Tuesday, May 11, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Clerk:It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker.
Deputy Speaker takes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers. I would ask all members to bow their heads in a moment of silent reflection.
Deputy Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to demonstrate its commitment to the future of Canadaís public health system by immediately and permanently restoring its share of health care funding to a minimum of 25 percent.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to demonstrate its commitment to the principles in the final report of the Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada by taking action to expand its home care program and to provide an effective prescription drug program for low-income people.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any additional notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Mr. Cardiff: My question is for the Minister of Community Services. The former supervisor of Dawson City, the one the minister fired, is being candid about his time in that role. This individual has now publicly revealed that the MLA for Klondike was closely involved in discussions and provided advice to the minister about Dawson Cityís financial matters from the beginning of this governmentís term. Will the minister confirm that this is the case, yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I take it that the minister is accusing the former supervisor of giving out information thatís not factual. The recent report on Dawson Cityís trusteeship is riddled with political innuendo and personal accusations, and the minister must realize the potential for legal action is very high.
How much money has the minister set aside to settle any potential lawsuits resulting from the allegations contained in the report?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are taking care of the situation in Dawson. This situation has been going on for years, as I stated yesterday in this Legislature. It is this government thatís taking action on solving this situation in Dawson and assisting the residents of Dawson in their difficult financial situation.
Mr. Cardiff: Yesterday, the minister said the government has initiated a forensic audit that will leave no stone unturned. A forensic audit is done to gather evidence for court, often when deliberate wrongdoing is suspected.
Does the minister have any reason to believe that Dawson Cityís financial problems have anything to do with theft or misappropriation of funds by anyone?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have stated in this House many times that the situation in Dawson has been there for a long time. The financial situation has been well-known to this House for a long time. This government has taken steps to try to alleviate that situation. We have appointed a trustee to take over that process. The trustee has requested a forensic audit to address the situation, and we have followed through with that request.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm feed supply
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Minister of Environment. There are 61 adult and baby reindeer on the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm north of Whitehorse on the Mayo Road. The operators of the farm have enough food left to keep these animals alive for about two weeks. Will the minister provide some emergency funding to buy food for these animals, or is he prepared to see them starve to death?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, the agriculture branch is working very closely with the reindeer owners to make sure the animals donít suffer any undue stress over this very delicate period of time theyíre going through. We in the agriculture branch are responsible for animals in distress on the farm and we are working with the components to make sure these reindeer do not suffer because of the situation they find themselves in.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís not the information that weíre getting from the people on that farm.
Now, let me assure the minister that no one on this side of the House is prepared to watch these animals starve to death because the minister wonít do the right thing. The owners are desperate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I spent a couple hours last night with them and their animals. Their backs are absolutely against the wall because of this governmentís inaction. They are so desperate that they are prepared to shoot the animals within the next few days rather than watch them die a slow death due to starvation.
Will this minister act now, or is he willing to watch these defenceless animals being shot on national television? Because thatís where itís going to go, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To publicly shoot the animals on the farm is a decision that I guess the owners would have to make on their own. We as a government are committed through the agriculture branch that those animals, if they need assistance in the line of food or whatever ó we are willing and able to assist them with that problem. But as far as the owners of the reindeer making decisions on what to do with the reindeer, that is their decision. We are there to help if the help is needed.
Mr. Hardy: This is a decision being made out of the inaction of this government. These people have been forced into this position and they donít want to do this. There has been no work to date to assure those people that those animals will be looked after or fed by this government. So I donít know what this minister is saying because thatís totally incorrect.
This is no joke. The owners of these reindeer have already phoned a contractor to dig a hole to bury the animals in the next few days. The minister can prevent this from happening. It will only cost approximately $20,000 to buy enough food to keep these animals alive for eight months. The owners canít afford it. This government has an obligation to find a solution now. Will the minister now commit to provide the emergency funding ó instead of giving this runaround answer ó to keep this reindeer herd alive while its officials conduct some genuine negotiations with the owners to find a long-term solution to this problem? Will he do that now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to remind the member opposite that the agriculture branch has a responsibility to oversee animals in distress on the farms.
As far as being part of a long-term program for the reindeer the member is speaking of, thatís not in my portfolio. What Iím telling the member opposite, without turning this into a political quagmire, is that the facts are there. We are there. When the reindeer farmer needs assistance, the agriculture branch is there. The ministry has done its job. Weíre working to make sure that the reindeer do not starve to death on that farm.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm, animal purchase
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Minister of Environment. In a May 1, 2003 letter to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the minister said that his government, "does not have an interest" in purchasing animals from the Yukon Museum of Natural History. Less than a year later, the minister has stated publicly that he is in fact in active discussions to purchase these same animals.
The government has developed a reputation for saying one thing and doing another, changing their minds. They donít usually bother to write it down. How much money has been set aside to purchase the animals from the Yukon Museum of Natural History? Where are we at in those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím very pleased to report that, as the member opposite quite well knows, the financial position of the government changed in the interim, and weíre very happy and pleased to be able to continue to work with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to meet their recommendations. Weíre very pleased that theyíve made some very wise decisions and weíre now in a position to make those decisions.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the government, as the minister has said, has the money. The government has accepted some recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and theyíve rejected some others. The Yukon Party government went in and bought the game farm. Now theyíre in the middle of purchasing another one, yet theyíve told the owners of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm that theyíre out of luck. Thereís a complete double standard here. What is the Minister of Environment doing to fix it?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iíd remind the member opposite that we didnít reject any of the Fish and Wildlife Management Boardís recommendations. We did set some aside that werenít feasible or possible at the time, and weíre very pleased to continue to work to meet those recommendations, and at the moment we have met virtually all of them.
Ms. Duncan: That didnít answer the question of how the minister is going to fix a double standard created by the Yukon Party. The minister is busy purchasing animals in Carcross. He has purchased the game farm. Heís ignoring a request from a family in Lake Laberge to purchase their animals. The ministerís spokesperson said, in the governmentís favourite newspaper, "We are not in a position to purchase those animals." Yet the minister has just stated theyíre going to purchase the ones from Carcross. Itís a double standard and the government is becoming famous for it.
Why has the government set up a double standard, telling some people yes and other people no, and now theyíre completely unwilling to fix the problem theyíve created? Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite is referring again to the reindeer farm. Iíd like to put on record today that the previous governments did put $173,000 worth of grant money into the reindeer farm. There were also 269 acres of land involved with that transaction, which doesnít fit into the finance formula.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe the previous governments did assist the reindeer farm with a substantial amount of financial help.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm feed supply
Mr. Hardy:I want to follow up with the Environment minister on the situation of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm. Iím tabling with the Clerk two letters from the Deputy Minister of Environment to the owners. The first letter, dated April 20, states that the government is actively exploring potential options that would allow the reindeer farm to continue. It also offers some hope that the government will consider specific proposals from the owners.
The second letter, dated last Wednesday, specifically dashes those hopes of a settlement. Why is the minister refusing to negotiate with these owners when heís willing to cut a deal with two other owners? Why the double standard? And I would like to hear the Environment minister answer this question. The letters are from his department; heís responsible for them.
Hon. Mr. Lang: There is no double standard with this government. We have worked positively and we are working positively to try to resolve the problem that the reindeer farm has created ó the reindeer farm. We are looking at agriculture. We are looking at different avenues for how we can address the problem with the reindeer farm. We are doing that. We are a responsible government. There is no double standard.
Mr. Hardy: I can assure you and I can assure the people of this territory that there is a double standard and it sits over there acting like a government.
Now, reindeer and caribou are virtually one and the same animal. Yukon law defines caribou as wildlife but it doesnít have a definition for the reindeer. They are not wildlife and they are not game farm animals. Meanwhile, the owners canít sell them, they canít export them, they canít put them on display, they canít slaughter them, and they canít sell the meat. Their hands are absolutely tied and they are considering drastic action that could land them in serious trouble.
Will the minister make it a personal priority to work out a suitable solution with the owners without any further delay and will he pay the tab to feed the animals while that can take place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, on the reindeer farm, they can sell the meat. So what the member opposite says is not correct. They can sell the meat; they can export the animals. Another thing is that they are not caribou. They are reindeer. When the member opposite states that they are caribou ó they are not caribou. The reindeer has been a domestic animal for hundreds of years. They are not caribou.
Mr. Hardy: This minister does not know what he is talking about and, frankly, he shouldnít be answering the questions because he is way out of his depth. Read the definition in the Yukon Wildlife Act, and then tell me what reindeer are.
The ministerís senior official has suggested declaring reindeer as game farm animals but he canít just do that. There are legal processes that have to be followed. Besides, there is a moratorium on new game farms. The minister imposed it after shelling out over $2 million to buy the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. The owners of the reindeer have offered a reasonable solution. The government could buy the reindeer, castrate the bulls and move the herd to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve to live out the rest of their lives. Or they could pay the people to look after them.
Why hasnít the minister directed his department to negotiate a solution along these lines that would be a win for all parties involved, instead of this mess that this government has created?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I do know a caribou from a reindeer, and theyíre not caribou ó that I will make very clear. To play politics with this issue is not fair to the farmer or to the reindeer. We have committed as a government, the agriculture branch, that these reindeer will not find themselves in a starvation situation. This is not the time to jump up in the House and give half-truths out.
Deputy Speaker:Order please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Lang:I apologize for saying that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
But the issue is the reindeer. Thatís what weíre talking about in this House. I will make it very clear: they are not caribou. We as a government are responsible to work with the farm owners to make sure the animals are not in distress. We are committed to doing that. The agriculture branch is doing that as we speak.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad corridor
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works about the international railroad corridor. As he should know, both Houses of the Alaska State Legislature passed bills on Sunday supporting a rail extension from the terminus at Eielson Air Force Base to Fort Greely and eventually on to the Canadian border. Another bill was passed the day before that allows the Alaska Railroad Corporation to begin plotting out a railroad extension to the Canadian border. The bill allows the corporation to delineate a 500-foot-wide corridor running the 270 miles from Eielson to our border. Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski is expected to ratify those bills shortly. Can the minister tell us which Yukon route the Alaskans have decided to connect with at our border, the 1942 Army Corps of Engineers route or the Alaska Highway route?
Hon. Mr. Hart: He well knows that thatís a decision made by the State of Alaska, and theyíre the ones that are going to determine where that terminus is going to be.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously the Alaskans know more than this Yukon Party government is willing to tell its citizens. Itís becoming clear that it wonít be Yukoners who decide which route the railroad should take. Itíll be whatever Alaska wants. This government needs to stand up for Yukoners and not fall asleep in the caboose. Whoís driving this train anyway? The bill also gives the Alaska Railroad Corporation the power to investigate an extension of the railroad through Canada and to acquire land or interests in Canada.
What will this government now do to protect the Yukon interests and ensure itís Yukoners who choose the route through our territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On this particular issue I have been dealing with this, at the Premierís office level, with the Prime Minister of Canada and also the Minister of Transport Canada, Mr. Tony Valeri. The member should well know that his statements bear a little critique, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The Alaskans are going to extend, by virtue of the Alaskan railroad, to Delta Junction, vis-à-vis the possible missile sites. The government has, through legislative mechanisms, established a delineation of land base for a future possible extension to the Yukon-Alaska border. Now the member also knows that Washington has asked Canada to participate in a feasibility study of a rail link from Alaska through the Yukon to the railhead in British Columbia. Our position is clear and has been consistent since the day this government has taken office: we urge Ottawa to respond to Washington in the affirmative, get on with the feasibility study, to determine exactly, should this project go ahead, where it will go through the Yukon Territory. Thatís the end of the story.
Mr. McRobb: The Premier needs to get on the same page, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It wonít do any good waiting for the federal government. The time for action is now. Back in January, I called upon him and his government to initiate discussions with the citizens of our territory on issues related to this railroad specifically on the routing. But the Yukon Party has failed to involve anybody except for its friends in Alaska. The Premier has spoken to the Alaskans; so has the minister, but nobody is asking Yukoners. What about the Yukonís mining industry? It has identified billions of dollarsí worth of base metals along the Tintina Trench. The 1942 route follows that trench. Governor Murkowski is on record favouring the Alaska Highway route, and the Premier was quick to support him. When will this government be consulting Yukoners on these important issues?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Member for Kluane is implying that the State of Alaska will build this railway through Alaska, through the Yukon to the railhead in British Columbia. Thatís nonsense, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Thatís why Washington has asked Ottawa to participate in the feasibility study. That has been our position all along and continues to be. Without the feasibility study, there is no informed way of dealing with the Yukon public on the route, on what the possibilities are for this potential project. It is not today a project. It is a request by Washington to conduct a feasibility study. The member opposite has certainly missed the mark on this one and should do a little more homework when it comes to the railway.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre rebuild
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Justice. After 15 months of waiting, we finally have some action from this minister on construction of a new correctional facility. Iím glad to see that sheís finally able to speak for her department. She has announced a corrections consultation process. Mind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is simply in draft form. Even the consultation paper has to be consulted on ó another delay so that this facility wonít be built until after another election.
Yesterday the minister said that the previous government had not done a through enough consultation. Mr. Deputy Speaker, the elders at Council of Yukon First Nations last week emphasized to this minister that they felt they had been consulted. They had voiced their concerns to this minister that their information will not be used. Will the minister be starting consultations from scratch again, or will she table the results of previous consultations and move on?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I always welcome the opportunity to speak about this very important initiative. I am very much committed, as is the Government of Yukon, to proceed with this very important initiative, and that is the consultation on corrections.
As I relayed to members of the Legislature yesterday, we are adhering to the commitments we made within the memorandum of understanding that the Government of Yukon signed with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Part of that was a commitment to consult with all Yukon First Nations in the design, delivery and evaluation of correctional services in the territory. That is exactly what we are doing.
In conjunction with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, we have developed a draft consultative plan that we presented to all Yukon First Nations last week. It was adopted; we are willing to proceed, and that is exactly what weíre doing.
Itís a very important initiative. Weíre very pleased to proceed and we also made the commitment ó both the Grand Chief and myself ó to start looking at the very discussions and production that resulted from those discussions with the CYFN elders advisory council.
Mrs. Peter: For 15 months this minister has done nothing toward solving the enormous problems at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We have seen workers and inmates in danger because of the useless facility. Now she is delaying it even longer.
Kwanlin Dun First Nation has indicated an interest in finding a different location for the jail. This should be one of the first decisions and I would hope the minister has done some analysis on this question.
Does the minister have a process in mind that will allow all Yukon people to have input into the best location for the correctional facility?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have to say that Iím not sure where the member opposite is coming from. First of all, we are criticized heavily for not consulting; then weíre criticized heavily for consulting. We on this side of this House think that itís a very good idea to conduct comprehensive discussions with Yukon First Nations, and all Yukoners for that very matter, a consultation that is comprehensive, very meaningful and that is all very much transparent.
We are proceeding with those discussions with Yukon First Nations. We are proceeding with incorporating those discussions that took place with the Council of Yukon First Nations elders. We are incorporating the views of all community stakeholders in addition to the views of those staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, as well as the inmate population at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, as well as employees within our own Justice department, as well as incorporating the views of educators, as well as the views of health and social services professionals. So we are embarking upon a very comprehensive, very meaningful and very transparent process.
Mrs. Peter: While this minister is finally allowed to speak for her department and is on her feet, yesterday she said she has been sincere that the consultation process is very transparent. I will give her an opportunity to be sincere and transparent. Why did the minister allow the Premier to take the construction of a new jail off the agenda until his government expires?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again for the very record, this government and I as Minister of Justice are 100 percent committed to the full replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. I donít know how I could be clearer. We are very committed to the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, but prior to that we are proceeding with a very comprehensive, transparent and very meaningful discussion with Yukon First Nations.
I reiterate: we have a problem within the correctional services in the very fact that we have a very high recidivism rate, probably among the highest in the country. We also happen to observe that the very large population within the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is of First Nation ancestry. For those very reasons ó for the sentencing patterns, recent changes in patterns, with the administration of justice agreements being negotiated as we speak with Yukon First Nations as they evolve their final agreements ó all reasons we are embarking upon a very comprehensive process, one that Iím very committed to, one about which I will reiterate my sincerity and Iím very committed to replacing the facility.
Question re: Emergency medical services management
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
The Minister of Health and Social Services insists that the move of the emergency medical services to the Whitehorse General Hospital is not a sale; it is not a successorship; it is not a transfer of ownership. He says that it is management only.
So to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission: what will the role of the Public Service Commission be in the new structure?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This move to have the Yukon Hospital Corporation manage the emergency medical services is a positive step forward. It was requested by the board of the Yukon Hospital Corporation to effect efficiencies in service delivery, to improve service delivery to all Yukoners who need this service. This will be a very positive move.
The spin that the official opposition and the third party are trying to put on this is that this is tantamount to treason almost, Mr. Deputy Speaker. But that is not the case ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Deputy Speaker:Order please.
The official opposition House leader on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, once again the government House leader has brought decorum in this House to an all-time low. Accusing members of the official opposition of treason is definitely contrary to our House rules. He should apologize.
Deputy Speaker: The Chair concurs and would ask the minister to retract the comment.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I withdraw the statement, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was just caught up in the moment.
The issue before us is one of effecting service delivery that Yukoners expect and require. That will be done through the capable leadership and management of the Yukon Hospital Corporation managing emergency medical services throughout the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís obvious the Minister of Health was having trouble answering this question, because itís not directed to him. Itís a Public Service Commission question, Mr. Speaker, and I want that minister to get up and answer it. The Member for Klondike cannot micromanage his own Cabinet.
A collective agreement was agreed to with government workers and gave them the protection of certain rights. This transfer may impact this collective agreement in several areas: for example, leave, pension, benefits, employment, mobility within the public service and the right to appeal competitions, just to name a few. At the time of transfer to the corporationís management, government employees in emergency medical services will be terminated and then rehired by the corporation. So this is a question to the Public Service Commission: what assurance can the Public Service Commission give to these employees that every benefit and protection they have in their collective agreement will still be in place after they are terminated?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the member opposite is providing completely inaccurate information. The way the situation will work is that everything remains completely the way it is, save and except management of emergency medical services will be provided by the Yukon Hospital Corporation, and they will be responsible strictly for the management. All the rights that currently exist under the collective bargaining agreement, all of the current agreements, wages, and every procedure will remain as is and well in place and entrenched. That is a given, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The only area where there will be change is in the overall management, and that is being done to provide Yukoners with the level of service that is required here in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís obvious the Minister of Health has not been briefed on this matter lately. The Public Service Commission minister should not let the Minister of Health railroad him on this matter.
The Public Service Commission is hiring auxiliary on-call workers for ambulance services. This is an attempt to save money for government. A rural ambulance trainer has not been hired yet and itís basically in limbo. There are grievances from the ambulance services waiting for months to be dealt with. Thereís a question about whether or not there will be discipline for the whistle-blowers in the ambulance services who have aired their problems in public.
Can the minister commit to solving these situations before transferring the service to the Hospital Corporation? Would the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission get up and answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The one area I will agree on with the member opposite is there have been grievances going back to the previous Liberal government that were not addressed by that government. Theyíre being dealt with by our government. The situation currently in place is that our government has addressed our responsibility in this area. The Yukon Hospital Corporation requested that they assume responsibility for emergency medical services. This is a hand-in-glove relationship that will provide for a very streamlined and capable service delivery that Yukoners expect. It will improve service delivery, it will enhance it, it will not impact or affect one iota of the collective bargaining agreement or the rights that employees have under that agreement.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. McRobb:Itís my duty to inform the House that we will be foregoing our motions on Wednesday, May 12, in order to expedite the business before the House.
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I do not wish to identify items standing in the name of the third party to be called tomorrow in order to expedite the business of the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair:Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before Committee is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue on in general debate on Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Bill No. 10 ó First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó continued
Hon. Mr. Lang:Proceeding ahead from yesterdayís debate, I want to remind the members in the House of our obligation when we were elected. We committed to get the natural resource economy up and running again from the low period it had been in over the last seven years. We have been looking at many of our branches in Energy, Mines and Resources to move forward with that economic plan. With devolution and the responsibility that we acquired a year ago, we have taken steps for the partnership with First Nation governments, for regulation and certainly for industry. And certainly at the end of the day weíre seeing results. Last year, exploration was over $14 million a year. Before, it was $6 million. This year itís going to be over $20 million. So I think our job as the exploration dollar is spent is proving up. The industry seems more competent in our jurisdiction. That, of course, is part of our responsibility.
Of course, when weíre looking at other aspects of the Energy, Mines and Resources department, weíre looking at the oil and gas and, of course, as I said we have the disposition in north Yukon, and thatís proceeding forward. Weíre working with Devon on that in southeast Yukon to maintain and expand the gas reserve in southeast Yukon. That will be approximately $10 million that Devon has committed to spend in that area. Weíre waiting for a proposal from Devon on a workplan for their dispositions in north Yukon this year, so in the oil and gas department ó and of course we have the Alaska Highway pipeline question out there so weíre working on that on a daily basis, and access to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. So we are working in our department to make sure we revitalize the natural resource economy of Yukon. And Energy, Mines and Resources, of course, is the main driver of the government in that field. So I would proceed now with questions from the third party if she has some more questions.
Ms. Duncan: I understood that the Member for Mount Lorne wished to ask some questions at this point, and Iím prepared to return to debate later.
Mr. Cardiff: I have some questions for the minister around mines and mines that are permitted and ready to go.
Itís my understanding the government says theyíre mine-friendly and want to have mining activity in the Yukon. Itís also my understanding ó and from my time here in the Yukon since 1976 ó that weíve seen mines come and weíve seen mines go. Mining activity has taken place under many governments ó under NDP governments, Conservative governments, Yukon Party governments ó and largely governments donít play that big a role in whether or not mines go or donít go. A lot of the time itís driven by the price of base metals, so itís not necessarily a government that makes mining go or not go in the territory.
My questions for the minister are around permitted mines that are ready to go now. Iíd like to know how many mines are fully permitted and ready to go at this time in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In reply to the member opposite, the government certainly doesnít open the mine. Thatís not our job. Our job is to facilitate the mining company so that we can facilitate the opening of a mine. The base metal prices have a bearing at the end of the day on whether a mine is going to open or close, but a government with regulatory certainty and with the pro-economic development background would certainly be beneficial to a mining company if they were thinking of coming to the Yukon.
On the last question he asked about what mine is permitted at the moment, the only mine that is permitted at the moment is Minto. Minto is permitted.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister is saying thereís only one permitted mine thatís ready to go in the Yukon right now? Itís my understanding there are more than that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím sorry about that. I was incorrect. Tagish Gold is permitted too, so there are two.
Mr. Cardiff: For how many years have these mines been permitted? Can he tell me that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Minto has been permitted ó to be honest with you, I donít know, but I imagine itís over five years, and Tagish Gold has been permitted for probably the same amount of time but Tagish Gold is coming out more into the production end of things than the first developing permit, so theyíre applying for other permits.
Mr. Cardiff: Maybe the minister could provide us with this information then. Given that there are only two mines permitted and possibly ready to go into production, can he tell us how many mines are in the process of being permitted and how close are they to being permitted?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís a hard question because, as you know, we have the Finlayson Lake with Teck Cominco. Of course, they spent up to $14 million and theyíre doing an extensive exploration on the R block as we speak. Weíve got Western Silver in Carmacks. That has a potential of getting permitted. Wolverine Lake is moving ahead. We have mining exploration in the Mayo area around the United Keno Hill property. Of course we have other locations. So are all permitted? No. Are they in the process of being permitted? Some are. To get you the exact number is ó right now, I donít have those numbers. Itís sort of a work in progress, as far as permitting is concerned. We do have a large exploration dollar being spent in the Yukon this year, committed. I think at the end of the day weíre going to have some development money spent, and thatís where we need more money spent. Exploration dollars of $25 million or $30 million would be very good for the economy of the Yukon, but now we see more development money being spent, and that means companies are making a commitment to open these mines.
That is projected to be $3 million to $5 million this coming year, so that is good news. But as far as the licensing and all the other things that go along with it, the mines will come in when they come in with their paperwork and we will work with them to get the job done as quickly as possible so they can proceed with what theyíre good at, and thatís mining.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for his answers. Itís unfortunate that he doesnít have the figures. Youíd think that the minister would know which mines are in the process of being permitted and how close they are, given the resource extraction friendliness of the government.
I have some other questions for the minister around land development. Iíve written letters to the Minister of Community Services and copied them to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources about problems with land plans and zoning regulations that are in place, or draft regulations, and the way that the government goes about approving spot land applications and deals with land dispositions in areas around Whitehorse, in the periphery of Whitehorse, and possibly in other communities.
Thereís a process whereby people can apply for vacant land in the Yukon, but there are also areas where there are local governance structures and community organizations in place that have put in place land plans for their communities.
They lay out the wishes of how they would like to see orderly development in their community and take into account the local factors, the wildlife that lives there, the uses of the land that have been there traditionally, whether it be trails, recreation or wildlife corridors. Basically what theyíre looking for is the type of land development thatís consistent with their community and with the wishes of the people who live there.
Theyíve previously been assured by the government that development in their communities and in their areas would proceed based on land plans and based on draft regulations that exist, that they would be consulted and that the wishes of the community would be respected and those people would be listened to. Weíre talking about another democratically elected level of government, and a lot of these people have spent a lot of time and put a lot of energy ó a lot of blood, sweat and tears ó and a lot of consultation into their community developing land plans and regulations so that orderly development can proceed.
I donít know whether there has been a policy change around land dispositions and spot land applications since the Yukon Party came to government, or whether itís something that has happened since devolution, but what weíre seeing ó and not just in Mount Lorne, but also in other areas ó are applications for land that arenít consistent with the wishes of the community and arenít consistent with the draft regulations. They may be consistent with whatís called the Whitehorse periphery development area regulations, but theyíre 20 years old.
The community wants development to take place the way that itís envisioned now ó not the way it was envisioned 20 years ago when these other regulations were developed. There was this understanding that by developing new regulations and doing the hard work ó Iím not saying the government didnít participate in that, but the community did a lot of work consulting people in their community, working with government to come up with regulations that worked for their community and that worked with the government structure and are consistent with that so that development would be orderly and it would be consistent with the wishes of the community and the traditional uses of land in their community.
I know for sure of one application that has been approved that has caused concern in Mount Lorne. I believe people have a desire to own a piece of property to live on, to carry out their lives and their recreational activities and their hobbies. I think thatís good. But when we do that, when we have those pieces of land applied for and the government is the authority that approves them and says yes or no to them, and they go through the land application review process, the hamlet council and the citizens need to have a voice at that table. Unfortunately this isnít happening.
Then we have a situation as well where problems are identified with land development and arrangements are made to provide buffers so that everybodyís needs are taken care of and people can live together, but then they find out when they go to do the survey that that isnít necessarily feasible and so it goes back to the way it was. The people who thought they had negotiated this with the government, and thereís an established buffer between the pieces of property that allows for wildlife and allows for there to be some separation between properties ó weíre talking about a rural area ó and the pieces of property that weíre talking about are not that large. But there was a need identified and agreed to by the ministerís department and by the officials for a buffer, and then, lo and behold, it goes to be surveyed and the buffer is no longer there. And there is a land reserve there that the government could possibly use in the survey process that would accommodate the wishes of all individuals.
People are concerned because thereís flagging going up in various areas of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. People are looking at pieces of property and the concern is that theyíre not in control of the destiny of land development in their community.
The Minister of Community Services assured me that the Mount Lorne plan would be used to guide decisions in Mount Lorne around land disposition. Number one, Iíd like to know if the policy has changed on land dispositions and on spot land applications. Iíd like to know whether or not that policy has changed since the Yukon Party came to government or since devolution? Iíd also like to know what the minister is doing to guarantee that the input of local communities and the elected bodies in those communities is respectfully considered and listened to when the spot land applications come forward to his department.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Local planning is very important to us as a government and, of course, in the outlying areas ó not so much in the City of Whitehorse because community affairs branch handles the land in the city proper, along with the city ó but outside the City of Whitehorse and outside the municipalities, we do oversee the land, and we have set a process in place. We have LARC, the Land Application Review Committee, in place, and that process is to have input from all concerned citizens, First Nations and all the people who would be involved in the local area.
We have a commitment as a government to make the process streamlined. We certainly havenít changed anything through devolution or through the transition of government.
We are proceeding down the trail of making land available when we can. Certainly we have to prioritize. Prior to any proposal, we have to certainly talk to First Nations, relevant boards and committees, interested groups and the general public. So when the member opposite says weíre doing something different, I would say to the member opposite that if he is talking about specific problems ó in other words, issues out there that individuals have ó and we have constant issues out there ó certainly we address those issues as they come to us individually. But in the overall process of land in the outlying areas, we certainly work with LARC and we certainly work with the local planning groups and, again, we work with the appropriate First Nations and the boards and committees and interested groups and of course the general public. So if the member opposite is talking about a specific land problem in his riding, which is Mount Lorne, then that issue might be an issue we could solve for him and his constituent by addressing it in the lands branch.
So when we talk about the lands branch in Energy, Mines and Resources, we understand that, through devolution, that department took on a huge task to absorb all the issues that were out there from the federal government, from DIAND and we have done that over the last 12 months ó the lands branch has done a very amazing and well-orchestrated job on absorbing some of the issues that we inherited from the federal government that were out there and have been out there for a long period of time.
So I say that we have checks and balances in place. We have a process to involve the general public. We have a process to involve, of course, the First Nations and interested parties. I think, in my job as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, there are always land issues out there. There are decisions to be made, of course, in Energy, Mines and Resources, in the lands branch, that are made on a daily basis.
We certainly take into consideration any decision made by a planning group or LARC or a First Nation. We make those concessions and those considerations, but at the end of the day we also make decisions. So a lot of these boards out there are advisory boards and they advise the government on issues, and we listen to that advice. But as far as individual concerns ó and we have a large population in the Whitehorse area, and of course around Whitehorse we have ongoing issues with land, and we solve them. We solve them by them coming in with the issue, and we work with them to make sure that at the end of the day the land issues can be solved here in our department.
First of all, our obligation is to get land out there for the general public. That is an obligation that our government took on. We want to streamline it. We want to make it smoother. We want to be able to answer some of these questions that weíre answering today before we let the land out. We certainly hope that down the road this thing becomes a little tighter, and as we grow into this expanded department that we will be able to serve the Yukon people in a much quicker way when land is requested.
At the moment, we have LARC set up, which is a tool used by the general public, by interested groups, to make sure that when we do put land out there ó there are applications there ó there is a process for everybody. LARC can sit on the decision and make recommendations. Weíve got advisory boards out there that work with us on issues of land. At the end of the day, we certainly listen to advisory boards understanding that the reason we set up these advisory boards is because weíre not residents of those areas so we donít know the impact and we take their advice very seriously when they come back to us and advise us to do one thing or another.
To paint our lands branch into a corner and say that weíre not doing the job we were assigned to do is not correct, because we are doing the job. We have checks and balances in place. We involve as many people as we can who are interested to make sure the decision at the end of the day is the right decision. We always have individual problems, because there are people out there with different problems.
We have people who want lot extensions, we have agricultural land, and all these issues have to be addressed by this government. In working with the agricultural branch and the lands branch, as a government, we consolidated the offices so you donít have to go across town to talk to the agricultural branch and the lands branch. Weíre trying to consolidate and tighten up the decision-making process so, in a perfect world, itís a little faster, at the end of the day, and we get the job done.
Our job in the lands branch is to get the land out to Yukoners on demand and to fill the void of the shortage of land in the territory.
Itís a job that is not done. I guess itís one of those departments in the government where the job will never end. We will always have land issues in the Yukon. Yukoners have to be protected from decisions that government makes, and also planning committees and the LARC.
We have checks and balances and, at the end of the day, weíll always have individual problems but the overall process works. I think, at the end of the day, as we get land out there and mature and get more land out there, it will work to our benefit to have those advisory boards and LARC there so that, at the end of the day, we have a tool so everybody can come forward and address the issues at hand and move ahead with land dispositions in the Yukon, whether theyíre small, agricultural, residential or recreational. All those questions are out there, and thereís a demand out there for agricultural land, thereís a demand for recreational land, and thereís residential land. All those issues are out there; we just have to fine-tune it to make it so it can be done in a very efficient way. And our government is committed to doing that. Our lands branch is working toward that goal.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím not sure that the minister actually answered the question about whether or not any policies had changed. Just to clarify, I mentioned one specific instance, but only as an example. There is uncertainty in the community around what the governmentís intentions are.
I attended a meeting the other night. The Minister of Community Services had his people go through the draft land regulations for the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. And I appreciate the fact that he did that. I thank him for that, and it was very informative for the people there. The people on the hamlet council are incredibly knowledgeable about the process and the regulations, because they had a hand in crafting them and they understood them. They expect that when the government deals with land dispositions and land applications that the spirit and the effort that was put into those is going to be respected.
I know that itís not just in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. I know that this is happening in other areas as well. Itís happening in Lake Laberge. Iím sure the Member for Lake Laberge has been in receipt of letters involving problems with respect to land plans that were in place or that had been worked on. All that these people are asking is that the intent of the work that theyíve done be respected when land issues are dealt with. An incredible amount of effort has gone into this.
The question is pretty simple. I donít think that there needs to be any protection from hamlet councils, advisory committees or steering committees. What there needs to be is some respect for the work that they have done around land and the land uses in their community. All Iím asking the minister to do is ensure that theyíre in the process. Until these regulations are in place and come into effect, and there is an authority put in place by the government for dealing with land, Iím asking the minister to respect the work that has been done and listen to what the community is saying with regard to land development in areas where this work has been done.
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly respect the advisory boards out there. Government set up advisory boards for that reason, to advise us on issues that we have in certain areas in the Yukon, whether itís in Lake Laberge or Mount Lorne. Advisory boards are very important to us. Certainly we take their advice very seriously.
As far as policy change or regulations, or whatever, we work with all the citizens of the Yukon to make sure that every aspect of our population has input. The input is very seriously taken. So as far as the member opposite saying that the people out there are fearful of what we as a government or our policies are going to do, I give the member opposite the assurance that we arenít changing policy. Weíre working with the local advisory boards. Weíre working with LARC. Weíre working with all of the things that are put in place for checks and balances on land. We have issues of land. Itís all very easy for us, or any people who have land, to decide who gets the next parcel of land or other issues, but we have an obligation to answer the general public on land and we are doing that.
When we as a government, through devolution, took over the federal governmentís responsibility for land, there were issues in there that had been going on for years. There were some issues that we had to solve by making a decision, and those decisions were that we either work with the proponent ó in other words, there were people out there who had applications for 10 and 12 years and we as a government made some decisions to get those behind us and move forward.
But as far as the advisory committees out there, and LARC and these other groups, we certainly have an obligation to work with them and work with them in a positive fashion to get land out for the general population of the Yukon. People are asking for recreational land. Theyíre asking for residential land. Thereís a shortage of land out there. Thereís a shortage of agricultural land. We want to make sure that when a person wants residential land, he doesnít have to get an agricultural lease to do it. We want to be up front. We want a department thatís honest so the average Yukoner can come and apply for a residential rural lot without having to go through hoops and pretend that heís a placer miner.
We donít want that. We want an open and honest department where they can come and we have the resources to issue residential lots, agricultural leases and also recreation. So weíre trying to cover our bases for all the needs of the Yukon. Weíre not going to do it without listening to the advisory boards that are out there. And we have checks and balances to make sure the general public follows the rules of the land when they acquire land, whether itís recreation, agriculture or grazing leases. And all the other issues we work with on a daily basis are out there. We have an obligation to Yukoners to manage the land of the Yukon in a very respectful way, and the advisory boards are one of the tools we use on a daily basis to make those decisions.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the Member for Mount Lorne bringing up the issue of land. Iíd like to continue with those questions and just ask the minister for some more information in that regard, and then I have a couple of other questions for the minister to just clean up some of the issues we had left outstanding from yesterdayís debate.
With respect to land, this is a visceral issue with Yukoners. Itís as near and dear to our hearts as the size of fish weíre allowed to keep. Itís a huge issue with Yukoners. The problem with land is that the issues around agriculture parcels not being big enough to make a working farm and having to stake a claim for a piece of residential property are issues that are ó if I can use the word ó hangovers from the federal government in that, when we ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: They were a leftover issue from the federal governmentís time managing land. Part of the celebration about devolution was that we were finally able to manage our own land and able to provide Yukoners with access to land.
The problem that I would like to highlight for the minister is several-fold. Number one, there are outstanding issues around agriculture parcels and land ó placer mining issues. Theyíre outstanding issues. There are outstanding bodies left in the arrangement of LARC ó the Land Application Review Committee, I think, is the correct title. The problem is that Yukoners are not clear where they can go for their land application, and some of these outstanding issues we inherited. Itís not the ministerís fault, and itís not the public servantsí fault. Itís land policy, and the problem is weíre ending up with Yukoners, some of whom are saying, "I need that piece of land to expand it for agricultural purposes: I had a previous right," and his neighbour is saying, "Well, Iím finally able to apply to the Yukon government to expand my piece of property." Weíve got a set-up where weíre pitting neighbour against neighbour.
I want to do two things by outlining this situation to the minister. I want to highlight it for the minister. I want to emphasize that itís not the public servantsí fault that this has happened, and itís not the Yukonersí fault, who are having issues around land, and itís not the fault of LARC. What we need is ó to sound like my former colleague, the Member for Riverside ó a dispute resolution mechanism in the land issues. People are not happy with having to go through LARC. Theyíre deeply concerned, and theyíre hiring lawyers to try to resolve disputes between neighbours.
First of all, does the minister recognize this as an issue? Has he heard the same thing from Yukoners, and does he recognize this as an issue, and is he prepared to consider the idea of setting up some kind of a way to resolve these issues?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I understand, being a lifetime Yukoner, that the land issue has always been a question in the minds of most Yukoners ó access to land. Whether it was agricultural, mineral, residential or recreational, land issues have always been a hot issue for Yukoners. When we acquired the land through devolution, along with that ó as the member opposite pointed out ó we inherited some long-standing issues with land. Some of it had been going on for many years. I think the figure was something like 150 outstanding issues on land in Yukon, not just in the Whitehorse area but throughout the Yukon. The federal government had done some work in Dawson on the placer issue on long-standing investments on placer claims in the Dawson area. Of course, being the placer centre of the Yukon, there were issues about title, about people putting investments on the land and how a government would recognize that. The federal government, to give them their due, did come to some resolution on those questions.
As far as us, as a government, taking over the back issues and of course looking forward, as a government should always do, we had to address the issues behind us ó and I think the Member for Mount Lorne was issuing some of the questions on our issues with what was happening in individual situations in the past and how we addressed some of the problems with our advisory committees and some of the issues out there, the long-standing problems we had and issues on individual situations that were out there,
What we and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources did was, on April 1, we immediately integrated the lands and agricultural counters into one spot so we didnít have to run around the community going to agricultural and to lands. The client went there, which was beneficial to the client, but the departments were also working together, so that solved that problem in that respect.
Do we have some issues out there with land? We certainly do. Our government admits to that. Are we working on it? We are working on it. Weíre trying to get some policies in place. We have issues that come before us as a department on a daily basis and we solve them as weíre moving along. Weíre trying to shorten the line. Weíre trying to consolidate the 150 problems that were behind us and make those decisions and get them behind us so we again can work forward.
I think the department is doing as well as it can at the moment with the workload it has, but we are looking at policy. Weíre looking at how we can streamline it. By just making the one move, by consolidating that desk and consolidating those individuals behind the desk and the clients in front, I think that solved a bit of a them-and-us mentality. Hopefully that will bode well for the decisions that are made behind the desk.
As far as us as a government, we have committed to working on land, whether itís recreational, residential, agricultural or grazing leases. Itís a job in progress, and hopefully by the end of our term in office weíll be able to report a tighter, more streamlined process in all four of those issues, and weíre working toward that.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has recognized that there are issues and has said that theyíre trying to shorten the line ó letís say 150 issues were inherited. One of the problems with consolidating agriculture and the lands branch is that it, in part, has pitted Yukoner against Yukoner. And this idea that farmers get first call ó well, there are neighbours who would like to increase their residential size of land and they feel that the farmer next to them has some preconceived right to the land.
So the minister addressed the fact that the department is working on policy that is fair for Yukoners. I appreciate that. He said that theyíre working on cottage lots. Many Yukoners would like to have the title to that cabin at the lake or to be able to apply for it, so Iíd like to know when thereís an anticipated release of cottage lots. Thatís part of the question.
This is the issue Iím coming to the floor of the House with: youíve got a constituent who comes in and says, "I want to be able to increase my parcel of land and apply for this corner, which I was never able to get before. The farmer next to me has the ministerís ear, or has a preconceived right in the land in the agricultural." Thereís no place to go to resolve the dispute between those two neighbours, to mediate a dispute. Instead we have Yukoners hiring lawyers and lining up at the Ombudsmanís office.
My very real, very serious suggestion to the minister ó so both parties donít wind up in his office, and Yukoner against Yukoner and lawyersí letters and the Ombudsman dealing with this ó is: could we put in place some kind of a mediator in the department to resolve some of these land disputes? Because theyíre out there. Iíve had letters from constituents of the members opposite who have come to me and asked if I could help with this.
So Iím asking the minister to help these Yukoners. Would they consider that suggestion?
Hon. Mr. Lang: By being a very open government, we are open to ideas, and I agree with the member opposite. I think that we could put a dispute resolution process in place for those exact reasons and make it fair for all Yukoners. It would be a process that could solve the problems. It would keep it out of the ministerís office. There would be a neutral decision maker in place, and his decision would be final.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not going to push my luck and suggest that it could be a "his" or a "her" decision. Iím sure the minister intended it to be gender neutral.
I have a constituency case. I will send them to Hansard on this and ask them to contact the deputy minister directly so that this could be resolved. I very much appreciate the minister taking that suggestion.
Is there a response in terms of when Yukoners might be able to apply for cottage lots and where?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working on that. Itís probably two or three months away that we would have some resolution to spot recreational land, and that would be the public review part of it, so we are making steps toward that.
Ms. Duncan: "Where" is the part that wasnít answered. Are we looking at additional cottage lots in Destruction Bay? There are quite a number of recreational properties that were sold there a few years ago. Destruction Bay likes to suggest ó no offence, Mr. Chair, the Member for Southern Lakes ó that they are the fastest growing community in the Yukon, as opposed to Tagish. Is there any indication where, or can the minister even say?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I havenít been briefed on locations. The department is looking outside of Whitehorse so theyíre looking into the hinterland, per se, on that. Hopefully in the next couple of months they will have something in front of me so we can move on with the decision-making.
Ms. Duncan: Iíll look forward to the ministerís progress in that particular area.
There is money in the budget ó weíre in general debate on the budget, and if I might ask about this before we leave the land issue ó for new agricultural land development. I think the figure is about $100,000. Is this part of the policy work the minister has talked about, or is this specific area where the government intends to develop or release agricultural lots? What is the departmentís intention in this respect?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The $100,000 is for agricultural planning and also some actual agricultural land in the Haines Junction area.
Ms. Duncan: I believe thatís the Brewster development Iíve seen advertised in the papers recently.
I just have a few questions around mining and forestry with the ministerís department and then would be prepared to move on.
With regard to mining, I had asked the minister on Monday what the estimate was for mineral exploration for this year, and he had said we did not yet have a figure from the Yukon Chamber of Mines; yet today when he stood on this feet, he said the estimate for this year is $20 million. So did he get that figure from the Chamber of Mines or is this the departmentís best guess?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the information of the leader of the third party, there is going to be a release of the figure. Iíve been told informally that itís over $20 million for this coming year. I imagine that the information should be out next week.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to go back just briefly to a couple of issues we touched on yesterday. The minister and I went around at great length about royalty and ownership and resource revenues and the settlement of land claims, and a number of other comments were made on the record by the minister. I would just like to make a couple of points with respect to the ministerís comments in Hansard, which I did take the opportunity to briefly review.
The minister said that nobody in the government, the Yukon Party, sat on their hands. Well, I would suggest to the minister opposite that nobody in the previous government sat on their hands either with a concluded devolution deal, one signed agreement and four other signed and completed memorandums of understanding with First Nations. No government, and certainly not the one previous to his, sat on their hands.
With respect to rights and who owns the resources, when asked about the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and White River, if they owned 100 percent of the forestry resources, the ministerís response was, "I guess itís a question for negotiators to settle at the table." Yet when he made reference to the Kaska, he said, "Yes, they do own 100 percent of their First Nation resources." So thereís a difference in the ministerís statements there. Neither have settled and signed agreements.
There are agreements in principle that have yet to go to ratification, in the case of White River. And the minister said that they havenít asserted their right. The Kaska have been funded into these discussions. There is a different treatment here, and Iím concerned about that. The minister has said that they treat all First Nations the same, and he also says that theyíd like to see all 14 First Nations settle, but they are going to work with them regardless of whether theyíve settled or not ó absolutely, we should be working with them. However, I would encourage the minister to work within the framework of the Umbrella Final Agreement and of a settled land claim agreement.
So there are outstanding issues with regard to resources, with regard to ownership and revenues and royalties that the minister has not answered. I would like to clear these up for the record briefly. I donít want to endlessly rag the puck, as the saying goes, on this particular debate.
First of all, what is the current status with respect to ownership, either in R blocks or traditional territory for the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and White River First Nation on forestry resources?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To correct the member opposite, yesterday in the debate when I mentioned 100 percent of the Kaska or southeast Yukon, I was talking about their selected lands. Those selected lands are R blocks, and they are part and parcel of the process of land claims. The Carcross-Tagish group, with the unsuccessful vote they had the other day on the land claim, they legally go back to being an Indian band under the federal government.
They have an asserted aboriginal right in their area and we have to address that. As far as our government is concerned with respect to the land and forest question in that part of the Yukon in their traditional territory, we would address their aboriginal right to those resources. As far as ownership, in the Carcross-Tagish area, it would be that the Crown owns the resources but the First Nations have asserted an aboriginal right over the whole area, so until a land claim is settled, those resources are, in essence, in a grey area because the First Nation has an aboriginal right in the area, they have a claim, and the Government of Canada and the First Nation have to come to some resolution of that claim.
Ms. Duncan: If Carcross-Tagish First Nation do not have a settled land claim, neither do the Kaska, and the Kaska are a transboundary First Nation to further complicate the matter. So if the Carcross-Tagish First Nation have an unsettled land claim and are in a grey area with respect to ownership of their resources, or the resources on traditional territory, why arenít the Kaska ó who are a transboundary First Nation, to further complicate the issue ó in the same grey area?
The minister is on public radio saying no, they own 100 percent of the resources in their traditional area. So why is there a different treatment? Whatís the difference?
Hon. Mr. Lang: When a land claim isnít settled, thereís a grey area. This government is taking a very proactive stand on how weíre going to deal with First Nations. If the Carcross-Tagish group had some potential resource extraction in their traditional territory, we would work with them to make sure it would benefit the First Nation and also Yukoners as a whole.
Weíve taken the proactive stand that the southeast Yukon has some resources that we could all benefit from. As far as the Kaska land claim is concerned, they have selected land blocks. Out of that selected land block with the memorandum of understanding that the previous government signed on a commitment of how to manage the forest in southeast Yukon, taking that one step forward and actually putting it to work, the Kaska came forward with the deal and said that they would incorporate their selected land. We would then have 100 percent of their selected land plus the other resources in southeast Yukon so we could come up with a forest industry that would work for the Kaska First Nation and all Yukoners.
As far as "them" and "us" and the routine that we had done in the past, pointing fingers at each other, which, at the end of the day, Mr. Chair, is not productive, we have taken a very proactive stand. Weíre going ahead with partnering with all First Nations. We understand that the Carcross-Tagish group has different resources in their traditional territory, and we deal with every First Nation as a government and also as a partnership. So when the member opposite says the Kaska territory is the same as the Carcross-Tagish First Nationís territory, thatís not correct. We have a memorandum of understanding signed with the Kaska that commits us in forestry, Mr. Chair, to incorporate the Kaskas in the management of the resource, and they have to share in the resource. So they have to gain some resources themselves in the management plan. Now, we have gone and done that. We have lived up to that memorandum of understanding. That memorandum of understanding is in place until 2005, Mr. Chair.
Now, as far as YOGA is concerned, in southeast Yukon, that is very clear. That is very clear; we cannot, in unsettled traditional territory, have oil exploration or gas exploration without the blessing of the resident First Nation.
Thatís very clear in YOGA, so that is a veto, in essence, in southeast Yukon. Weíve been working with the Kaska in a very productive way, in a partnership, that at the end of the day the improvements to the existing wells in southeast Yukon will go ahead. Dispositions in southeast Yukon are a priority to our government, because there are huge resources there that all Yukoners could benefit from, but weíre going to do it in partnership with the First Nation. So itís not who owns 100 percent of the resource. We understand that the selected land ó A land blocks ó are owned by the First Nations. Itís selected land that the First Nations selected, whether itís the Liard First Nation or the Ross River Dena, and certainly land they will acquire when the land settlement is done.
Weíre looking at it from todayís point of view and moving forward with those partnerships and benefiting all who will benefit from the resources of those areas. So we are certainly not closing the door on the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. We canít speak for the First Nation, but weíre willing to work in any resource-based economic situation in full partnership with that First Nation if it pertains to their traditional territory. We have 14 First Nations in the Yukon, and weíre going to be working with all First Nations as full partners on resource harvesting in their traditional territory, so the days of "them" and "us" are over. We are partnering in the Yukon for the betterment of all Yukoners. That includes First Nations and all other Yukoners.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is not going to see that others ó and Iím not alone in this respect ó have another point of view about the governmentís aspect. I think weíve rolled the R15 block transfer into the memorandum of understanding agreement and a few more things several times now and we have had the repeat of the lecture on YOGA.
I am very familiar with the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. I was in this House when the act was passed and voted on it. Iím very familiar with it. Iím not going to argue with the minister endlessly about this subject. Weíll agree to disagree on it.
However, I will ask for this: will the minister commit that I can have a meeting to discuss the governmentís point of view on this particular issue with the senior public servants of Energy, Mines and Resources and the land claims department? Can I have that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are an open government. The member opposite, the leader of the third party, should have access to our civil servants. I will agree that my senior DM would meet with her and hopefully I can answer for ECO with the land claims secretariat.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much.
If I could just have an update from the minister ó he hasnít answered this question, although he was prepared to answer it ó on the funding that has been transferred through a number of contribution agreements with the Kaska First Nation. What is the current total of that funding? I note, for example, there was $150,000 for resource management planning in the supplementary budget. Do we have any sort of reports out of that funding arrangement or do we have any kind of assessment of the effectiveness of this expenditure of funds?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be fair on this, I donít have those figures at my fingertips but I will get them to her, and also the product.
Ms. Duncan: As I understand it, the information would include ó thereís economic round table funding, thereís probably oil and gas funding, and thereís also some money under the forestry funding that came from the federal government. If I could have a summary spreadsheet of the funding and then the product out of it, I would appreciate that information. The minister has indicated he would provide that information.
There was Order-in-Council 2004/24, Territorial Lands Act, which is called the Kaska Mining Regulations. Iíve read through this order-in-council on several occasions. What is the purpose of passing a specific mining regulation with reference to the Kaska First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The legal department recommended this process instead of going through the Lands Act, instead of going through the Mining Act, with the transfer of the R15 block to the First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: So this Kaska mining regulation is unique to this R15 block. Does it have any broader policy impact upon, for example, the free entry system, or have all of those tenets of the mining industry been respected in this regulation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís why we did it the way we did it, to make sure that we didnít infringe on any other situations in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: So does the minister anticipate doing other regulations, say for White River, similar to this if they should so desire ó and their land selection is smaller than the Kaska land selection? Does the minister anticipate ó letís compare apples to apples ó the Acho Dene Koe, given the Premierís commitment to that negotiation in a transboundary claim, in recognition of that, should an R block be transferred to the Acho Dene Koe? Do we anticipate a mining regulation for them? Or, letís use a Yukon First Nation, the White River First Nation ó do we anticipate having to do a mining regulation such as this for them?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, we work with all First Nations equally. So of course the White River First Nation would be treated the same as the Kaska. The issue about ADK, southeast Yukon, they donít have an R block, so those issues would have to be addressed, I imagine, if in fact an R block was issued to them. At this point, they donít have an R block in our jurisdiction.
Ms. Duncan: Also with the devolution transfer, there were the type II mine sites and the mine sites and the reclamation work that have been transferred to the Yukon government. We have an agreement, as I understand it, with United Keno Hill, or there is an agreement to look after the mine site. What is the arrangement? How did this come about, and who has been contracted, at what cost and what are the details of that arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Pertaining to United Keno Hill, of course, it is a type II site. We do have an arrangement to manage this site, and that, of course, is through the federal government. Weíre managing it with Access engineering and, of course, the local First Nation. Theyíre on-site, and theyíre actually maintaining the site at the moment. As far as the company itself, it is now in receivership, and itís going through the process of closing the actual physical corporation. So that process is going through at the moment. Thatís being handled by a receiver. But the site itself is being managed independently, with Access and the First Nation being the two components of managing the site itself physically.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to focus in on this issue for a moment. Iím going to use the figure of $4.6 million. As I understand it, that is the budget figure. These type II mine sites ó thereís $4.6 million, the money is transferred to the Yukon government, the Yukon government is given the responsibility to manage the reclamation work of the type II mine sites. I see nodding so Iím understanding and quoting the process correctly.
How does the process work from there? As I understand it, the government has sole-sourced Access Mining Consultants and Na Cho Nyäk Dun to look after the reclamation of this type II site. What rules apply? Weíre sole-sourcing. We have our own contracting rules for sole-sourcing. Do we follow those? What about Yukon hire?
I understand this is part of Na Cho Nyäk Dunís traditional territory so that would make sense. Would the minister outline what the process is for selecting the manager, if you will, or selecting those doing the reclamation work? Faro is court-ordered; itís a receivership. United Keno Hill is the example weíre talking about now and the department has sole-sourced this. They havenít asked to put it out to tender for all Yukoners, so what process did they go through in doing that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We did inherit a process from the federal government on these type II sites. We certainly involved the First Nation whose traditional territory this mine site is located in. United Keno Hill is being managed by Access and by Na Cho Nyäk Dun. They manage the site; theyíre not reclaiming the mine, per se. All theyíre doing is maintaining the mine as it is today, so as far as how we do it, we work with the First Nation. As far as Yukon hire, we encourage it. In the case of United Keno Hill, Mayoís input is very important.
What we have done is inherited a process. Weíre carrying on with that process.
Once we get through this receivership with United Keno Hill, we can look forward to closure, so that either we can bring this mine back into inventory very quickly or close it completely. Thatís a commitment we have made in conjunction with the federal government. As a management tool, the government puts together a budget. We present it to the federal government, and they fund it up front, and we move forward with that, and we manage the site and manage the resources that the federal government gives us.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if Iím understanding the minister correctly, he has said that the process of determining who will manage the site is a process weíve inherited from the federal government. Iím not sure if this is proper English: we didnít Yukonize the process and say that we want to add all our requirements, such as X amount of local hire and memoranda of understanding with the First Nation and these sorts of requirements. We didnít add them. Itís a process the federal government had in place, and we have simply adopted it. We havenít changed it or improved upon it in a Yukon way ó is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly have carried through with what DIAND was doing before devolution. We certainly are conscious of Yukon hire. And on the sites, I can report to the House that the majority of the people there are Yukon workers ó understanding that in a situation as we talked about United Keno Hill, it needs an engineering firm to oversee the actual project because of the nature of the mine. It is a local firm that was hired by DIAND. They did an excellent job. They work well with the local First Nation. The First Nation is supplying the manpower to do the majority of the work on the site. And, of course, as we get into reclaiming the mine, there will be, I imagine, a different process, a Yukon-made process as we close the mine, and we need different kinds of expertise to do that.
Ms. Duncan: So in United Keno Hill, weíre talking about managing the site and the selection of the manager and the work with the Na Cho Nyäk Dun, and the selection of the manager was a process inherited by the federal government. So when we move to close that mine, or reclaim that mine, or put it back on the market ó the next steps ó when we move to the next steps, what process are we using? Is it one the minister is working on putting in place? What process are we going to use to determine who will actually do the reclamation work? Thereís a great deal of reclamation work. Itís a significant amount of money, so how is the government going to choose who does that? What process is in place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The receiver whoís in place at the moment, his obligation is not only to straighten out the corporation and get it ready for sale, but part of his contract is to sell the mine. At that point, these kinds of decisions will be made, whether itís sold, and the owners would have an obligation. In fact, if itís not sold, then we would have to step in, in conjunction with the federal government, and move it to closure. At that point, we would be better able to answer that question on how that process would work.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, Iíll await the next steps on that particular property.
Iíd like to also ask about the other properties in the Yukon. Whatís the current status then of the BYG property with respect to this reclamation of orphaned, abandoned mine sites, type II, and so on ó all of these buzzwords we throw around? Where is it in the current status?
Hon. Mr. Lang: United Keno Hill and BYG have both been put into receivership and both of them are being managed in the same way from the receiver point of view. The Carmacks-Little Salmon First Nation is in partnership with Ketza Construction. Again, itís a carry-over from DIAND. Theyíre managing the site. The receiver has instructions not only to straighten out the corporate structure but also if thereís a potential sale, and if there is no potential sale at that point, weíre bringing it back into inventory and at that point we have to make the move in conjunction with the federal government to close the mine. Those kinds of decisions will be made then, the same as United Keno Hill.
Ms. Duncan: Itís not unheard of for there to be a time frame put on the receivers to reach a conclusion on these processes. Is there a time frame in United Keno Hill and BYG, and what are they?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are very conscious of time. We have a commitment by the receiver that they will have the legalities done and a plan in place in no later than eight months, and hopefully around six months, for both sites.
Ms. Duncan: Eight months from now, May 11? Or eight months from what date?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre in by a month now. The commitment was when they were appointed ó that was the timeline.
Ms. Duncan: They were appointed about a month ago, as I understand from the minister. Thatís BYG and United Keno Hill. What about Clinton Creek? Whatís the current status there?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The stabilization project at Clinton Creek is commencing or was commenced in 2002. The local First Nation is managing the site. There are some issues that have to be addressed this year. Clinton Creek will have approximately $2 million spent on the site this year. There are some decisions to be made over the waste, on how that will be managed. Thereís also some water seepage into the Yukon River, which is being addressed. Clinton Creek, of all our type II mines, is probably closer to closure than any of the seven we have ó well, the actual five we have that are active at the moment.
Ms. Duncan: Do we have a time frame on Clinton Creek?
And when the minister is on his feet, he started to talk about the expenditures for Clinton Creek. Could I have a breakdown of the $4.6 million thatís being transferred from the federal government to the territorial government for this reclamation? Could I have a breakdown of how that money is being spent, by mine site?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We would definitely give you the figures.
The figures that come to mind, the ballpark figure for all the type II sites ó there will be $20 million spent this year in the Yukon on the type II sites in managing and addressing the problems these type II sites have. Of that figure, thereís $13 million that will be spent on Yukon contractors and Yukon labour. The other $7 million is spent on expertise not available in the Yukon. Thatís a fairly large input to the Yukon economy and itís certainly working. That money is being spent in areas of the Yukon that need those kinds of resources and that kind of beefing up of the economy.
As a territorial government, hand in hand with the federal government, weíre addressing these issues and we do have them in hand at the moment. Weíre certainly looking toward moving toward closure. The federal government is really concerned about getting these liabilities behind them so theyíre working in unison with us to get these jobs done sooner than later.
Ms. Duncan: Pardon me, Iím confused. The minister has said $20 million will be spent, but the line item in the budget is $4.6 million for assessment and abandoned mines, Yukon First Nations, for reclamation of type II mines ó thatís the line item. Whereís the different figure? A legislative return on where the money is being spent is fine.
Hon. Mr. Lang: That includes the Faro site.
Ms. Duncan: Iím glad he raised the issue of the Faro site. So $4.6 million then is being spent on the type II sites such as United Keno Hill, BYG, Clinton Creek. Those are three I can think of. Can the minister tell us the other sites? He mentioned seven, I believe it was.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To correct the member opposite, I think itís going to be closer to $8 million when you take into consideration United Keno Hill. So that figure is going to be $8 million and then roughly $12 million spent. These are all just ballpark figures in the Faro reclamation and management of that site.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister state for the record that all of this money is a transfer from the federal government? Itís not in actual fact a cost to Yukon, but with the devolution agreement ó these were permanent under the federal governmentís watch and therefore the federal government pays. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes. Through devolution and through the obligations we accepted on management of the sites, we also negotiated after devolution the workplan system on how we would get paid before the jobs were done. So the money is forwarded to us. We manage the money, we manage the sites, but in fact weíre doing it for the federal government. They totally are responsible for 100 percent of those expenditures.
Ms. Duncan: Faro is currently under receivership. Thatís being dealt with by the receiver, and employing a number of Yukoners as well. Is there any change in that status or any change anticipated in the reclamation work and the work being undertaken now by the receiver?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, itís still in interim receivership and itís being managed. Of course, until that is resolved, it will stay managed by the receiver appointed by the courts.
Ms. Duncan: Itís my understanding that the forestry legislation is anticipated for 2005 and that the department is currently working on it. Is that time frame correct? And if I could have ó are we looking at fall, 2005?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, we certainly are looking at the fall of 2005 to have that finished.
Ms. Duncan: I have no further questions in general debate and would recommend to the House that all lines in Vote 53 be deemed cleared or carried as required.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: I just wanted to follow up on the governmentís developing lots in subdivisions for sale. I know the leader of the third party asked about Destruction Bay. Itís also a matter Iíve asked about before and had passed on the desire of the community to develop a subdivision on this side of the latest one there. I believe itís Glacier Acres. We understand itís not in this budget, but is it on the drafting board? Can the minister give us any idea of it at all in regard to timing for the development of that potential subdivision, or is it something heís not looking at?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Can I get the member to clear up the name of the subdivision or the community? I didnít get that; Iím sorry.
Mr. McRobb: Certainly, Mr. Chair. It would be just south of Destruction Bay and south of the Glacier Acres subdivision, which was the most recent area opened for lot development.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be honest with the member opposite, I will have to get back to him on that. I will commit to getting back to him on that.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 53, Energy, Mines and Resources, cleared or carried
Chair:Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, cleared or carried as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $31,952,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $5,103,000 agreed to
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Okay, we will take our regular 15-minute break.
Chair: I will call the Committee to order. We will continue with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Mr. McRobb: On behalf of the minister, I would like to thank all the hard-working employees in this department who go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our highways are as safe and travelable as possible. Thank you.
Chair: We will continue with Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works.
Department of Highways and Public Works
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíd like to thank the member opposite for that.
Iím pleased to rise today to speak to the Department of Highways and Public Works 2004-05 budgets. In the coming months we will invest $72,482,000 in operations and maintenance and $71,409,000 in capital expenditures throughout the Yukon. This budget is about making Yukon a better place, about strengthening our communities and families and putting money in Yukonersí wallets. I am pleased to tell this House that we are making historical investments in the Yukon. We are putting pavement on our highways, improving our roads, upgrading our buildings and significantly enhancing our information technology. We are key partners in the enhancement of our Whitehorse waterfront. We are upgrading bridges. We are continuing our investment and our record of building a better Yukon.
Let me remind the House of the work my department oversees in key day-to-day systems and services our citizens need and use, including: the very buildings the government uses to conduct businesses and from which many programs and services are delivered; maintenance and operation of the schools and post-secondary facilities where our children learn; maintenance and operation of the arts facilities where our citizens contribute to or observe the creativity of those in this great territory; care of the nursing stations that provide medical services to Yukoners; the roads used to connect to families, communities, workplaces and recreation sites; the airports used by Yukoners and those from Outside to link our great territory to other centres in Canada and abroad; the information and communication technologies that link our educational facilities, offices, homes, and emergency personnel, as well as government systems that process the driversí licences, court proceedings and social support payments.
These services are provided through the management of many assets that are both valuable to our government and to our culture. Our government is and will continue to make the necessary investments to ensure the integrity and longevity of these assets over time.
For example, more than $1.1 million will be invested to rehabilitate and maintain the buildings that house our critical transportation services and equipment. The workplan for this year includes replacement of heating and air handling systems, roof work, window and overhead door replacements as well as yard resurfacing, fuel storage enhancements and painting. The work will be carried out at highway maintenance and aviation support buildings. We are also undertaking projects such as the removal of underground fuel tanks in an effort to maintain our environmental stewardship and practices.
Most of the work will be done by small local contractors who are dependent on this type of opportunity. By doing the maintenance and making upgrades, we are putting Yukoners to work, we increase the overall efficiency of the transportation system, and we create a safe work environment for our staff.
Mr. Chair, more than $1.3 million will be invested in publicly owned buildings this year to increase energy efficiency, reduce operating and maintenance costs, and extend the longevity of the structures.
The $1.36 million worth of work will range from reroofing, repainting, paving, upgrading heating and ventilation systems to the replacement of carpets, windows and siding. These activities are based on the Highways and Public Works priority ranking system. Our foremost concern is to eliminate any danger that will impact an individualís health or safety. We then look at deterioration, maintenance to prevent deterioration and lastly aesthetics.
The following projects are among the many planned for this year: Yukon College in Whitehorse, flooring; Haines Junction administration building, handicap access; Old Territorial Administration Building in Dawson, level the foundation; Mayo administration building, roof replacement.
The majority of this work will flow through local contractors and workers. Mr. Chair, by maintaining and upgrading publicly owned buildings and properties, we are protecting our investments and putting our trades to work.
My department works to ensure citizens have access to materials in both of Canadaís official languages. The Bureau of French Language Services provides French training for staff and people like me. They also ensure the translation of materials into French for our French-speaking Yukoners. This year the bureau will continue to provide training and exceptional services through a $1.5-million allocation.
Mr. Chair, the airports that connect us to the outside world and bring the world to us are managed through my department. We want to ensure that these facilities provide the appropriate security detection to ensure safe comings and goings, a pleasant welcoming environment for travellers and a comfortable place for people to relax and wait prior to their departures or arrivals.
Close to $1.5 million is being invested in the Whitehorse Airport improvements as part of upgrading funded by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, commonly known as CATSA, and the Yukon government. The departure gate areas will be upgraded and additional equipment installed to ensure the safest possible environment for our visitors and residents using the facility.
Work will begin later this summer on a new air terminal building in Old Crow. The first step is the installation of a foundation, which is phase 1 out of a three-phase project. Next year the estimated $1.8-million air terminal building will be constructed. In year 3, the old terminal building site will be rehabilitated, the apron expanded and the groundwork completed. The project will cost an estimated $2.3 million and provide 309 square metres of building space. The existing building covers a mere 90 square metres. Construction on the air terminal building was a top priority of the Vuntut Gwitchin Old Crow physical development plan.
We are putting money into what makes Yukon unique in the north ó our network of roads. While all the roads are fundamental to our success, the Shakwak has provided a continuing source of challenge and success for us. The Shakwak project is a critical component of our transportation work. Seven Shakwak projects are planned for this year to help ensure our key highways and corridors with Alaska are upgraded and maintained. Close to $17 million worth of work on the Alaska Highway will be undertaken this year under the Shakwak agreement between Canada and the United States.
Over the past 25 years, the Shakwak agreement has funded complete reconstruction of the Haines Road, some of the Alaska Highway reconstruction north of Haines Junction, as well as a major reconstruction of the highway north and south of Burwash Landing. Mr. Chair, Iím pleased to tell you that of the first four highway contracts that have been awarded this season, including two for the Shakwak, all four have gone to Yukon firms, and that means jobs for Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, weíre also making significant investments on our roads and highways elsewhere in the Yukon. A two-year, $2.76-million road reconstruction project will get underway this summer just south of Dawson, creating a safer right-of-way for motorists, neighbouring properties and highway users. The project plans call for the rebuilding of 5.1 kilometres of highway between Callison industrial subdivision south of town and Crocus Bluff, the rock outcrop on the southern outskirts of Dawsonís commercial area. The highway work will include strengthening the roadbed, the addition of wider shoulders, turning lanes, intersection upgrades, reconfiguration of some of the access points and, finally, resurfacing. The shoulder addition will provide a much-needed safety buffer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. The newly constructed Centennial Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail, will be retained.
Mr. Chair, the Campbell Highway offers key access to resource-rich southeast Yukon, recreation areas and communities. Iím pleased to report that close to $4.8 million will be invested along the route this year. Investment in highways will benefit all users, including the residents of Ross River and Faro, as well as the workers and contractors who will partner with us on these improvements.
Mr. Chair, major work on the Tagish Road this summer will bring that route up to an 80-kilometre-an-hour standard and improve safety conditions. The $1.5-million project will bring the road to a uniform width, reduce some of the curves, improve sight lines at major intersections, and provide a BST surface to the entire route. The resurfacing will greatly improve the safety of the road during wet weather when the current dust-treated gravel section can become quite slippery. This year the government will invest $1.4 million to reconstruct the eastern section of the road from kilometre 6.5 to 14. Contractors will reduce sharp curves and some grades, as well as widen the roadbed. BST is expected to be applied to this section next year.
Further along the route, this summer we will apply BST and revegetate the western section of the road from kilometre 14.4 to 20.7. The upgrades will also help economize on the roadís maintenance cost.
Mr. Chair, we are also making necessary investments to other aspects of our infrastructure along our roads and highways. The 59-year-old Teslin River bridge in the south Yukon will undergo a $2.9-million rehabilitation with funding from the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund and the Yukon government. Under the rehabilitation plan, the Government of Canada will invest $1.4 million while the Government of Yukon will invest $1.5 million to help upgrade the bridge to the current earthquake and road-width standards. Seismic retrofit work that began last year will be completed this summer.
We are taking steps to upgrade the bridge components to help ensure its continuing safety and durability in the face of increasing and heavier traffic.
In October, the Government of Canada committed $15 million under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund to upgrade some of the Yukonís other key bridges and to continue highway reconstruction north of Whitehorse. The Yukon government put forth matching funds for the approved project. This project will help ensure the longevity and safety of our highway system.
Mr. Chair, we are also taking strong, positive steps to build our communities and invest in their well-being. By undertaking projects there in support of our transportation system, we are putting local contractors to work and supporting home-town merchants. One such example, Mr. Chair, is the new weigh scale we are building in Watson Lake this year.
The new facility will be built on the same site using the same scale, but the building will face the highway and provide an improved environment for truckers and the carrier compliance staff.
This project will provide a safer facility for users and staff and it will allow us to replace a 30-year-old building that is increasingly costly to maintain and operate. This project will bring badly needed economic benefits to the Watson Lake community through supply purchases and employment for building trades.
We are also a key partner in a showcase undertaking in Whitehorse. The government is making significant investments in information and communication technology this year. Highways and Public Works will invest over $2.8 million in capital to replace outdated systems, increase compatibility across departments, and enhance overall efficiency. We will replace obsolete hardware and software that is instrumental to government programs but no longer supported or serviced by the vendors. Moreover, some of the systems that house and process key government data, such as motor vehicles, driver registrations and local income assistance applications, are outdated and not addressing new business needs. These initiatives are part of the government-wide $5.8-million investment to boost our IT abilities. Upgrading these and other systems is key to the continued management of assets as well as the security and integrity of critical government and citizen information. By making these IT investments, we will develop a partnership with and draw upon local services and private sector expertise. This will in turn support and help to build IT capacity within this important sector of the Yukon economy.
I would like to highlight some of the features of our operation and maintenance budget of $72,482,000. We are investing additional money in the maintenance of our highways and in particular the Dempster Highway. We are faced with extreme weather conditions on our roads and highways, and my department is doing everything it can to ensure our roads are as safe and well-maintained as possible. The additional O&M investments will help us do that.
We are, like most Yukoners, faced with increased postage costs and fuel expenditures. As businesses and governments know too well, insurance costs have also risen to an all-time high. We are also funding the contract settlement with our employees and applaud them for their dedication and hard work as we roll out an ambitious program this year. Our O&M costs reflect the additional demands of these increases, but we are doing all we can to hold the line wherever possible.
Mr. Chair, my departmentís role in government is broad, and our plans for this year are very determined. We are making a positive difference in the everyday lives and activities of Yukoners. We do it by putting Yukoners to work, both on the actual job site and through the many hands that benefit from that paycheque.
In the past few weeks, my department has awarded six contracts worth close to $20 million. Every one of those contracts has gone to a Yukon firm. Mr. Chair, the dollars and the paycheques handed to workers on these projects will circulate through our territory many times. These paycheques provide housing, meals, new clothes, an evening at the movie, and likely a vehicle to get there and back. Money from that paycheque will be left at the gas station, the drug store, the grocery store, the pizza outlet, the movie rental shop, and in many other hands across our territory. Those hands will in turn make purchases, pay employees and support families. Mr. Chair, our budget makes investment in our roads, our buildings, our airports, our technology, our culture and, most importantly, our people. The actions and funding commitments I have outlined today will help us move forward and build a better Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the minister for those opening comments. As I mentioned earlier, I really think we owe a debt of gratitude to all the hard-working employees in this department. I know that virtually every community in the territory has personnel who work for Department of Highways and Public Works, and in many cases these people work around the clock in times of severe weather challenges and so on to ensure that our highways can be travelled. There are many other parts of the department as well where all Yukoners owe a debt of gratitude to these employees.
About one-third of this main budget can be accounted for in this department. There is some $230 million of spending in this department, which is rather significant. So there is a lot to review. But even so, there are a number of large ticket items such as highway reconstruction, where each project accounts for millions of dollars. And we donít anticipate too many questions along those lines.
We do expect to pass through this department fairly diligently. Weíre still waiting for the government House leader to tell us which department is up next. It is expected of him to give us proper notice in that regard. We have yet to receive that courtesy from him, so hopefully heís listening and will let us know whatís next so we can be prepared.
That being said, thereís a lot of good news in this departmentís budget. As the minister indicated, the major contracts let so far have gone to Yukon firms, and that is a good thing. Itís probably a result of Yukon companies being more competitive and realizing their Yukon advantage in terms of placement of machinery and local knowledge, an existing workforce and so on, Mr. Chair, which is good. Itís probably also in part due to smaller contracts being let, where itís not quite as attractive for outside firms to bid on jobs in the Yukon.
Reducing the size of the contracts is quite important. I believe itís consistent with the recommendations in the Yukon hire commission final report. Indeed, that leads to the hiring of more Yukoners, as is evident from the practice now.
I want to start off with a question to the minister. I asked him if he could retable the Shakwak information from a few weeks back. I didnít get the information from him and Iím still waiting for him to provide it, as he indicated he would. Would he mind passing that over?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, Iíll double-check on that but Iím sure we forwarded the information or it was tabled in the House. Either way, we will try to get it off to him.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, the information was tabled, Mr. Chair. Itís just that I didnít get it.
I would like to go back to a positive thing, Mr. Chair, and that is the information that was provided by the minister and his officials in a handout booklet entitled "Technical Briefing, April 8, 2004". I believe that this is the only department out of the entire Yukon government that provided opposition members with an information booklet. We really do appreciate that, Mr. Chair. Thank you again to the minister for allowing it to pass through. Maybe he had to go to great lengths to hide it from the government House leader. Whatever it took, Mr. Chair, we are grateful on this side to receive it.
I think the other ministers should take note and also understand that there is nothing to fear in letting the opposition members have the information they request about their departments, instead of hiding it.
Mr. Chair, I want to follow up on the Shakwak questions. I will probably have more later once I get the information he tabled, which I believe pertained to the future funding agreement the minister claimed he had with the U.S. government, or the Alaskan government ó one or the other. I want to ask him about his sign policy. I have asked about this before. As we all know, the Shakwak highway reconstruction project takes place within my riding of Kluane, so I am quite familiar with it.
Constituents, all the time, ask me about the highway signs. In big, bold letters it has the Premierís name and title and the Highways ministerís name and title. Quite often, I am asked why it doesnít just say, "Paid for by Uncle Sam" or something to that effect. Would the minister consider that? I think it would be of positive benefit to our travellers and it would reduce their propensity to complain about the highways if, in fact, they know itís their government that is paying for it. Would he consider something like that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If the member opposite remembers, previously in this House I committed to the fact that I wouldnít put my picture on the sign, so he doesnít need to go on that basis. We are following past practices on this particular issue as far as the Shakwak goes. I will take his suggestions under consideration.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair, but thatís a rather unimaginative solution and I beg the minister to be more creative. Thereís nothing stopping him from putting a picture of Uncle Sam on that sign, letting those travellers know that the construction is paid for and is the responsibility of the United States government.
Now the minister did allude to what is my next question. I understand it was a Liberal government policy to put pictures of the minister and the Premier on the signs. I just want to get on record to clarify this, that this government wonít be adopting that Liberal government policy and putting pictures of the minister and Premier on those road construction signs. Can he confirm that for me?
Hon. Mr. Hart: On the sign issue, there are specific signs on the extensions for the project crediting the U.S. government and we are utilizing them at the present time.
Mr. McRobb: I would like the minister to think about the safety of the travellers when theyíre going by and looking at the signs. We certainly donít want to be responsible for accidents.
I want to ask about the Alaska Highway. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources likes to go on and on about how heís pipeline-ready. I know the Highways minister was listening for most of that debate, and he heard me identify some potential projects within his area of responsibility that could fall within the area described as being pipeline-ready. For instance, widening of the Alaska Highway for passing lanes between the areas of transport for the pipe, a greater number of pullouts along the highway to allow the commercial truck traffic to pull over and people to pass ó these are the types of projects that I would like to have the minister identify that he has considered in the context of becoming pipeline-ready.
Hon. Mr. Hart: When it comes to pullouts for traffic and dealing with issues of truckers, itís usually based on safety. These pullouts can be done on a very quick basis and we can address the situation if and when the pipeline does come about and we will normally have enough advance notice to address some of the issues of the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís, I think, a partial answer at best, Mr. Chair.
I am asking the minister to identify improvements to our highway infrastructure that would be deemed to fall in the category of being pipeline-ready. Pullouts are one of them.
I would like to hear a few others from this minister.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We anticipate that over the next few years, reconstruction of the Alaska Highway will be totally complete. So we anticipate that the highway is at a ready stage ó within the next couple of years. We anticipate that we will be able to handle that traffic.
Where there is a need demonstrated to handle an increase of traffic in a community or something like that, we can handle that particular situation and it can usually be done fairly quickly.
Mr. McRobb: Well, with all due respect, thatís not a very satisfactory answer. I think that the minister is avoiding the need to confirm improvements such as passing lanes on hills and maybe weigh scales and perhaps operation and maintenance items like increased enforcement.
I would like to take another try at this. I know that the minister is being briefed by his officials. I would comment that the three officials he has today, who were present in the supplementary budget a couple of months ago, are very qualified and dedicated individuals who are full of knowledge. Certainly the minister is capable of standing up and repeating what he has heard.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to remind him that, in most cases, the highway presently in and around his constituency is of the same quality or similar to that where other pipelines are being built.
Mr. McRobb: I donít think that answer matches the question very well, Mr. Chair. For one thing, Iím talking about the entire section of the Alaska Highway. I asked him about infrastructure and O&M improvements that might fall within the pipeline-ready category. We didnít learn much from his answer.
Maybe weíll have to take this question up at another opportunity.
I would like to ask him about weigh scales, for instance. We canít help but note the major weigh scale improvement project in Watson Lake thatís costing quite a bit of money. The government press release ó I donít see a number identified. I know itís in the budget somewhere, but itís a major improvement to a weigh station, yet I look at weigh stations in other parts of the territory, and their budgets are being slashed quite a bit, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to ask him, in the context of becoming pipeline-ready, why did he choose the location he did?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre not slashing any budget from the other weigh scales. We are making a large repair in Watson Lake. Weíre looking at replacing the facility so we can have an appropriate building that can handle the truckloads that are going through there on a regular basis and provide some safe surroundings for our staff who work there.
On the issue with regard to Haines Junction, itís utilized on a sporadic basis, and we are maintaining that facility as much as possible.
Mr. McRobb: I would invite the minister to visit tab 9 in that information booklet I referred to earlier, and heíll notice thereís a steady decline in the budget allocated for weigh stations in the territory under this Yukon Party government. The biggest hit happens to be in the Village of Haines Junction, where it dropped from $123,500 in 2001-02 to about $48,000 in 2002-03, and now this year itís under $10,000. So there has been quite a drop there.
I would say that significant decrease qualifies to be a slash, and a severe slash at that. Whatís the justification for virtually eliminating the budget in Haines Junction?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The major differential is the aspect that weíve gone from enforcement to compliance. Itís a national standard as far as meeting that quota and weíre dealing with that through the Government of Yukon. Thatís the change throughout the Yukon ó that weíve gone from an enforcement aspect to just compliance.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís great as long as everybody complies, but if thereís nobody around to enforce it, how can the minister be assured everybody is complying?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will sound like a broken record, I guess, but the issue is that compliance is a national standard and we get paid from the federal government based on that particular aspect. Thatís how the funding is provided ó the compliance has dealt with it and we have to meet the national standard.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís interesting. I want to return to a point I raised in the discussion with the last minister. From what I understand, if the pipeline proceeds, there will be approximately 38,000 truckloads. These are commercial trucks on our highways distributing the pipe. Thatís if they fit two sections of pipe on each truck. If they canít, then obviously that number will double. Thatís a significant number of vehicles on our roads. It calls into question the ministerís confidence level that our highway system can handle this traffic. He indicated there will be some improvement in the next few years. Iím aware of what heís talking about, and basically there wonít be anything done to upgrade major sections of road ó including passing lanes and so on ó especially south of Whitehorse.
So I think there is a lot missing from the discussion in terms of becoming pipeline-ready. Either this minister is not prepared to admit it, or perhaps he is having to live with his budget being hijacked for the Dawson bridge. Maybe thereís more truth to that, because with a $50-million project up in the far corner of the territory, which is far away from the pipeline route, obviously that wonít leave much money left over to become pipeline-ready. I can certainly understand why the minister is reticent to engage in a meaningful discussion with me about what it takes to become pipeline-ready. Anything he did mention, of course, couldnít be afforded by a government thatís putting all its eggs into the Dawson bridge basket.
Furthermore, there are a number of other competing projects across the territory. There is the completion of the Teslin River bridge and Johnsons Crossing and a number of other projects that are cost-shared with the federal government. So itís not just a matter of the Dawson bridge or being pipeline-ready; there are a number of other competing factors as well.
Mr. Chair, I identified some logistics in relation to the distribution of pipe. I know the minister was listening. Basically, Iíll give a quick rundown. The understanding I have is that there was a Texas company that did some due diligence with respect to the logistics of a pipeline project going through the Yukon, and it recommended that the Alaskan port of Haines be used to accept barges bringing in the pipe. The next stage would be transport of that pipe to Haines Junction, where loads would be consolidated in a marshalling yard for distribution throughout the territory. There is about 1,000 kilometres of corridor in the territory between Watson Lake and Beaver Creek, and thatís where the 38,000 truckloads of pipe, with two per truck, would come in, Mr. Chair.
Can the minister confirm this understanding one way or another?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite has information with regard to the pipeline; none of that has been decided by the suppliers or the people who intend to build the pipeline ó where they plan to go, whether they come into Haines, whether they go into Skagway or whether they go onto the train. There are all kinds of options that have been identified. The member opposite has in this House even brought up other issues previously on the pipeline.
I believe that the pipeline is going to be an issue that is going to come. When it comes, weíll have to deal with it. The issue of 38,000 truckloads going down the highway will not be on any one specific piece of the highway and it will be spread over time. Weíll be in a position ó in my opinion, the road we have right now, through the right-of-way, we can deal with the situation as far as the pipeline goes. Weíre confident we can handle that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, all right. If the minister is satisfied to leave that on the record, I guess the future government of the day, when the pipeline eventually does happen, will look back on it and hopefully theyíll appreciate his words, but I do have some reservations.
The minister indicated that no one section of road would accept the total number of 38,000 truckloads, but I would suggest that if the logistics Iíve outlined are accurate, then the Haines Road would indeed be doing that. There is quite a distance of that highway within the Yukon Territory and itís within our highways jurisdiction. Itís road that we do maintain. Therefore, that section at least would accept the full capacity of any pipeline traffic.
I want to move on and refer back to the near term upgrades the minister referred to. On the Alaska Highway, there are a number of upgrades this summer. There are three in particular, and theyíre all west of Whitehorse. Thereís the six-kilometre section between the two new highway sections west of Champagne. There is the small short section between the Pine Lake corner and Haines Junction.
In between those two, there is a partial section from Canyon Creek to Marshall Creek. In fact itís half of that distance on this side, so it would be the east half of that section that is being reconstructed.
That still leaves one and a half sections, basically from halfway from Canyon Creek to Marshall Creek and all the way to the Pine Lake corner near Haines Junction, that have yet to be upgraded to modern standards. I believe itís those sections that the minister has identified as being completed within the near term. I think the minister is on record ó and I just want to make sure. Can he give us an end date when those particular projects will be completed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are planning to have all sections completed by the year 2006 and that is an agreement under CSIF.
Mr. McRobb: The CSIF, I guess it is, is the jointly funded federal program? Can the minister just nod to that effect? Yes, that is affirmative.
Thatís great, Mr. Chair. As he knows, I am a firm believer that we should first be upgrading our main artery ó our international corridor ó before wandering off too far in the bush upgrading other sections of highway.
By the way, there are a few projects like that in this budget. I am specifically referring to sections of the back road part of the Campbell Highway between Watson Lake and Faro. I would suggest that those sections are not what you would refer to as a high priority, Mr. Chair, especially in terms of becoming pipeline-ready and certainly not in terms of traffic count ó we know that highway is relatively low.
I want to go back to one of the projects I just identified. It was the second one ó the short section from Pine Lake corner to Haines Junction. Now, the minister knows that he has received some correspondence from some of my constituents on the issue of restricted visibility through the highway right-of-way entering the Alaska Highway. Can he confirm that he is aware of that correspondence?
Did he play a part in accelerating the priority of this particular project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am aware of the correspondence that he refers to. We are dealing with the access situation that was identified there, and hopefully if this section of the highway is completed this year, weíll address that issue for the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Iím having difficulty making sense of that answer, Mr. Chair. Iím going to ask another question. Is restricted vision for users of private driveways within the highway right-of-way, and specifically the main Alaska Highway ó weíre talking about restricted visibility entering the highway due to maybe brush or hilly terrain along the right-of-way ó an issue of liability to the government? Does the government accept liability, or does it not accept liability in cases where modern highway standards of visibility are not met?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Every situation we deal with as far as access goes will be different depending upon whether the individual did it in cooperation with Highways or not, and whether weíre dealing with it. In either case, weíll be doing it in cooperation with the individual in question, and we intend to address it this year.
Mr. McRobb: I think the minister is being very studious in avoiding putting anything on record that might imply the Yukon government has any liability in regard to restricted visibility through its right-of-ways for owners of properties using their driveways. Thatís understandable, but we could probably ask the same question all day and not get anything further on that.
I can read between the lines, Mr. Chair, and I can see and understand why he would upgrade that small section of highway to this yearís budget, and the answer of course would be to alleviate these concerns, as set out in the correspondence from my constituent. The correspondence raised some rather good questions about government liability.
I think the minister really doesnít want to answer those questions. So in recognition of that, I think what the minister should do is dedicate that section of highway improvement to that individual, and I would ask him if he would consider naming it the Boyd Campbell Causeway.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Normally you donít name streets after an individual or place unless theyíre actually out there and famous and/or deceased, depending upon the process. But in any event, Iíd like to thank the member opposite for his suggestion.
Mr. McRobb: Well, why not, Mr. Chair? The government is already contemplating the statue of the Member for Klondike on the Dawson bridge. Why canít we do something for members of the public who raise issues of import and bring good suggestions forward in the name of public good?
Mr. Chair, I want to ask another question on the Shakwak project. There was a project this minister started last year, sometimes referred to as Shakwak rip and reshape or Shakwak R&R. There was a couple of millions spent resurfacing sections of already improved road. I believe in the supplementary budget he indicated there would be about half that amount spent in this budget year. Can he now identify for us which sections of road will be upgraded under this continuing, although downsized, project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We plan to do continuous work on this side of Beaver Creek for this year, and we plan to carry on in subsequent years. We anticipate it will be approximately a kilometre.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps this request can be dealt with more easily if the minister would just undertake to provide me something in writing that identifies this section. A nod from the minister will do, and we can move on.
All right, letís go now across the territory to the Campbell Highway. I would like to refer in particular to the back road section between Watson Lake and Ross River and Faro and ask the minister what his long-term plan is for upgrading that section of road.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Our long-term objective is to look at the economic possibilities of resources in that particular area, and our ultimate goal is to look at putting the grade of the road up to a standard that would allow for the capability of hauling ore.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us an idea how many kilometres of road heís looking at upgrading and what the total cost of upgrading would be?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at approximately 53 kilometres of repair work this year with a cost of around $3.8 million.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, Iím looking for the cumulative total of all the upgrading on that particular section. Perhaps the minister could just undertake to get back to me with some material that sets out the total cost and the distance. Perhaps his department already has the sections broken down into projects. If so, that is what I would like to have identified and, of course, in terms of this ministerís priorities, could he attach some timelines to those upgrades. Would he undertake to return with that information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can provide the member opposite with this yearís aspect. We donít know what the next yearís will be, based on the actual budget. I can advise him that we are looking at reconstruction from kilometre 20 to 28. We anticipate that that will take place from June through to September. We are also looking at crushing and stockpiling at kilometre 505. That is to take place between now and the end of May. We are also looking at base porous construction between kilometre 456 and 463 and between 490 and 505. Those tenders are expected to be out shortly. We anticipate completion by the end of August. We are also looking at an application of BST from kilometre 456 to 463 and kilometre 490 to 505. That is anticipated to take place between the end of August and early September.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we are still not quite there. The minister didnít really provide any more information other from what is in his April 5 news release. In fact, I think one of the figures was even in error. I thought I heard him say kilometre 20 to 28. In fact, in the news release it says between 22 and 28.
I am looking for the bigger picture. I know the department probably has this section of road broken down into projects. I know the minister canít commit to which projects fall into which future year, but at least he can give an idea of the cost of each one of the projects and how many projects there are and identify them by name, or at least from start to finish.
Thatís the information weíre looking for. Itís very similar to information provided by his department on other sections of road, so the question again is simple: will he provide us with the information for that highway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: On this particular section of highway, weíre looking at a substantial amount of money to upgrade this entire facility, and we will be looking at providing a piecemealing of the highway to upgrade it, but I can commit to provide the member opposite with at least the roughout of what we anticipate doing in future years. Every year will change and be different, depending upon the budget and depending upon what the pressures are in that particular area.
Mr. McRobb: Itís that type of cooperation that makes this minister across the way my favourite. Perhaps if thereís life after politics, Mr. Deputy Chair, Iíll take him and you and the Member for Southern Lakes out for ice cream somewhere.
That would be Dickie Dee ice cream, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Since weíre in the neighbourhood of the Nahanni Range Road, I would like to ask the minister how much he has allocated this year for maintenance, and is it a reduced amount from last year?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We havenít changed any amounts of money designated for the Nahanni Range Road because the tungsten situation is still being played out. And, in fact, the tungsten mine is still maintaining their portion of the highway.
Mr. McRobb: All right, the minister anticipated my next question rather well. Is there an agreement between the Yukon government and the owners of the mine or the Northwest Territories government? If there is, is this something he can provide?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we do have an agreement with the actual mine site previously there for that particular section of the highway ó theyíre responsible for blading. I can undertake to provide the member opposite with a copy of that, as well as the member of the third party.
Mr. McRobb: This minister just keeps getting gooder and gooder.
On the Klondike Highway, to the west, can the minister indicate which sections are his priorities for upgrading?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at that one piece of highway at Crocus Bluff for the Klondike Highway. Weíve done our consultation over the past two years on that particular aspect. Itís a very heavily travelled piece of the highway in Dawson, and weíve had several concerns with respect to its safety. We have some general maintenance work being planned for the highway. They are usually spot repairs and/or weíre also looking at some BST work this summer.
Mr. McRobb: The minister reviewed the projects being undertaken this year. Iím well aware of what those are. What Iím looking for is the vision beyond just this year. Thatís why I asked him what his priorities were for upgrading that particular highway. Perhaps this question can be best answered in similar format to the previous questions such as the one on the Campbell Highway. Would the minister just undertake to return to me with some written information that identifies which particular sections are on the radar screen for improvement and what the possible costs might be attached to those projects? Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím about to be off the list here pretty soon. I will not commit to providing that particular aspect. I will commit, though, to the member opposite that on our long-term projections for the north Klondike Highway, we are trying to do our best to look as far as we can down the road on that particular aspect. We are also looking at improving our aspect on the Dempster Highway and working with our counterparts in the Northwest Territories on ways and means of designating this as a national aspect and looking at improving that particular highway and getting work done on that particular essence, but weíre doing that jointly with the Northwest Territories. So we hope to see some improvement in that area and see if we can get the Government of Canada to assist us on that particular aspect.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, I take it that the minister doesnít really foresee any improvement projects on that highway other than whatís in this yearís budget. Regarding the Dempster Highway, further to the north, there is an agreement in place with the Northwest Territories in terms of maintenance on that highway, I believe.
Has this issue been raised recently by the Government of the Northwest Territories, in terms of continued funding or the amounts of funding? Is it something that has been raised recently?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have no agreement with Northwest Territories as far as maintenance goes. We discussed it on several occasions but itís not economical, and based on a long-term commitment that this government has ó Eagle Pass, which makes it very difficult for us to deal with Northwest Territories on a reciprocal maintenance agreement, even though they are a little bit closer.
Mr. McRobb: In thinking about the Dempster Highway, the ferries on that road come to mind. That begs the obvious question: did the minister not first consider replacing those ferries before succumbing to the demands of the Member for Klondike?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Those ferries belong to the Northwest Territories.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís a good enough reason, but still I think we should think about our neighbours first.
Mr. Chair, the Top of the World Highway is something I asked his officials for some information on and was provided some numbers that indicated the amount of winter maintenance on that road ó in the neighbourhood of $1.35 million a year. First of all, would the minister confirm thatís accurate?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have $600,000 dedicated to the maintenance for this upcoming season, and there are no plans to deal with the road in the winter months.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís good. I was just checking with the minister to see if there is something in the works. The information provided to me was only an estimate of the cost it would take to keep the Top of the World Highway open in the wintertime. That is $1,530,000, which would be rather expensive.
Can the minister indicate for us what the total cost is to keep the Top of the World Highway open, at least in the summer months? Can he give us a number for the operation and maintenance for that road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We donít have those numbers at our fingertips. We would have to research it.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I will look forward to receiving that, along with the other information the minister has undertaken to return.
I want to turn to the highway sign policy. I believe that early last year the minister announced the new highway sign policy. There have been some rumblings that the Yukon Party was going to pull the policy. Can the minister give us an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we are currently working with many of the stakeholders involved with signs throughout the Yukon. We havenít quite reached that particular aspect, but we have identified the issues that have to be discussed. We are trying to get a consensus on how we are going to deal with those sign issues.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
I want to ask the minister if he sees the need to do a review of speed limits in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Does the member opposite want the speed limit increased from Haines Junction to Whitehorse so that he can get here quicker? You know, we have that road so smooth, you should be able to fly here. There really is no specific reason for us to look at dealing with speed limits, and we do it on a spot basis when and as required.
Mr. McRobb: The minister should know that I used to be a professional driver, so I do have that to my credit.
Iím not concerned about that particular section of road. Itís a Yukon-wide review Iím asking about.
I know the Member for Klondike has raised the issue either officially or informally, because, after all, he did commandeer most of the Highways budgets within the territory to make smoother his travels into town in his new company truck. But anyway, thatís a story for another day. Maybe we can deal with that some other time.
I want to ask the minister about the highway mileage reconfiguration initiative. Now it certainly wouldnít have gone by that name, but I recall a couple of years ago the former government mentioning that it was reviewing the accuracy of the mileage post or kilometre signs in the territory. Can the minister give us an update on whatís happening about that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíve done some recalibrating of the signage on the Campbell Highway and most of the Alaska Highway up to Champagne, so over the past couple of years a lot of it has been done. There are still some areas that do need to be reassessed. As the road improvements come along on the Alaska Highway west of Haines Junction, weíll be looking at that particular aspect.
Mr. McRobb: I donít think Yukoners were told that this particular initiative was going to take so long. Iím going to ask the minister if he could provide us with some timelines for completion dates for the highways in the Yukon. Would he be able to do that for us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Once weíve completed construction on the Alaska Highway from Champagne through to Beaver Creek, we will endeavour to have that signage improved as we complete that process.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister about a specific intersection ó the north Klondike Highway where it meets the Alaska Highway. Itís within the City of Whitehorse limits on the west side of town. Does the minister envision any upgrades to that intersection? I canít help but note that quite often there are close calls at that intersection. Usually itís people turning off the Klondike Highway toward Whitehorse that, for some reason, donít seem to recognize flow-through traffic heading west from Whitehorse. Thatís usually the cause of the close calls Iíve witnessed.
Is there any upgrade on the radar screen, at least in terms of signage?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No immediate upgrades are planned for that particular intersection.
Mr. McRobb: Just on this side of that intersection, in Porter Creek, we have Goodyís gas station. This was an issue that was discussed at length two or three years ago.
What was at issue was the access the business constructed that meets the Alaska Highway. The government of the day refused to permit that access so it could become usable. I know the Member for Klondike made a lot of political hay being the champion for that cause. And I canít help but notice that, after a year and a half of this Yukon Party government, there has been no improvement in that situation. So Iíd like to ask the minister why not.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, the proprietor of that particular facility built a two-way exit right there, and that was not allowed on the permit, and he has agreed to have a one-way exit out to the right side, and that is what weíre dealing with today.
Mr. McRobb: Why is a two-way access not allowed by this government?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The main issue is its sight distance, and itís very close to Wann Road, another intersection that has already been established.
Mr. McRobb: So is the minister saying that any access roads near to intersections cause a problem in terms of their ability to become two-way roads?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Basically put, itís unsafe for a left turn from that particular spot.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what makes that situation any more dangerous than the hundreds of other situations in the territory that are very close to this example?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are several issues that have to be dealt with for that particular area. There is a speed limit and the volume of traffic ó all those aspects have to be taken into consideration. Itís a very heavily populated area. There is residential ó we have lots of traffic and all those things, such as sight distance. Those are the main areas. Safety is really the main factor.
Mr. McRobb: I think thatís a partial answer at least.
The minister is aware that he has received correspondence over the past several months from the St. Elias Chamber of Commerce regarding the Haines Junction kiosk on the east side of that community. The minister has been asked to remove the kiosk. Mr. Chair, I have reviewed that correspondence and I have talked to several people in the community. I also have a recollection of the history of this project. I can recall that when it was established, it was set up as a pilot project.
The intent of the kiosks ó and I use the plural because there are three of them near that community. There are three highways, of course, if you consider the Haines Road and the Alaska Highway north as well as the Alaska Highway on this side. Each one of them has a kiosk within a couple of miles of town. The original intent of the kiosks was to substitute for highway signage.
Mr. Chair, I canít help but notice thereís no signage in those kiosks, and I have to agree with the local chamber and their observations that those pullouts are a negative improvement for several reasons and they certainly arenít being used for the purpose they were intended. You could say this pilot crashed long ago and itís time for the government to clean up the wreckage. The minister has been asked to do that, yet he refuses.
Right now as we speak, the rights-of-way on that particular section of road are being torn up for improvements to modern highway standards. This particular location falls within the improvement of the Alaska Highway between the Pine Lake corner and Haines Junction. Thereís an opportunity right now to clean up the wreckage of his crashed pilot project. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, weíve had correspondence from the Village of Haines Junction and the town council and mayor with the reverse requirements for these pullouts, the opposite opinion of the Chamber of Commerce on this issue. They are very much in favour of keeping those pullouts. We have corresponded back to both entities, asking them to come to some sort of agreement to deal with the situation and come back with something theyíre both happy with and then weíll deal with the situation. Weíve asked them to do it fairly quickly because construction is already currently underway, as the member opposite indicated. In essence, weíll be looking for the mayor and council to provide the aspect on dealing with the pullouts.
Mr. McRobb: Would the minister send over a copy of that correspondence? That would be extremely helpful.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can provide him with that.
Mr. McRobb: I would remind the minister that he has the ability to deal with this matter on his own if thereís no agreement at the local level. Iím on record as saying that Iíve canvassed a lot of people in the community and outside of the community too ó this is not just an issue for people within community boundaries ó and there is a lot of opposition for the existence of those sites. Now I know in the beginning it was a good concept but, for whatever reason, itís a concept that hasnít panned out. The continued existence of these pullouts is detracting from the retail trade within the community, and itís doing a lot of other negative things as well, so I would urge the minister to not delay his decision. There is an opportunity now. The bulldozers are working actually around the pullout. Itís actually causing them extra time and cost to have to work around this pullout when really they should be running right through it and getting rid of the wreckage.
I want to switch to the rural roads upgrading program. When will the minister release his approvals for this year?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We should be announcing within the next week to 10 days.
Mr. McRobb: I know there are some constituents who are eager to know if the improvements to the Pine Lake Road are part of that. Is that something he can indicate now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: At Pine Lake subdivision, we are looking at resurfacing and putting in approximately $25,000 in that particular area.
Mr. McRobb: I was at a potlatch in Burwash Landing on Saturday and I was asked about the Snag road. Can the minister also give us an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are providing some monies for the Snag Road to do some cleanup of the brush piles and the original clearing, and it was done on the road for that particular area.
Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up on one other project, the Destruction Bay breakwater.
Iíll give a brief summary of the history of this. Virtually the only thing done by the previous Liberal government for the community of Destruction Bay was to provide them funds to build a breakwater. Now, following the election, and one and a half years of Yukon Party rule, virtually the only thing this government has provided to that same community is removal of that improvement.
So the Liberals giveth with one hand and the Yukon Party taketh away with the other. People are crying for a return to the days of an NDP government, and for good reason. But theyíll have to wait a couple of years until the next election. But I would like to ask the minister what his intention is with respect to the needs of this community, specifically the breakwater.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I couldnít, for the life of me, even figure out why a breakwater was under the Department of Highways, which is a gas to me, even to this day.
We are looking at approximately a two-year plan for this project. We are looking at getting money reassigned to do the design of this particular aspect, with the second year being the implementation of that particular waterfront for Destruction Bay.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Iím sure the local community will be pleased to hear that.
Not only will there be cake and ribbons for the minister upon the opening of this project, Iím sure he can even park his boat there and maybe even go fishing ó although he wonít be able to keep that big one. And make sure he brings a measuring tape with him too.
Mr. Chair, I want to turn to the area of airports. I couldnít help but notice there were a couple of airports whose budgets had been decreased ó specifically Old Crow. Letís deal with Old Crow first. Can the minister indicate why the budget was decreased there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier in my address originally, we were planning to spend well over $2 million in that airport over the next three years addressing that particular issue and enhancing the facilities for Old Crow and enabling a larger tourism capacity for them and their ATV, and we plan to get that done over the next three years, and I anticipate that we will get there.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, but thatís in the area of capital improvements. Iím referring to O&M, and the reduction appears to be in the neighbourhood of 15 percent. Iím merely asking for an explanation of what is being cut. Can the minister help us out?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít have that specific number on hand at the moment, but I will endeavour to get back to him.
Mr. McRobb: The other facility is the Haines Junction airport, where there is a decrease of about $100,000, or 10 percent. Would the minister undertake to include an explanation for that as well?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we will endeavour to do that as well.
Mr. McRobb: That completes most of my questions in general debate on this department, with the exception of the Dawson bridge section, and I anticipate we might spend some time discussing that. What I propose to do is allow the leader of the third party to continue at this point.
My colleague from Mayo-Tatchun will precede her in this debate. If the minister is not on alert to answer questions related to the Dawson bridge, I would be somewhat surprised, but I would like to give him a bit of extra notice. The questions I would like to ask him pertain to the economics of the bridge.
There are several questions within that topic. One of them stems from the response in Question Period from this minister when I asked him about the high cost of steel and the impact that would have on the cost of the bridge. The minister replied that a new ferry would have steel too. Mr. Chair, replacing the ferry with a new ferry was, I think, a new concept to many people. Why canít we just rebuild the engines in the ferry? I would like him to think about that matter.
Also, again pertaining to the rising cost of steel, I couldnít help but notice an article from the Northwest Territories where they are reconsidering proceeding with bridges within that territory because of the high cost of steel.
One option theyíre looking at is displacement of the steel with concrete. That was the very basis of my question to the minister, which he failed to address. So what I would like to do is set this portion of the debate aside for perhaps tomorrow or whenever the government returns with his department. Itís a bit of a shell game when it comes to predicting what the government is going to call for debate, but hopefully weíll continue with this one tomorrow. At that time I would like to follow up with those questions and more. Iíd like to thank the minister and his officials for what they have provided so far.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a few questions for the minister in this department. I would like to follow up on a couple of questions I had during debate on the supplementary budget. Hopefully the minister had an opportunity to check into some of these issues Iíve raised and perhaps a couple others.
To begin with, I couldnít help but notice that the brush-clearing along the highways ó an issue that has been raised before ó is leaving behind approximately a foot to two feet of stubs. This has become dangerous to both animals and people walking along the highway. Is this a job thatís just not completed, or is this going to be taken care of? How are we going to see the safety issue improved?
Hon. Mr. Hart: A lot of the work that was done was done under winter works projects and it is not complete yet. We anticipate that we will get out there in a short period of time here to knock those one-foot stubs. I recall seeing a section just outside of Stewart Crossing where the member opposite was probably referring to, which I stopped on Friday to look at and took note of it. I have asked the department to look into that particular situation.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us: are these contracts incomplete, or is this additional work that Highways has to put out? Is it another contract to reduce that cut right down to the ground?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we provided some winter works projects for these things ó work to take place in the wintertime. They have to come back in the spring to clean up the stubs and the stumps when they can actually see them, when the snow is gone.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked this question of the previous government ó about why governments were not looking at trying to create work out of highway clearing, roadside clearing. What weíve noticed is that equipment comes in, mows down the willows, small trees, and so on. I understand that it probably costs less to have that equipment come in versus people coming with hand tools, chainsaws, and so on. Has the minister thought about how he could maximize the dollar and put more people to work, perhaps with chainsaws?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Hand labour, although it would address the employment factor, would be very expensive ó time-delayed and we also wouldnít maximize the amount of coverage that was required. If the member noticed along the highway, we have a substantial amount of brushing to catch up on. It hasnít been maintained over the past 10 years. We are currently looking at it. We did, for example, explore the opportunity this year of using a Cat during the wintertime to knock down the brush with the idea of coming back later in the spring to clean up on that particular process, to see if we can maximize again the monies that we spend on brush clearing for the maximum amount of clearance along the highway. Right now, thatís our goal.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, this issue has been raised with me by a number of people who have seen this type of work along the highway.
They see that they could be working, clearing with chainsaws and so on, and it could put more people to work. The member said that it was basically a time issue, that a piece of equipment can come in and clear a lot faster than people on foot and with chainsaws. Can he tell us what the difference is, for example, on one kilometre of road where equipment is used versus, say, people with chainsaws? I would like to know the difference ó if itís a huge difference, or if itís slightly less or more than this piece of equipment, then I canít see why government canít be putting more people to work with chainsaws.
Hon. Mr. Hart: It would cost at least two to three times more to do it manually than it would be by equipment, and not to mention, we would lose about that in time and distance in clearing of that contract. The other aspect we were looking at, dealing with our experiment this winter, is that there are more people in the communities who have Cats than have brushing equipment, so we were trying to make use of as much local equipment as we could to enhance that process. We did do a couple of experiments this past winter to see what the results were, and weíll have to wait until the work is actually complete by the end of June and weíll take it from there.
Mr. Fairclough: I was wondering if the minister can send that information to us on this side of the House. I know of people who do have the hand-tool equipment, the chainsaws that they bought particularly for these types of contracts, who have been asking me about this. So once the experiment that Highways has done over the past winter ó once they can compile that information, could the minister send that over to this side of the House?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Once we have completed it, we can provide the member opposite with the results of our analysis.
Mr. Fairclough: Now, I am wondering if this is for all the highways in the Yukon. I am particularly interested in the brush clearing on the Silver Trail between Mayo and Keno. Growth there has been quite high. It takes away from the beauty when one is driving through there. I did notice that there was some clearing that has taken place. Was it done by hand tools and chainsaws? Was there another piece of equipment brought in? Can the minister tell us when that will be completed up to Keno?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier in my address for the member opposite, there is a substantial amount of brushing that has to be completed in the Yukon, not only on the Silver Trail but also on our main highways and our secondary highways. If the member opposite would like to go down the Canol Road, I am sure he would see that the situation is even worse than it is on the Silver Trail.
I will advise the member on the Silver Trail issue that it was done by a mechanical process. I will freely admit to the member opposite that it is a difficult situation. I have been trying to look at ways and means to maximize getting the best bang for our buck with the clearing. We are doing as much as we can, and that is why, for example, we tried this experiment over the winter to see what kind of results we would get.
For us to go out and put it out to tender, based on what we have in existing rules and regulations for roads, would be, in my opinion, very expensive. So, we are looking at ways, as I mentioned, to get the best bang for our buck and maximize the amount of brush clearing.
We are substantially behind when it comes to that particular aspect of our highways. Itís basically as a result of the fact that they havenít been maintained over the years ó period. I admit that I am trying to deal with the situation. Thatís where we are.
Mr. Fairclough: I do agree with the member opposite that a lot of work needs to be done. I travel the Campbell Highway and the Klondike Highway quite a bit and I do see where improvements can be made in clearing of trees and brush along the roadside. Every government does this. Iím sure this will be a never-ending issue of the Department of Highways because trees do grow. It seems like itís quicker along the highway, for whatever reason.
The Member for Klondike knows all too well the dangers that wildlife can have on drivers when you cannot see around a bend because of growth and trees and so on.
In regard to rural roads, I know the member said thereís an announcement coming up in a week to 10 days. Iím interested in whether or not there will be any money put into the Mount Nansen Road and the Freegold Road.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We donít have any money planned for those two particular roads.
Mr. Fairclough: I had a phone call the other day. From the warm weather we had and the melt that took place, Iíve been informed there was a bridge on the Freegold Road that was washed out. Iím sure the minister has more detail than I do on this particular bridge. Is the department going to be fixing that piece of road with another bridge or a culvert? What can we see this summer? People want to get out to their mining claims.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We do maintain a portion of the Freegold Road, but if itís in the area that we donít maintain, itís not something that we will repair. But if itís in the section that we do, it will be repaired.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím sure that itís in the section that the government does maintain. If itís the right bridge, I believe itís about five or six miles out of town, so itís fairly close to the community. It is crossing some high waters at times, so it could present a problem to people fairly quickly. So I would ask the minister if he can look into this matter seriously and do the necessary work, if needed, because people are already asking about accessing placer claims, and so on, out on that road.
I asked the minister about the Carmacks bridge approach in the supplementary budget. Again, the problem is that there is a walkway on the outside of the bridge and you cross that walkway. There is a lot of danger with gravel sloughing away on the approach to the walkway, but more so from the bridge around the corner on both ways. There is gravel that has washed away and it presents a danger to anybody walking on this very narrow walkway there. Is there any money in this budget, or does this government have any plans in the future to take care of that situation and widen that section of the approach to the bridge in the community of Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As far as dealing with the walkway and the gravel, we will work through our maintenance budget to do whatever we can and deal with that situation as it arises.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I believe that this is a project on its own. It probably would result in a few dollars if you are widening this section. Itís quite high off the ground ó I would say 60 or 70 feet off the ground, and it would take a lot of fill to do this job. I believe that has been a deterrent in the past to do this work. The member said he would leave it to the operation and maintenance and local highways camp to take care of this situation. Or are we going to see some capital dollars directed to this improvement?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As far as mentioned earlier, if the washout was affecting the bridge or the aspects to the bridge, maintenance will take care of the situation. But other than that, we have no capital dollars in our budget for amending the walkway.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to quickly go back to the rural roads program. Are these projects already decided on and theyíll be announced in a week to 10 days?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Over 50 percent of the projects have been identified and will be announced on the weekend. Our second phase is yet to be completed, and we are working on those projects as we speak.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister give us a timeline for the second phase of this project? When is the deadline for identifying projects for rural roads?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Usually phase 2 is quite late in the season. We always look to make sure that if we have any emergency issue that we can address a portion of it and deal with it that way. But it probably wonít take place until this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: On the Mount Nansen Road, the Department of Highways does maintenance. They have kept the road clear. I believe it is in conjunction with the federal government that they are doing the cleanup of the Mount Nansen mine. But the Highways department had been clearing the snow and they do grade the road a couple of times, I guess, during the summer. Is there any change in the amount of maintenance on the Mount Nansen Road and the Freegold Road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We donít anticipate any change in the actual maintenance aspect.
Mr. Fairclough: If this will make any difference, I would ask the minister to look closer at the Mount Nansen Road particularly, and the Freegold Road, to see if the rural roads program could have a project there. Some money was put into that road in the past and it improved the safety aspect of the road immensely.
When a mine is operating, of course, there is very much increased traffic on that road. But I do notice that the road base ó itís a mining road ó is really not in good shape. And when they do grade the road, sometimes I think it makes it even worse at times. Itís not until later on that there is a lot of traffic on it and it does improve. So if the minister can do that, Iíd appreciate it.
Is there any change on the Duncan Creek Road, and is there a project through the rural roads program on that particular road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We did some work on the rural roads program on the Duncan Creek Road last year. There are no anticipated capital expenditures on that highway this year. We are focusing on a different area.
Mr. Fairclough: I look forward to the announcement of which roads will be receiving monies through the rural roads program.
In the past, there was also money directed to the Pelly Farm Road. Is there any money through the rural roads program for this particular road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have no plans for the Pelly Farm Road this year.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, can the minister tell us ó there was money spent on the roads that I have listed for the member opposite. Are they evaluated? How does the government deal with this? I am sure that if, for example, they looked at Mount Nansen Road, they could find a couple of bad corners that could be taken out. Itís the same with the Pelly Farm Road, the Duncan Creek Road or Freegold Road. How are they done and what message can I relay back to my constituents who have brought this issue forward?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As far as dealing with the priorities within the rural roads program, the highway has to meet a certain grade. If they donít meet that grade, they have to apply to bring them up to that grade.
Another aspect that we deal with is priority-based on how many people live along that road, how many people use the road, what the frequency of use is ó all those things are calculated in coming up with a decision on priorities in terms of which road is covered and which one is not.
Mr. Fairclough: So I guess the minister is saying that he has information on all these roads Iíve listed. Is he able to provide such information to us on this side of the House so we can take it back to our constituents?
Hon. Mr. Hart: These projects are based on applications and are application-driven. If we have the application from the source, then we can provide it. If we donít, then we donít have the information.
Mr. Fairclough: Are there any improvements on the road between the Campbell Highway and the Klondike Highway, the Frenchman Lake Road? Is there any money going into that for servicing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Nothing other than routine maintenance.
Mr. Fairclough: I think the routine maintenance is clearing of snow in the spring and maybe once during the winter.
In regard to the Campbell Highway, I notice that a lot of money is going into resurfacing. Iím particularly interested between Carmacks and Little Salmon Lake, and Faro and Ross River. Is this a continuation from where Highways left off before? They started off from the junction near Carmacks and worked their way out. I believe theyíre 11 or 15 kilometres out. Are we continuing with that or are we going to chipseal where the least cost to government is?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at kilometre 364 west of Ross River, and weíre also looking at a couple of kilometres west of Ross River and some west of Faro. Weíre also looking at a section east of Carmacks, 490 to 505.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Well, the Department of Highways and Public Works has been making improvements to the Campbell Highway for awhile now. Does the government have a plan for completion of resurfacing, say, between Carmacks and Ross River or ó if he can go Carmacks, Little Salmon Lake, Faro and Ross River, is there a plan for completion of, say, chipseal between those points?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can provide the member opposite with the same information that his colleague asked for on that particular issue. As I mentioned, we will deal with it on an annual basis, depending on what the pressures would be at that time.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just following up on the Member for Mayo-Tatchunís questions, as I understand it, thereís a road loop between the Frenchman Lake and the Tatchun Creek campgrounds. Thereís just a small byway road loop. Are there any plans scheduled for improvements to that road? Itís probably a secondary road.
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are no special aspects of improvements for that road. We just do regular maintenance.
Ms. Duncan: I have just a few questions with respect to this Department of Highways and Public Works. First of all, could I ask the minister ó and he has officials with him ó if he would provide ó by mail is fine ó a copy of all the instructions from the Department of Finance and the Auditor General on capitalizing the assets of the territory? The majority of the assets of the territorial government are in this department, in terms of bridges, buildings and so on. There have been instructions from the government ó from the Department of Finance and from the Auditor General ó about capitalizing these. Would the minister provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Is the member opposite looking for the tangible capital assets policy?
Ms. Duncan: Sure, thatís a start. The minister and the officials must have received instructions from the Department of Finance, either by e-mail or by a letter that went out to departments. I would just like a copy of those instructions, just so we know the parameters weíre working within.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we can provide the member opposite with those.
Ms. Duncan: I notice in the list of buildings in the departmentís statistics, it seems to me thereís a significant increase in the number of buildings that are owned by the Government of Yukon. Is that a result of the devolution transfer agreement?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, it is.
Ms. Duncan: The French language services is in this department. Thereís a whole host of reasons why and we wonít get into a discussion of why Destruction Bay has a breakwater either. Suffice it to say that French language services is in this particular department. Are there any plans to move it? Has there been any enhancement of the services offered by the French language services bureau?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There have been no enhancements of the service. We have been in conversation with l'Association franco-yukonnaise with regard to the placement of BFLS but we have been in consultation with our staff members on where exactly they plan to go, but our intent right now is to keep BFLS where it is. Iíve had conversations with the staff there and theyíre reasonably happy where they are and I have no plans to do otherwise. I have committed to líAFY that I will look at their consideration of the role of BFLS in government and Iím in the process of doing that.
Ms. Duncan: Do we have a time frame on when the minister expects to reach a decision on this particular issue, or has he committed to a time frame when he intends to get back to líAFY?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Après session, síil vous plaît.
Ms. Duncan: Merci beaucoup.
Information communications technology is also in this ministerís department. I have a number of questions related to this. One of the issues in our information technology in the Yukon, one of the bottlenecks, is the pipe south. I donít know the technical description of it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Broadband is what Iím hearing from the minister. Our capability of sending information south is an economic development issue, itís an infrastructure issue, itís a Yukon issue. Has there been any progress on it? Who is doing the work? Who has got the lead on dealing with this issue? Is it infrastructure ó Highways and Public Works ó or is Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Economic Development ó I donít know, can I mention names? ó is the lead agency with respect to broadband expansion out of and into the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier would be dealing with that then, and weíll get to that in the Department of Economic Development. Broadband is one issue; the other issue is MDMRS replacement, the multi-departmental mobile radio system, and the option of providing all the Yukon with cell service. Where are we at in the assessment of the options, and when are we going to receive some more information?
We had this discussion in the supplementary. Iím looking for an update.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned previously in the supplementary when the member opposite asked this question, we hope to have an answer in dealing with this situation and replacing the system within the year.
Ms. Duncan: Could we just be a little more specific ó within this year or within a year from now? When is it going to head to Cabinet for a decision ó a go or no go?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre hoping within the year 2005.
Ms. Duncan: In 2005 ó so in December 2005, this could be going to Cabinet. That would be the maximum.
What ballpark figures are we talking about now, in terms of ó I note that at one point in time it was in excess of ó I believe the figure was $30 million. What has happened since then is that other options have been examined and technology is moving along at a terrific rate. So there are issues around and other innovations in the telecommunications market.
What, broadly speaking ó and I realize itís a very general number Iím working with ó are we looking at in terms of figures for MDMRS replacement? I recognize itís also dependent upon which option gets chosen. But if the minister could give us a rough idea of what weíre looking at, Iíd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The issue that weíre dealing with is ó our government is concentrating on the cell mode. We are exploring that option on a much fuller basis than we have in the past. We are looking at dealing with all the issues around that. We are looking at an integrated system as the overall goal. I would say that weíre looking at anywhere from $14 million to $18 million.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the ministerís frank response. Does the minister mean by integrated system a combination of an ordinary land line and cell service, and a dispensing of the radio aspect of the multi-departmental mobile radio system? Or are we maintaining that we must, at a minimum, maintain the radio plus augment that service? There are some particular spots on the highway where the radio doesnít work. Cell service coverage would eliminate some of those problems, one would hope.
By integrated system, are we keeping the radio aspect and looking to augment it or are we doing away with the radio aspect?
Hon. Mr. Hart: By integrated, I mean that we are trying to focus on the cell as the larger component of our asset. Weíre also looking at radio and satellite, so those three amenities because in some areas of the Yukon, cell just canít be utilized. Secondly, the other aspect is that a satellite is not exactly conducive because of buildings and locations, and sometimes despite the cost youíd spend for a satellite phone, you have to stand on your tiptoes, cue it into the sun, breathe a little bit on the left, and youíll catch into your satellite and youíll be okay as long as you donít fall off that foot. The issue is that itís not very conducive, despite the fact that you can take it anywhere and almost use it ó itís not always the most convenient method. Thatís why we are looking at an integrated process that involves all three aspects. The other important factor, of course, is utilization by RCMP, which is another big factor that we are trying to incorporate into our aspect. But we are looking at focusing on cell first, trying to explore those options as much as possible and making that the larger portion of the issue, but we do realize we do have to integrate the system to accept the radio and the satellite issue.
Ms. Duncan: Is this still very much also a partnership? The minister mentioned the RCMP. Iím also interested in health, in particular. The nurses throughout the Yukon rely on that communication system; itís not just the highways crew. Itís also the other respondents, if you will, to 9-1-1-type calls. There are also options for expansion of 9-1-1 service in all of the communications discussions.
Are all of the partners that are necessary to the success and health and safety of Yukoners still at the table and bearing with us while we go through this long protracted assessment of what technology is right? Itís a major investment, so the government is quite right to be doing a thorough assessment. And I was pleased to hear that the price had significantly gone down, just even in the year and a half since ó or two years since ó I had last been advised of the potential cost.
So my key question for the minister is: are all of the partners ó and this is a multi-departmental and actually a multi-governmental issue ó still at the table, and are they continuing the discussions, and are they onboard with some of the solutions that are being proposed by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are dealing with all stakeholders on this issue. Weíre consulting with everyone ó multi-governmental, everyone thatís going to utilize this. The member opposite indicated 9-1-1. We are looking at all users, the potential users of the system. Every user will help to reduce the overall cost to us. Of course, as I mentioned before, we are searching every stone that we can. If we can lever one item or the next, we will. Weíre doing our level best to include as many people as we can in the process. We are also seeking input from the stakeholders, looking at what their needs are, seeing if we can accommodate them via cell, via satellite, via the radio, and trying to accommodate which issue is going to take place, which provides the best service, where they are in the territory. For example, this winter we had a very serious situation on the Dempster Highway in which a grader operator basically was lost and the grader went over the side of the road. If it wasnít for the radio, we would have lost contact with this individual.
We had to call on our neighbours, the Northwest Territories, to send in a crew that took about 12 and a half hours to locate our grader operator and save him from the 40-mile-an-hour winds at 38 degrees below. So, it was a very serious situation for us. We did lose contact with that operator for about an hour. In essence, that radio provided us with the issue. I think that was a very important situation that proved that the radio system does work and there is a real necessity for it.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Hart that Committee of the Whole report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Deputy Chairís report
Mr. Hassard:Mr. Deputy Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following documents were filed May 11, 2004:
Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm; letter to, from Edward Huebert, Deputy Minister of Environment (dated April 20, 2004) (Hardy)
Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm; letter to; re: Compensation for reindeer operation, from Edward Huebert, Deputy Minister of Environment (dated May 5, 2004) (Hardy)