvement in proposed pipeline
Mr. McRobb:Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to follow up on a question asked last month to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. The Aboriginal Pipeline Group was formed last year in an effort to coordinate discussions regarding development of the proposed Alaska Highway gas pipeline with Yukon First Nations. There are nine Yukon First Nations whose lands fall within the pipeline corridor and therefore have a direct interest in the proposal; however, the group lacks full participation as three First Nations have yet to join it. This government has gone on and on ad nauseam about how itís forging partnerships with First Nations. What has this minister done in the past month to resolve this matter, and when will this group finally have its full complement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member oppositeís question about the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group is certainly the nine First Nations that are involved directly if in fact and when the pipeline is built. The Aboriginal Pipeline Group was put together to answer some of their concerns.
They have six First Nations that are active members. There are three First Nations that have observer status, and at the end of the day hopefully all nine members will be part and parcel of this Aboriginal Pipeline Group.
Then, of course, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, which is made up of the nine, has to address how the other First Nations are going to be involved in this. So they have a lot of work to do, but Iím very confident with the funding we put in place. We as a government and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group went to Ottawa and were received very well. I think the member opposite will be very happy at the end of the day that we will resolve some of the questions he has asked.
Mr. McRobb: Well, he didnít resolve much today. He talked about everything except for the question itself.
Most of the discussions to date have focused on which pipeline will be built first, the Mackenzie line or the Alaska Highway line. The Alaska Highway pipeline is a much larger project and accordingly requires more attention. Itís nearly three times the length and would transport up to four times the quantity of gas.
I want to ask the minister about TransCanada PipeLineís recent invitation to northern aboriginal communities to become ownership partners in sections of the pipeline. The Edmonton Journal reported on Saturday that a sponsor consortium could include gas producers, other pipelines and American aboriginal corporations. What about Yukon First Nations? Is this offer open to them? Whatís this government doing to fulfill its responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I donít pretend to represent TransCanada PipeLines in this House, but certainly the First Nations in the Yukon, which are going to be a big part of the Alaska Highway pipeline, will get the same opportunities to participate as all First Nations will on the Alaska Highway pipeline.
So, Mr. Speaker, TransCanada PipeLines is doing their job. Weíre doing our job by becoming pipeline-ready, working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group when they ask for help and assistance. We are not managing the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. They are quite professional and quite capable of doing that themselves.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, this government goes on and on about how itís forging partnerships. It likes to take credit for all these things, but when it comes down to it, the minister says they have nothing to do with it. They canít have it both ways.
The minister said heís working with industry to address some of the issues they have in our jurisdiction. The minister would like us to believe he is working hard to get pipeline-ready, but thereís little progress to show.
Before he gets back on his feet and talks about anything under the sun, except the question I asked, Iíd like to ask him to listen carefully. Last month he said the Aboriginal Pipeline Group would be opening an office very soon. Can he tell us when that might be, and how much is allocated within his budget for that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member oppositeís question about the Aboriginal Pipeline Group ó they have plans to open an office, certainly, and in the near future an office will be opened. Again, I remind the member opposite the Aboriginal Pipeline Group is an independent group of First Nations that have a vested interest in the pipeline.
Mr. Speaker, we are not speaking for the Aboriginal Pipeline Group as a government. We are working with them where we can. As far as money put aside, we have contributed just over $100,000 so they could get their Aboriginal Pipeline Group up and running.
Mr. Speaker, theyíre a long way down the road to having an office in the City of Whitehorse, addressing some of the issues that are out there with some of the First Nations that are just observers. Theyíre working to get themselves in a situation where they can contribute if and when the pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway.
So, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are dead wrong ó again, Mr. Speaker, dead wrong on the issue of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group ó a very professional and capable group of Yukoners with like interests, going to work to put together a team so that they can address these issues. They are dead wrong again, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Dawson City sewage disposal
Mr. Hardy:Yesterday I asked the Premier about a letter he wrote last week to the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council. I have no idea why the Minister of Community Services picked up the ball, because it was clearly the Premierís signature on that letter, so let me give the Premier another opportunity to answer for himself.
Why did the Premier send a letter to so many people, including the Prime Minister, implying that the Dawson City mayor and council acted improperly with regard to the townís capital funding agreement?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, weíre responding to the same individuals who were copied on the original letter from the tribal First Nation.
Mr. Hardy: For months and months weíve watched this government systematically undermine a democratically elected Mayor and Council of Dawson City, Mr. Speaker. Weíve watched the minister use the privilege of this House to drag the reputation of a long-time public servant through the mud. Weíve watched the government House leader coaching the Minister of Community Services on his answers, when heís the last person who should have anything to do with this shameful matter.
Why did the Premier sign a letter that could be interpreted as an attack on both the competence and integrity of the former Mayor and Council of Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we have appointed a trustee to take care of the situation in Dawson City, as per the Municipal Act. We are following through on that process and we plan to continue to do so, under the guidance of the trustee.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, once again I have to point out that the question is directed to the Premier. Heís the one who wrote the letter; heís the one who sent the letter; heís the one who signed the letter.
There seems to be no limit to what members of this government will do to discredit people they donít like. Week after week we hear from people who say theyíre reluctant to take a stand on things they disagree with. Theyíre afraid of retribution by an intolerant and vindictive government and theyíre counting the months until they can turf this government out of office.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the leader of the official opposition is imputing false or unavowed motives to another member of this Legislature.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the government House leader is incorrect. The opposition leader was not referring to an individual; he was referring generally to a government.
Speaker: I think I would ask the indulgence of the House. I need to review this in the Blues. I would ask the members to carry on.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday the minister said there is a forensic audit going on, yet the Premier has already reached his own conclusions with this letter. Will the Premier now do the honourable thing and apologize for the unsupported attack on the former mayor and council in his letter to the Intertribal Watershed Council? Would the Premier stand and do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will follow through with our trustee in place with the City of Dawson and we plan to carry on with that process. As the member opposite indicated, the forensic audit is underway, and heís actually currently in Dawson City as we speak. We are awaiting the results of that in the anticipated time, and weíll carry through with the options once his recommendations come forth.
Question re: Home care
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. On November 2, 2002, after 18 months of hearings across the country, the commission on the future of health care produced a report known as the Romanow report. Romanow said about the changes he proposed: "They are designed to achieve a more effectively integrated and a more accountable world-class system that helps to make Canadians the healthiest people in the world."
This year and last, the minister received $6.6 million over and above regular federal funding for health care in the Yukon. It is now 18 months since the Romanow report was made public and endorsed across the country. Will the minister give us an update on how his department is responding to the recommendations in the Romanow report?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, it is the federal government that is charged with the responsibility to respond to the Romanow report. To that end, they have convened a health council. We have a representative here in the Yukon who was appointed to the health commission by an involvement of the First Nations here in the Yukon and by the Department of Health and Social Services and my caucus colleagues. To that end, weíre moving forward; but the issue of the additional $20 million has nothing to do whatsoever with the Romanow report. This was an initiative spearheaded by the three northern premiers who were successful in convincing the federal Prime Minister at the time that there was a need for additional funding and the funding couldnít be provided on a per capita basis. It had to be a block funding initiative, and $60 million was allocated to the three northern territories ó $20 million for the Yukon over three years.
Mr. Fairclough: Not much of an update from the member on the Romanow report, Mr. Speaker. One of the strong recommendations of this report called for an injection of funding to provide the foundation for a national system of home care. Home care is not only palliative care. Romanowís vision for home care was one that would support mental health case management, post-acute care, as well as end-of-life care. A national study on patientsí rights groups showed the Yukonís spending is at the bottom of the list nationally ó less than two percent of our health budget. Manitoba is at the top, at 6.5 percent. And the recommended spending is 10 percent of the budget for home care.
This minister has constantly complained about the cost of health care ó the steepest trajectory, he says. Home care is a very important cost-saving measure for spending on health. What is the minister doing to enhance home care services in the Yukon, especially in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre quite cognizant of home care and what it does. If the member opposite refers to the budget, heíll find thereís $10 million more in this budget envelope for health care and for providing service to Yukoners. Among those is the area he has identified.
But at the end of this sitting, Iím sure the members opposite will continue to vote against this money thatís going to the cause of providing health care to all Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: That minister, when on this side of the House, voted against every budget. Did he not care back then?
Home care is what Iím focusing on, and obviously the minister didnít give us much of an answer as to what heís doing in the communities. When the Romanow report came out, the CYFN Grand Chief endorsed the concept of centralizing existing aboriginal health funding and establishing a comprehensive series of aboriginal health partnerships with First Nations to develop and deliver health services. Ed Schultz said, "Iím happy to hear a federally appointed commissioner advocating true partnerships with First Nations."
How is this territorial home care system working in conjunction with First Nation home and community care programs? Iím not talking federally; Iím talking territorially.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member knows full well that funding for First Nation health care comes directly from the federal government to the respective First Nation.
But let me just share with the House what weíre doing in the Department of Health and Social Services in this budget cycle. There is: a $3.1-million increase for hospital O&M; $320,000 more for FASD action plan; $1.8 million more to open seven more beds in Macaulay Lodge and 12 new beds in Copper Ridge Place; $1.9 million more for primary health care; $675,000 more for enhanced daycare funding; $200,000 more for increasing honoraria for volunteer ambulance attendants; two new ambulances, one for Ross River and one for Whitehorse; $600,000 for the planning of the multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City; $100,000 more for feasibility for multi-level care facilities in Haines Junction and Teslin.
And the list goes on, and Iím sure even the Member for Kluane will vote against this budget where thereís money identified for looking at a multi-level care facility in his community of Haines Junction.
And for the member opposite, I did not vote against all the budgets. The member might want to check Hansard. There were some budgets that I had a measure of respect for and I was absent from this House and did not vote for them.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Ms. Duncan:Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, April 28, 2004. They are Motion No. 231, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South, and Motion No. 55, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Mr. McRobb: Itís tough to follow an act like that, Mr. Speaker. Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 28, 2004. It is Bill No. 104, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Chair:We will begin with Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, and general debate.
Department of Tourism and Culture
Hon. Ms. Taylor: It is indeed my honour and privilege to present the 2004-05 operations and maintenance budget for the Department of Tourism and Culture. There are a number of very key important initiatives in this budget, of which Iím very pleased to speak this afternoon. On a number of occasions, I have explicitly outlined the very importance of tourism and the many economic benefits industry generates on an annual basis here in the Yukon. One of the very first initiatives that we did as a government upon being elected was to establish a stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture. Of course, we have done so, and that department not only incorporates heritage, culture and arts, but one that solely focuses on marketing Yukon as a destination of choice. In keeping with my commitment to the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, the marketing branch now encompasses tourism research, planning and product development all under one umbrella.
As Iíve also said, Mr. Chair, we have a lot to look forward to this year. 2004 is certainly showing to be a very strong year tourism wise. Compared to last year, 2003, when we had what I would identify as the "year of the perfect storm" from the fallout of the war in Iraq, SARS, BSE, forest fires, to a very weak U.S. economy.
These factors all contributed to ó perhaps not as well-performing a season as what we have seen in previous years. But with that said, Iím very pleased to say that as a result of some various initiatives outlined in this budget before us, we will continue to grow tourism in the Yukon. Itís a very strong economic engine in the territory. It is currently the largest private sector employer in the territory, and we regard it as a very important industry in the territory.
Now, this year, my colleagues and I are pleased to have announced a number of new initiatives that will without a doubt help expand our tourism season and help grow industry. I and my colleagues in government have certainly taken the time to listen carefully to industryís needs and concerns, and we have been very open to suggestions on what is important to industry and how to expand the business activity in the territory.
With that said, Iím very proud to say that we were able to introduce several new or expanded programs this year to respond to these particular needs and interests, one of which includes the tourism cooperative marketing fund, providing $500,000 to directly support tourism industry marketing initiatives that generate awareness of the Yukon as a four-season destination. This fund will certainly complement the strategic marketing plan by enhancing product awareness and marketing business efforts outside Yukon that will encourage visitors to not only visit the Yukon but stay those additional days, weeks and months ó I would certainly preferably request.
This $500,000 investment will have the ability to leverage additional dollars, whether that be from other governments or private sector employers, and provide those additional dollars that can be invested in the growth of our tourism industry.
Mr. Chair, Iím also pleased to report that our government has also announced a small business corporate tax rate reduction from six percent to four percent, which will also help grow our businesses in the territory. That commences January 1.
Again, initiatives such as these will leave more disposable income in the hands of business owners to invest in the growth of their businesses.
Iíve often said that the key to growth and sustainability of our tourism industry is through the development of our products, and this is recognized by both industry and government. Product development has certainly been identified as a priority among industry and within this government and is reflected within this budget.
As I have often said, product is not solely about marketing but is also about improvements to our highway system, improvements to our existing infrastructure and improvements to our waterfront; itís improvements to our signage and improvements to museums, heritage, culture and other industries.
One example that is also reflected within the 2004-05 budget is that of the waterfront, the railway trolley here in the City of Whitehorse. That expansion will actually come to a total of $425,000 and will provide for new track and additional loading platforms that will connect the present waterfront to the Chilkoot Centre.
Of course, there will be additional dollars for ongoing track and line maintenance.
Now, Mr. Chair, in consultation with the City of Whitehorse, Miles Canyon Historical Railroad Society, MacBride Museum and White Pass, our government will also be developing an interpretive plan for the roundhouse with $25,000 in heritage attraction site support, and these dollars will be well-invested. The roundhouse was identified as a priority within our election platform to save the roundhouse and preserve a very integral piece of Whitehorse waterfront heritage. It also represents the importance of transportation in the territory and the role that it plays in the growth of our industry.
We in turn have relocated the roundhouse and we are placing dollars to enhance the facility. Again, this $25,000 in attraction site support will help provide additional elaboration as to what will be housed within the roundhouse.
Also within this budget are a number of other initiatives from road reconstruction to the Yukon River bridge, including the Alaska Highway improvements, Campbell Highway improvements, Tagish Road improvements and so forth.
There are also a number of key events that will be taking place over the course of this year, one of which, of course, is the 25th anniversary of the Dempster Highway. Our department is working very closely with the Klondike Visitors Association to help enhance and to grow those festivities along the Dempster Highway this summer, which I certainly encourage all colleagues to join in on.
We also have about $350,000 worth of improvements on the Dempster Highway, including the construction of a couple of additional pullouts to be completed this year in commemoration of the Dempster Highwayís anniversary. Of course, the Minister of Environment and the department have placed $100,000 in the design phase of the Tombstone Interpretive Centre, which will also contribute to the experience of visitors and Yukoners along this very key road. Of course, the Tombstone Interpretive Centre will be one of the premier park and tourism facilities in the Yukon. We are very pleased to partner with Environment and pleased to showcase that particular corner of the territory to all visitors from all parts of the world.
Now when we talk about product, I can also say that we have been working very closely with the Yukon First Nations Tourism Association in developing First Nation products. I congratulate them on their new welcome guide. We are certainly very pleased to support the association on their guide as well as in the planning sessions that the association is also working on, which will assist First Nation products to grow and develop.
I can say that tourism development is a very integral part of their efforts to develop the economy. We in particular applaud First Nation governments as they develop partnerships to grow these opportunities for the benefits of their members, as well as all of Yukon.
Within this budget, I am very pleased to report a new funding program for First Nation cultural centres. This certainly was identified as a priority through the development of the museum strategy process and one that we are very pleased to be able to deliver on, to the tune of over $200,000 in total. That will help go toward the ongoing support and operations of each of our existing cultural centres here in the Yukon.
In addition, we have placed significant investment in heritage, in our museums. Not long ago, we revamped our museum funding program, which lent additional flexibility in the way funds were designated or distributed to each of the museums. In turn, as a result of that introduced flexibility, we were also able to add four additional museums, including the Northern Lights Centre in Watson Lake, the Binet House in Mayo, the Campbell Highway Interpretive Centre as well as the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society.
So those additional funds will not only assist each of these attractions in providing added product for our visitors and Yukoners to enjoy, but they will also help enhance their efforts to leverage additional funds from other sources, whether that be the federal government or other sources of funding, private or government alike.
And indeed, heritage is a very important cornerstone of the territory, whether that may be toward cultural centres, museums, or whether that be toward initiatives such as the roundhouse. We are very much committed and we have in fact almost doubled that amount of funding over the last year and a half since we have been in office.
$300,000 is also identified as additional funding within this budget toward the development of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation cultural centre. Together, between the Four Mountains Resort and the cultural centre, these two initiatives are very important components of growing the Southern Lakes, of which you are certainly part, Mr. Chair, and you represent their individuals very well, I might add.
We are very pleased to support the Southern Lakes area and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation in not only meeting our obligations to assist with their cultural/heritage needs, but also growing tourism in that particular area of the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, we are also placing additional funds toward a First Nation heritage officer. This was a commitment that our party made during the election. As I understand it, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association ó it was an all-party forum. We made the commitment to provide funds that would go toward a heritage officer within our department, and we are able to deliver that with these additional funds in the budget. This individual will be housed in the cultural services branch and will play a very important role in assisting First Nation governments, whether that be in developing their cultural centre or in developing First Nation products throughout and outside the territory.
We are also pleased to announce an additional $100,000 for the gateway cities program for a total of $200,000. Of course, this program is designed to increase traffic to our gateway cities of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Over the last year we have had the opportunity to work very closely with Air North, and more recently, Zip Air has also indicated an interest in coming to the table and assisting in this particular initiative.
I can also say that we are very enthused with the work that Air North has been doing in particular. They have really come to the forefront of the air industry and they have really stepped up to the plate to meet the needs of Yukoners, whether that be domestic travel or working with international airlines in meeting those international connections. They play a very important role. They employ many Yukoners, and they are certainly an economic engine in the territory. Thanks to Air North and to Zip, we are provided with the luxury of having affordable and accessible air service. We will continue to work with our partners ó tour operators in the territory ó to continue to provide viable and affordable air access in the territory, both on the domestic and international fronts.
I also refer to the cruise industry and all indications are that the cruise industry is up. In fact, it was indicated that we should have an estimated $700,000 arriving in the port of Skagway this year.
That enhances all kinds of additional opportunities for the Yukon, whether it be with Holland America Princess Cruises ó we certainly have a lot to offer here inland, whether that be providing products within Haines Junction or Dawson City, or elsewhere ó in Beaver Creek. We certainly have a lot to offer in terms of providing additional product. One example of that success is Holland America and their partnership with the Kluane National Park in providing tours to the park and enhancing those hiking opportunities. This particular program has been very well subscribed to, and we are very pleased to assist in this regard.
Mr. Chair, we have also placed additional funds in winter products, whether that be Fulda, the Extreme Arctic Challenge ó an additional $150,000. Also we have renewed our partnership with the Yukon Quest for an additional two years for $150,000. Again, these programs help encourage visitors to come during the winter season and, of course, we are working to that end in becoming or in continuing to be a four-season destination in the Yukon. These additional products just lend to that very experience.
Sourdough Rendezvous also just celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, in 2004. They did an exceptional job.
Again, we are very pleased to lend our assistance to these very valuable initiatives. I could certainly go on because there is just so much good news in this particular budget and we have a lot to look forward to this season, to which end I would be very happy to entertain some questions from the members opposite.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I agree, there is a lot of good news in some of the spending initiatives, as every Minister of Tourism has stood up and announced on a regular basis the initiatives that are being taken and the hopeful impact it will have for the industry throughout the territory. This minister definitely has outlined many of those good initiatives.
The Yukon has tremendous potential, and I think we have heard this time and time and time again. We are always trying to identify that potential, trying to market that potential, trying to make the connection for people to come and stay. I have a few questions around that potential that we have and what we should be identifying. We recognize, of course, that the First Nation cultures are a huge attraction for people visiting the territory. The historic sites that we have up here and our history, of course, are very, very important in marketing tourist attractions as we continue to develop them and invest in them and try to highlight them. The talent that we have in the territory, without a doubt, I believe, in Canada, is the highest anywhere. It is our challenge to try to advance that talent, encourage the growth for the youth to develop their skills, whether itís in the arts and crafts, in the tourism markets and all the other aspects that they can be involved in. We have a role to play to try to encourage that.
And, of course, our departments, and I believe tourism is one of the brighter areas to look toward for economic activity and future growth potential.
The one area I havenít mentioned yet is the wilderness and the attraction that the Yukon has for people around the world and how it has been marketed. We hear a lot of slogans and names: the magic, the mystery, the vast wilderness ó all the angles with which weíre trying to attract peopleís attention outside this territory. What I often find difficult to match up to though is when I donít hear it on the economic front from Economic Development. I donít hear it from the Premierís mouth in regard to the importance of protecting that wilderness, which I would consider the biggest drawing card this territory actually has. Iíve heard it from many people. But thatís my opinion. I will put a question to the minister immediately in this regard. What does she consider the biggest attraction? What has she heard from her department as the uniqueness of the Yukon that seems to resonate throughout the world and which is the easiest, the fastest and most responsive message that we give to the people of the world in order to come here? What is it? What is the essence, the one that sparks the interest?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have to say that I canít perhaps put my finger on one particular area because we offer so many different attractions. As the member opposite points out, wilderness is certainly a very large growth area ó wilderness tourism. The Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon has done a remarkable job and of course, as the member opposite knows full well, we do provide a funding arrangement with the Wilderness Tourism Association to develop on behalf of the Yukon government the wilderness marketing campaign.
And they do an outstanding job in providing that service to us. In turn, theyíre able to leverage additional funds from the federal government, the Canadian Tourism Commission, for example, and others. They certainly work very closely with their membership and the Yukon government in providing those various services.
So when we talk about wilderness tourism, I think itís very important to note that certainly our department works very closely providing assistance to that association, or all associations for that matter, in developing niche markets and in enhancing educational workshops, working with wilderness operators on the Marine Liability Act, for example. Thatís a federal piece of legislation that weíve been working very closely with wilderness tourism operators on, and as a result of their very good lobbying efforts and our lobbying efforts and that of others in the Yukon, weíve been able to make some headway with Transport Canada in providing that non-motorized or inflatable vessels would be exempted from the compulsory insurance requirements of that particular act.
With that said, they have confirmed that they will consider possible legislative changes regarding the prohibition of waivers for adventure travel vessels. The Department of Transport in the federal government also anticipates releasing a discussion paper on those possible changes that they are entertaining making to the act this summer.
We continue to work with the Wilderness Tourism Association on the other insurance requirements. Today I just received a brief from the Wilderness Tourism Association outlining some of their efforts in working with TIAC, Tourism Industry Association of Canada, in coming up with more lucrative insurance options available to wilderness operators.
When we talk about other attractions in the territory, I have to say that heritage and cultural industries also play a very important role in the development of our economy. Whether that be sound recording, the film industry, heritage, First Nation culture or literary and performing arts ó the whole gamut ó we all have a very important role in growing industry and the economy. Iím very pleased to be part of a government that is very supportive of cultural industries in particular. In fact, Iíve alluded in the past that, as of a couple of years ago ó and that was even before we had injected additional funds into the cultural sector ó that Yukon is regarded as providing the highest per capita spending on arts and culture of all other places in the country ó something like $421 per person.
Iím very pleased to offer support, whether that be through the arts fund or our community development fund. We offer a number of different initiatives. I outlined a few others through the new First Nations cultural centre support and through our museums funding support. The stay-another-day program is a very important program weíve pleased to continue. In this budget alone, we have over $600,000 for the stay-another-day program.
That, again, goes toward contests, guides, distribution racks and inserts. That will go toward banners, Mr. Chair. We will be replacing all the banners, hundreds of banners, throughout all the communities this summer ó again, continuing advertising the on-Yukon-time campaign. We also will be enhancing public relations, music and media events surrounding this particular campaign. It has worked very well and we are very pleased to offer support to these initiatives.
When we talk about other attractions in the territory, itís one thing to provide attractions but itís another thing to also obtain visitors or encourage visitors to come to the Yukon. Again, I point out that the $500,000 tourism cooperative marketing fund will do just that. Itís building upon assistance, whether that be consumer trade show presence or placing advertisements with our partners, individuals or businesses alike, or non-government organizations, tourism consortiums.
These various initiatives all contribute to the very importance of our industry attractions. When we talk about attractions, I just refer to fishing, for example. Yukon has world-class freshwater fishing in the territory here and, again, under the guidance of our Minister of Environment, we were able to strike an arrangement as of January 1, 2005 to ensure that Yukon anglers fishing in Alaska receive the same rights or the same licence abilities for the same fees.
This should really encourage Yukoners going to Alaska to fish and also Alaskans to come to the Yukon. We know there are many more Alaskan residents than there are Yukon residents, so we perhaps stand to benefit a lot more than Alaskans do. So weíre again very happy to expand upon some of our sporting activities.
When we talk about attractions, we talk about Canada Winter Games and all the various events surrounding the Canada Winter Games.
The Convention Bureau provides a remarkable service in expanding upon our convention incentive travel, meetings, and they did an outstanding job just 10 short days ago ó or two weeks ago ó in helping to host the Western Canadian Gymnastics Championships here in the City of Whitehorse where over 500 people came to town and spent almost a week here. They certainly generated a lot of revenue for our businesses here in the City of Whitehorse. It is those events that will help expand the industry and provide for those necessary attractions by generating revenue, placing more disposable income in the pockets of Yukoners to invest in product, to invest in those attractions.
So when the member opposite asks me about attractions, itís very difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what attraction because I think itís a combination of all different attractions. Itís a combination of different products that makes the Yukon so very unique for visitors to come to the Yukon and to enjoy the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: I guess I was right. She didnít have enough time in the first 20 minutes to ramble on throughout her department. I asked a very simple question, so she has to continue rambling through her department in order to make sure she gets all the points in.
Well, Iím going to make it really simple for this minister across the way. Iím going to ask another simple question, and Iím going to sit back and listen for another 20 minutes while she wanders all over the place without addressing my very simple question.
What did she think was the single most attractive element for people outside this territory? What did they identify the Yukon around? What is it? Because there is always something. I can think of P.E.I.; I can think of B.C.; I can think of many of the provinces and identify the uniqueness of those provinces. I can think of Saskatchewan, and I know immediately what jumps to mind. This is the government that has very often talked about branding the Yukon. So what is this ministerís particular brand? Now, if she wants to wander all over the place again, fine. I have lots of time. Itís her choice. She doesnít answer questions in Question Period, so maybe this is a place where she can talk.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I really delight in this discussion, because I think itís really healthy to have this two-way discussion, engaging members of the opposition, and I really feel passionate about tourism, and I welcome the opportunity to talk about tourism on any given day, at any time, not even necessarily in this particular forum.
So, Mr. Chair, as Minister of Tourism and Culture, I am not only responsible for this particular department, but I am to represent the various interests of all tourism operators ó of all of industry. Therefore, itís not up to me as an individual to portray my personal interests, because my job is not only to represent the Department of Tourism and Culture within the Government of Yukon but also to represent all of industry.
I do my utmost best to talk with industry, again whether that be with heritage, the Wilderness Tourism Association or the First Nations Tourism Association, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, the Gateway Tourism Association, the Klondike Visitors Association, Sourdough Rendezvous or the Yukon Quest. I take great pride in placing a lot of attention and getting out to these various events, and I encourage more members to show up to these events to help support our local community, to help support these various agencies, to show or to instill pride in the Yukon and all that we have to offer.
The visitor exit survey, which I didnít get around to talking about and Iíll be very happy to also say a few words about ó weíre investing something to the tune of $414,000, I believe, in the visitor exit survey that will provide us with more accurate information as to what visitors are looking at, what kind of products catch their interest, so we really look forward to seeing the results of that particular survey. Thanks to the very good work and due diligence of our research branch, they are working very closely with our community associations and agencies in coming up with the questions to ask during the visitor exit survey. The visitor exit survey will be kicking off very soon ó on May 1 weíll be doing a bit of a trial run and then proceeding forward from there in the middle of May and onwards. This should wrap up in September and then, of course, it will take some time to deliberate, to review and to evaluate each of the results as portrayed within the visitor exit survey, but I think itís very important that we proceed with this survey. The last time a survey was done was prior to 9/11 and, as the members opposite know full well, there have been a lot of changes in the industry.
Many of those changes are outside the hands of Yukon and outside the hands of our country. So I think itís really important to place those dollars and investments ó and I should also add that industry asked us to proceed with a visitor exit survey to give us a better sense of what products and what attractions, as the member opposite alluded to, mean the most to visitors.
So for me to espouse exactly what my personal preference is or what I think is the best attraction, Iím not prepared to do that. My view is that the Yukon ó as I would hope the member opposite would also agree ó contains a whole number of various worthwhile attractions, and I would hope the member opposite would be very supportive of not just wilderness tourism but also First Nation tourism and all of industry ó all our museums and cultural centres ó and our cultural industries: the film industry, sound recording, literary arts, performing arts and visual arts. All these various industries culminate in what makes the Yukon a very attractive place to visit as well as a destination to do business and to reside.
Mr. Hardy: Itís understandable why the minister canít seem to figure out what would be the uniqueness of the Yukon. Itís sometimes very difficult, when you are a minister, to answer a straightforward question. She is obviously having difficulty addressing the question and wants to skirt all around it.
I could stand here and say very easily what I think is the uniqueness of the Yukon. Iím not ashamed to say it; Iím quite proud of it, but I do understand why she might be hesitant, knowing the direction the Yukon Party government has been going in regard to what they consider economic development.
Thatís the only direction that they seem to want to go in. There might be a certain amount of strain that exists between Tourism and what they try to market and some of the other departments and what theyíre trying to do and what theyíre trying to open up in every place. I could ask a question about what kind of impact parks have in the figures we have. Iím not sure if their exit surveys or any kind of studies or statistics include that. If the minister is willing to answer that one ó I wasnít going to continue with it, but if she has something Iím quite willing to listen to that.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Certainly Iím very pleased to respond to the member oppositeís question. With respect to parks, parks in the Yukon play a very important role in providing those additional products and attractions in the Yukon. Kluane National Park is but one fine example. When we talk about different sites ó historic sites for example ó as administered by Parks Canada, we have a very good relationship with the local officials here in the Yukon. Our Department of Tourism and Culture is very pleased to work with Parks Canada and Environment Canada toward the preservation and protection of our parks.
Parks of course mean a great deal to the territory. As the member opposite knows full well, Tourism is engaged at a regional planning level on a number of fronts. In fact, we have tourism plans completed for eight of Yukonís nine tourism regions and updates continue to be performed on four in particular. And tourism planning in north Yukon is also in its final stages.
So, again, whether we talk about Kluane, the Silver Trail, Dawson, Watson Lake, southeast Yukon, Carcross, Southern Lakes, Whitehorse, Campbell region, Teslin region or the north Yukon, we are at the table on a number of fronts, providing planning support to the various regions. That is one way in which we are able to ensure that Tourismís interests are ensured at the table. Again, our officials do a very good job on that particular front.
The heritage resources, as well ó we conduct a number of strategic planning exercises in the heritage resources. But I donít want to deviate too much, because we are on the issue of parks, and I know how very important it is that we stay on track, Mr. Chair.
So with respect to parks, I have to say that regardless of our fine working relationship with our Yukon officials, I also have to say that on the federal front, perhaps further away in Ottawa, we do find it a bit of a concern with respect to perhaps the lack of understanding or the need to place more resources toward the protection and preservation of our parks. We see this time and time again. Auditor General Sheila Fraser in her report, for example, recently outlined the need for additional dollars to preserve our historic sites in place. And I tend to agree. I think that all of these different attractions and investments in these attractions play a significant role. We will continue to raise these issues at the federal level, as well as in our discussions with our various ministers of tourism around the table in pressing home the need to place more importance in preserving our parks.
Mr. Hardy: Has the minister done any calculations around the impact a bridge in Dawson City would have upon the tourism market?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe the election was a great opinion poll that was held and, of course, one of the prominent things that stood out during the election was our commitment to proceed with the construction of a bridge across the Yukon River. We are very much committed to that, and within this budget there are resources allocated toward the development of this very significant piece of infrastructure.
I have to say, when we talk about infrastructure in our territory, the member opposite has raised a number of concerns regarding proceeding with this particular initiative. When we look back over the years, perhaps 25 years ago, before the Dempster Highway was constructed, for example, at that time there was some apprehension about proceeding with that particular piece of infrastructure. Some even labelled that as "the road to nowhere", just like the members opposite have alluded to the bridge as being "the bridge to nowhere".
Well, 25 years later, weíre celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Dempster Highway. The Dempster Highway is known internationally. Itís the only road that crosses the Arctic Circle. Itís also a highway that connects the Yukon to many resources. Itís a major transportation corridor and it also provides a great degree of fulfillment for our visitor industry.
It has spectacular scenery, Mr. Chair, as I am sure you are familiar with, and weíre very pleased to again provide additional investments toward the Dempster Highway, whether that be upgrading of the highway or in pullouts or providing additional signage.
So, the Dawson bridge or the Yukon River bridge is another piece of infrastructure that I welcome. In 25 yearsí time weíll be celebrating perhaps a very momentous occasion, for which particular celebration I hope weíre all still around to enjoy. Weíll see the very benefits that this bridge will bring to all Yukoners by proceeding with its construction.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Iím glad the cheering squadís in here to prop her up after that ridiculous answer.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair:A challenge of the Chair is listening to adjectives, and in this case the term "ridiculous" does not seem conducive to critical debate. The Chair has cautioned people in the past about choices of language. Iím just asking members to be conscious of language and to work toward constructive debate.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will search my thesaurus to find words that describe answers that actually didnít even answer the question that I asked. As a matter of fact, the minister refused to answer the question and should go on record as refusing to answer the question. I donít understand why she refuses to answer the question.
Iím having a hard time making the leap from the Dempster Highway, this massive endeavour that was connecting something that wasnít already there to connect. I canít see hundreds and hundreds of miles of road connected to hundreds of metres of water crossing when thereís already a water crossing there. Itís not like the scenery is comparable or that people donít experience the scenery already. Itís not like people canít get to the other side and itís going to open up things. It just boggles my mind that this comparison is here.
Now maybe in 25 years weíll have a celebration of bridges and we can do that every year. This will be one of the ministerís initiatives that sheíll start maybe next week. We will start with each bridge in the territory and we will celebrate each bridge and have a marketing campaign around the bridge, each and every bridge. I donít know how many bridges there are, but it should take us up to at least the year 3000. We can have these massive numbers of tourists come and hover around a crossing in some cases of maybe 20 feet. Weíll have to build huge campgrounds around them and maybe erect monuments to identify these bridges.
We do know, but I wonít say that itís confirmed, but thereís the rumour that there is going to be a statue on the bridge in Dawson City. That statue happens to be of a person who presently sits in the Legislature, and I donít think itís going to be the Minister of Tourism. I have heard that it might be somebody else. Everybody who crosses the bridge will have to see this face and figure and it will be implanted in their mind. Now that might be a discouragement for tourists ó Iím not sure. I donít think Iím going to ask the minister if theyíve done a study on that, but the question I did ask was a very simple question: have there been any studies on the impacts, pro or con, in regard to building a bridge in Dawson City? Thatís all I asked; it wasnít that hard. Yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, the reason why I likened the Dempster Highway to the bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City was to portray the very importance of infrastructure in our territory. Transportation is, believe it or not, the way people from all over the world come to the Yukon. They can fly to the Yukon, they can drive to the Yukon, they can take a cruise ship up to Alaska and drive to the Yukon. There are a number of different venues for coming to the Yukon, and, again, the bridge will serve as a very important piece of infrastructure in helping to grow and expand our tourism market in all four seasons.
As has been perhaps brought to light by members on our side of the House, we donít seem to wince whenever we do invest $6 million in a bridge as part of the Shakwak funding agreement or when we spend $30 million in highway infrastructure in one given year.
Mr. Chair, it is very important that we maintain our infrastructure because if we donít pay attention to our existing infrastructure and if we donít build upon that existing infrastructure, we will lose our competitive advantage as a place to visit, to do business. Certainly that is not our intention on this side of the House. Rather, we like to place investments where we will see a rate of return on our initial investment, and we think that the bridge is a very good source of infrastructure that will help bring visitors to the Yukon during the summer as well as during the winter.
To that end, we will continue to work with the State of Alaska in providing that access across the Taylor Highway ó Top of the World Highway on the Canadian side ó to remain open during the winter months, again as a source of visitation from Alaska and people wishing to experience that part of the country. I happen to think that the Klondike region holds a lot of merit, not just simply for the gold rush history but the First Nation history and other attractions surrounding that area. I think investment in the Klondike region is a good thing and I applaud the minister responsible for putting the bridge into this particular budget. I applaud all members opposite, or I should say I applaud all members on this side of the House for voting for this budget. Unfortunately, the members opposite will not be voting for this budget and itís very unfortunate because there are a lot of good things in this budget, in this Tourism budget. Itís very unfortunate that there isnít more support for these initiatives because, Mr. Chair, these particular initiatives were requested by the industry, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon ó additional dollars for product development to expand upon the product development strategy; additional dollars for marketing, as we have done ó $500,000 in the tourism cooperative marketing fund. As for the $414,000 toward the visitor exit survey ó we have placed a number of investments and weíre very pleased to receive accolades from industry.
When we talk about ó again, whether it be product development, whether it be the visitor exit survey, or whether it be marketing dollars, we are very pleased to support tourism and I would certainly encourage the members opposite to support tourism as much as we do and certainly regard it as an industry of extreme potential in the territory.
Mr. Hardy: Well, guess what. What was the question? Iím not sure if theyíre listening on the other side. Iím not sure if this minister feels comfortable in answering questions. Theyíre very simple questions. Iím not sure if the script has been written and this is what we get for the rest of the day.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: And, yes, I agree with the Member for Lake Laberge: itís a simplistic question and thereís nothing wrong with that. It should have a very simple answer like yes or no. That might be difficult for some members over there. Thatís all right. Just to remind the minister that the $6 million being spent on the bridge, on Shakwak, happens to be U.S. money, and of course I donít think weíll be whinging on this side. I donít think theyíre whinging on that side either. What weíre talking about is Yukon money, taxpayersí. However, Iím going to give the minister another chance to answer the question. Itís so simple. Letís see if she can shorten her answer down to about 15 minutes and maybe at the end of it tell me whether or not theyíve done any studies about the impact on tourism in Dawson City that a bridge may or may not have.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We are listening, absolutely. We on this side of the House listen. Unfortunately I think the members opposite just donít care to enjoy the answers we provide. Itís very unfortunate but they simply donít agree with our agenda. They donít agree with some of the positive initiatives weíve outlined, so forgive me if I do tend to perhaps go on at length about the various initiatives because Iím very proud to talk about the initiatives that we continue to work on as a government. We have been in government for a year and a half and I think weíve made great strides on a number of fronts.
Thatís not to say that there isnít room for improvement. Thereís always room for improvement. But again, within this 2004-05 budget, we have been able to meet a number of our platform commitments, commitments that actually saw a number of our members elected, and that was based on the initiatives that were placed in our platform.
Again, we talk about the bridge and we talk about infrastructure as adding to our product, instilling growth, bringing visitors to the territory. You know, itís unfortunate that the Member for Kluane doesnít perhaps recognize the very benefits that the Shakwak funding does bring to the territory. Whether it is American money or Canadian money ó we welcome all kinds of investment to the territory. In fact, we have to do a lot more investment in the territory.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I believe itís contrary to the House rules: that could incite argument. In this case, I think the ministerís words could really provoke a riot. At no time did I ever, ever suggest that Shakwak funding is not beneficial to our economy, especially the Kluane region. So I would ask you to rein in the minister and her language. Thank you.
Chair:Order please. There is no point of order here. There is a dispute between members.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: What I was trying to point out is the very importance of investment dollars to the territory from outside the territory. I think itís healthy to have dollars brought in to the Yukon to invest in infrastructure. So whether that may be, again, dollars from our neighbours to the south or whether that may be neighbours in other international fronts, we welcome investment in all fronts.
So, regardless of where the dollars do come from, this is a good thing and I am very supportive of the Shakwak funding that has been afforded to our territory over the last several years and, thanks to the very good efforts of our Minister of Highways and Public Works, heíll continue to lobby the U.S. government to provide those necessary funds to enhance our highways.
Again, when we talk about infrastructure, I will refer to the Yukon River bridge ó the bridge to nowhere, as the members opposite have unfortunately labelled that particular bridge. Unfortunately, they donít recognize the benefits. The Klondike Visitors Association recognizes the very benefits; of course, they also recognize the very importance of tourism in the Yukon and, in particular, in the Klondike region, and they do a remarkable job in enhancing those messages to all Canadians and visitors Outside, and I commend them for that. I commend them also for their lobbying efforts over the years in providing dollars toward this piece of infrastructure that will, again, help enhance the tourism industry.
So, I think that this is a good investment, this is a good budget. Weíre very proud to support initiatives including the bridge from nowhere, as the member opposite has alluded to. I look forward to its construction ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Hardy, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: I believe that the reference the minister just made is incorrect. There is no record of me making that statement.
Chair:There is no point of order. There is a dispute among members.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: If the member opposite did not make reference to that remark, my apologies. But certainly remarks from across the way have been identified as "the bridge to nowhere". Again, our Department of Tourism and Culture ó certainly all our government colleagues on this side of the House ó take very great pride in the tourism industry in the Yukon. This is just but one additional piece of infrastructure that will help grow industry from here on out.
Mr. Hardy: Iím going to take these long answers as a "no"; they havenít done any studies. They havenít gone to Dawson and polled the business community. They havenít done any type of analysis on what kind of impact this bridge will have. Thatís the only answer I can assume from the minister who absolutely refuses to address a very simple question. Obviously they havenít done it, so I really have to wonder how this minister can stand and make statements about how beneficial the bridge will be when there has been no analysis done on it.
Chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement was referenced by the minister last year in regard to heritage funding. At that time the minister said that the federal government was not meeting its fiduciary responsibility for the heritage resource development. What is the status of funding from the federal coffers?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite for this very important question. Chapter 13 addresses obligations on behalf of the Yukon government and the federal government to assist with the needs and requirements of developing First Nations culture and heritage in the Yukon. Ever since I was elected ó and in particular placed in the post of Minister of Tourism and Culture ó I have taken it upon myself to raise this very issue at the federal table with my ministers of tourism and culture around the country. Certainly I will continue to press upon the federal government to live up to its obligations.
We are engaged in a number of discussions at the table with the federal government and the First Nation governments in trilateral discussions and arrangements. There certainly are a number of these discussions taking place. Five of the nine self-governing First Nations have signed terms of reference and workplans developing strategic heritage plans for their First Nationís traditional territory with Canada and Yukon. Those five First Nations include the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun, Teslin Tlingit Council, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the Tríondëk Hwëchíin and Han Nation, as well.
Mr. Chair, we continue to proceed with these discussions at this table. I will just step back to these discussions. The whole intent and purpose of these discussions is to come up with various strategic heritage plans for each of the First Nation governments. In addition, as the member opposite is fully aware, our government has and will continue to assist First Nation governments in developing First Nation cultural centres.
Again, within this budget, we have allotted $220,000 toward the four existing First Nation governments that have cultural centres within their traditional territories. This money will not only help lever additional funds from other governments, but it will help provide that stable funding necessary to ensure these centres continue and grow ó again, a very important part of the product mix that we have to offer in the Yukon. On that front, just recently, in response to our request for comments and submissions from each of the First Nation governments to the proposed draft museum strategy, we had endeavoured to send copies of the draft strategy to each of the First Nation governments.
In response, we received a number of letters ó five in particular from the various First Nation governments ó expressing concern about the museum funding program that excluded First Nation cultural centres and the need to not exclude these centres, that perhaps the museums strategy could reflect those needs and aspirations of the First Nations and that it should be changed to reflect those very needs.
So in turn we were able to come up with a program very similar to the museum funding program, and I was able to announce that not long ago. Weíre very happy to deliver on our commitment. At the same time, I also sent a letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who was newly appointed to her position, reiterating our governmentís commitment to our fiduciary obligations in the Umbrella Final Agreement and asking them to join with us and First Nation governments in developing a program that would particularly complement each otherís efforts and enhance our abilities to address these very needs.
We happen to see great merit in working together, government to government to government, in addressing some of these needs.
We will continue to raise these issues with the federal government. Unfortunately I recently received a letter from the federal minister in response to my original letter. Although I appreciated the promptness of their reply, it was more or less, "We are committed, but no dollars to follow."
So we will continue to press upon the federal government to meet their fiduciary responsibilities at not only the heritage table but also the justice table, and so forth, as outlined in the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Mr. Hardy: Itís really sad news to hear that the federal Liberals are not honouring their agreement and not forwarding the money as they should, and I encourage the minister to continue fighting on behalf of all people of the Yukon and working with First Nations to ensure that that money comes forward as it is promised, as it is agreed to. Itís always distressing when you see somebody renege on promises.
Now, moving on, though, there are a lot of questions asked here but I know my colleagues have points to make as well.
What kind of timelines are we looking at for the exit survey that the minister has already referenced, the start/stop of it ó when it starts, when it will be finished ó and when is it going to be available for us?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The visitor exit survey ó as I understand it, there will be a ó call it what you will ó a trial run, so to speak, that will be offered in the Whitehorse International Airport. Excuse me, Mr. Chair, Iím just looking over at the member opposite and itís very entertaining.
Mr. Chair, there will be a trial run next week, as I understand it, the first week of May. It will be delivered at the Whitehorse International Airport, and from that trial run we will obtain additional input from visitors as to what kinds of questions will be raised and what kinds of outcomes we expect to receive.
From that, as I understand it, by the end of May the visitor exit survey will be fully flowing in each of the regions and the results ó or I should say the survey itself will be expected to wind up perhaps in September, mid-September, the end of September, and from there our research branch, in conjunction with the Bureau of Statistics, will work with industry to define those results.
Mr. Hardy: I was looking through the Yukon monthly statistical review of March 2004 at the transportation section. It says, "The total number of travellers was down by 971, or 16.5 percent." The minister has indicated that this is going to be a ó these are my own words, not hers ó rebound year from last year, which was not a good year. Everybody in the industry knows that. It was talked about a lot. The minister has indicated that we are going to see a substantial increase in travellers, but anyway at this point weíre actually less than last year. Can the minister share with me her basis of reasoning around the increase that we should expect this year, and what it is going to be matched up to? Last year was a difficult year. Are we seeing it rebound to 2000 or 1999 or whatever is supposed to be anticipated and, if so, what is this based on? Because going from these figures right now, it does raise a slight concern in that we are down already. Those are my questions for the minister in this 15-minute answer.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am very optimistic that we will do better than last year. With respect to defined results and numbers regarding visitor statistics, Iíve always said on the floor of the Legislature that I feel very apprehensive in making those predictions, because sometimes things occur. Certain events occur that are far beyond the reach of our territory and far beyond the reach of our country for that matter.
That was witnessed last year ó and events following 9/11 as a case in point. My optimism that we will do better than last year is based on the very fact that we have not been struck perhaps by the number of influences that we were impacted by as a territory, and as a country for that matter, from last year. I feel very encouraged that we do have perhaps a stronger economy here in Canada as well as in the United States. I feel very enthused by the fly-drive market, which remained quite strong last year, and that was reflected by an almost 18-percent increase in the visitation via the charter air access from Frankfurt, Germany to Whitehorse, which will be kicking off very soon next month. The cruise market, for example ó the representative of Holland America was on the radio the other day talking about Holland Americaís presence and how they predict a 14-percent increase in their particular marketplace.
So I think we have a lot to be very optimistic and very enthused about. Certainly air access is very important to the growth of the industry, and from all accounts weíre very enthused, excited, about Air Northís initiatives providing great packages to the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, and Vancouver as well. More and more theyíve been able to partner with different operators in British Columbia, in Alberta and of course in the Yukon to provide people to the Yukon and to raise that very awareness about the tourism industry in the Yukon.
Again, through that additional funding ó that additional $100,000 through the gateway cities initiative ó we are very pleased to support those initiatives. So again I refer to the half-million-dollar fund that will in turn leverage another half a million dollars that will assist people in making their decision to come to the Yukon. I think that these investments of dollars that are placed in this particular budget well exceed an additional $1 million of investments in tourism in this budget. I think we stand a very grand opportunity of enhancing visitation to the Yukon.
While I am apprehensive about providing the member opposite with statistics for a various number of reasons, I as Minister of Tourism and Culture, though, feel very enthused and very encouraged because we can certainly expect to have a better season than we did last year.
With that said, I canít speak on behalf of the rest of the country or what should happen in the rest of the world. We will continue to work with our partners in Alaska; we will continue to work with our partners in British Columbia, in Alberta and in the rest of the country through the Canadian Tourism Commission to ensure that visitation does increase. Itís very important that we work as a collective to help leverage those additional funds and to bring those additional investments to the territory that will result in more revenue, disposable income for Yukoners, which means money for Yukoners. So I am very enthused and encouraged by what I am hoping to be a better year than last year, although I canít provide specifics in numbers.
Mr. Hardy: I have a question, and Iím asking for the indulgence of the Chair and the minister opposite to ask this question because itís more particular to a line item. Iím anticipating we may just deem the questions as we did in the last yearís, so if I could get their indulgence to do it.
I just noticed in looking through all the departments the amount of increase in the directorate. Under corporate services, itís 11 percent; cultural services, 11 percent; marketing, 26 percent ó could I have some rationale for the increase in that, please?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: With respect to the member oppositeís question regarding the directorate in each of our branches, I refer to corporate services branch and the reflection of an 11-percent increase. This is primarily due to collective agreement impact and merit increases. For cultural services, under the directorate, an 11-percent increase, and this represents an increase mainly due to the First Nation heritage officer position that has been established in the cultural services branch. Under marketing directorate, we see a 26-percent increase, and this is primarily due again to collective agreement impact, but also dollars to go toward the upcoming TIAC event, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.
We will be entering into a contribution agreement with TIA Yukon. That will be coupled with an event with the Canadian Tourism Commission to help showcase the rest of the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for the response to that. I just have one other question here and thatís the policy for artwork. This has been discussed before. I know the minister is very familiar with it. She has talked about it. Thatís a percentage allocation within the commissioning of new buildings ó the building of them ó to purchase art for the building. Now last year she had indicated that she was going to look at it. Could the minister tell me where sheís at right now?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I do recall the discussion and certainly artwork plays a very important role in any new facility or building going up. I think a number of discussions have to take place. Certainly one thing that comes to mind is the infrastructure associated with the Canada Winter Games, for example. Again, those are primarily discussions that have to take place with the City of Whitehorse, for example, and others, but I think with the host society weíll be able to talk about those kinds of investments. Again, I think that the Canada Winter Games is an opportunity to showcase not just sports in the Yukon but culture, by all means, of course leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia; again just another grand opportunity for the Yukon to build upon our work within the cultural industries, and that is exactly what weíll continue to do.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to enter into the general debate on the Department of Tourism and Culture with the minister.
I would like to just begin a few questions this afternoon with regard to the air industry. Weíve had many discussions in this Legislature about the turbulence the air industry has been through in the last year and more ó actually, more than a year. It has been a very difficult time here in the Yukon, in some respects, in terms of the reduction of Air Canada service. It has also been very positive in terms of the introduction of the Air North service, especially to Alberta, with our close connection there. Could the minister provide an update of any current initiatives underway with our air carriers? And we had the discussion in the supplementary about what carriers were coming this summer, and if there are any talks ongoing to add other carriers from Europe. So if I can just have an update from the minister on the status of our air industry and our air access, Iíd appreciate that.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I believe I have said on a number of occasions, air access is very important to the Yukon, not just for Yukoners but visitors alike. Again, we will continue to work with our existing carriers and tour operators to meet the very challenging world of air industry these days. Air Canada, as the member opposite knows full well, is unfortunately currently under bankruptcy protection. Theyíre working on a restructuring plan. We remain quite optimistic as Air Canada continues in its efforts, and we encourage all parties to work together toward a resolution.
Again we work on the assumption that we will have air carriers in the territory ó Air North and Air Canada ó and we continue to work with both air carriers in ensuring we do have affordable and accessible air access.
Weíve been able to demonstrate our ability to sustain viable and affordable air access for both domestic and international visitors and we remain very confident weíll be able to sustain that particular service.
We also continue to have discussions with Zip to improve our services. Last fall, as the member opposite is probably aware, there was a reduction in flights coming into the Yukon on a daily basis, going from two to one during the winter season. As I have said on occasion, itís not so much a problem surrounding capacity but it has always been one of connectivity. We still continue to work, to this day, with our tour operators to lobby Air Canada, as well as Air North, to help us meet those timely connections as well as help us work with the international carriers to ensure we have timely service and very accessible and convenient service that will help attract visitors ó for example, from Asia, whether from Osaka or Nagoya, Japan. We certainly need stability in our air industry, and we need affordable air access. Between the two air carriers, we have been able to achieve that.
With that said, thereís a lot more room for improvement, but I feel very comfortable regarding what is taking place. We look at Air North and Air Canada and see a very positive outlook for the coming peak tourist season, you could say.
I think itís important to know that once all the airlines begin their summer services capacity, volume will increase in particular on Tuesdays and Thursdays at our Whitehorse Airport with five large aircraft arrivals, two each by Air North and Air Canada and one by Condor, of course, with inbound capacity of over 650 passengers. So that in itself speaks volumes about visitors coming from our European market as well as from our domestic market and the gateway cities of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. We of course will continue to explore all options with our two existing carriers to provide winter service that meets Yukonersí needs but also meets the needs of our visitors as well.
Again, Air North is certainly working on some very exciting initiatives. Theyíre looking at other reservation systems that will be more palatable to the international market ó Air North, of course, and some Whitehorse hotels. They also launched a campaign this spring to help target those residents living in our gateway cities to come to the Yukon during perhaps our shoulder spring season. This again helps stimulate the activity and of course also raises awareness about the Yukon as a definite place to visit.
So certainly we will continue to work with our air carriers. Condor flights, for example, are going to be running from May 18 to September 28, so weíre very excited about them returning to the Yukon. Of course, we will continue to work with our general sales agents in both the U.K. and Germany to work with our international carriers at all levels and to see how we can work together with our existing carriers and tour operators in providing packages to our visitors.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to focus with a couple of direct questions and follow up with the minister. First of all, there was a gateway cities marketing program involving Air North and then subsequently Air Canada. I would just ask the minister to refresh my memory. Is there gateway cities marketing money in this budget, in partnership with both airlines? If so, how much is it, and what sort of assessment do we have of that particular marketing programís effectiveness or return on investment to date?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the member opposite knows, we just invested an additional $100,000 to the gateway cities initiative, bringing it to a total of $200,000, to where its original investment was. This initiative is to draw visitors from our gateway cities. As I just outlined, Air North has certainly done a great job in the past, helping to enhance that visitation from those markets.
As I understand, I believe the member opposite has a copy of that tourism marketing conversion study, and it does outline that the program stimulated $1.4 million in direct visitor spending over the last two years. So certainly we are receiving bang for our dollar, so to speak, and there are discussions right now with Zip, and they have also particularly expressed an interest in taking part in some of these initiatives under the gateway cities initiative. Before Zip was on the horizon, there wasnít perhaps as much of an interest to come to the table, but now there is, and so I think that this additional funding will also help them both to participate in conjunction with our tour operators.
Ms. Duncan: If Iíve heard the minister correctly, $200,000 is going to be spent on the gateway cities marketing program. Is that money going to be spent equally between Zip and Air North, and is it a cost-shared initiative? By that I mean does the airline put in $50,000 and the government $50,000 matching funds, or is it strictly a grant program for these airlines?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite for that question. As I understand, those discussions surrounding gateway cities marketing monies have just begun with Zip and Air North for this 2004-05 budget, so Iím not able to provide any definitive figures regarding the distribution of numbers. Again, the marketing campaign will include some broadcast and print media, billboards, travel trade events, consumer shows, trade promotions, travel agent sales calls, e-marketing initiatives, direct mail, media and public relations in a partnership program. So we will continue and expand upon these particular campaigns.
Ms. Duncan: Have there been any discussions with WestJet by the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I cannot answer that question definitively. Iím not aware at this time; however, I do know we have a travel trade unit in place in our Department of Tourism and Culture under the marketing branch, and certainly we continue to work with all partners in talking about expressed interest from other carriers. But with respect to specific discussions that have taken place, I cannot say at this time, although, you know, whenever there are requests for information or requests for expression of interest in doing business in the Yukon, certainly weíll sit down and talk.
Ms. Duncan: Has the minister had any face-to-face discussions with Air Canada ó by Air Canada, Iím including Zip ó with respect to these issues of connectivity and service to the Yukon? Have there been face-to-face discussions?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Indeed I have had several discussions with the president and CEO of Zip. When that announcement was made last fall by Zip to reduce its air service by one flight to one flight a day, the Department of Tourism and Culture immediately engaged with tourism operators and representatives from industry associations to work with Zip and to express our concerns regarding the lack of notice about these changes and regarding the impact that these changes would have, especially on our international markets to Japan during the winter aurora season.
As a result of that unfortunate event that took place, it did bring ourselves as a department to work with Air North and Zip. We had a number of conference calls with the CEO and president of Zip and many representatives of Air Canada across the country, whether it be in baggage, ticketing and marketing sales, or whatnot.
Iíve had three meetings in person with the president and CEO of Zip, who I now understand has taken another position in Air Canada as of last night. But I took the opportunity to meet with that individual not only in Vancouver but here in Whitehorse on two separate occasions.
Again, every opportunity I have to sit down with our air carriers to talk about ways we can partner and ways we can provide more secure and accessible service, I will do that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister stated that we have one airline arriving this summer from Europe ó Condor ó and there is a point during the summer months where we will have five large aircraft going through the Whitehorse Airport: two from Air North, two from Air Canada, one from Condor. There have been times when there have been bottlenecks at the airport, with Customs and arrivals and departures. Has the minister made representation to her colleague, who has responsibility for the airport and representations to these airlines so that we can stagger their arrival and departure times in order to avoid any bottlenecks at the airport, where we have seen long lineups and issues of people unable to provide the type of customer service they would like to provide and want to give our visitors. There have been bottlenecks there. So have there been discussions with the minister responsible for the airport and with the airlines to ensure that, where we can, weíve staggered the arrival times?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, I think itís important to point out that we have had similar arrangements in place for a number of years. With the introduction of new aircraft arriving in the Yukon, it was certainly less than desirable at first, because as with any change, perhaps weíre not as prepared as we should be. But since that time weíve been able to accommodate the influx of visitors, and I remain confident that we will be able to again accommodate our visitors.
Would I like to see five flights a day coming into the Yukon? Absolutely. But currently it happens to be that on Tuesdays and Thursdays we will have an increase in the influx of visitors via air carriers, and again, by and large, these schedules are set by the air carriers, which are privately owned, and they do make their decisions based on connectivity ó whatever makes the most sense for each of the air carriers.
So again, I feel very confident that we will be able to maintain and accommodate those visitors arriving to the Yukon, particularly to our airport, and I look forward to seeing our increased visitation.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister enjoys discussing tourism; however, I would appreciate a direct answer to the question, which unfortunately I didnít get in the last answer. She originally stated that this summer we would see on certain days five large aircraft arriving at a given point in time. Yes, I appreciate that there were problems at the beginning, but over time there have been some bottlenecks. All I asked was: has there been representation made to ensure that the minister responsible for the airport, which is infrastructure, highways, public works ó her colleague who sits behind her, the Member for Riverdale South ó is made aware to monitor the situation, and also if she had discussions with these airlines. Air North is Yukonís airline. Have we spoken with Air North and said, "Letís make sure Condorís arrival time is such and such this summer". Have we dealt with it? All I was looking for was a straightforward "Yes, we have" ó or the member opposite is imagining things; I donít see the problem that way. Either one would be fine. The long dissertation on tourism is not a direct answer to the question. In the interest of debate, I just would like a direct answer.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The Minister of Highways and Public Works is very much aware of airports in the Yukon. The administration of airports is certainly under his purview ó very much so. Our department officials are in continual contact with department officials from Highways and Public Works, and weíll continue to work with them on an ongoing basis to accommodate the influx of visitors.
As I have repeated ó and I will repeat for the member oppositeís benefit ó the decisions made by our air carriers are made, by and large, based on accommodating air schedules, connectivity issues with other carriers on the domestic and international front. These arrangements have been in place for a number of years and I feel very confident that we will continue to accommodate our visitors. With respect to enhancing air access, again, would I like to see five air carriers coming in each day of the week? Absolutely. But until we actually reach that point, we will continue to accommodate air carriers coming into the Yukon on these particular days, and we certainly look forward to working with our air carriers. Our department officials are in constant contact with both Air North and Zip. I know that there have been almost weekly discussions on a number of fronts, and certainly this area has also received some attention.
Ms. Duncan: The German standing offer agreement for our agent in Germany is currently out to tender. Could I have the closing date for that tender, please, and an anticipation from the minister of when it will be awarded?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The contract with the German sales agent closed on April 19, so it will be awarded very soon.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have a closer idea than "very soon" ó mid-May, perhaps; end of May? Does the minister have a clearer idea than "very soon"?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Soon.
Ms. Duncan: The agency of record, we are in year 2 of a three-year agreement ó is the department working on developing a tender for this to be let well in advance of the conclusion of this agreement?
And for the record, the "soon" answer is neither respectful to the Legislature nor to Yukoners nor to this side opposite.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I do my utmost to be respectful at all times, but "soon" is the best answer I can provide on my feet.
With respect to the member oppositeís question about our agency of record, I understand we are in the second year; therefore, we do have a full year to become ready for the tendering of that particular agreement.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the tender closed on April 19, itís entirely possible and appropriate to estimate that it might take a month to award; it might take six months. Either of those answers would have indicated an understanding that the question was asked in good faith on behalf of Yukoners.
Year 2 of a three-year agreement means that there should be an ongoing evaluation process and a sense that a tender is being developed. It takes a long time, and selecting our agency of record is quite a lengthy process. Has work begun on developing the new tender? I appreciate there is time to do that. It does take time to select an agency of record. Itís a very, very important position and contract on behalf of the Yukon, and if there is no work begun or if the work is not going to begin until this fall, then thatís fair enough. Iím just asking when the department anticipates undertaking that work.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Our current agreement is in place until September 30, 2005, so we actually have well over a year until the replacement of this contract or renewal of the contract, whichever should take place. Again, for the member oppositeís benefit, sooner to that date, over the course of the next year and some months, we will endeavour, in consultation with the Yukon tourism marketing partnership, to come up with terms of reference, perhaps to look at the renewal of this contract. We do consult with industry on this contract, what improvements can be made, places to enhance, and weíll certainly do that in due course.
Ms. Duncan: The visitor exit survey is being undertaken again this year, and thereís money in the budget for it. This has been undertaken many times by the department, and it is being treated in the budget speech and in the budget discussions as a new initiative, although it has been done many times before. Is there anything new in terms of questions weíre asking or the way the survey is being conducted? What are the changes from previous visitor exit surveys?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: A number of visitor exit surveys have taken place over the last number of years. The last survey that took place was in 1999. We try our very best to conduct these surveys on a five-year cycle, which has been the current practice over the last couple of decades, as I understand it.
As I mentioned earlier in response to the leader of the official oppositionís question, we will be first conducting a trial run to take place in the Whitehorse International Airport next week to confirm the various questions to be asked of our visitors, and that will give us a better sense of what information we are looking for. In addition, we have been consulting with the various industry associations and with our various governments to get a better sense from each of these entities as to what information weíre looking for and how we can couch the questions in such a way that weíre able to garner accurate and relevant information that industry is looking for.
While the exit survey is not a new initiative, it is a new initiative in the 2004-05 budget. Itís an initiative that was specifically requested by Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, and itís an initiative that will put some 30 individuals to work over the course of the summer and will provide us with a clear understanding of the various visitors coming here to the Yukon ó who they are, where theyíre from, how they learned about our destination, how they got here, what they do while theyíre here, how much they spend, how satisfied they are, the types of experiences theyíre looking for and so forth.
So I certainly welcome this initiative. It is $414,000 to be spent and it does include regional surveys, as well, very similar to previous surveys. We very much look forward to seeing the results of this survey.
Ms. Duncan: My specific question is: what new questions might be asked in this survey that havenít been asked before. I didnít get an answer to that question. I understand itís going through a trial run, so are we trying out a new question? I didnít get a direct answer.
Industry, First Nation governments, municipal governments have all had input into this survey in the past and have made suggestions. For example, the City of Whitehorse might have wanted asked, "What would make you stay longer in the City of Whitehorse? Is there some service weíre missing?" The current city council might have asked the Department of Tourism to include questions about transit in downtown. Iím looking to find out what new questions might be asked. Quite often the Tourism Industry Association is interested in what products our visitors are looking for. I appreciate that thereís just a trial run of these questions. What has been the request by First Nation governments, municipal governments and industry of new items to include in the visitor exit survey this year?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: If the member opposite is asking me if Iíve actually worked with the research branch in the marketing branch to actually go over the questions, no, I have not. Itís primarily an operational matter and I tend not to get involved in operational matters. I certainly support the work of the research unit. They are the experts. Theyíre the ones who have the expertise and the opportunity to work with our various stakeholders and governments, and that is exactly what they have been doing over the course of the last two or three months ó seeking the input of the various stakeholders to come up with a number of proposed sets of questions to raise with our visitors.
Again, a test run or a test drive will be presented at the airport starting next week. I suppose if the member opposite wanted to go to the airport to perhaps try out the exit survey, I certainly welcome her to, but with respect to the specific questions, I do not know.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate that answer from the minister. Could I ask the minister to have officials, then, just send over a letter? Iím interested in what new information the industry has asked the department to get in the visitor exit survey. So if I could just ask for a letter that outlines generally what sort of information theyíre looking for beyond what weíve always asked, I would appreciate that, and thank you very much.
The funding for the Dawson City Arts Society, DCAS, $250,000 this year ó this is a year-to-year contribution. Rather than get into a line-by-line debate, this has been a very effective organization for Dawson. Theyíve made a tremendous contribution in terms of diversifying the economy. What is the current contribution agreement outline for specifically? Is it buildings? Is it specific initiatives? Iím also interested in what accountability measures we might have in that regard.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Regarding the leader of the third partyís request for a copy of the questions once they have been finalized for the visitor exit survey, I would be very happy to provide her and the other members opposite with a copy of the schedule and questionnaire when it becomes available.
With respect to the recommendation, while Iím on my feet, Iíd just be happy to answer. With respect to the general sales agent and the tender for that particular contract for Germany, a recommendation will be made next week. So, the decision will be made, I guess, within a week to a week and a half.
On the tendering process for the agency of record, we will start early this fall for clarification. I hope that answers the memberís question.
Also, I ó thank you, I just lost my train of thought. As was committed to during the territorial election in 2002, our government has come through on the commitment to increase the annual operating funding to KIAC from $100,000 to $250,000, and this is reflected in the 2004-05 budget as well.
Of course, as the member opposite knows full well, they do offer a number of different programs from the arts for employment program, to providing a various number of arts classes in the Klondike region, to providing an artists retreat, so to speak.
So, certainly, the overall vision for KIAC, the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, more importantly, is to become a fully accredited post-secondary arts institution for the Yukon. So we are working with KIAC toward this long-term goal. It does require input from a number of different stakeholders before we proceed further with KIAC, and again, through the Department of Education, through Yukon College and in conjunction with Tríondëk Hwëchíin First Nation, we will continue to work with KIAC to see, you know, this various vision for their future and how their role can work within the realm of our education system within the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the answers to some of the previous questions. I appreciate the long-term vision of KIAC, but what sort of accountability measures have we included in these contribution agreements? For example, is the minister given information with respect to the success of all the different festivals and the progress of KIAC on becoming a post-secondary cultural institution in the Yukon, progress reports on receiving this designation? What sort of accountability measures are in the contribution agreement?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As with all our contribution agreements, we have a very consistent format we provide, and in Tourism we have many contribution agreements with many community stakeholders to deliver various programs. KIAC does provide a number of various programs in the Klondike region, and weíre very happy to support them in this initiative. Weíre happy to work with them and with the Department of Education and Yukon College. We also have to take into consideration the situation in Dawson. They have also provided funding support to KIAC in the past.
So we are working closely with KIAC. While I donít have the contribution agreement in front of me, it does stipulate various reporting requirements.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps that could be forwarded to us for background information.
What is the current value of the contribution agreement with the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The Tourism Industry Association of Yukon receives $285,000. As well, they receive an additional $100,000 for the program delivery of the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership secretariat.
Ms. Duncan: The tourism co-op marketing fund of half a million dollars ó this money is to be available once it passes through the House, probably mid-May and then available the end of May. What parameters are envisioned around this money? This is for attendance at travel and trade shows, as I understand it. Is it for groups to submit applications? The review board, if you will ó includes a member of the private sector. The artist funding includes peer group assessment. How are the tourism co-op marking fund applications going to be assessed?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The tourism co-op marketing fund is a cost-shared program designed to assist market-ready tourism businesses to promote their tourism services here in the Yukon to key outside markets to enhance, to encourage visitors to come to the Yukon to spend those extra days, and so forth. Businesses will be able to apply for matching dollars for tourism marketing programs that directly generate awareness ó interest in measurable revenues ó in outside markets. There are two components, or two elements, of the program. The first is a $150,000 ó this is included in the $500,000 ó toward the consumer and trade show program.
The second element is the remainder of the $350,000 partnership advertising program that will have two tiers within the program addressing the needs of both individual businesses as well as tourism consortiums that meet, again, the market-ready criteria ó so the tier 1, when we talk about individual businesses up to $25,000, and up to $50,000 for tourism groups or consortia under tier 2.
With respect to how dollars will be defined or distributed among these various entities, there will be an advisory committee that will oversee the administration of the fund. As I believe I spoke to a week or two weeks ago in this House, those discussions are taking place with industry as we speak as to how that particular advisory committee ó who will sit on it and how many people it will be comprised of. But it will be, I would assume, a combination of both industry and government representation.
Ms. Duncan: Iím taking the ministerís response of government representation to be at the official level, and I appreciate the commitment for private sector as well as government review of the applications.
Iíd like to speak briefly about one of our key tourism partners, Holland America. There was talk of an agreement between Holland America and Kluane Park. Whatís the current status of that agreement, and what sort of numbers are we looking at in terms of visitors and visitor attendance in the park through Holland America.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the member opposite pointed out, this partnership between Holland America and Kluane National Park was a very successful one. They did a very good job in providing these packages last year. As I understand it, according to our officials this afternoon, the packages available through this partnership have been sold out. They were just sold out recently for this operating season. Again, itís very indicative of how successful the particular partnership has been.
Weíre very enthused. I should also add ó as a side note but also directly related ó that Holland America was in Haines Junction this spring and met with Parks Canada, the local First Nation and the Village of Haines Junction to talk about the agreement, what was working and what wasnít working and how they could improve it. So it would appear that communication among all these parties is alive and well, and it looks as though this partnership is a success in the very fact that it is sold out already.
Ms. Duncan: Holland America is also a key visitor to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Unfortunately, the Department of Environment has not found time to speak with them. Is the ministerís department helping out the Department of Environment in working with a major tourism partner, Holland America, and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Indeed, Tourism officials have been very actively working with Environment officials at the departmental level and will continue to do so. As I believe the Minister of Environment pointed out a week ago, if not earlier, Holland America, as is the case with many major tour operators, does require at least a yearís lead time to place these packages ó to get them together and market them accordingly.
So, we are working with Holland America, through the Department of Environment, to see what it is that we can provide.
Ms. Duncan: It was Department of Environment officials who stated publicly that they just havenít had time to talk to this major tourism partner. So, I would encourage the minister to encourage the departments to talk to each other. Holland America is a key Yukon tourism partner, as the minister has lauded them in their package in Haines Junction.
There is another Department of Environment issue that, if it hasnít already, will be landing on the Minister of Tourismís desk very shortly, and that is the issue of the fishing regulations for 2006. Those fishing regulation changes will ensure that no fishers ó Yukon or out-of-territory ó are able to keep a large fish in any Yukon waters. That has a very large impact on our tourism industry which, as the minister has been speaking about, includes tourism and fishing guiding.
So, I would encourage the minister to work with her colleague on that particular issue, which is a major concern to our wilderness tourism operators.
I would like to ask about the policy for funding cultural centres. What policy is in place? There is funding in place, but what policy guidelines have been put around this funding for cultural centres?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Before I go on to cultural centres, I want to perhaps just clarify, as I understand it, the proposed fishing regulation changes. Perhaps one of the officials could correct me if Iím wrong, but the proposed changes to the regulations for this year, as I understand them, with respect to the fishers in the Yukon, are that they will not be able to keep fish over the size of 39 inches, if Iím not mistaken. I donít have the exact numbers. Those particular restrictions, I believe, only apply to the conservation and special management waters, this year. For future changes, I understand, as per the recommendation of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, for all other lakes aside from those conservation and special management waters that is to go to further consultation, and that is a commitment that we have made so that decision has not been made. But I will certainly seek clarification.
Ms. Duncan: I will leave the argument about the fishing regulations until I can engage with the Minister of Environment. It is an issue for the Minister of Tourism, and I appreciate that sheís keeping an eye on it. The minister is right. Itís 2005 that these regulations ó and the size depends upon the species of fish. That takes place this year and the special waters in the conservation and management waters ó however, it is proposed for 2006, and it is an issue.
I will engage further with the Minister of Environment on that particular issue. I just encourage the Minister of Tourism to be aware of it, as she apparently is. The minister was going to next address the funding and the policy around the funding for cultural centres.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I pointed out earlier, our government is certainly obligated and pleased to support heritage initiatives pursuant to chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement. It certainly is a fiduciary obligation, and itís something we take very seriously. Over the course of the last several years a number of initiatives have taken place, primarily thanks to the Yukon Party government ó this government as well as the previous Yukon Party government between 1992 and 1996. As the member knows full well, during that time we did have a program in place, the centennial anniversaries program, in which there were four various cultural centres constructed: one in Carmacks, one in Pelly Crossing, one in Dawson City and one in Teslin. Each of these certainly exhibit a fine display of our First Nations culture. They also provide additional attractions for our visitors to enjoy on an ongoing basis.
We remain committed to providing funds for cultural centres. Itís those First Nations who have expressed an interest in seeking a cultural centre in their traditional territory. I canít speak on behalf of all First Nations, but we are working very closely with Carcross-Tagish First Nation toward the development of their cultural centre. Of course weíre working with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation toward their cultural centre on the waterfront.
Also the Kluane First Nation as well ó we continue to have discussions at the departmental level with the First Nation government in developing their cultural centre. I understand that a number of discussions have been taking place among the Kluane residents in defining what cultural centre they wish to develop and establish and where and how.
So at that level we will continue to work with the various First Nations in providing funding as per available resources and identified needs.
With respect to the operational resources, we also came in with a new program for the cultural centre funding program to go toward the operational needs of our four existing cultural centres to the tune of $220,000. As to how those funds will be distributed, we will be working with those First Nations in identifying needs and capacity issues there.
We also provide assistance through workshops; we also provide assistance through technical support; we provide training opportunities through internships available through our cultural services branch; we provided three on-the-job trainee positions: two for Teslin and one for Carcross-Tagish First Nation. We also work with First Nations to identify Yukon artifacts held outside of the Yukon, again as per our obligations under chapter 13.
So I think through a number of initiatives ó I should also point out that we have introduced the heritage training trust fund, which was introduced by the Minister of Education not long ago. That also applies to First Nation governments to help develop their heritage. Weíve also worked with First Nations and the University of Victoria to put on a community heritage course that was offered back in August last year, in which a number of participants took advantage of the opportunity.
Again, within this budget, we do have monies identified for both the Carcross-Tagish First Nation as well as the Old Crow Visitor Reception Centre, providing exhibit assistance.
So while it certainly isnít a cookie-cutter approach, Iíd like to also say that each First Nation government has various needs and various aspirations, so it is our duty to work one on one with each of the First Nations to identify their needs, their goals, their aspirations and their priorities and couple them with the Yukon governmentís aspirations as well as priorities and, of course, the missing link in all of this, though, is the federal government.
We will continue to work with the Liberal regime in Ottawa toward meeting its fiduciary obligations as outlined in the Umbrella Final Agreement. We are confident that soon weíll be able to make some headway, but we very much want to work as a team toward proceeding or meeting each of the needs together in a framework. I think that instead of having perhaps three different programs, we can have one unilateral approach. That is something that I will certainly press upon the federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, and to that end I look very forward to meeting with her, one on one, to discuss this very issue and seek her guidance as to how we may proceed further.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has ó chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement has a number of funding programs and a lobby effort with the federal government. That being said, what I was asking for and seeking from the minister is: is there any more of a guiding document, if you will, other than chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement? Is there, for example, a policy document in the department that says the department is committed to funding cultural centres for those Yukon First Nations with signed final land claim agreements? Of course, the question arises: what happens to the cultural centres for those First Nations without signed land claim agreements? Does this funding apply to them or not apply? Is the operational money solely for those First Nations that already have cultural centres? What policy guides the distribution of this money? That is my specific question.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, again, we will continue to work on a government-to-government basis on a number of fronts, one of which includes heritage in our obligations as set out in chapter 13. Iíd be very happy to provide the member opposite with a copy of chapter 13, but I think for all intents and purposes we are working with each of the various First Nations to identify the various needs.
Certainly, the needs and priorities identified by the Kluane First Nation are very different from the Teslin Tlingit Council, as they are from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
With that said, we will continue to work with each of them. There are capacity issues in various communities within the various governments. We have to recognize and we have to respect those challenges as well. We as a government are very proud to provide support to Yukon First Nations. We happen to think that providing support to the development of First Nation products ó whether it is products in their own right or the development of cultural centres, we will certainly work to identify those particular needs.
As I also said earlier today, we did receive a number of concerns regarding the administration of funding for cultural centres, and that was identified in response to the draft museum strategy sent out to all First Nations in November, I believe. Concerns were raised by at least five of the First Nation governments regarding the absence of funding provisions for the cultural centres as is currently made available for our various museums. Again, the Taían Kwachíaní First Nation, Selkirk First Nation, Na Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation, the Taían Kwachíaní Council and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations all identified this need and a concern that perhaps the draft strategy did not recognize the various commitments to be made and to be addressed. As a result, we chose to be proactive and to respond to these requests.
We have established a program that is very similar to the museums funding program, and no other government has taken such strides or taken the initiative to identify funds for the four existing First Nation cultural centres, as we provided with the previous Yukon Party government and with these other First Nation governments that are reflected within this budget.
I think itís an important priority within my purview as Minister of Tourism and Culture. First Nations play a very important role in the development of our economy as well as the development of our heritage resources.
Chair: Order please. Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, in general debate.
Ms. Duncan: I just have what I think is the final question for the minister. Can the minister confirm that the funding for the historic places initiative is all Government of Canada money ó it has not been matched by the territory or thereís no territorial contribution in the line item, itís all federal? Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, it is all federal. I believe that we have an additional year on top of this year.
Ms. Duncan: Is the next year anticipated to be the same amount or is it on some kind of a graduated formula, or do we know yet?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I understand it is comparable to what is provided in this budget.
Ms. Duncan: I have just one final question, and I appreciate that the minister entered into a bit of a debate with the leader of the official opposition about this. The government has put up through their various electronic media some of the studies being undertaken around the proposed bridge in the community of Dawson City to connect over the Yukon River the community of west Dawson. I donít recall seeing anything that indicates that there will be any study of the impact on tourism of that proposed bridge. And I understand from the ministerís answer that there is no tourism element to the study of the bridge thatís currently being undertaken. That seems to be what she was conveying to the leader of the official opposition. Is it correct that thereís no plan to study the impacts on tourism of the proposed bridge construction?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, as I am very pleased to provide additional comments, the bridge over the Yukon River in Dawson City was a commitment made during the territorial election in 2002. It certainly received resounding accolades from the electorate in the Klondike region, and one only has to look at the election results for the Member for Klondike ó and bravo to the Member for Klondike. So certainly that in itself was the poll, or you could say the survey of public opinion of the bridge. The Yukon River bridge was something that was highlighted at the forefront of the campaign during the territorial election. The bridge does provide a venue for serving additional visitors throughout not only the summer season but throughout the other seasons.
So certainly we will work with the Department of Highways and Public Works to look at the proposed design of the bridge. We seem to think that there is a real opportunity to provide or ensure that the structure of the bridge reflects the historical era that many of our buildings in Dawson City do reflect, so the Department of Tourism and Culture will in fact be very much involved in particular with respect to the heritage properties surrounding the bridge. Weíll also work together with the residents of the city, with the First Nation, Tríondëk Hwëchíin, just to ensure that heritage values, whether they be upstream or downstream, are maintained. There are a number of factors that our Department of Tourism and Culture will play in the design and development of the Yukon River bridge in the next number of years to come.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions for the minister and Iím hoping for answers that are somewhat briefer than what she has been giving this afternoon. I couldnít help but notice that virtually every answer was extended for the full 20 minutes. And I canít help but wonder if maybe she isnít practising for something. Maybe itís her next career as one of those interpretive guides on the bus trips between here and Kluane National Park. Iím not quite sure.
We certainly got a lot of information from the minister. Itís too bad the ministers couldnít be as helpful during Question Period. Maybe we can all resolve the information needs before the end date of the sitting and get out and enjoy some of the nice weather.
Unfortunately, here we are, with 20-minute answers. Maybe we can speed that up a little bit.
First of all, I want to put on record our disappointment. We didnít receive more than just a few hoursí notice that this important department was being called for debate. The government House leader told us, on a daily basis, that the departments would be called alphabetically. It wasnít until 10:00 this morning that we found out that, suddenly, the Department of Tourism would be coming up for debate today.
I was hoping to have the chance to talk to more constituents and other Yukoners about their concerns so we could bring them to the attention of the minister. Unfortunately, this surprise manoeuvre eliminated that opportunity.
If we were more cooperative with each other, the very least the government side could have done was to let us know yesterday what it intended for today. The reason given to us was that the minister is going travelling next week. In thinking about that afterward, I realized that this department wouldnít be coming up next week anyway. If the departments are called alphabetically, itís near the end of the list, which would be more like three weeks from now, long after she returns.
Itís a little curious why it was called. I see some chuckling from members on the other side. It was probably that the Premier deserved a little break after the general debate discussion ó maybe yes? We see the glazed-doughnut look in the eyes now, so thatís probably hitting the nail on the head.
I also want to put on record another disappointment and that is that the government side failed to satisfy the undertakings to provide us with material requested during the briefings before the department was called for debate.
Mr. Chair, this is an outrage. We request information during the departmental briefings that we need to see and then maybe take to step 2 and 3 before the departments are called. A responsible government understands the oppositionís need. When it calls a department before providing the information requested, what does it expect? Obviously not to be held to the level of accountability it should be.
I can recall that personalities who used to be part of this Legislature in the past would have had a real fit had they been treated this way. Iím thinking of some of the Yukon Party opposition members. Had the departments been called before they were provided with information requested in briefings, well you wouldnít have to have a sound system in here, because youíd be able to hear them well outside the building. They just would not have taken that type of treatment. Here we are getting that type of treatment. Well, Iím not going to yell about it, Mr. Chair. Iím satisfied just to put it on the record. Having done so, I would like to get to the questions I have.
The first question is in regard to the exit survey. The leader of the third party already asked a few questions about it. I would like to know if thereís a question focused on the 9/11 situation, or the visitors feeling secure while in the territory. Is there any intention of a question such as that? Perhaps there could be a follow-up question to it such as: "What would make the visitor feel more reassured and safe while in the Yukon?" Does the minister plan to include any such questions in the survey?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I canít go without actually commenting on the member oppositeís comments regarding our role as government and their role as opposition. Iím very familiar with the role of the opposition. Iím also familiar with the need to be ready. So when we come to this forum, we should be prepared to debate the budget.
We have certainly been working on the preparation of the budget over the last year, and we have been in the Legislature now for a number of weeks, and we would have hoped that the members opposite would have taken some time to review their departments and also talk with their constituents on a regular basis to find out what concerns there are and be ready to debate any department. With that said, I certainly understand and am always available to discuss issues that may not be raised on the floor of the Legislature, but thatís up to the member of the opposition.
With respect to the visitor exit survey, we are very pleased, again, to be able to sponsor this initiative. It will be kicking off soon. A number of discussions have taken place with a number of community stakeholders over the last couple of months, as I understand, to come up with what kinds of questions will be raised throughout the survey. What kind of information is it that industry is looking for? What relevant data does that industry needs to help grow their business? So we have been listening, and I would assume that many of those questions, concerns and interests are reflected in those proposed questions. Again, Iíve also made it a commitment to provide members opposite with a copy of the schedule and the questionnaire when it is confirmed and when it is available, and we are going into a dry run or a test run ó call it what you will ó at the Whitehorse International Airport next week. So from there we will be able to further tailor the results of the survey and take it from there.
So with respect to the issue of security, I am very pleased to say that the Yukon is regarded as a safe destination.
As a result, we were able to maintain or weather those storms that were so evident in the territory last year. As a result we saw a lot more Canadians coming to visit the Yukon, particularly from our domestic cities, gateway cities. So we were able to weather the storm relatively well, compared to other jurisdictions in our country.
So Iím of the opinion that the Yukon will continue to be regarded as a very safe and secure destination in Canada and also worldwide.
With that said, again, I have endeavoured to provide the members opposite with a copy of the questionnaire when it is available. Perhaps the memberís suggestion will be reflected in the questionnaire. Iíll certainly pass that on to the research unit.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you to the minister for shortening the response to quite a bit less than 20 minutes.
I just want to follow up with her on a related issue, and Iíve talked about this before with the minister. I think it was during the supplementary budget for 2003-04 that we discussed a few weeks back. The issue is something that came out of the survey on the stay-another-day program about three years ago, where three of the top 11 responses indicated a desire for increased communication throughout the Yukon for tourists and, specifically, people who camped and stayed overnight in the territory really wanted the ability to communicate with their families and friends back home while they were camping in the territory.
Weíve also discussed previously how this need can be satisfied with the strategic placement of a few cell phone towers in the territory. I would like to ask the minister if she is in support of such an approach and if so, what can she do to help make it happen?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, Iím intimately familiar with the question raised by the member opposite. As Iíve said on a number of occasions in the Legislature regarding infrastructure, of course telecommunications is a very important piece of infrastructure in the territory. I think the Yukon is relatively fortunate to have the infrastructure we do have in place given the number of people in the territory. With that said, thereís always room for improvement ó absolutely.
There are a number of initiatives that the Department of Economic Development in particular ó in conjunction with the Department of Highways and Public Works ó is working on. I would suggest that the member opposite raise those particular questions with those relevant ministers. As the member opposite, or perhaps the Premier, has alluded to on occasion, the issue of broadband growth is an initiative being currently addressed by the Department of Economic Development.
Again, telecommunications in general is something that the Department of Highways and Public Works continues to work with our communities to deliver, whether that is cell service, Internet service or high-speed ADSL. We continue to make improvements. Of course, that all depends on available resources and the priority and the need, but I think weíve come a long way and obviously we have some more way to go.
Mr. McRobb: Why do I think about a $50-million bridge when listening to the minister talk about priorities and need, Mr. Chair?
I didnít really get an answer to the question so Iíd like to be a little more specific. Is the need for increased telecommunications infrastructure, such as cellular phones, something the minister would help bring to the Cabinet table and support in perhaps the supplementary budget that comes forward in the fall? It is based in Tourism, as I set out. Is it something she would support?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We as a Cabinet act as a collective, not as an individual unit. Each of us brings, as Cabinet ministers, our strengths to the table and our various knowledge, working in conjunction with industry and our officials to reflect those very priorities at the Cabinet table.
As Minister of Tourism and Culture, I bring to the table a number of priorities about product development and infrastructure needs. At all times I bring to the forefront the very importance of tourism and the very role it plays in our territory and in developing our economy.
Iím very proud to say it has proven to be a very bright light throughout good times and bad times, and I will continue to represent industriesí interests the best I can, and I will continue to listen to the various needs of each of the communities, and I will continue to raise those with the ministers responsible but, at the end of the day, we do act as a collective.
With respect to infrastructure, as obviously indicated and reflected within our budget, we are very much interested and committed to the development of our infrastructure, and that includes telecommunications.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, it would appear the Member for Klondike is in great control of the budgeting process, and thatís quite apparent when we see big ticket items like this $50-million bridge and nothing for increasing telecommunications in the territory. Mr. Chair, we know that even the $1.5 million thatís in this budget year just to get the bridge started could have installed cellular towers in several nearby communities, especially if such an initiative was done in conjunction with industry and other governments, thereby sharing the burden of cost between those involved.
Mr. Chair, there are several nearby communities such as Teslin, Carmacks, Haines Junction and Carcross that would really benefit from an increased communication network available to residents, businesses, as well as tourists to the territory. Another side of this issue when it relates to tourism that I have personally heard from operators of small tourism businesses in my riding and other parts of the territory that are underserved ó I have constantly heard of the need for such development in the way of infrastructure. We know that, a couple of governments back, a major initiative called Connect Yukon was launched. So if this government is a little short of ideas of how to do it, I would suggest there is a template sitting on the shelf that could be used, and the government could just plug in a few new numbers and words and we could get something similar to bring about cellular telephone infrastructure throughout the territory.
So, we keep waiting. This is something Iíve been asking for four years now. Four years now ó going back the past two governments. Unfortunately, Iíve yet to get any news that contains even a shred of positive information. So, weíll keep asking, and weíll keep waiting. But when it comes to budget priorities, the government must understand the comparison between projects like the big-ticket item and the need for something very important, like telecommunications.
Now, the minister tried to hide behind the veil of secrecy of Cabinet discussions. There is no need to take this discussion to that extreme. The minister is well within her rights to stand up and indicate that she would support such an initiative if, in fact, it was brought to Cabinet. She is well within her rights to say that. Unfortunately, we didnít hear that, and she had two opportunities. So, if she would like to correct the record and put her support on the record, she can do so when responding to the next question.
I want to ask another question related to the Dawson bridge. There have been some questions already this afternoon, and Iím sure there will be a lot more asked in the days and years ahead, both inside and outside this House.
One of the questions Iíve heard from people and businesses in my riding is: how will this affect the traffic flow through the Kluane region? So, I would like to ask the minister what information she has that specifically addresses that issue.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: With respect to the member oppositeís questions regarding telecommunications, I think itís only fair for us to point out that we actually have provided a fair chunk of dollars in this budget of 2004-05 toward telecommunication infrastructure, Connect Yukon. The member opposite made reference to Connect Yukon. Iím very familiar with Connect Yukon, especially when we are making $1.7-million annual payments on top of the $7.5 million balloon payment that came up this year. So we are very much committed. We are actually making payments on commitments made by previous governments and we are very happy to live up to the commitments that were made by previous governments, and weíre actually paying for those commitments.
I just thought it would be very important to point out that we are providing a fair number of dollars toward this very initiative. There are also a number of federal programs that have recently been announced and will give other governments the opportunity to leverage additional funding toward additional infrastructure.
So those are some things weíre also working on in conjunction with the Minister of Community Services and the Premier, who is responsible for Economic Development. Again, it comes as a collective; it comes down to working together to address some of these various important issues.
We are very much committed to the development of infrastructure, and that of course includes telecommunications in the territory.
Another program is broadband rural northern development. There are a number of different initiatives that, together with Economic Development, Highways and Public Works, we will continue to work on to address the very needs of our citizens of the communities. While weíre not able to do everything all in one year, I think that weíve provided a great deal of investment in the territory. Itís truly unfortunate that we get criticized sometimes for not spending enough money and then weíre spending too much money and weíre consulting too much on some issues and not enough on other issues. But, you know, we strive to do our best in representing all Yukoners and to address the many issues within our communities today.
With that said, thereís a $1.7 million annual payment for the Connect Yukon program and $7.5 million toward the Connect Yukon program reflected in this very budget. Iíd say those are concrete results that we have met the commitments and weíll continue to meet our commitments.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps Iím not the only one who notices that the minister seems to forget the question in her lengthy answers. It happened again because the question was: what impact is she aware of from the Dawson bridge on the traffic flow into Kluane?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Chair, contrary perhaps to what the member opposite believes, I donít have the opportunity to travel with every visitor who comes through the territory. I would love to, but I donít have that opportunity. Time is lacking. I wish I had more time to travel with our visitors, to talk with each and every one of them, to see what drives their travel patterns in the territory. But, you know, while Iím not able to do that, our officials are able to get a stronger sense of what the individual travel patterns are today, and thatís exactly why weíre investing $414,000 in the visitor exit survey, of which there will be regional components, as has been the case over the last two decades.
So we will continue to endeavour to track the spending patterns of visitors. And, of course, the demographics are changing on a day-to-day basis. Certainly, travel patterns have changed since 9/11. What was traditionally perhaps the case with respect to travellers ó the type of traveller coming to the Yukon ó that has changed with baby-boomers retiring, reaching retirement. They are looking for different experiences than perhaps travellers were looking for 20 years ago. That is exactly why itís really important to diversify our products and our spending. In fact, the budget, 2004-05, reflects just that ó a diversity of spending on various products, products including the Whitehorse waterfront, the extension of the Whitehorse trolley, whether that be funding for KIAC, funding through the community development fund ó $3.5 million, this yearís community development fund, of which many of those initiatives are going toward development of our museums, the development of our attractions, of which many of those various initiatives are identified right in the Kluane region.
So I am certainly very pleased to support the various initiatives in our budget. I think that the bridge is but yet another initiative that we are pleased to introduce to the House, and it has received a lot of support from the residents of Dawson City and the Klondike region. This is an initiative that has been sought after by many of the residents of the Klondike region over the last several years. One has only to take a look at the lineup for the ferry, for example.
We are very much committed, as the Department of Tourism and Culture, to working with the relevant departments toward the design and development of the bridge across the Yukon River, whether to ensure that its very design reflects the historical period of the gold rush climate, or whether that is working with the Tríondëk Hwëchíin First Nation in identifying perhaps any concerns surrounding heritage ó upstream, downstream ó or whether it is working with the various residents, whether it is working with the Governor of Alaska toward maintaining the Taylor Highway and ensuring that the Top of the World Highway stays open so that we have a regular flow of traffic.
I think there is enough product available, through the Klondike loop, as well as all of the communities along the Alaska Highway. I have to say that I worked for many years in the visitor reception centre in Watson Lake, and throughout those years it was our duty to promote visitation to the communities ó all of the communities. So we presented options, including the Campbell Highway, Klondike Highway, Alaska Highway, Dempster Highway ó all of the highways ó the Canol Road.
What became very apparent ó of course, this is dating back quite a few years ó is that there was a lot of interest among the communities and various tour operators, bus tours, visitors, rubber-tire travellers to go and take the Alaska Highway all the way through to Alaska, and then take the return trip over the Taylor/Top of the World Highway and down to Dawson City and then over to the Campbell Highway.
I donít know if the member opposite has actually tried that travel, but it is a dynamite route to go.
Itís just but one option, but instead of backtracking and doing the same route, we happen to think that all regions have a lot to offer. Whether we work in the visitor reception centres, in the research unit or the marketing branch, itís our obligation to represent all of Yukon. Just as we have placed many investments in the Kluane region, whether that be on the Alaska Highway or elsewhere, we are also committed to the Klondike region and this is but another attraction and a very important piece of infrastructure that will ensure the flow of traffic is maintained and enhanced for our local traffic as well as visitors.
Mr. McRobb: The minister presents a plethora of convincing arguments, but I should let her know that if sheís trying to hypnotize me into voting for the budget, it wonít work. As a matter of fact, even if she brought in the Amazing Reveen to help her, it still wouldnít work. Call me a sceptic, call me a realist. There are lots of reasons not to vote for the budget.
Now the minister need not fret too badly because, even though sheís relatively new in here, I can reassure her that this governmentís budget will pass even though we on this side donít vote for it. So members on that side can lower the level of stress and anxiety over the vote issue. I mention that, Mr. Chair, because almost on a daily basis they happen to mention it.
Well, especially the Member for Klondike. He likes to mention it, Mr. Chair. Well, I recall that member voting against every budget that was brought in by governments in this Legislature when he sat on this side of the House. Mr. Chair, as a matter of fact, that member has only voted for ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Speaker:Minister of Health and Social Services, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the member opposite is imputing false motives. There is clear evidence, if the member opposite would care to review Hansard, that there were a number of budgets that I didnít vote against, that I didnít vote for. I was absent. So the memberís information is incorrect.
Chair:There is no point of order here.
Mr. McRobb: You know, Mr. Chair, actually, the Member for Klondike jogs my memory, and he is right. He is right, because I recall that he could not muster the gumption to put his vote on record and he fled the bells that were ringing, summoning the members in to vote, but he was nowhere to be seen. So, in fact, he is technically correct. He did not vote against every budget the government brought in while he was a member of the opposition. In fact, the truth is he voted against every one of those budgets that he was here to vote for. That was the truth.
Mr. Chair, in addition, thereís another story about the Member for Klondike in his voting record on budgets as it relates to Tourism and all the other departments in this budget and ones before it, and that is, I recall a budget that was introduced two years ago in this House, shortly after we saw the defection of the three Liberal members. They came and joined us on this side because they could not tolerate certain things that were apparently happening in that government.
The newspaper reporters asked the Member for Klondike how he was going to vote, because the issue was clear: with only eight votes for the budget, how were they going to achieve the nine necessary to avoid a non-confidence vote, thereby causing a premature election. We in the NDP made our position clear: we would not be supporting that Liberal budget.
Well, not all of us have short memories. The Member for Klondike assured the press that he would vote for the budget. Well, what happened? After about two months of debate on the budget, when it came to the vote the Member for Klondike failed to live up to his own words and he voted against the Liberal budget. Shame on that member for not voting for all those good things that were in that Liberal budget, Mr. Chair, but also shame on that member for saying he would do one thing and then doing another.
Well, thereís a name for a person who does that sort of thing. Unfortunately, not even a good thesaurus would get me off the hook here today. I see you nodding in agreement, Mr. Chair, so weíre reading from the same page.
I hope this little story helps to enlighten the new members across the way and jog the memory of the Member for Klondike about voting records in this House. Letís see if he remembers in the days ahead ó we have 13 more days in this sitting. Letís see how often he mentions "voting record" during those 13 days. Letís see if he remembers this little story.
Mr. Chair, I want to go back to the question at hand, because it is a serious one. I asked the Tourism minister if she was aware of any type of analysis or studies that addressed the potential impact on the Kluane region from this governmentís project of building the Dawson bridge.
Just for those who may not be aware of the connection, I will spell it out now. Building a Dawson bridge is going to lead to greater promotion of the Top of the World/Taylor Highway ó uh oh, I recognize a namesake, Mr. Chair. Thereís need for another statue. I guess weíll see two statues in the next budget.
Anyway, there is need for greater promotion of that route to Alaska, connecting the Yukon. Now, that route is an alternate route to the Alaska Highway. We know that branching from Whitehorse, north up the Alaska Highway goes through the Kluane region ó through Haines Junction, beautiful Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, where you can see the new fire hall from the highway, Beaver Creek, and all the wonderful places in-between.
Now, if people are promoted to travel the other route, then conceivably there is going to be less traffic on this main international corridor. If there is less traffic, itís less feasible for businesses that cater to tourism and rely on tourism to make ends meet, to stay alive in the business world, to put food on the table, and so on and so forth ó as well as future opportunities. And we know, when weíre talking opportunities, there are plenty.
We see the First Nations and others starting to develop appealing opportunities in Kluane National Park and the surrounding area. We just discussed the Holland America operation. There are certainly opportunities in the region, and not all of those customers will be transported via Holland America bus.
A lot of the businesses will be relying on rubber tire traffic going in both directions on the north Alaska Highway. We know this government and the Member for Klondike, as long as he remains a part of it ó and judging from recent headlines out of Dawson City, thatís only until the next election ó we note they will favour the Dawson City route. So that, indeed, will have an impact on the main Kluane international corridor. So my question is simple, and this is the third time I will ask it: is the minister aware of any analysis or studies examining the impact on the route through Kluane as a result of building the Dawson bridge?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Chair. As always, itís very entertaining to listen to the Member for Kluane. The Member for Kluane always brings good debate to the Legislature, and I appreciate his role of representing his constituents and I appreciate his role as a member of the opposition to bring forward questions on behalf of all Yukoners, just as itís my job, as well, to do my best on behalf of all Yukoners.
Again, I think the member opposite perhaps fails to understand the role of the VRCs, visitor reception centres, but it really is our obligation as a government to promote all regions in the Yukon, whether that be the Kluane region, southeast Yukon, the Klondike and so forth. We have a lot of great regions to showcase, and certainly we do our very best to promote each and every single region.
Again, as I outlined for the member opposite, we do our utmost to promote the various highways. I just reflected on my personal experience of working with many visitors over many seasons, encouraging them to take the Alaska Highway, encouraging them to come over the Top of the World Highway and down the Klondike Highway, over to the Campbell Highway and so forth.
All the different highways, all the different regions, have great things to offer to all visitors, so itís very important for the member opposite to take that into consideration.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is still evading the question. I didnít hear the question answered ó whether she was aware of any analysis or impact studies related to the potential impact from the Dawson bridge to traffic through the Kluane region on the Alaska Highway.
This is still a very important question. I hope she will answer it while I ask my next question.
She mentioned visitor reception centres, VRCs, and how she used to work in one. I understand that that experience probably served her well for her role as Tourism minister, and Iím sure her spell in here as Tourism minister might serve her well in her next career on that bus.
We are aware of the importance of VRCs. That reminds me of a very important issue, and itís one I asked her before and itís one I raised with her officials, and itís one I raised with the Premier at the public meeting on the budget in Haines Junction back in November, and itís one I also asked the previous Premier about. Itís about the visitor reception centre in Tok, Alaska. Because weíre on the subject of which route the road traffic takes, we all know that Tok, Alaska is at the junction for motorists travelling out of Alaska into the Yukon.
At Tok, Alaska, there is a beautiful visitor reception centre made of logs. It has an abundance of travel information, including the companion series, which is the Alaska equivalent to our visitor guide, and a number of other publications.
Mr. Chair, if you go into the visitor reception centre, youíll see a big display across from the front desk. That display is compliments of the Klondike Visitors Association. Itís full of pamphlets, and there is even a visual display, apparently with a video recording that is available to any viewer. Now, Mr. Chair, the upshot of this display is to attract as many visitors as possible into the Klondike region. Those visitors, Mr. Chair, are attracted away from the Kluane region. Depending on the type of trip the visitor is on, it may result in them bypassing the Kluane region altogether.
Now, the Klondike Visitors Association has a fairly large budget. There are dozens, if not well over 100 businesses in Dawson City contributing to it. There is nothing comparable in the Kluane region. So we canít expect the full burden of cost to be placed on the businesses in the Kluane region as it is in Dawson City, where the population is much larger.
So I asked the Premier at the Haines Junction meeting if he would consider contributing the funds necessary to level the playing field and install a display unit for the Kluane region similar to what exists promoting the Klondike region.
Now, I hear a sigh of exasperation coming from the leader of the third party, and she recalls some correspondence back when she had the opportunity to do something about this, Mr. Chair, but denied the people of Kluane that opportunity. Now, what are we talking about here? Are we talking $50 million for the Dawson bridge? The answer is no.
Weíre only talking $5,000 ó 0.1 percent of the Dawson bridge. Thatís all ó a pittance, a mere pittance. Actually, I think 0.01 percent is the correct math. Itís a mere pittance. This would level the playing field.
Now, if $5,000 a year is too much for the minister to bear, then I would indicate that there is an opportunity to partner with some other people who may contribute. That might include Haines, Alaska, because if you think about traffic flow patterns, in terms of marketing, there is an advantage to marketing the north Alaska Highway along with the Haines Road and Haines, Alaska. Perhaps itís an attractive option for the fly-drives out of Anchorage ó do the shorter trip rather than taking that long, dusty, bumpy Top of the World Highway into Dawson City.
I know the government has some BST activity there this summer, so that will help level it out. We do know the MLA for Klondike has commandeered most of the highway camp budget into his region, so he can make better progress while travelling to Whitehorse in his new truck.
Nevertheless, it is still a very long drive and itís a rough journey. So, for those visitors with less time on their hands, perhaps the Kluane-Haines, Alaska, loop would be appealing.
But you know, Mr. Chair, itís difficult for them to even be aware of this option without somebody to let them know ó without something to let them know that it even exists. The answer, I think, or at least a simple answer, is to put a display next to the Klondike Visitor Association display at the Tok visitor reception centre. The cost, as indicated to me by the people who work there, is about $3,000 U.S. per year. So, thatís $5,000 CDN.
Itís a small price to pay. It levels the playing field. It can bring more traffic through combining with maybe a contribution from Haines. This is a fairer approach. What about perhaps the government paying for the KVAís display as well? Well, thatís a possibility. Weíve heard rumblings that the KVA is in need of additional funding. Well, if the governmentís going to increase funding to that organization, perhaps this is a good first step. That way the government can fulfill its responsibility to market the two routes into the Yukon equally and fairly, like it should.
Going back to the budget meeting, the Premier indicated that he was interested and also indicated that it sounded like a live option. So you can understand my disappointment the month following when I followed up with this Tourism minister and she said that she knew nothing about it. I know the Premierís a busy fellow, but he did have an assistant with him taking notes, who I would have expected to pass on any messages of import to any of the ministers. I donít know, maybe it got lost in her briefing books. I donít know. But as of December she was aware, because I did ask her. I also brought it up a few weeks go, so Iím bringing it up again.
I would like to know if thereís money in this budget to equalize the playing field and also promote the Kluane region in addition to the Klondike region. If there isnít, is it something the minister would undertake to address?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, the Member for Kluane raised a number of very good questions. Again, I just might point out that we do have a visitor reception centre in Haines Junction and we have one in Beaver Creek, and theyíre very fine facilities.
They do a great job. The staff, officials, who work in these facilities do a great job, and I commend them for the work they do in enticing individuals to stay those extra days in the Kluane region. Also within this budget, Iím very pleased to point out that weíve actually placed some additional funds toward the Beaver Creek Visitor Reception Centre for the very reason that they do need some additional assistance to meet the visitor needs in that area. So to say that weíve completely exempted the Kluane region is very false.
The member opposite referred to a kiosk or a display of interpretative signage in Tok, Alaska, and he referred to the similar display posted by the Klondike Visitors Association. Itís my understanding that the KVA does fund this solely on their own. We do not fund this particular initiative, nor do we fund the KVA. Itís very important to know that KVA does a fine job. They certainly work very hard to attract visitation to their region, and they do a wonderful job in the community and in the neighbouring area.
I think itís very important to note that we do our utmost to spread our message about the Yukon. We donít play favourites in Tourism. In fact, we meet with the communities on a regular basis, talk with them through our department officials and identify the very needs of the various communities, and we work with them because itís not us knowing best for the communities.
Itís the communities knowing best what works for them. And I think that the perfect opportunity for partnerships is through the very initiative posted within the 2004-05 budget here that we are currently debating, and that is the tourism cooperative marketing fund. Now if, for example, the Village of Haines Junction or a number of businesses, or perhaps the visitor association in Kluane, wishes to partner or embark upon a marketing campaign outside of the Yukon, whether that be in Alaska or British Columbia or whether that be somewhere else, we encourage them. We encourage all Yukon entities to come together to showcase the Yukon, to bring people to the Yukon to stay those extra days, that extra time, and to spend those dollars in our gift stores, in our hotels, in our restaurants and taking tours with our various operators. I think thatís very important.
Mr. Chair, with respect to kiosks, I should also add that through the community development fund, we have also been able to succeed in providing funds toward the Carmacks information kiosk and, as I understand, I believe that there was $40,000 or $45,000 identified in community development fund funding, and that was last fall, if Iím not mistaken.
The Silver Trail kiosk ó again, in the member oppositeís riding. Through the community development fund, dollars were awarded to the Silver Trail association to provide funding for the administration of delivering services through that particular kiosk situated at Stewart Crossing.
So, through those various kiosks and our various visitor reception centres, I think that we deliver excellent services. I applaud all the members of the visitor reception centres, all the members in the marketing branch, who work day in and day out to provide great services to all Yukon operators but also, more importantly, to our visitors.
I think itís very important to point that out because credit is not always provided and thanks is not always provided. But I think that we do a great job in delivering Yukon products ó tourism, enhancing our visitation to the territory and, certainly, within the Kluane region ó again, whether it be in Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing and all those in between, I should also make mention that I had the opportunity last fall of going up and down the north Alaska Highway and stopped in at each of the various businesses along the way. I had a great opportunity to meet and greet each of them, to introduce myself, to hear what some of their concerns were, and to hear some of their successes over the last season.
So I certainly think that Kluane has tremendous potential for growth, and weíve seen that with respect to the partnership with Holland America and the Kluane National Park. We continue to see that throughout a number of various initiatives. Again weíre working with the Kluane First Nation on the development of their cultural centre. You know, whether it be through tourism north or through our joint Yukon-Alaska program, we as a Department of Tourism and Culture provide almost a million dollars in joint marketing advertising dollars to enhance Alaska visitors, to enhance people, to entice people to visit the territory, to the Yukon, and to the rest of the north. With that said, these programs give the Yukon the opportunity to leverage additional dollars that would not have necessarily been able to take place without the assistance of our neighbours from Alaska.
So, again, I think the Department of Tourism and Culture is on the right track. We will continue to work on providing that additional product, whether itís improving our highway system, providing additional attractions, such as enhancing our waterfronts ó and thatís not just in Whitehorse but in the community of Carcross, for example. Now thatís an area that I havenít even begun to talk about, the Carcross area.
Through our media familiarization tours, our Convention Bureau ó I was just at an AGM of the Yukon Convention Bureau and in 2003, Yukon hosted 41 meetings in the Yukon. Thatís a 31-percent increase over 2002 ó bravo to the Convention Bureau. Theyíve done a remarkable job and will continue to do their job promoting opportunities in all the Yukon communities.
Through our contribution agreements, whether through the Convention Bureau, the Tourism Industry Association or the Wilderness Tourism Association ó I think these are all very good investments and are all doing a great job. Again, I commend all of them for doing their jobs and for working with our Department of Tourism, the Department of Highways and Public Works, and the Department of Environment, talking about wildlife viewing sites. In this budget alone, we have allotted dollars for four additional wildlife viewing sites. Thatís great stuff, and some of them are identified in the members oppositeís ridings.
We will continue to work with the various stakeholders and governments ó municipal and First Nation governments. And again, the partnerships mean so much more ó partnerships that are able to leverage those additional dollars, that are able to raise awareness about the Yukon with other jurisdictions and within.
So, again, I certainly welcome the opportunity to talk at great length about all of these great things happening. But there is so much good news in this budget that I would be remiss and perhaps irresponsible if I did not espouse all of the different initiatives in the budget here within the Department of Tourism and Culture.
So, with that said, the time being ó
Some Hon. Member: Inaudible.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I would love to go on at greater length, and Iíd be happy to stay here for an additional couple of hours. Perhaps if the members opposite would like to stay, we could get unanimous consent to do that.
The Chair is shaking his head, so I have to respect his wishes. The time being close to 6:00 p.m., I move that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Taylor that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 27, 2004:
Political Contributions, 2003: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon (dated April 2004) (Speaker Staffen)