††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Monday, December 6, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, today the Yukon joins with people across Canada to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It is with great sadness that we recall the terrible events that culminated in the tragic murder of 14 young women 15 years ago on December 6, 1989, at Lí…cole Polytechnique in Montreal. Today, however, is more than a mere commemoration of the deaths of these women. Today is a call to action and a reminder that we must work together to end acts of violence against women and children. Today is also a time to reflect on all the women and young girls who live daily with the threat of violence or who have died as a result of deliberate acts of gender-based violence.
Last but not least, December 6 is a day for us to reflect on concrete actions that we can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and children.
Research has confirmed what women and womenís organizations have been saying for years, and that is that violence against women is both pervasive and severe. Every day, Mr. Speaker, sadly, women are intimidated, harassed, stalked, assaulted and abused ó and often at the hand of an intimate partner. Although thousands of women and girls in Canada still live with threats of violence, attitudes are slowly shifting.
As a government and as the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate, we realize that the elimination of violence is a long-term goal requiring culturally appropriate and community-based solutions, as well as participation in concrete actions of each and every one of us. As such, we place importance on womenís programming and services throughout our respective departments, through our Department of Education, including young women exploring trades, teen parenting and community training funds; through the Department of Health and Social Services; womenís shelters; Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre and the Teen Parent Centre.
††††††† Through the Department of Justice, we support the family violence prevention unit, VictimLINK and the domestic violence treatment option. In the Womenís Directorate we continue to work with our partners on a whole host of initiatives, including the development of a three-year public education strategy on violence against women.
As I mentioned, we remain committed to working with our partners throughout the territory, including community organizations, governments and all Yukoners in our search for solutions and strategies toward the long-term goal of eliminating violence against women.
Fifteen years ago, 14 young women from Lí…cole Polytechnique were robbed of their future. While we cannot give them back their lives, we can certainly honour them by working hard to eliminate hatred of and violence against women and children.
In closing, I would like to thank all our organizations throughout the territory ó all the front-line workers who worked so very hard day in and day out, 365 days a year, including the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, womenís† transition homes throughout the territory, Kausheeís Place, the Human Rights Commission, our own Womenís Directorate and all those people who certainly place a lot of credence on this very important initiative, which is eliminating violence against women and children in all senses and forms.
Mrs. Peter: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to commemorate the 14 women murdered this day 15 years ago in Montreal. No one can be left unmoved by this tragedy. We extend our deepest sympathy to the families left to mourn these bright young women whose futures were cut so brutally short.
†Their deaths continue to have repercussions on others associated with this terrible act, as people close to the murderer live with the guilt and shame of his action. We grieve with them also. This misogynist act was the result not only of a single, deranged mind but of gender socializing in our society.
In this House, we were reminded several times in the last weeks of the violence that women suffer ó many at the hands of men closest to them. We have seen the violent murders of women we know in this territory. The recent Amnesty International report Stolen Sisters documents the discrimination and violence against aboriginal women in Canada. It is a terrible fact that aboriginal women are five times more likely to die as a result of violence than other Canadians. Resistance to the full, meaningful integration of women into our economy and social lives continues to this day ó 15 years after 14 women were murdered for wanting to work as men do.
We see emotional abuse, which is equally as devastating as physical and sexual abuse of women. We see psychological abuse, bullying of women who are simply doing their jobs. We have learned that one of the most important roles in our society ó caring for our children ó is done almost entirely by women. On average, it pays less than a parking lot attendant in Canada. We see a minimal number of women being elected to political office or being employed in powerful business positions.
This is a day of mourning for our sisters who have died and for those who live daily with gender-based violence. At noon today we took part in a vigil with many others. This is right and honourable, but itís also a time for action. We need to pause to reflect and act on what we can do to stop violence against women in any form.
The best response we can have to the violence that happened in Montreal is to prevent it from happening again. We can take positive action by educating ourselves, our families and our friends about the truth of what happened and what continues to happen. As legislators, we should be leaders in all our deliberations inside and outside the House. We can act responsibly by showing that women and girls must be treated with equality and respect.
In closing, the Talmud says, ďBe very careful if you make a woman cry because God counts her tears. The woman came out of a manís rib, not from his feet to be walked on, not from his head to be superior, but from the side to be equal, under the arm to be protected and next to the heart to be loved.Ē
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to join my colleagues, as we did at noon today at the Elijah Smith Building, to pay tribute to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This day of recognition was established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada. On this day, December 6, 1989, 14 young women were targeted simply because they were women. Beyond commemorating the loss of these 14 young lives, this day represents a time to pause to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. Violence against women refers to any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrative deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Violence against women is also a manifestation of the historically unequal power relationships between men and women that have led to the domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of womenís full advancement.
Violence against women can take many forms. It carries heavy consequences for those who are victims and for our society in general.
Mr. Speaker, I close by noting that girls and boys who witness or experience violence in the home are at high risk of becoming victims and abusers later in life. Today is the day where all of us ó for communities ó to reflect on concrete actions that each Canadian can take, reaffirming our commitment to end all forms of violence against women.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling of returns and documents, I have for tabling the 2003-04 Annual Report of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Are there any further documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Child Care Board Annual Report for March 31, 2004. I also have for tabling a statement of revenue and expenditures for the health care insurance program for health services branch for this fiscal period and prior.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 6 ó received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 6 of the First Session of the 31st Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Kluane on December 2, 2004.
†This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 6 is accordingly deemed to be read and received.
Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to formally request Canada Post to apply the same mailing standards for Yukon MLAs as it does for the Yukon Senator and Member of Parliament.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should adopt a code of conduct† for Cabinet ministers that requires them to attend Question Period on at least 90 percent of the sitting days in any given legislative sitting, unless they can demonstrate a clear and compelling reason why their presence elsewhere is in the best interest of Yukon people, and that requires Cabinet ministers to provide full, accurate and constructive answers to questions addressed to them during Question Period and departmental debate on government business.
Mr. Cathers: I rise in the House today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Department of Highways and Public Works to perform brushing of trees within the Mayo Road right-of-way, particularly between mile 5 and the curve by the old microwave tower, to prevent accidents as a result of motorists being unable to see animals emerging from the ditches before they are actually on the highway.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges Canadaís Minister for Immigration to direct her department to fulfill its responsibility to deal with the refugees currently living in the Yukon in a manner that is fair and equitable.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Party promised in writing during the 2002 election campaign that it would not raise workersí compensation premiums;
(2) the Yukon Party promised in writing during the 2002 election campaign that it would not raise taxes or fees.
††††††† (3) the Yukon Party has raised workersí compensation premiums every year it has been in office, and rates have increased more than 20 percent since December 2002; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to live up to these commitments and stop raising workersí compensation premiums.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Question re:† ††Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
†Mr. Hardy: It would be a stretch to describe the Premierís micromeeting with President Bush in the reception line as a meaningful lobby on behalf of the Porcupine caribou herd. And if the Premier did mention the herdís calving grounds during his speech in Houston, he certainly didnít make an impassioned case against the oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is asking other First Nations to consider boycotting an Alaska Highway pipeline if drilling is permitted in ANWR.
Does the Premier agree with Chief Linklaterís position?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First off, it was a very good opportunity for the Yukon, as represented by me, to bring forward this issue to the President of the United States, including mentioning to the President that we would be willing to work further on this issue and discuss the issue further. We are also following the request from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and their government to make sure they are in the lead on this issue, and we are assisting them.
As far as the chief taking a position on the Alaska Highway pipeline, frankly this is a speculative question and very difficult to answer. In the first place, the decision made on American soil is a decision to be made by the Americans. We, the Yukon government and the Yukon, maintain a consistent position that the protection of the critical habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd must be part of the process.
Mr. Hardy: Talk about giving up immediately. Now, maybe the Premier should reflect on what has been happening in the Yukon recently. The TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation is taking him to court over how the Tombstone Park came into being. The Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and other Carmacks residents staged another major demonstration last week over how this government ignored their input on a new school. Kwanlin Dun First Nation has talked about legal action legal action over land development adjacent to its settlement lands. The Na Cho Nyšk Dun is upset over unresolved education and habitat management issues, and the Chief of Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation talks about telling the oil and gas industry that things arenít very rosy between this government and First Nation governments.
Can the Premier explain why all these things are happening two years after he promised to make First Nation governments equal partners in economic development?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would respond to that question with another question: could the member opposite explain why there is advancement in the oil and gas sector, why we now have timber permits in the southeast Yukon, why we have an agreement in north Yukon for economic development, why we share in the royalties of oil and gas with First Nations? All these are questions that are factual statements regarding what is going on in the territory.
There are going to be issues of disagreement, areas of disagreement, and that is what government is all about ó both the First Nation governments and the public government: the Yukon government. Frankly, the evidence is clear: we have built a better relationship with First Nations, we are advancing economically as well as on the social front, and also assisting toward self-determination for First Nation people.
The Childrenís Act review, educational reform, correction reform ó these are more examples. Language and the investment there for First Nation languages is another example; and the list goes on.
Mr. Speaker, the question is for the members opposite to answer: why is the evidence in this territory today showing clearly that we have advanced our relationship?
Mr. Hardy: Now, the Premier doesnít have to look very far to see where the problem actually lies. He can put all the spin he wants on it, but thereís a reality out there that weíre seeing daily in the newspapers or on the streets. He just has to look around him and recognize that that side of the House is where it may lie and take some responsibility for that.
Last week we heard the Member for Southern Lakes explain that he didnít bother consulting people in Carcross because he didnít want to get their hopes up ó if you can believe that. We have an Environment minister ignoring and overriding and manipulating mandated advisory boards. We have an Energy minister who believes in development first, planning second and consultation last of all. We have a Premier who repeatedly uses the paternalistic term ďour First NationsĒ when he speaks about governments that are supposed to be equal partners with his government. Maybe the Premier should look even closer. Maybe he should look in a mirror.
These issues have one thing in common: the Premierís attitude that he knows best. How much longer does the Premier plan to ignore his partyís election promise to treat First Nation governments with respect and make them equal partners in economic development. Thatís the question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Considering the advancements in our economy today in partnership with Yukon First Nations, who are participating in many of the sectors, who are receiving benefit from economic development ó look at the partnerships in the corporate community, whether it be Teck Cominco, whether it be SNC Lavalin, whether it be local companies. Look at Air North as an example, a shining example, of that economic development for this territory in partnership with First Nations; and the list goes on.
The question is to the members opposite: what is their position in working in partnership with First Nations? We all know that they are anti-development, anti-profit, and anti-private sector. These are areas that are important for economic partnership. I fail to see how the members opposite can even engage in a discussion for economic partnership with First Nations when they disagree with those fundamental elements.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, last week, we learned that the government had sole sourced a $360,000 contract for the Dawson City forensic audit. On Thursday, the Minister of Community Services said in the Legislature that he chose Doddington Advisors Inc. to perform this audit because he had a ďconnectionĒ with this one firm. Will the minister tell the House exactly what connection he had with Doddington Advisors?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We were provided names of forensic auditors, and we were searching for somebody who was available immediately, and Mr. Doddingtonís firm was one of the ones given to us as the possible candidates.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, perhaps the minister would kindly provide us with the instructions that were given to the auditor. This government has been consistent in one way: $360,000 sole-source contract for the audit; $150,000 sole-source contract for the current trustee; $120,000 contract sole sourced again for the current city manager; over $70,000 sole sourced to the previous supervisor from B.C. Add $1.64 million, Mr. Speaker, for legal fees and operating expenses, and none of this has done anything to reduce Dawson Cityís $4-million debt by a single penny.
My question is this: does the minister have an exit strategy that wonít leave this mess hanging around the neck of a future government?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are undertaking a forensic audit to investigate the financial situation in Dawson, as I have stipulated in this House many times, including to the member opposite.
We have got to find out whatís happening in Dawson City. When the forensic auditor presents his report to us, it will provide us with a detailed analysis of the transactions taking place in Dawson City. Until we are in possession of that, we are working with the trustee on the possibility of having a spring election for the Town of Dawson City.
Mr. Cardiff: I wonder if the forensic audit is going to examine the expenses that this government has incurred on this issue. This government fired the mayor and council. This government eliminated the positions of treasurer and recreation director. They sold the youth recreation centre. There are potential lawsuits from former city employees and supervisory personnel. Regardless of the result of an audit, any new administration in Dawson City is going to be severely hobbled.
Given the governmentís failure to deal with the shaky finances and the list of other potential liabilities, why would anyone want to run for mayor or council in Dawson City? Can the minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: To answer the member oppositeís question, once we have identified what the auditor brings forth, we will look at a long-term solution for Dawson City, put it in place and allow the new council to take over from that point on.
Question re: Dawson City bridge
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development about the Yukon Partyís misguided decision to build the Dawson bridge using a public/private partnership.
According to documents obtained through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act ó documents that had to be dragged out of the secretive government ó the bridge is a poor candidate for a public/private partnership. A study conducted by the Government of Yukon in January of this year came to this conclusion: ďPublic/private partnership methods were examined as an alternative delivery mechanism but are not recommended as the process is complex, unfamiliar to the Yukon government and the cost is significantly higher.Ē In other words, donít do it this way.
This is typical of the Yukon Party and the ďfather knows bestĒ attitude ó ask for advice from the experts and then ignore it.
Why was this information not made public to Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me say, with all due respect to the leader of the third party, that these statements are somewhat premature, considering the fact that we are engaged in a process with respect to public/private partnerships and the possibility of the Dawson City bridge being a candidate. We have engaged the experts on this matter, so itís another option for building a piece of infrastructure for this territory and the possibility of using a public/private partnership.
Furthermore, this government ó being a government that supports the growth of the private sector ó sees the tool and mechanism of public/private partnerships as a potential benefit to this territory in engaging the private sector to invest more to complement government spending.
So Mr. Speaker, I think the real secrecy here is the point that the member is trying to make.
Ms. Duncan: Itís clear the Yukon Party wants to build a bridge ó a legacy project for the MLA for Klondike. So it asked their own experts, who work within the Government of Yukon, for their advice. They received a report in January 2004. The experts said, ďDonít use a public/private partnership.Ē The government has been told that already, and the reason? The cost is significantly higher.
For months the Yukon Party has been low-balling the cost of the bridge. Theyíve said over and over and over again the cost is $25 million. In fact, according to these documents that the government didnít want to provide to the public, the cost is $44 million. Instead of the lowest cost option, the Yukon Party has chosen the highest cost option. Why has the government not made this information public and why are they continuing to low-ball the cost of the bridge when itís clearly stated as $44 million?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Interestingly enough, the government hasnít made a decision on any option. We are reviewing the options, including public/private partnerships.† The third party has a propensity to bandy numbers about; letís give an example on their view of the cost of the Dawson City bridge and, in utilizing the potential project across the Mackenzie River, factor in the cost of that bridge to their position here in the House. The Mackenzie River is quite a distance wider than the crossing of the Yukon River at Dawson City ó as my colleague points out, probably about three times wider. These numbers are all speculative numbers. We are going through the work necessary to determine what the final cost of the bridge in Dawson City will be. We intend to make an investment in the public interest on a piece of infrastructure that will have benefit for Yukon in the long term.
Ms. Duncan: The governmentís own internal documents ó that they wouldnít make public ó state very clearly that the experts have said, ďDonít use the Dawson bridge as a public/private partnership.Ē Those documents also say that the government is prepared to spend at least $44 million. Itís obvious why they donít want to share this information with the public. It makes the Yukon Party government look ridiculous. It has chosen the most expensive option to build a bridge. All of this could have been avoided if the Premier had lived up to his commitment to develop the public policy on public/private partnerships before it started the project. Develop the policy first: thatís what the Premier committed to do, and thatís what the Auditor General told the Prince Edward Island government, what the Auditor General told the Nova Scotia government ó do the public policy work first. Put the policy in place.
Speaker: Could the member ask a question, please?
Ms. Duncan: Certainly. Will the Premier accept a constructive suggestion from the opposition and put the policy on public/private partnerships in place before the bridge is constructed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would submit that thatís exactly what the government is doing. We are going through the process of developing a policy for public/private partnerships, including the possibility of a pilot project for public/private partnership here in the territory. Weíve never had one here in the Yukon. There is no history, or historical data, to draw from. We are about to embark on a new initiative here in the Yukon Territory, if it makes sense for the Yukon and its future.
Furthermore, the member opposite is talking $25 million for the bridge, then $44 million for the bridge. Last spring it was $50 million for the bridge, given the connection to the Mackenzie River crossing. Itís very difficult to respond to the member opposite in a meaningful way when weíre not sure what the member is asking, so I will sum up by saying that we are in the process of developing a policy. We accept the constructive suggestion and weíve accepted it to the point where weíre actually doing the work.
Question re: †Business loans, outstanding
Mr. Hardy: I wish that were true. A year ago, the Premier promised a solution ó
Speaker: † I believe the terminology is ďbootlegging.Ē I would ask the leader of the official opposition not to do that.
Mr. Hardy: I wonít do it.
Speaker: Proceed with your question.
Mr. Hardy: A year ago, the Premier promised a solution to the outstanding loans issue. Even though that solution collapsed, we should give some credit where credit is due. Thanks to the work of the Finance department officials, a significant amount of outstanding debt has been collected, and many of the loans have been repaid or are being repaid. In his capacity as the Minister of Finance, will the Premier give us an update on how much is still outstanding on this file?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We have made considerable progress on this file, as the member has pointed out. And the government side is very conscious of the efforts made by the Department of Finance in this regard. I would also point out that it was under this governmentís watch that this progress has actually been made ó the forgiveness of NGOs, the repatriation from the federal government of hundreds of thousands of dollars where it belonged, not to mention the recommitment of approximately $2 million.
We have stated over and over in this House for the benefit of the members opposite that the remaining delinquencies are now being looked at, what options are available to the government to address them, and one of them is collection. When we make the decision ó and if the decision is to go to collection ó all the remaining delinquencies will be in a collection process. So I agree with the member opposite; we have done something, and itís considerable.
Mr. Hardy: Well, what a different tune the Premier is singing from this spring now. The so-called solution the Premier promised would have sold these debts to the private sector for collection. As we all know, the best offer the government could get from a private sector wouldnít give taxpayers much return for their money after several years of carrying these debts on the governmentís books. Apparently the Premierís department officials have been doing a lot of the collection efforts themselves through phone calls and letters and so forth. Will the Premier tell us how many collection calls his department has made and how many letters have been sent in the past six months, and specifically would he tell us how many calls have been made and how many letters have been sent to the Member for Klondike or to the hotel he owns in Dawson City? Could he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite knows full well that the process that we embarked on allowed individual proponents who are involved in this particular file to come forward. We allowed them a timeline. We were also dealing with interest issues, so we allowed that time to elapse. It has been done and the progress has been made, and we have stated it over and over and over on the floor on this House ó the progress is considerable.
Furthermore, in looking at the option as part of it, we said that we may sell this portfolio to a financial institution; we did not say that we would give it away; therefore, the decision was made not to proceed with the sale at the amount offered. Now we are looking at what we must do to finalize this particular file. I would point out that this is not a couple years old; this goes back a couple decades.
So considering the progress to date, I think the government is very much focused on dealing with this issue in the appropriate manner, and we are now at the final stages.
Mr. Hardy: Last week, MLAs on that side of the House had a perfect opportunity to show that they agree with their constituents that this situation cannot be tolerated. They could have sent an ethical message to Yukoners that anyone who wants to be a Cabinet minister in the Yukon should be prepared to live up to a high standard of conduct. What happened instead was that the MLAs on that side of the House voted against the wishes of their constituents. Their vote on Bill No. 105 was a vote to forgive the Deputy Premierís $300,000 debt. No matter what spin the Premier tries to put on it, thatís what happened.
Will the Premier authorize his officials to take the strongest collection measures possible to get this debt under control immediately? Failing that, will he remove the Member for Klondike from Cabinet until his officials are satisfied that the member is making regular payments on his outstanding loan?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, Mr. Speaker, I must correct the record ó the members on this side were very constructive in the debate. Not only were they constructive, they brought forward an amendment that would engage all parties on this so-called democratic reform process. It is the members opposite who voted down their own bill.
If we want to look at this as it unfolded or evolved here in this institution ó our Assembly ó I would suggest to the Yukon public that the members opposite were not that sincere about their motion. When we offered to work with them on it, they voted against their own motion.
Question re: Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
†Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. The minister said that we need to take a fresh look at the proposal for building the school in Carmacks. All he has done is that last Wednesday he postponed dealing with the school until sometime in February. That would mean that construction will not begin next summer.
The ministerís fresh look is obviously to avoid the issue. What other deals does the minister call his fresh look at the building proposal?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government does hold true to its word and its promises and its commitments. This government said that we would build a school in Carmacks and this government is still prepared to do that. I have all the confidence in this government to be able to work with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the citizens of Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: It has been postponed as of last Wednesday. I donít know why the minister didnít say that in Question Period last Thursday. On Thursday the minister said that a very credible source told him that I had promised citizens of Carmacks a better deal. You bet we have a better deal and weíve said it time and time again in this House. We will listen to the people, we will consult with the people and we will act on the decision made by the communities. We would let the community decide on the College campus location. Thatís our better offer.
I also have an offer for the minister himself. Everyone wants a new school and I donít think the minister can argue with that. There are people out there who are having trouble with the idea of the College being attached to it. I have to ask the question: will the minister direct his department to build a school without the College attached on condition that the community will decide on the College matter over the next year?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite just described on the floor of this House somewhat of a process to sabotage this governmentís progress on this project.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Point of order. I believe the word ďsabotageĒ ascribes motives. Thatís clearly against the Standing Orders of this Assembly.
Speaker: Iíd ask the hon. Minister of Education to retract that.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I retract the word ďsabotageĒ.
Speaker: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government, like I said earlier and on several occasions, does have the political will, does have the best interests of the citizens of Carmacks with regard to this school and, at the end of the day, this government is willing and capable of working with all the citizens of Carmacks and we intend to do just that.
Mr. Fairclough: If that were the case, Mr. Speaker, this project would not be postponed until next February. Members opposite asked for constructive debate in this House and suggestions. Iím giving one to the minister. I was hoping that he would grab on to this. Iím trying to keep the project moving forward. I hope the minister understands that. The minister should see the benefits in this proposal of mine. Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation can find new members to sit on the advisory body very quickly, and I can assist with that. It gives the community ample time to deal with the College issue and present it to the advisory committee. In the meantime, the school will not be delayed. If the minister believes that this government should act in the best interests of children, he would act now.
So I have to ask the question again: will the minister make a democratic move and let the community of Carmacks deal with the College matter, and will he take action and have the school built for now without the College campus attached?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, it certainly is a pleasure to notice that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun appears to have turned over a new leaf here and is willing to start working for the best interests of all the citizens in Carmacks ó all of the citizens. Like I stated on the floor before, some members from Carmacks had to drive to Whitehorse ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
†Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, again, Mr. Speaker, that minister is out of control. The House rules clearly state any member shall be called to order by the Speaker if that member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member. We all know the Member for Mayo-Tatchun represents all his constituents. He has sworn an oath to that effect. He does a very good job at it.
Speaker: On the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order. This is just a dispute and interpretation by the member opposite.
Speaker: Leader for the third party, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I was listening to the debate very carefully, and the Minister of Education said that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun had turned over a new leaf and was now willing to represent his constituents. That implies that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has not previously been representing his constituents, which, as has been noted, we all swear to do and we all have been upholding our oaths. So if I might, I would strongly suggest that there is a point of order and that you, at a minimum, review the Blues on this issue.
Speaker: I would ask the Houseís indulgence to do exactly that, to review the Blues and come back with a decision. Thank you.
I think the Minister of Education has about 10 seconds left.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but the facts do speak for themselves. I did have people come from Carmacks directly to my office who stated to me that they could not get a meeting with their MLA, so that justifies my comments on this floor.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re:††† Childcare workers, wage increases for
Mr. McRobb: † On August 5, the Health minister announced $675,000 for childcare and home care. He said the money would be split evenly between increased wages for staff and operational costs of the facilities. People who work in the daycare industry were expecting this would lead to an increase in their hourly wage. However, we sampled some daycare facilities and discovered that there has been no appreciable increase in the wages of these workers. Why hasnít the minister made good on his promise to increase wages for childcare workers?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer is, we have.
Mr. McRobb: Talk is cheap, Mr. Speaker. People are wondering about what really happens to the money that this government dishes out compared to what it announces. Perhaps the Auditor General should be requested to examine this matter.† First though, weíd like to examine the figures ourselves. Thatís why weíre requesting information that so far the minister has denied us. Without the information, how can we possibly hold the government to account? Why is it hiding from public scrutiny?
The minister said the other day that the information exists within the main estimates budget. We did an exhaustive search, and it revealed nothing. Obviously the minister was just playing the old shell game. If he even monitors the required indicators, could he tell us which of the indicators he does monitor óthe number of childcare workers and their hourly wages ó and can he give us the outcome of his targeted spending?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: First of all, the Auditor Generalís Office has examined this expenditure, and they have given an unqualified audit on the governmentís expenditures for the last fiscal year period.
The second issue is the amount of money contained in the main estimates last year. I can understand why the members opposite are having a hard time finding it, because they failed to debate the budget. They spent a very, very short time in debate of the main estimates last spring.
We as a government wanted to go long in the spring so that the official opposition and the third party could examine the budget in detail, which was the biggest budget ever in the history of Yukon, and which the members opposite failed to address or debate. Third, today I tabled the annual report of the Child Care Board. Now Iíd encourage the members to read it and go back and further examine the budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister didnít answer the question. The other day we reviewed this issue at length. He assured us all the information was in the mains budget, but itís not. So the minister sent us on a wild goose chase. When is he going to provide the information we requested?
Now he says itís in a report he tabled today. Well, we havenít had a chance to look at it. So, again, the minister has not provided the information to us yet. Now this whole announcement appears to be nothing more than another sham from this Yukon Party government. Itís no wonder that people have lost trust in it. Why did the minister proclaim half the funds spent would serve to increase the wages of childcare workers when he doesnít follow through on his promises?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government committed to examining the area of daycare. We have done exactly that. We have addressed that issue, and we have a four-year plan that is being implemented in conjunction with the day home operators and the daycare association. This plan is well underway and there has been a significant increase in funding in this area. We are very proud of what weíve accomplished as a government working in concert with the day home and daycare operators. Further to that, thereís a federal government announcement of more money in this area, and it is our hope and our intention as a government to reconvene the working board to examine ways ó if and when this money does flow. Weíve heard the big federal government announcement, we know the Yukon government has flowed the money in this area, but we donít know when the money is going to flow from the federal government, but when it does, that money will be directed in this area also.
So this is an area that we are very comfortable with. The fact is that the members opposite havenít done their homework, havenít had the ability to examine the budget on the floor of this House because they budgeted their time poorly.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. I understand the first department up is Department of Highways and Public Works.
Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 12 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue on with Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works. The page reference is 9-2.
Department of Highways and Public Works
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, I rise today to outline the supplementary budget for the Department of Highways and Public Works. Mr. Chair, in a previous discussion I spoke on the increase in operation and maintenance expenditures of $1,778,000, of which $190,000 will be recovered, for a net increase of $1.588 million.
Today I would like to tell the House about the capital investment my department has made to make the Yukonís buildings, roads and airports stronger, safer and more durable for the long term. Mr. Chair, as you will recall from the spring, the Department of Highways and Public Works set out a very ambitious plan to put Yukoners to work and to upgrade our infrastructure.
We have done that, and I would like to highlight some of the significant investments we have made over the past six months. In Watson Lake, we have invested just under $500,000 for the replacement of the Watson Lake weigh scale. The new facility faces the highway and provides an improved environment for truckers and the carrier compliance staff.
In Beaver Creek just under $5 million has been invested in the replacement of the Beaver Creek bridge ó a key project to that community. Mr. Chair, $1.5 million has been used to replace the bridge decks at Little Rancheria and Big Creek. Further, $2.9 million has been invested to bring the Teslin River bridge up to current traffic and seismic standards. Of this $2.9 million investment, $1.4 million will be recovered from the Government of Canadaís strategic highway improvement program.
In Dawson, we have invested $2.3 million in improvements to the Klondike Highway just south of Dawson, and next year just under $400,000 will be invested in the same stretch to place the final surface.
In the Ross River area, $780,000 was invested on the Campbell Highway to realign a curve at kilometre 387 west of the community. A number of additional projects are underway on this important route ó projects that are putting area residents and contractors to work.
The Alaska Highway is a critical international highway, and we are working closely with our partners in the United States to ensure long-term funding is maintained for this key artery between southern Canada, the Yukon and Alaska. This year, $17 million was earmarked for the Shakwak projects, and we are nearing the completion of almost all that work.
Anyone who was on the Alaska Highway this season saw Yukoners at work upgrading this highway. There was work between Lewes Creek and Burwash, Williscroft, Congdon, around Whitehorse, along the Aishihik River and between Pine Lakes and Haines Junction.
The Alaska Highway received BST applications, reconstructions and roadside revegetation on many of its sections. Just under $200,000 was invested on the Dempster Highway this summer to help protect the highway from erosion caused by the Blackstone and Ogilvie rivers and Engineer Creek.
Interruption of highway service due to washouts is costly to highway users, and repairing washouts is costly for the government. By taking preventive action in these areas we hope to prevent the highway from seasonal flows of these water courses.
Our airports are critical to our tourism and our business sectors, and this year we have completed just over $100,000 worth of upgrades to the Beaver Creek Airport, including the runway, resurface design, airside improvements and replacement of the runway lights.
At the Old Crow Airport, terminal foundation work is now complete. I know it will be a very important project for that community. The Old Crow Airport project will cost an estimated $2.3 million and provide 309 square metres of building space ó a marked improvement over the existing building, which covers just under 90 square metres.
At the Whitehorse Airport, our partnership with Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is providing an improved security environment for all users of that facility.
Mr. Chair, our property management agency is responsible for buildings held in the public trust. Keeping these buildings and facilities in good repair is fundamental to their durability and safety. Through a host of painting, replacement and repair projects, we have added years of life to our facilities and put small Yukon businesses to work.
Mr. Chair, I would like to take a moment to highlight many of the smaller projects that use Yukon trades to maintain and enhance our facilities. $50,000 was invested to upgrade flooring at Yukon College; $104,000 was invested to replace the roof of this building here, the YTG main building.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, prior to the fire.
The exterior of the Education building has been repainted at a cost of just under $40,000, and $124,000 was invested in the Haines Junction administration building to create a handicap access and make it more accessible to persons with disabilities.
A large number of projects were undertaken at our transportation facilities to upgrade both the installations and equipment. Ventilation upgrades are underway at various grader stations, while painting, insulation and roof repair projects are on the docket for completion this year. By undertaking these and other projects, we are ensuring safe worksites for our employees, and we are keeping long-term maintenance and repair costs in check.
Our government made a landmark commitment to information technology this year, and we are taking steps to ensure that our IT systems are up to date and serving us all well. Protecting the public and governmentís data is a top priority and, to that end, we are upgrading computer workstations, investing in new hardware and software, and beefing up our network infrastructure. This spring our government committed to over $5 million in capital to upgrade our IT systems, and we are now making those investments.
Finally, we are investing in the future of Whitehorse waterfront by extending the trolley line to the Chilkoot Centre. Just under $380,000 has been earmarked for that exciting project and I know it will be a real winner with visitors, train enthusiasts and those who enjoy our local history.
My department set ambitious goals this year and, with the capital budget we were given this spring, we put Yukoners to work. We invested multi-millions in the economy and we helped make the Yukon a better place for residents and visitors alike. With our supplementary budget we are continuing that important work.
The department has had one of the most vigorous and productive years in many years. We put Yukoners to work on all of our major highways. We put small tradespeople and contractors to work on our buildings and we made sure our infrastructure was as robust and secure as possible.
Crews have upgraded security at Whitehorse Airport. We are improving our roads and bridges to ensure they are better able to meet the test and demands of time. We are already looking ahead to the work we will roll out next year.
We realize the planning helps us set a strategic course to maximize our human and financial resources and generate efficiency. My department is working with other government departments to take a longer term view of the work that needs to be done to upgrade our buildings, highways and telecommunication services.
In the coming year we will put our planning activities into action, and that in turn will put Yukoners to work and continue to invigorate our economy.
I have risen in this House in the past to outline how my department touches so many day-to-day operations of the government and Yukonersí lives. I would like to remind members opposite of the critical role the Department of Highway and Public Works plays in the work we do in this very Chamber, as well as the activities that are taking place every day across this territory. Many of us coming to this Chamber this morning drove on the roads and highways engineered and maintained by this department. You may have dropped your children off at a school maintained and upgraded by the property management agency, a division of this department. The information technology connection that links our schools, our homes and communities, emergency personnel in the communities, and government systems that process the driversí licences, court proceedings and social support payments is coordinated by this department.
The Department of Highways and Public Works looks after the governmentís key assets, including the very buildings the government uses to conduct business in and the schools where our children learn. These are valuable assets to our government and our culture, and we make the necessary investments to ensure their strength and longevity.
My department prints the documents and the materials that we use here in the House, and the materials that are used in the courthouse and throughout our education system. My department works to ensure citizens have access to the materials in both official Canadian languages. The Bureau of French Language Services provides French training for staff and people like myself. They also ensure the translation of materials into French for our French-speaking Yukoners.
The airports that connect us to the outside world and bring the world to us are managed through my department. We want to ensure safe comings and goings, a pleasant welcoming environment for our travellers and a comfortable place for people to relax and wait prior to their departures.
To those ends, we invest in these facilities, including the unseen upgrades to provide the appropriate security protections.
Mr. Chair, I am telling you about the breadth of my department because of the role it plays in everyday lives and the activities of all Yukoners. We do it by providing the backbone services to the government and, through it, to the Yukon citizens. We do it by putting Yukoners to work, both on the actual job site and through the many hands that benefit from the paycheque. Mr. Chair, the dollars and the paycheques handed to workers on the highway jobs or contractors fixing the roofs of the government buildings will circulate through our territories many times.
The paycheques provide housing, meals, new clothes, Christmas gifts and even an evening at the movies. They also pay for the vehicles to get you there and back. Money from those paycheques will be left at the gas station, the drugstore, the grocery store and in many other hands across the territory. Those hands will in turn make purchases, pay employees and support their families.
Mr. Speaker, our budgets invest in our roads, our buildings, our airports, our technology, our culture and, most importantly, our people.
We have already taken steps to install the strongest possible safety and security measures at our airports. Over the coming months, we will continue to enhance our winter highway maintenance program. Through a significant investment in our roads, airports, buildings and systems, we are revitalizing the Yukon economy and creating an infrastructure that will open the door to new investment and opportunity.
Also in our supplement, we have specifically set aside monies to assist our auxiliary and people in providing services on our secondary roads for snow clearing and snow plowing throughout the territory.
Mr. Chair, I would be very pleased to answer any of the questions the members opposite have for questions of Highways and Public Works on this supplementary budget.
Mr. McRobb: Itís my pleasure to fill in for our usual critic for this department, who is busy in a meeting at the present time, but heíll be back shortly to ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: I believe itís out of order to refer to the absence of a member from the Assembly.
Chair: Mr. Cathers is correct. Please refrain from making such statements.
Mr. McRobb: Hopefully our critic will be able to pick up where I left off, but Iíll fill in in the meantime.
I think there are a few main issues regarding this department. I think they are the Dawson bridge, the lack of communications in the territory ó for instance the need for a cell phone system ó and the railway study that has been announced recently. If I get the opportunity, Iíd like to address all those issues, plus a few highway maintenance issues and Iíve got a few riding-related issues. I think Iíll start with the latter category first to allow the critic the first opportunity to address the more general issues.
††††††† I would like to ask the minister about his governmentís pledge that it is pipeline-ready. This is a matter I asked in the spring. This government has built a brand new weigh station in Watson Lake, but it has no plans to do the same in Haines Junction. Now I mention Haines Junction. As set out in the spring, I had heard that the Port of Haines, Alaska was going to be a major entry port for materials related to the Alaska Highway pipeline, should it ever be built.
I understand from the office of the mayor in Haines, Alaska, that recently there was a major conference in the State of Alaska, perhaps in Fairbanks, that discussed pipeline logistics, and it was confirmed that indeed, Haines, Alaska would be a major port of entry for pipeline materials. I feel somewhat validated because of the questions I asked of this minister in the spring. I want to follow up with him now because, if there is no weigh station in Haines Junction to check on the truck traffic, then of course our highways will not be as safe as we would like.
I donít have the numbers at my disposal from the spring, but it seemed to me that it was something in the magnitude of 50,000 truckloads of pipe. These truckloads would be very long vehicles. Thatís an enormous amount of highway traffic. Iím hoping the minister did his homework in the past six or seven months and has an opportunity to provide us with more detail today. But I guess my first question would be: if the pipeline should proceed, would this government be prepared to build a weigh station in Haines Junction to monitor and regulate the incoming highway traffic from Haines, Alaska, that is pipeline related, and how quickly is it prepared to act?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Haines Junction weigh station is currently intact and it is used on a regular basis for our compliance program on an as-is-required basis. It can be activated, if required, and if the pipeline does get the go-ahead and trucks are coming through as the member opposite talks about, then it wouldnít take much for us to provide facilities in Haines Junction to take care of that.
Mr. McRobb: That doesnít sound like too proactive of an approach. What type of facility is the minister prepared to construct? Are we talking about a weigh station similar to the one Watson Lake has? Or will the minister merely want to set up a portable weigh scale unit, which I donít think is practical in the case of these long vehicles anyway? Which one is it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Until such time as we get the clearance that the pipeline is going to commence, and we know exactly what the lengths of the trucks are going to be, what the weights are going to be, what their frequency is going to be on that particular section of the highway, we wonít be in any position to determine what kind of yard we are going to require, what kind of additional people we are going to require, or anything.
However, our compliance people are well trained, and we can move people around to make this adjustment to take care of the extra traffic that may be coming. We are more than prepared to go ahead and do what is required based on the need.
Mr. McRobb: What the minister is really setting out is an approach that is totally reactive; it is not proactive at all, yet, he and his colleagues like to get up and say how pipeline-ready they are. Well, I would think, to be pipeline-ready, this government should have a plan sitting on the shelf that could be implemented on very short notice. I think itís common knowledge what these trucks would basically be like. There really is only one option, and that is to construct a facility.
I think the government needs to identify the location for the facility. That is currently an issue, Mr. Chair, because the current facility is very old, and itís probably not adequate to handle what would be an extreme challenge dealing with these large vehicles, especially in this quantity.
Furthermore, there is a very important local group ó the Haines Junction seniors ó who are using a good part of that building. I understand the Village of Haines Junction may have some jurisdiction over that building and property. As I recall, there was a previous pledge from the Yukon government to hand over that property.
This raises a valid question: what is this governmentís plan with respect to such a weigh station in terms of location and building?
Would it go out and find a new location, or what? The minister surely must know.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We canít really speculate on land tenure right now. We donít even know if this thing is going to proceed. Once we get some clearance on the fact, as I mentioned earlier, that the pipeline is going to proceed, we can be in a position to make adjustments and assist in making the trips for these trucks that come through the Yukon as amicable as possible.
Mr. McRobb: Well, again, that doesnít sound as if this minister is very pipeline-ready. Everything is still up in the air. Now, we want to avoid a potentially bad situation here on at least two fronts. We want to avoid not having a facility in place in time to monitor and regulate this enormous truck traffic. So we urge the minister to roll up his sleeves and develop some kind of a fast-track strategy where he can push a button and the facility thatís required can proceed immediately. So we need him to do that and Iíll follow up in the spring with the minister on that matter.
Secondly, if he intends to just take over the entire building thatís there now, then what happens to the seniors group who is using the facility as a drop-in centre? Certainly whatever action the government takes, it must fully consider the ramifications of displacing the seniors. Should the minister act in a thoughtless way ó and letís hope he doesnít ó and the seniors are forced out, I can let him know right now that I feel confident that there will be another demonstration outside this building by a group of empowered individuals who take seriously their right for recreation and meeting and community input at the current facility. Letís think a bit ahead and avoid alarming our residents out there and think about their concerns.
Now, I want to switch to the railway study, Mr. Chair. This has been an issue I have been asking about for several years in this House, and finally the federal government has recently pledged to cough up the funds necessary to allow the commitment from the United States to be spent toward a railway study of the proposed railroad that would stretch from Alaska to British Columbia.
Now, one of the main issues in regard to this study has been which route it would take through the Yukon. Now, I recall a previous minister of the Liberal government tabling in this House a report that involved the participation of the Chamber of Mines, and the report identified an extraordinary number that indicated the worth of minerals along the Tintina Trench. The conclusion was the railroad would have to follow what is called the 1942 route, up the Campbell Highway near Faro and then veer off toward Dawson from there, bypassing Whitehorse. And the study identified what is billions of dollars of minerals along the Tintina Trench.
So there was an argument put forward by the government of the time and other groups, like the Chamber of Mines, that strongly favoured that route. And I recall the previous MLA for Faro even getting his picture in the paper driving a spike into a tie of what would be the future railroad, the one weíre talking about. So peopleís hopes have been raised, and we know how you donít like to do that, Mr. Chair, and what we need to do is hear from this government about which route will be studied. We have heard on the other side of the ledger about how the Premier supports Governor Frank Murkowskiís preference for a railroad along the Alaska Highway pipeline corridor. That is a matter of record.
So we have two options and no decision and no indication of which one this government really supports, other than what the Premier said. There are a lot of Yukoners out there who would like to be a part of any decision. This is something that Iíve asked before: when will the minister provide the Yukon public with an opportunity to express their preference for the routing of a railroad through the Yukon? When will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite listed off many questions and I will try to respond to a few of them. First of all, with regard to Haines Junction, we own the building that currently houses our scale. We allow the seniors to utilize it on an as-needed basis. If and when the pipeline is determined to proceed, we are confident that we can provide the necessary facilities in Haines Junction to accommodate not only our scale, but also the seniors there ó to get it while we commission the pipeline to take place. Thatís going to be a very short term. Itís only going to be three years for the actual completion of the pipeline, so Iím sure that we can accommodate the Haines Junction facility on a temporary aspect to get by for that period of time.
With regard to the railway study, I will inform the member opposite that Economic Development is the lead on this particular story. The federal Minister Lapierre has indicated the need for a pre-commission study. He wants to outline the Canadian issues first. The route is to be determined by the railway commission; the Yukon, of course, would try to influence the commission to study all options, including what the member indicated ó the 1942 route ó but it has yet to be determined where and what route will be selected.
I will encourage the member opposite to save that overall question for the Minister of Economic Development, because that department is the lead for that particular project. However, I did provide a little bit of information for the member opposite. I hope itís sufficient to get him by until such time as that takes place.
Mr. McRobb: Well, isnít that interesting, Mr. Chair? I think Iíve learned for the first time that this major project isnít under the purview of this minister. He has bailed out on what is another major government undertaking normally within the Department of Highways and Public Works.
Earlier we saw the Dawson bridge portfolio being handed over to the Minister of Economic Development. Now we see the railway issue also being handed over to that minister. Obviously, Mr. Chair, maybe this minister is being overworked within the Highways department, or maybe Community Services auditing the books in Dawson City ó I donít know what it is. Or maybe the Minister of Economic Development has too much time on his hands. Or maybe this government isnít really serious about addressing these issues. I donít know. We have heard no explanation as to the rationale.
I want to ask the minister about the communications issue. This is a matter Iíve raised before in the past. Surely I donít have to repeat the various arguments made. I think we are all aware of what the Yukon is lacking in terms of communication. Currently the cellular telephone system doesnít extend much past Whitehorse, which means that the majority of our main highways and rural communities are all without this communications system. This is important to us in terms of convenience, economy and traveller security. It is also very important to tourists. There have been studies done by the Yukon government that indicate that our visitors would stay longer, and they would feel more secure if they were able to call out from their campsites in rural Yukon. The reasons are many.
So I want to ask the minister ó it has been suggested that the government should partner with industry and whomever to establish a cellular network in the territory. Can the minister give us an update on that front?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This government feels that the railway project is a very important project for many of the reasons that the member opposite indicated prior to questioning. It is with the Department of Economic Development because of all the Economic Development opportunities the railway bridge provides or could provide if it should go ahead. Thatís where it is specifically.
With regard to our cell system, our mobile communication systems within the Yukon, we are currently looking at trying to revamp our entire multi-departmental mobile radio system, and that is something that we are basically committed to doing. We are marketing. We are doing some marketing assessment right now. We should have the results of this by the end of January. This will determine what kind of procurement process weíre going to undertake in this process, and it also involves cell in communities plus mobile radio. So we are looking at all elements of it. We anticipate it will take all three ó the mobile radio, the cell and the satellite component as part of that process.
One of the major issues with cell, of course, is that we only have 30,000 people in the entire Yukon, which makes it very difficult to make cell viable. So regardless of how we do the system, this government is going to have to subsidize that system to a substantial link in order to support the infrastructure that is required to put in cell, no matter which partner the government takes on. We are in the process of dealing with that right now; and as I said, we should be in a position to get the results by the end of January.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd be interested to know if the government is considering a subsidy for a cellular system in terms of operation and maintenance. I think itís a given that a partnership that helps to reduce the capital costs for industry in locations that arenít economic on their own is needed, but in terms of O&M, Iíd like the minister to respond to that question.
Iíd like to move on to the Internet issue. Weíve discussed this matter on previous occasions. The main trunk to the south is overloaded and is in need of expansion. In addition, we continue to see outages to our data and communications systems because of our reliance on one main Internet trunk to the south. Earlier this summer, that trunk was threatened by the fire near Swift River. Specifically the tower ó the McNaughton tower, I believe it was ó was threatened by fire, and through the good graces it wasnít damaged, but if it had been we could have been in a real bind in the Yukon. So I want to know what the minister is doing to increase the bandwidth to the south. In addition, at the time of the fire, I believe I heard Northwestel officials indicate that it was investigating a back route through Alaska, through their communications system. I believe the message was that they were just testing some software.
This is a very interesting question. Itís one Iíve asked before. Iíve raised the issue about connecting to the undersea cables near Haines, Alaska or Skagway, Alaska as a backup route for communications trunk lines to the Yukon. Now what I heard Northwestel say also followed up on another option that Iíve been curious about. If we have an existing microwave system that goes through to Alaska, and if the undersea cables also connect to Alaska, then why wouldnít it be possible to merely back route all the communications and data through that system?
The only possible snag is what we heard the official from Northwestel indicate: that it was testing software. I would like the minister to comment on that. Is this the feasible option? Was the software tested, and is it possible?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The improvement to broadband to the south has always been handled by the Department of Economic Development in that particular area.
With regard to a backup line with regard to this yearís fire season, Northwestel has many plans. They advised us that they are looking at many options for their backup. We have also had discussions with Northwestel ourselves in trying to ensure this. According to Northwestel, they have the ability to get some of their services through Alaska, but not all of their services. In other words, they are not able to put all of the Internet services through to Alaska, coming from here.
Obviously the fire season brought that structure home to Northwestel and they are looking at investigating their options and what they can do in order to get a backup system on for the Internet that is going south from here to Fort Nelson.
As I mentioned, we are somewhat obligated to deal with the one provider in the north because of the CRTC rules, and that makes our options very slim, to say the least. But we are trying to do our level best to get a competitive bid out there for us to look at getting the best value for all Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: I was listening intently to the ministerís response. This is a very interesting subject, but I donít think we got complete details on what the options are.
Iíd like to ask the minister if he would undertake to get back to us with some material that identifies perhaps the top three options. I would suggest that one would be expansion of the bandwidth to the south; the second one would be the back-routing through Alaska; the third one would possibly be the connection to the undersea cables that have a lot of capacity available, which is to the west.
What I would appreciate from the minister is maybe a legislative return or something to that effect that just provides us some information on those leading options and any others that he is considering, and that would help to expedite debate this afternoon, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Given the time for a legislative return, I would report to the member opposite that I will try to get a memo to him as soon as possible.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine; I didnít mean to suggest that his response had to be by December 14, which is scheduled to be the final sitting day of this fall sitting.
I would like to ask him a question about highway maintenance, specifically about the salt brine that is being applied to the highways recently. Can the minister give us an overview on the salt brine?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are using salt brine on a very selective basis because it has a very specific temperature limitation that basically doesnít allow it to work past a certain temperature. We are working with that in conjunction with our sand program.
Mr. McRobb: † Can the minister tell us a little bit more about the salt brine and how it is used? He mentioned itís used in conjunction with the sanding program; can he indicate if it is ever used without sand?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It is not used anywhere without sand. We use it to minimize the use of sand where necessary and where possible.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate how long the government has been using this brine solution and whether there is a new government policy on the use of the brine solution?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is our second winter using the program.
Mr. McRobb: I want to turn to maintenance on the Shakwak highway; I know that is one of his favourite subjects. I think the minister needs a little cheering up over there. Earlier in his opening speech he talked about all the improvements being made on the Shakwak section of the highway. Thatís all fine and dandy ó and thanks to Uncle Sam for picking up the tab, by the way, on what will be about a half a billion dollar project by the time the cows come home ó and that includes the bridges being built, contrary to the opinion expressed on several previous occasions, specifically by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
There is no Yukon government money being spent on those bridges; itís all American money.
Mr. Chair, I want to ask him about the maintenance program on the Shakwak. I know heís very familiar with it. Iíve asked questions for several years now. This government just completed the second year of a maintenance program that irons out some of the severe frost heaves on that highway. Can the minister give us an update on the work that was done this past summer, as well as indicate what he plans to do next summer?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Just to be on the brief side, we spent just over $500,000 between BST and the straightening out in the Beaver Creek area.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, would the BST be for replacement of previous BST, or was that BST on the areas that were reconstructed under the Shakwak project? The minister mentioned $500,000. Would he provide us with a breakdown of that expense?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Itís for approximately 15 kilometres between Beaver Creek and White River, and itís all old BST.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what his plans are for next summer?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently in our budget process, but I anticipate weíll be doing maintenance similar to what we did this year.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask the minister a question about what the problem is with regard to the falling apart of this major highway that was recently constructed. Now, I was present at the Premierís budget meeting in Burwash Landing when he told us about his discussions with Highways people and his own observations. I believe his theory was that the implementation of evacuator ditches near the highway ó which draw water away from the roadbed ó was thought to be the leading culprit for why the highway has deteriorated so badly and so quickly.
Now, the minister has at his side two top officials from the Highways department, and I would just like to get on record the reason why this road is not standing up.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Really, the greatest difficulty we have with the majority of the highway in that region is the intermittent permafrost and our inability to determine exactly where the ice is, how much it is and how deep it goes. Plus we are doing our best to insulate that area with as much gravel as possible to keep the foundation in place, and we are doing our best to get it by in that particular venue. The road will probably have to be rebuilt or restructured many times.
Mr. McRobb: This is an issue we can probably go on about for hours, and maybe at another opportunity we will do that. Maybe the minister and I should meet up in Beaver Creek or Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay and take part in a meeting involving the public. Iím sure they, too, have questions.
I want to switch to Shakwak streetlights ó thatís a somewhat related issue. The minister should also be familiar with this issue. Iíll just give him a brief outline.
West of the main intersection at Haines Junction is a stretch of highway without streetlights. The government has been asked before if it would undertake to appropriate Shakwak monies to install streetlights along the section from the intersection to, probably, the graveyard, and I believe that is near the boundary of the village. This would be consistent with the standards of streetlights in Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay. I would like to ask the minister what progress he has made on this front.
Hon. Mr. Hart: If the funding for the Shakwak continues, we anticipate in the next couple of years we will pave that structure and, as part of that construction, lighting will be accommodated to fix that particular area.
Mr. McRobb: All right, that sort of also responds to another question that didnít make my list today, but certainly that particular section was upgraded probably more than two decades ago. Today we have different standards. As a matter of fact, anybody travelling in the Village of Haines Junction will notice a modern, wide highway with a raised bed on this side of Haines Junction, yet leaving the intersection toward the west, it is not raised very high at all, and itís not that wide. Obviously, because the Shakwak project has extended for about three, maybe four decades now, standards in the meantime have changed.
Iím glad to see that the government is anticipating the need to also revise that particular section.
I have one more issue that I want to ask about regarding the revision on the Shakwak section just this side of Burwash Landing. The minister will no doubt recall the plea made by Burwash residents early last summer to avoid excavating a pond area that contained pink flowers. I think there was a local petition to that effect.
I didnít find out exactly how the government remedied the problem until later when I was driving on the highway and noticed there was a large zigzag in the highway that circumvents the pond area. I am aware that this entailed the complete resurveying of that section of road, and there was a considerable expense attached to all of this.
For the record, I am just wondering if the minister can put the rumours of half a million dollars or so to rest by indicating what the actual cost was to reroute the highway. I would add that this, again, would be paid for by the American government.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, this was covered under the highway aspect of the Shakwak project. The amount of money expended for the change was not anywhere near the amount that the member opposite indicated. In fact, it was probably under $100,000.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís interesting. I came up with one more question, and since weíre in the vicinity of Haines Junction and new highway construction, I would like to ask him about the bike path that extends between Haines Junction and the Pine Lake campground. Mr. Chair, what happened was the ministerís construction project this summer basically wiped out the bike path. Local residents have been somewhat concerned that he hasnít followed through and replaced the bike path. I would suggest that a standard to follow would be the one used in Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay, with respect to the bike paths in those communities.
Now, this issue was raised with the Premier during his budget meeting in Haines Junction. He undertook to look after it, yet Iím not aware of any resolution to this issue. There is still no bike path there, so I want to ask the minister what heís prepared to do about this.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Anywhere we came into contact with the bike path we repaired and brought it back to the same standard, if not a better standard than it was before. As far as where we didnít come into contact, I believe the community was asked to make an application to the community development fund.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a few questions to follow up on my colleagueís questions in this House. The minister said that the railway project has been moved to Economic Development, but I believe that the expertise is still within the Highways and Public Works department. I would like to ask the minister: what was the recommended route that the Economic Development minister should be pursuing for the railway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned, the railway feasibility provides many economic opportunities for all Yukoners. Thatís one of the reasons itís over at the Department of Economic Development. As I also stated, the federal Minister Lapierre indicated a need for a pre-commission study for the railway. The route is to be determined by the railway commission. We, the Yukon, will try to influence the commission to study all options, including the option that the Member for Kluane indicated. So that is under the purview of the railway commission, and that is where the decisions will be made as far as the route goes.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there a timeline on that? I know the public is very interested in this, and it does affect different communities.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Negotiations with our federal government in Ottawa up to now have been slow, to say the least. Itís only until recently ó and I mean very recently ó that the federal government has indicated their willingness to do the pre-commission study. So when and timelines ó I wouldnít even want to hazard a guess right now. All I will say is that at least weíre going in the right direction. We seem to be making some advances with Ottawa and I anticipate something will come from them as to when we move ahead.
Mr. Fairclough: The direction I think the commission is contemplating, Iíll leave that one for now. Of course there are all kinds of questions in regard to the railway and interest from local people who have worked, for example, on surveying portions of the railway right-of-way. My dad happened to be one of those people who worked with many people ó Pat Van Bibber, Sr. is another ó surveying the railway right-of-way in and around Faro.
I know the residents of Faro are very interested in this project so Iíll just leave that for now. Obviously there will be many questions arising from this that we can perhaps ask the Minister of Economic Development when that department comes up.
In regard to the airport improvements, I noticed that in the community of Carmacks there are improvements to a garage that is going up and some concrete work that is being done for the plane apron, and also some concrete work to hold two storage tanks for a fire retardant and also a spill-over area. Is that straight out of capital funds of the government or are we looking at the federal government to foot some of those bills?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The construction of that facility is through wildland fire management through Community Services and we are billing all that money through our particular aspects; and that is actually coming out of our capital.
Mr. Fairclough: I guess Community Services is still up for debate so weíre going to have to ask questions there.
Is the department then looking at more improvements to airports around the territory to better fit the plans for fire suppression?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are actually doing a study at the Dawson Airport because it was the major attack centre for us that we utilized. It currently doesnít have a paved runway and so it limits what we can land and take off as far as fire suppression goes. We are looking at that particular aspect.
We are also looking at making some improvements to the Watson Lake Airport because it is the other facility that does have a paved runway and it is the backup for Whitehorse.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the department looking at the Carmacks airstrip? I know, for fire suppression, the departments responsible have always used Carmacks ó or Minto, actually. Minto was the one that was used a lot for smoke jumpers and so on, but Carmacks was more central, in that the first attacks could be ó they could get to the fires quicker because theyíre more central in either the Haines Junction areas or Mayo, even the Ross River area. Itís a hub, and most of the communities are closer to the community of Carmacks than they are to Whitehorse or even Dawson City. That was one of the things the municipalities brought up in the past, but I have not seen any follow-up work. I was wondering if that community was considered at all to be used more. I know this past summer, for example, the airstrip and the facilities in Carmacks were used extensively.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are making improvements, as he indicated, with regard to the housing for fire retardant at the Carmacks Airport for many of the reasons that the member opposite stated in dealing with fire suppression in that particular aspect. With regard to actual air traffic other than for fire suppression, we are just doing our normal maintenance with regard to Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you. I will just leave that for now.
I would like to ask questions in regard to the highways. One of the issues the community of Carmacks has brought up time and time again is moving the maintenance camp on the Campbell Highway. Has there been any work done recently or is there any work scheduled in the future to do that rather than doing upgrades to the camp in its present location?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There have been no immediate plans to transfer that particular station. It has been talked about in the past but we donít have any current plans to move it.
Mr. Fairclough: I know that there is an area identified for moving this highway camp, the garage, and so on ó it has been fenced off. So, what the minister is saying is that nowhere in the future of his mandate will we see that happen?
I am quite interested in this because the municipality has worked with governments in the past to find a way to move the camp. For example, the fence was moved to accommodate the recreation centre. The community and the First Nation own the section of land right to the bridge from the recreation centre and there are plans to turn that more into a recreation area. But one of the things that YTG was supposed to do at the time was move the highway camp. There were plans to do some major renovations to the buildings but they were put off because it didnít make sense to put money into it when youíre going to move the camp and put up new buildings.
When can we see some work going into moving this camp to its proper place away from the downtown area?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated, there are no immediate plans to move the current grader station. As a long-term objective, we have a site located near the airport, but that is a long-term venue. As I said, right now we donít have an immediate plan to move the grader station.
Mr. Fairclough: I would urge the minister to work on this issue with the community of Carmacks. They do have plans to make improvements to the downtown area. I was hoping that this government would do something in that area to move the camp and clean up that section of downtown Carmacks. The contaminated soil and that type of thing need to be dealt with, so Iím hoping the minister can do that with the community. Perhaps, if that was done quickly, we may even see a change of mind on the part of the government and have that reflected in their upcoming spring budget.
Iíd like to ask the minister about the Braeburn pullout and I guess the area of interest that people have for the fires and the 1998 fires. The pullout was moved I guess from 50 percent, which was at the top of the hill there and was a very popular pullout, to maybe a kilometre away from that, which I donít think is friendlier to use than the old one. I would like to know what the rationale was behind that and what the cost was to move that simple pullout.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The main concern for the relocation of that particular pullout was for environmental and ecological reasons, and that was to provide a better lookout for the tourists.
Mr. Fairclough: The old pullout, which was on top of the hill ó Iím not talking about the area for tourists to look at that was on top of the rock there for the progression of the impacts of the 1998 fire. That has been included in the present pullout now. Thereís a trail in the back so you can go take a walk and so on. But the old pullout was big. It could handle a lot of trucks, some of the big trucks, and it was popular and it was right on top of the hill. Now that has been blocked off. A big trench has been dug down there and flags put up for no one to use. Iím wondering why. Is it just for sanitary purposes? Why canít the Department of Highways and Public Works keep that pullout and have the garbage bins there that they have had in the past?
Why block that off? Itís a good area and people like it.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít have the detail for the member opposite, but Iíll try to get back to him if he can be a little bit more specific.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to know what the final cost is for moving the pullout. Does the minister have those details?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We can provide it for the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll be quick here with my questions. I have to be leaving here fairly soon.
In regard to the signs into Braeburn, I asked the minister if he would consider putting a highway sign that says ďslow downĒ to traffic or indicate a slower highway speed. Itís down to 70 kilometres, but itís over a kilometre on each side of the Braeburn pullout. Whatís the rationale for that, and why wouldnít it be closer? People tend to forget it if itís that far away from the pullout.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We were responding to requests from the locals in that particular area, and they did want the area further away to accommodate that particular aspect.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier said that the bridge across the Yukon River in Dawson is not a P3. Weíve heard that it is a P3. Is this a portion of the bigger project of making improvements to the Top of the World Highway? Whatís going to happen with that down the road? How many millions of dollars are we going to see put into that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We donít have any specific plans for the Top of the World Highway other than the general maintenance that we currently carry on.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of questions for the minister. Am I correct in that any issue surrounding construction of the Dawson Bridge, economic studies, the entering into the contracting partnership with Partnerships B.C. and any background work done on the bridge, has been turned over to the Minister of Economic Development, or does the Minister of Highways and Public Works still have some responsibility for the Dawson bridge?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Department of Economic Development is responsible for developing a policy for P3s, and we will be looking at the responsibility of building the bridge or at least coordinating the project management of it.
Ms. Duncan: So who has responsibility for any economic studies surrounding the Dawson City bridge?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Economic Development, in partnership with Partnerships B.C., is handling the economic study for the bridge.
Ms. Duncan: The actual construction of the bridge under a public/private partnership ó the development of the policy is being handled by Economic Development, but the contracting would be ó for a P3, the RFQ that is currently out, is that ó are questions going to be answered by the Minister of Economic Development or the Minister of Highways and Public Works? Can the minister tell me what the current cost estimates are then?
Hon. Mr. Hart: † Our estimates for construction costs are $26.1 million, and we have an additional $1.1 million for engineering.
Ms. Duncan: That is not the information that is contained in the government document Yukon River bridge at Dawson City ó options for project delivery. There were some very mixed messages coming out of the government today in Question Period and now. Letís start at the beginning. The government has contracted, at a cost of about $300,000, to Partnerships B.C. Is that correct? What is the value of our contract with Partnerships B.C.?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Those figures are the latest figures we have from last month from UMA, and as far as our contract goes with Partnerships B.C., itís not to exceed a total of $320,000.
Ms. Duncan: So we have a contract with Partnerships B.C. thatís costing Yukon taxpayers $320,000. Is that contract to evaluate the Dawson City bridge for a public/private partnership, or is it to develop a policy for issuing public/private partnerships ó generally speaking ó for the Government of Yukon? What precisely is that contract doing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is an intergovernmental agreement, and itís basically to provide management of a procurement process. Itís to develop a concession request, and itís also to provide knowledge and work for the Department of Economic Development to assist in developing a P3 policy.
Ms. Duncan: In other words, Partnerships B.C. is doing both. They are going to write the policy as they go, and they are going to tender the contract for the bridge as a public/private partnership. Thatís what the minister just said. That being the case, why then is the minister ignoring the advice of the department? His own department, on January 13, 2004, said that the Government of Yukon should not be pursuing a public/private partnership for that project. Why is he, as a member of Cabinet, ignoring the advice of his own officials?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As was mentioned previously, the policy is being developed parallel to the project itself. Consequently, we have also talked with Partnerships B.C., who have indicated to us that this bridge is a very good project for a P3. They indicated that to us, and they have lots of expertise in that field. That is why we went to them for that particular aspect. We are following their advice, and we hope to go forth.
Ms. Duncan: So the advice of the Yukon government officials wasnít good enough for the minister? What Cabinet has said is, ďWeíre going to find somebody who gives us the answer we want, and we will pay them $320,000 to do it, and ignore the advice of our own public servants.Ē
Another piece of friendly advice for the minister opposite is that there are no less than three different Auditors General reports in this country that say specifically, explicitly, ďDo not enter into a public/private partnership until you have a policy in place.Ē Thatís not what the government is doing, and the minister has just publicly stated it.
I find that the minister, standing on his feet and saying, ďWe are going to go ahead anyway,Ē and ignoring the professional public servants who work for the Government of Yukon, and ignoring advice that has gone on in previous jurisdictions from no less of an authority than three Auditor Generals who have evaluated projects and evaluated advice of the officials is appalling ó particularly with taxpayersí money and particularly when the government has its own documents that list this project at $44 million, not $25 million.
Is the minister going to also take responsibility for indicating and making a commitment to the public that there will be no tolls or fees on the bridge or is that going to be handed off to the Minister of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are no plans for a toll on the bridge.
Ms. Duncan: There was also a commitment on the floor of the House to do a policy before we entered into this. Would the minister provide the cost in government services for putting up and tearing down the meeting room in the cafeteria?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Interesting: a whole year later. Okay. I donít have that at the tip of my fingers, obviously. I can endeavour to provide her with that information.
Ms. Duncan: What about the cost of the roadhouse when it was finally completed; do we have a final completed cost for that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The roundhouse, not the roadhouse: I can provide her with information. Again, I donít have it at my fingertips.
Ms. Duncan: Forgive me; I thought I did say roundhouse.†
The trolley operations ó there is $85,000 that has been identified. Has the government asked the private sector, namely businesses at that particular end of the trolley, for a contribution to these costs?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have been in consultation with many parties at that end and none of them have come forth. We have also been in consultation with the society and again, we have received nothing from them, as far as providing revenue for that particular source.
Ms. Duncan: But the question has been asked.
The fleet vehicle agency audit, speaking of a year later: when will we get that document? Itís noted in the report that the minister tabled in the House recently, but we havenít had the audit. Itís mentioned again in the fleet vehicle agencyís annual report that there was an audit; we donít have it yet.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We anticipate having it by the end of March.
Ms. Duncan: That is taking an inordinately long time for that particular audit. Does the minister have an explanation as to why it has taken so long, and perhaps he could outline what the scope of the audit is?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We had a change in consultants mid-term, and it was difficult for us to get somebody to replace that individual, which caused a major delay. Plus we are also looking at dealing with the shuffle from the recommendations, which will take us some time to get ready so we can implement the change and hopefully move forth on that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister to elaborate? The shuffle from the changes and the recommendations: what is he referring to? I donít have the agencyís report in front of me.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The report, we were basically looking at ó the scope we asked for was to identify the core fleet and identify the cost accounting. Weíre looking at charges for vehicles and equipment and the operating structure itself, which we asked him to check into for us.
Ms. Duncan: Are there any changes anticipated to the reserve fund that is available for the replacement of vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít anticipate there will be any changes for the fleet vehicle agency.
Ms. Duncan: And I would reasonably conclude that that means the reserve fund as well. I would like to return to the topic of bridges briefly, if I might. The Teslin River bridge that the minister referred to earlier ó he was referring to the bridge at Johnsons Crossing as I understand it. There was a request some years ago for a walkway at the bridge thatís right in Teslin itself. Has there been any follow-up request from the community, and whatís the current intention with respect to that bridge?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Previously there was a request to put a walkway across that bridge. An estimate was done on the cost to install a walkway. It was considered to be very high considering the limited number of pedestrians who were actually utilizing the bridge to get to the other side.
Ms. Duncan: Obviously I can recall that argument and understand that the government of the day was also facing a far more limited financial picture than the government is today. Are there any plans at all for that particular bridge, decking replacement, or anything along those lines?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are no plans for the improvement of that particular bridge other than maintenance at the present time.
Ms. Duncan: And what is the anticipated date for the completion of the ó I donít want to use the term ďrepair workĒ but I canít think of a better one right now ó the work thatís going on at the bridge at Johnsons Crossing? When is that anticipated to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thatís a good question. I have asked it myself many times. We anticipate it will be June of next year for the structure underneath. Itís taking our local guys a little longer than they anticipated to make those changes, with regard to the bearing. We anticipate getting it done by June 2005 and we anticipate commencing total bridge replacement ó a decking replacement, sorry ó in 2006.
Ms. Duncan: That is decking replacement. That particular bridge has been a concern for successive ministers of Highways and Public Works. The decking replacement, presumably, would take the 2006 construction season. At the end of 2006, are we going to have a ó I donít know what to ó a class A bridge thatís going to last for the next 40 years, or are we just making repairs to get by for the next 10 years on that particular project.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Once the decking is completed, the bridge will be up to modern standards, right from the seismic down to the base itself.
Ms. Duncan: The seismic was a major concern, as Iíve said, to successive ministers.
There are a number of bridges that are of concern to Yukoners. The next series after the Johnsons Crossing bridge, as I understand it, to be replaced and redone, are the ones of the north Alaska Highway: the Duke and the Donjek immediately. Is that the plan for the next round of Shakwak money ó bridge replacement, and which bridges?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We were hoping to commence on the Donjek River this summer sometime, but there are many bridges. The Duke, for example, will be dependent on finalizing the commitment for money from the Shakwak project.
Ms. Duncan: So the bridge to be done this summer is the balance of the Shakwak money that we had remaining from this fiscal year, or is that YTG money? And what is the current status of the Shakwak? I think itís Bill TEA-21 with regard to the U.S.?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Donjek River is included in our funding. The Duke and the Slims are yet to be identified. We are currently operating under an extension ó as we have been for the last year and a half ó until May 31, and we have $17 million identified for this upcoming season with which to commence the project.
Ms. Duncan: So if I understood the minister correctly, there is a balance of $17 million in the Shakwak funding. Thatís $17 million, U.S., and that is intended for the Donjek River bridge replacement this summer? Is there any other construction contemplated for Shakwak funding or under the Shakwak agreement other than bridge replacement?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we anticipate doing some road construction work on kilometre 1707 to 1717. So thatís in addition to doing some BST work on the road that we did this year and completing the Beaver Creek portion.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to repeat those kilometres? Also, if he happens to have the corresponding mile number that would probably be of benefit to some of us in the Legislature.†
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít have the corresponding mileage for the member opposite. I will repeat again: it is km 1707 to km 1717, and itís in the Williscroft Creek area.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Now I know where the minister is speaking of.
So the $17 million U.S. that is left in Shakwak funding ó just to be clear ó is going to be tendered for the Donjek River bridge replacement, km 1707 to 1717, Williscroft Creek area reconstruction, and the BST work near Beaver Creek. Is that correct? When does the minister anticipate that those tenders would be released or available?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It was actually for the BST work near the Burwash area that was done last year.
We anticipate tendering these early in the new year.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister clarifying that.
Do we have any idea when we may know more about continued Shakwak funding in the U.S.? What is the state of the negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I guess, to be a little on the quizzical side, I have been told basically that it is the lame-duck process that we are in right now. I donít suspect that we will get anything finalized this year, other than probably another extension, which we have already had. But we do have the commitment from the Alaska government for the six-year process. Itís just that when they do finally pass this, that amount will be deducted from our six-year process.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have any idea what the balance of money weíre looking at is in that six-year process?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have a commitment for $18.8 million for six years, and weíre in the second year.
Ms. Duncan: Just a couple of other questions with respect to roads. Is the government looking at any additional investment in the Cantung mine road, and are there any ongoing discussions on that particular section of road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We did have some previous discussions with the Liard First Nation with regard to that road but, when the mine closed, of course those discussions collapsed. We currently are doing the minimal maintenance to keep the thing open and weíve done some repair work on the road, again just to keep it operable.
Ms. Duncan: With discussions of the mine reopening, is it anticipated that discussions with the Liard First Nation would resume?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We havenít been approached by the First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister outline for us what discussions are underway and the finalization of the purchase of the train car from White Pass for $440,000? What is the current status of that particular initiative?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Dealing with the purchase of the Red Line train was an arrangement whereby we were dealing with White Pass & Yukon Route. Weíre looking at the train right now. Weíre doing an assessment of that ó the actual train, its worthiness in that process ó and if it meets the test, weíll be purchasing the train as part of our agreement with them.
Ms. Duncan: So am I to understand from the minister then that we are examining purchasing the train? Is this an outright purchase, or is it, for example, a lease-operate? Is it a contribution agreement? White Pass will continue to own and operate, and we will end up with the authority? What is the story with this train?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If everything goes through, we will purchase the train. It will be an asset of the Government of Yukon, and we will be leasing that train back to White Pass & Yukon Railroad for a period of two years.
Ms. Duncan: So itís a two-year agreement. Does the minister have any other details on this? Has the agreement been finalized? Is it still under negotiation, and when does the minister anticipate it being finalized?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am in charge of doing an assessment of the train to ensure that itís worthy, shall we say, of going on the tracks, and I am not aware of the actual details of the specific agreement itself. Thatís being handled by the Department of Economic Development, so they are the lead when it comes to that particular issue, as well as in conjunction with Tourism.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister assessing the Red Line train to run between Bennett and Carcross or between Carcross and Whitehorse or in downtown Whitehorse? Heís assessing the train. Where is it intended the train will run?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Our assessment is just to do the assessment of the maintenance required to keep it up and running and what we have to do and what we need to keep it running.
Ms. Duncan: Keep it running where, is the question. The obvious question as well is: the train runs on track; who will own that track? Is the minister assessing the track to be owned by the government for a lease for two years as well, or will the track continue to be owned by White Pass?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Obviously, we donít own the track. That belongs to White Pass & Yukon Route, and we will be leasing the train back to the White Pass & Yukon Route for them to operate between Bennett and Carcross for a period of two years. After that period of time we will either renegotiate with White Pass & Yukon Route for that particular route or we will look at an alternative use for that particular train. That possibly could be on the Whitehorse waterfront.
Ms. Duncan: Will the Whitehorse waterfront track accommodate the train? Does the minister have an assessment of that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Depending on where it is going to be utilized and how, we wonít know that particular assessment as far as the track goes. If it is going to be used right downtown then yes, there will have to be some improvements to the track. If itís going to be used from the Schwatka to Rotary Park, for example, it may not be the case; we can probably use the track that is already there.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister clarify the ownership of the trolley track that is used in downtown Whitehorse, and is the track from Schwatka to Rotary Park still owned by White Pass? I know there had to be formal hearings by the federal government when the intersection was put in across from Rotary Park. I am unclear where the ownership of that particular track lies.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to Schwatka to Rotary Park, I donít want to indicate anything specific, but Iím pretty sure that we donít own that track. Thatís still under whatever it is ó itís called the railway act ó White Pass & Yukon own that particular section. We do, however, have an arrangement with White Pass and the local train society on the section of the track that we use the trolley on.
Ms. Duncan: I will likely come back to that subject in Economic Development. I would like to conclude my questions of the minister this afternoon by just following up on the multidepartmental mobile radio system, MDMRS. Just to refresh the ministerís memory, in May we had a discussion about MDMRS, and I asked about the time frame when the minister anticipated making decisions or the issues around MDMRS going to Cabinet. I understand that in May, in the spring of this year, the minister said, worst case scenario, a year from now, December 2005. Is that still the time frame? Are we still going to be looking at options and discussions around MDMRS for another year?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Again, as I mentioned earlier, weíll have the market sounding by the end of January. Weíll get a determination from there. We anticipate, one way or another, weíll commence in the fall of 2005.
Ms. Duncan: Iím sorry, I didnít hear what the minister said he would have by the end of January. And theyíll be doing what by 2005? Iím sorry, I didnít hear the answer.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated previously, weíll have completed our market sounding for the system by the end of January. Results should be in by then. From there, weíll move on and take our assessment and, as I said, come hell or high water, we should be moving into that range. Sorry, Mr. Chair, I apologize. Weíll be moving into the fall of 2005.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister elaborate on what he means by ďmarket soundingĒ? Itís not a term that Iíve heard before. Also on this issue, decisions to Cabinet will be in the fall of 2005? Is that what I hear?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at construction and development in late 2005. Thatís when we anticipate moving.
Ms. Duncan: So, the market sounding ó and I would appreciate an elaboration from the minister or a definition of what he means by that.
The minister is talking about decisions to Cabinet by March or April, 2005, and construction to start in the fall of 2005 ó is that correct?†
Hon. Mr. Hart: We anticipate heading off to Cabinet sometime in late April or early May.
Ms. Duncan: What does the minister mean by ďmarket soundingĒ?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at investigating ó again, getting the best bang for our buck for all Yukoners. So we are exploring what limited options we have to try to create some sort of competitive bid for the product. Thatís what weíre out there doing now.
Ms. Duncan: All right, letís talk about what the product is. The minister and I have engaged in quite a vigorous discussion. While this initial issue of replacement of MDMRS ó which government has known has been coming for a few years now ó technology has been improving while weíve been talking about it, there have been new options available, and at the same time the costs have been going down. The minister and I discussed this in 2004.
What is the government looking at now? Is it cell service territory-wide? Radio, a continuation of MDMRS, satellite, digital ó what options are we looking at now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When the Member for Kluane asked this question, I provided him the information. We are looking at a similar basically system, as I mentioned previously. Weíre looking at a heavy dependence on cell in combination with mobile radio, with some backup from satellite radio. So weíre looking at all three elements one way or another in dealing with it. The cell weíre looking at mainly from our community centres, and those are mainly located along the Alaska Highway or the north Klondike Highway. There are several areas within the Yukon even now where our MDMRS has a very difficult time in working, and the only options available to us are satellite radio. We have been advised that it is going to require some form of all three. The member opposite is correct; the options have improved and the price has gone down, but that doesnít mean it has gone down to a liveable amount. It is still a substantial amount of money required, and we are now having to face this issue. Mr. Chair, I canít name names.
Chair: The member can name a name. Just please donít use a disparaging term.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Okay, Iíll try to be nice then. Itís difficult to deal with anybody else in the north other than Northwestel.
Ms. Duncan: In terms of the cost and the difficulty in finding the available funding to do this, I would suggest to the minister opportunity that, (a) government has more money to deal with than we did, and (b) we were looking at in excess of $30 million, and the minister had told me in 2004 that the government was looking at a ballpark figure of $14 million to $18 million. Is that still the ballpark figure weíre looking at ó $14 million to $18 million ó for MDMRS replacement?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We anticipate that it will be somewhere in that range, yes, as far as the capital expenditures go; however, the O&M costs are outside of that.
Ms. Duncan: They always have been. There used to be ó the minister wouldnít have to deal with these tiresome questions if we had an update to the MDMRS replacement project newsletter. I havenít seen one in a very long time. Has there been one since 2003? Is the minister prepared to make officials available to do a briefing on an update to the briefing that was delivered last year ó pardon me, 2003 in the summer? Is it possible to have an update on this project from officials?
Hon. Mr. Hart: † There has been a lot of discussion and a lot of work done with regard to MDMRS and we now call it MoCS on this side. Iím sure that, after the end of January and once we know which way we are going, we can provide them with a briefing on the situation, as well as the members of the opposition.
Ms. Duncan: What does MoCS stand for? I know what MDMRS stands for; what does MoCS stand for?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mobile communication system.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much. I appreciate the responses from the minister and I look forward to a briefing toward the end of January by the mobile communication systems officials. Could the minister just indicate if there have been any additional newsletters that have been put out or information that is available, and if I could have that ó Iím sure the official opposition would appreciate a copy as well.
Mr. McRobb: Earlier I said that I didnít have any more questions, but I surveyed some Yukoners and they overwhelmingly expressed a desire to have me ask more questions, so Iím back by popular demand, and I do have a few more questions, so here we go. Letís start off with Rabbitís Foot Canyon. We know about a year ago there was an unfortunate accident resulting in a death at the site. The department undertook to increase the maintenance, particularly with respect to highway sanding and winter conditions. Now I understand that a few weeks ago there was another accident, not as severe, fortunately, and the sanding trucks appeared right after the accident once again, so I want to ask the minister what heís doing to sand to avoid accidents in the Rabbitís Foot Canyon section, not sand after the accidents have occurred.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít know what constituents the member opposite was talking to, but I would say that, on that particular day, we were following our process for sanding on that particular section of the highway. In fact, the superintendent of highways went through there just hours before the incident and indicated there was more than enough, if not too much, sand on the road in that particular area. So as far as that goes, we have extended our aspect on that road and we followed through with our normal sanding on that particular section.
Mr. McRobb: Itís unclear which circumstance he was referring to ó last year or this year. Maybe he could just update us on that.
There has been some talk recently about renaming the Two Mile Hill. I am wondering whose jurisdiction this is within ó YTG or the City of Whitehorse? I know that YTG paid a lot of money to reconstruct the Two Mile Hill. Whose bailiwick would this be in?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It would be the City of Whitehorseís.
Mr. McRobb: All right.
Earlier the minister mentioned the brine solution policy he has developed. Can he provide us with the policy, or at minimum, the procedures on how this is applied? I am looking for some written material that will set this out. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We can provide him with a data sheet or a fact sheet on the utilization of brine.
Mr. McRobb: All right.
Can the minister update us on the highway sign policy? Where is this at? I believe it was in January 2003 that he announced a new sign policy, but I understand since then the minister has backtracked on this matter. Can he tell us where itís at now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated previously on this particular issue, we are investigating this with the stakeholders at hand. We were having some difficulty trying to move ahead on the regulations.
We were getting concerns from several constituents, including some of his own, so we were trying to deal with the situation, to ease it off so that it is, shall we say, amicable to all those involved with signage.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I recall this as being an initiative that was started under the first version of the Yukon Party government, back around 1994, if Iím not mistaken. So here we are, 10 years later, still without a highway sign policy, even though the minister announced he had one two years ago. So Iím not sure if weíre making much progress or not. Iím concerned that the minister has enjoyed the luxury of having such an open-ended process without having to provide any timelines for the process.
So Iím going to ask him now: can he indicate when the consultation phase will be over, and can he indicate when the policy will be finalized?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The consultation stage, as he indicated previously, was commenced a decade ago, if not over that. I will state for him, also, that obviously not only that government but all the subsequent governments had the same difficulty in dealing with the signage issue. So, yes, it has been a very difficult situation. I anticipate, however, that by the time the next House sits, we will have a policy in hand.
Mr. McRobb: There was one difference. None of the previous governments actually announced they had a policy, until this minister came along.
Letís move across the territory now to the Campbell Highway region. There have been some recent announcements about the possibilities of a mine being established in the area, I think itís the Finlayson Lake area. What plans does the minister have to upgrade that section of highway, and would the mining company be contributing to the cost of that upgrade?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have several plans on the shelf to upgrade the Campbell Highway should a mine kick off and get started. We have been in preliminary discussions with the mine, but weíve had no specific requests for funding on the actual highway itself. Weíre dealing with them on a trunk section that would come up to the highway; however, that would be something that would be dealt with by the mine.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate some of the details of that upgrading; for instance, the locations of the sections of highway that need to be upgraded, and the cost? If he doesnít have that information, I can understand, and weíre willing to accept it later through written material.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Of course, depending on which way it plans to go, we do have planning studies for most of the areas in question, and especially if it heads toward Faro.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, we still didnít get the information I requested, which was (1) identification of the highway sections in need of upgrading, and (2) the cost of those upgrades. If the minister doesnít have the information, will he get back to us on that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Upgrading to an ore transportation standard, regardless, will probably be in the area of about $50 million.
Mr. McRobb: Was that $50 million? The minister is saying the big five-O. Okay, itís $50 million. All right, weíll follow up on that later.
Letís go back to the Shakwak for a moment. There were some questions asked of him about funding and TEA-21 and so on. Maybe the best way to approach this would be to ask the minister just to undertake to return with a schedule of funding and also identify the purposes set out for that funding, and if he would do that in order of priority. We understand the four bridges that are being upgraded, and really there are only about 17 kilometres along Kluane Lake that are in need of upgrading. We would just like preferably a one-page outline of what funding the minister hopes to get and when, and what work it will do. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We can provide him with a one-page synopsis.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Iím wondering about training opportunities during the bridge-building phase. I believe the minister is familiar with this issue. He may have been approached by First Nations who are seeking to have some of their members trained in bridge building. Whatís being done in that area?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are currently working with the Department of Education on training for the people on the bridge work, including the work on the Beaver Creek one. And we are trying to work with them as much as we can in the local communities.
Mr. McRobb: Are there any training opportunities on other bridge projects in the territory ó for instance, the Teslin River bridge?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We did have some training on the Johnsons Crossing bridge but, as the member opposite can probably appreciate, a lot of that work is very dangerous. Itís difficult to train people on that particular job but we were utilizing it where possible.
Mr. McRobb: There was a concern brought to my attention associated with the reconstruction of the Beaver Creek bridge and the displacement of a road and parking area on the northwest side of the bridge. Iím sure the minister is familiar with this. Does he intend to have that area rebuilt so local people can once again use it as a recreation area where they can park their vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have been consulting with the community on this bridge issue pretty much from day one. I guess we can assure the member opposite that we will continue to do so.
Mr. McRobb: Letís return to an old issue. Itís regarding the transition from the modern reconstructed sections of Shakwak to the older sections. Iíve asked the minister about this issue before.
On my last trip to Beaver Creek a couple weeks ago, I noticed on the way back that there is a lack of signage indicating the transition. I will just briefly outline the issue. You get vehicles and drivers who are accustomed to driving on a very modern highway that is very wide. Then suddenly they are on some of the old sections where the corners arenít up to engineered standards, the highway isnít the same width, we donít have the raised bed and the gently sloped ditches, and so on, and conditions are more hazardous for the drivers.
What Iím getting at is that there should be more awareness to the drivers that they are entering one of the old sections of the highway. Further to this, I believe I noticed that there is only one contiguous section of old highway left ó that would be from, I think, Nines Creek to the south end of Kluane Lake.
We have a situation where we may have only one section remaining of old highway. We are only looking at two signs, essentially one at either end, if indeed that is the mechanism to alert drivers to this situation.
I think we could save accidents if we can raise the awareness to the travelling public that the highway standards are about to change for the distance ahead, which I think is in the neighbourhood of about 15 kilometres. It would make sense to do that. I donít believe the signage currently exists. So would the minister undertake to look into this and, if required, provide signage to alert the drivers?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We do have appropriate signs for the curves and corners in that particular stretch of the road. However, we will definitely undertake to have a look at the situation with regard to the transition on either end of it and see what we can do to improve the signage.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that undertaking. I think it will go a long way to make the drivers aware that theyíre no longer on the new road and help reduce accidents.
Iíve got one more Shakwak question. The agreement that is some 27 years old now, I believe, between Canada and the United States for the Shakwak reconstruction highway project indicates that after reconstruction of the road is complete and the bridges are rebuilt or replaced, that in fact paving may be done on the section from the Customs station on the Haines Road to Haines Junction then north to the Customs station at the Alaska border north of Beaver Creek.
In the course of my travels this has been an issue of some debate: whether pavement is the best approach. I want to ask the minister if he is in favour of paving the highway, or what option does he prefer?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The option Iíd prefer is to get a signed deal from the Alaska government with regard to the money, and I look forward to getting that, obviously. Yes, pavement is part of the action coming down the line; however, we had discussions with the Alaskans and indicated to them that we donít believe pavement would be a good option anywhere near permafrost. We feel basically that, from Destruction Bay on, weíd be much better served by BST; however, from Haines Junction to Haines we feel that the pavement would be an option that could be handled as well as from Haines Junction to Destruction Bay.
Mr. McRobb: One can notice there are a lot of highway-related issues in the Kluane riding, and thatís by no fluke, Mr. Chair. We do have some unique circumstances involving this international agreement for one thing, as well as several different highways and roads and communities.
I would like to ask the minister and follow up with him on the Braeburn speed zone issue. Now I understand he implemented a reduction in speed through the zone near Braeburn. Itís my understanding that the government policy with respect to reducing speed on the highway was a requirement for development on both sides of the highway. I havenít been to Braeburn in awhile, but the last time I was there the only thing on the east side was the Cinnamon Bun strip ó things may have developed in the meantime ó so I would like to ask the minister whatís happening there with respect to development and his policy.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have, as you mentioned, a restaurant on one side. We have an airport on the other side. We have the subdivision on the east side also. And in the wintertime, the area is utilized greatly for Bible camp. That is also one of the main reasons for the request for a slow-down in speed.
Chair: Do members wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now continue. We will continue on with Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, with Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works.
Mr. Cardiff: I have a few questions in Highways and Public Works for the minister. Iíd like to go back to an issue that was raised earlier in this sitting, and that has to do with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the way that itís being used.
As was disclosed in the House, there is an issue around the confidentiality of people who are making requests ó the fact that it was actually disclosed in this House that there were members from the opposition making ATIPP requests. What the minister told the media ó he didnít tell the Legislature ó was that there is a review, and there are 23 issues being reviewed.
For starters, Iíd like to know when the full-scale consultations on proposed changes to the act are going to start ó the full-scale consultations the minister talked about on November 22?
Hon. Mr. Hart: First of all, staff do not disclose who makes the request. Secondly, with regard to the issue, we have identified staff of the Yukon government who have identified 23 issues that should be considered ó thatís where I got my number from, which weíre looking for that ó and weíre anticipating consultations to get underway in 2005.
Mr. Cardiff: So what I heard the minister say was that the consultations will start in 2005. Could he be a little bit more specific? There are 12 months in the year 2005. It would be advantageous to know which month.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we anticipate it will happen in the first half of 2005.
Mr. Cardiff: That really narrowed it down, anyhow. We eliminated half of the year. Well, it was disclosed in this House on the issue of confidentiality about the people who were making requests. It was disclosed in this House that it was somebody from the opposition side. We didnít disclose that. So obviously there are some issues around confidentiality.
The minister said there are 23 issues that are going to be reviewed. When this goes to the public for consultation, Iím sure that the minister or his officials will hear that there are other concerns out there that need to be considered in this consultation and review of the act. One of them is going to be the confidentiality of people making the request because there are concerns about the confidentiality issue and the fact that some people donít feel comfortable using this process to get information that should be shared with the public. So on the 23 issues, could the minister provide members on this side of the Legislature with a list of the 23 issues that are currently being considered?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated in the House, these are items or issues that have been brought forth by staff with regard to the ATIPP process. Iíll reaffirm again that staff do not release the name of the individuals who are making the requests. That is not a requirement of that particular process; in fact, it is just the opposite. They donít have to tell us who does that and their job is not to tell us who does that. They just have to tell us what the information request is.
As I also stated, Iím sure that when the consultation goes out there weíll get other questions, as the member opposite indicated. I anticipate that we will. As far as the items to be brought up, weíre in the process of outlining what we anticipate will go out to the public, and when weíre finished with that guideline, Iíll be more than happy to provide the member opposite with a copy of that.
Mr. Cardiff: So itís my understanding that we canít have the list of the 23 issues until theyíre ready to go out to the public with them, so I guess thatís another confidentiality thing. One of the things that I think the public would like to see on that list for the minister, I think something that came to light here in the Legislature, is the possibility that fees are being used to discourage people from using the act. A specific instance would be requesting information and then being told that if you really want that information that itís going to cost $2,500 to do the research and get that information. That is what people are being told. That doesnít sit right with the public; it doesnít sit right with us over here. This is information that supposedly, according to the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, should be public information. Itís in the files. It shouldnít take long to get this. We requested it and were then told that itís going to take all this time to get the information about the enforcement issues in the Liquor Corporation. So in that case, it looks like fees are actually being used to discourage the use of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Would the minister commit to looking into this and including that in the review of the act?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would appreciate if he would take six months off and work in a department and find out just exactly how easy it is to find the information. I would inform the member opposite that if we were to line up our boxes they would be four miles long. Thatís in our records, just to get the information to go get it.
So, itís not as it just is. You just donít pluck it off and get it. The information has to be dug out. It has to be dug out of each and every branch, depending on which department you are at. Itís a very difficult task. Everything there is not categorized, especially older information. It does take a lot of time to go in there and search out that information.
Yes, the fees are appropriate for the services that are required. They are established. They were established under the act. Initially they were established for the time it takes to go get that information and how to get it. There is a specific time where the time is free, and after that there is a fee applied. Thatís the same right across every jurisdiction in Canada. They all have a specific time and a specific fee for finding that information. Itís very difficult to find some information, and to get it in a time period that is required under the act is even more difficult, because itís so tight.
Yes, there is a lot of work involved to get it around. There are several requests for information. The requests for information have been going up steadily since 2000 and they continue to go up ever since the act has been in place.
Yes, itís very difficult to get out there. We are currently running out of storage space for our records right now. Itís a difficult process, not only for my branch at ATIPP itself, but for the branches themselves, to get the information out. The Department of Health, for example, is practically under siege with ATIPP information requests.
Yes, itís very difficult to get that information. You know, when you have information and you have one person who has to find that information, they get overworked pretty fast digging up the information. It is a difficult task. We could have people running around all day looking for information.
I think that implying that our people are not doing their work is not correct. I think our people are doing a tremendous job given the circumstances that they operate in and given the time constraints required in order to get the information to you and/or the general public within the time frame that is identified. I think we are doing a tremendously good job at that.
Mr. Cardiff: Some of the information weíre looking for should be relatively easy to get. The minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation committed that he could get the information without going through ATIPP and without us having to go through ATIPP on the liquor enforcement questions that we wanted answered, so I donít know why it would cost so much to get it if the minister can actually provide it. Maybe if the Minister of Health were to answer questions here in the Legislature, there wouldnít be so many ATIPP requests. Members opposite need to take a look at that because thatís where part of the problem is. Ministers on that side arenít prepared to answer questions and get the information over to us ó questions that need to be answered ó and then we wouldnít have to use the access to information process. But we have the minister on record as to how that is all going to work, and we look forward to the consultation ó Iím sure the public does ó and weíll see how that all fleshes out in the end.
I have some other questions. The minister knows I was down in Watson Lake, in that riding, and was travelling on the Campbell Highway and raised some concerns about the highway construction happening there. My understanding is that itís a pilot project for heavy equipment rental contracts. Can the minister tell us how much money to date has been expended on the heavy equipment rental contracts on that project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We expended approximately $1.8 million for that section of highway in total.
Mr. Cardiff: Could the minister tell me if there is any kind of evaluation ó this is a pilot project ó planned to compare it with other methods of road construction, like tendering, to make sure that we got value for dollar ó that the public taxpayer got value for dollar on that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at an internal evaluation of this particular project, and thatís currently underway.
Mr. Cardiff: When that evaluation is complete, would it be available to the public and to members on this side of the House ó the outcomes of that evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít believe itís going to have ďgovernment confidentialĒ on the report, so itís ATIPP-able and available, so I canít see why it wouldnít be available.
Mr. Cardiff: I hope the minister wasnít suggesting that we were going to have to ATIPP it. I think heís going to provide it to members on this side of the Legislature when it becomes available. We look forward to seeing that evaluation.
I have a couple of other questions. The minister is well aware of the situation at the entrance/exit to Cowley Creek subdivision. Earlier this summer, with the Department of Highways and Public Works, there was an overlay project that actually widened the highway there. There was a safety issue with respect to students from Golden Horn Elementary School going to and from school, and crossing the highway in that area.
If anything, this overlay project has made the situation more difficult for them because there is a wider expanse of asphalt across. The minister said heíd look into speed limits. What are the ministerís plans in that area?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The widening of the shoulders was done on purpose to increase the safety for pedestrians to walk along the side of the road; thereby it should be increasing the safety of those who are wishing to use the road to get across to the school.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís great if youíre travelling along the side of the road; heís right. There are pedestrian lanes or bike lanes that are wider and theyíre better suited to travelling along the side of the road. But parents are still concerned that their children are crossing the highway there and the speed limit is 90 kilometres an hour and itís a safety issue. We already had one child hit there a few years back and there have been several close calls. Iíve asked the minister several times to deal with this. He committed to looking into my request to review the speed limit there. As we heard earlier today, you can get the speed limit reduced in Braeburn but this is the safety of children. Would the minister commit to looking at the speed limit issue there again?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre dealing with a very similar situation in Porter Creek where you have a crosswalk across and thereís an indicator that there is a crosswalk. We have the very same situation there. People have a false sense of security when they see that and the people who are driving on the highway at the speed because that is what is posted in that particular area. In that case, you still have the same difficulty. Weíre not convinced that putting up a walkway there will reduce the risk for those coming over there and in fact, as I said, there may be even a false sense of security for those using that particular aspect.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister brought up crosswalks. I know I may have asked for crosswalks. I asked him to look for solutions. They included reviewing the speed limit, putting up signage to notify drivers that there are students crossing at specific times of the day, and the minister is not concerned. He doesnít want to deal with that.
Iíll move on to another issue. In his opening remarks in, I believe it was in Community Services, the minister talked about the Hamilton Boulevard extension. Iím just wondering, are there plans to include water and sewer services in the Hamilton Boulevard extension?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is a Community Services issue with regard to that, but we have planning money set aside for the extension of the Hamilton Boulevard, and weíre looking at the extension of the road itself. The development of the other stuff will have to be done through Community Services.
Mr. Cardiff: I have one more question for the minister. There has been a concern raised recently in the past month or so, and I think part of it is due to the actual overlay, and part of it was due to the weather conditions we experienced here. I know the minister put out a press release urging people to drive safely and drive according to road conditions. But there were several issues ó especially at subdivision entrances and exits where people are pulling out onto the highway and people are doing 90 kilometres an hour ó as to whether or not there is sufficient sand on the road at appropriate times of the day. So first thing in the morning, if there isnít enough gravel there, people pulling out of the subdivisions are experiencing extremely icy conditions, and it doesnít make it very easy for people to pull out onto the highway in the morning on their way to work. Similarly, on their way home, at the top of the South Access ó so between the hours of 4:00 and 7:00, if there isnít enough gravel at the top of the South Access, people are experiencing difficulty getting onto the highway there because of the icy conditions.
Could the minister commit to ensuring that the roads are adequately plowed and sanded?
Hon. Mr. Hart: You know, the last time I was in my sandbox, I ensured that all my trucks and cars were ready to go and thatís about the only place I can make that kind of a commitment. The Highways department sanding schedule priorities are curves, hills and intersections, and thatís our line on how we deal with the sanding process. As far as the South Access goes, thatís the City of Whitehorse highway ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Hart: Not on that. The City of Whitehorse is responsible for the South Access until it hits our highway.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I have three more questions. I want to ask the minister what his plans are for upgrading the section of Alaska Highway through the Ibex Valley. The quality of the road surface is extremely unacceptable. Now I know itís in the Lake Laberge riding, Mr. Chair, and the MLA there obviously doesnít have very much pull with this minister, but I would urge him to place a higher priority on this matter because itís travelled by constituents in the next riding up, which is of course is a higher priority, as well as travellers coming to and from Alaska and other places.
I noticed a month or two back he identified monies for pre-planning on three areas that needed upgrading next summer, and it was rather disappointing to see this section through Ibex wasnít included in his top three priorities. Now there was some work done this past summer, but itís simply not good enough. Now if the minister isnít familiar, I would invite him to take a little trip out there to see for himself. So what does he intend to do about the section of road through the Ibex Valley? Thatís this side of the Takhini River bridge on the Alaska Highway, about 50 kilometres west of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As communicated, we work on this particular section of the road through our maintenance program. That is a high permafrost area that we have to deal with ó ice is a big problem ó and we are working with it the best that we can. We will do as much as we can in the upcoming season through our maintenance program.
Mr. McRobb: We will follow up in the spring on that matter.
I want to follow up with him on a question asked last week about increased signage for the deer and elk on our highways. This is mainly focused on just a couple of areas that are really a problem. I sent over some reading materials to the minister. Hopefully he has reviewed that. That material set out an example of how Switzerland has installed some devices that are automatically triggered by moving wildlife, alerting drivers. It would make sense to consider the installation of such devices in these heavy usage areas of wildlife corridors.
What is the minister willing to do to help resolve this situation, especially in the Stony Creek area where we have a number of elk and also deer being struck by vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am having a little difficulty because I donít have a sign that says, ďcaterpillars walking across the roadĒ. I am more than willing to check. We usually respond to issues with regard to wildlife on a continuous basis from the Department of Environment. So we can work from that particular aspect.
Mr. McRobb: I would urge the minister to dispense with the homemade jokes.
I would like to ask him about the Haines Junction kiosk. I know this is one of his favourite files. Just to update, itís located just this side of Haines Junction, at the intersection of the Airport Road and Alaska Highway. Itís essentially boarded up. Construction has passed this kiosk by. This kiosk was part of a pilot project from about six years ago. There are actually three of them in the vicinity.
The intention of the kiosk was to displace highway signage. That hasnít worked. Instead, the kiosks have been a target for vandals. All it takes is for one highway truck to pull in and nobody can even see the kiosks anyway.
I want to ask the minister what his intentions are with respect to that kiosk.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite knows full well that Iíve been out to the community on several occasions, trying to deal with this particular situation.
Weíve decided to decommission the pullout until such time as the community can get together and decide where they want the pullout to go.† Weíll assist them, and once they can get together on an agreeable place, weíll take it from there.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Thatís precisely the advice I gave to the acting minister, the Member for Porter Creek North, when he telephoned me this summer. I put public involvement at the top of the list.
I was led to believe that this was an urgent matter and that bulldozers were waiting. I gave him my personal preference, after canvassing some businesspeople and others in the community. What I came up with was the priority of resurrecting the Mile 1000 site on the Alaska Highway.
This would seem to dovetail well with the Tourism ministerís Alaska Highway appreciation program. As well, Kluane National Park has committed to help fund some display signage at this site. As well, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations have indicated a willingness to also contribute to display signage at the site.
Iíve checked it out. Itís basically 25 kilometres this side of Haines Junction, and it still provides an excellent view of the mountains. Given the historic nature of the site, I would suggest that this would be a high priority.
Is the minister willing to consider this?
Hon. Mr. Hart: † As I mentioned, weíre looking at providing assistance to Haines Junction and the merchants of Haines Junction when they can get together on how they want to decide and where they want to decide. If itís going to include the park, itís going to have to include dollars and cents and input from them to get a rest stop completed. Iíve indicated to both parties that weíre willing to work with them once they get together and come up with a solution. Weíre willing to go there.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, weíll proceed with line-by-line examination.
On Operations and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services underexpenditure of $25,000 cleared
On Information and Communications Technology
Information and Communications Technology in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Mr. Fairclough: Could I have a breakdown on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This amount consists of several items. Weíre looking at approximately a $514,000 increase as a result of higher fuel costs and heating costs. Weíre looking at $750,000 for highway maintenance to increase the level of winter highway maintenance service, focusing on brushing and snow removal. Weíre looking at $131,000 on increased recoverable funding from the National Safety Code and $8,000 net increase in other small amounts.
Transportation Division in the amount of $1,403,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Property Management in the amount of $254,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
French Language Services in the amount of $131,000 agreed to
On Total of Other O&M Programs
Total of Other O&M Programs in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1,778,000 agreed to
On Operation and Maintenance Recoveries
Operation and Maintenance Recoveries cleared
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On Information and Communications Technology
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Mr. Fairclough: I would just ask for a breakdown on that, please.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The $279,000 consists again of several items: $124,000 required for financial management information systems to complete implementation for the purchasing and inventory module; $34,000 required for human resource management information needs to continue business analysis, planning and research work; $20,000 to allow a contractor to complete upgrading of the telephone security line; $58,000 to complete office renovations for ICT staff; and $55,000 required to complete work for improving the Y-net secure Internet access on the firewall.
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $279,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Facilities
On Transportation Facilities and Equipment
Transportation Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $140,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On YG Funded:
On Klondike Highway
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd just like a breakdown of that, please.
Hon. Mr. Hart: It consists of three items: $126,000 to complete winter clearing on kilometres 617 to 627; $400,000 increase due to reconstruction on kilometres 705 to 710; and $400,000 increase to conduit preplanning work for Whitehorse to Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: Did these sums have anything to do with increasing the contracts that were originally put out because there was more than expected work that had to be done?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The work for the reconstruction on kilometres 705 to 710 was higher than estimated, so thatís why it was in there.
Klondike Highway in the amount of $926,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like a breakdown of that too, please.
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is simply for the increase to complete spot reconstruction, preliminary engineering and design.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $590,000 agreed to
On Dempster Highway
Mr. Arntzen: Can I have a breakdown on that and what type of work it is for?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at $10,000 that is required to complete development of a new or higher quality aggregate source for the north end of the highway. We are looking at $20,000 required to identify possible snowdrift control measures for the current high problem that we have at the Northwest Territories-Yukon border, and $100,000 is required to carry out snowdrift planning and engineering work on other areas of the highway.
Dempster Highway in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Tagish Road
Tagish Road in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Atlin Road
Atlin Road in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Bridges Ė Numbered Highways
Mr. Fairclough: I would also like a breakdown of that, please.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Again, this consists of several items here. We are looking at $45,000 required to complete bridge rehabilitation engineering work for 2003-04; and $72,000 required to resume contract work on the Teslin bridge that was unable to be completed in 2003-04. Of this increase, $27,000 is recoverable from the strategic highway infrastructure program. We are also looking at a $265,000 increase to undertake planning and engineering for an Alaska Highway bridge deck replacement.
Bridges Ė Numbered Highways in the amount of $282,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Other Roads in the amount of $335,000 agreed to
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Mr. Fairclough: Could we have a breakdown of that, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: † Again, several items consist under this item. We have $224,000 for shipping and installation of the Old Crow security fence. We have $1,400,000 for security renovations at the Whitehorse Airport, $820,000 of which is recoverable from the Canada Air Transport Security Authority. There is $40,000 to conduct a functional plan for the Whitehorse Airport terminal in order to address federal regulatory requirements. $19,000 is to complete brushing work at the Whitehorse Airport. $18,000 is to review the preliminary design and prepare tender packages for the extension of taxiway G at the Whitehorse Airport. $13,000 is required to complete the security fence around the maintenance garage in order to enclose it on the airside section of Whitehorse Airport. Again, it is a security requirement. $15,000 is required for the design and investigation work to upgrade the Teslin Airport taxiway. $50,000 is required for design work for the apron rehabilitation at Watson Lake Airport and $181,000 for an increase due to the Old Crow terminal replacement design and construction costs being higher than estimated.
Airports in the amount of $1,564,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Queenís Printer Equipment
Queenís Printer Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Central Stores underexpenditure of $20,000 cleared
On Mailroom/Administration Building Renovations
Mailroom/Administration Building Renovations in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Construction and Maintenance
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like a breakdown of that. Thatís almost a 100-percent increase.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre looking at an increase that consists of a $30,000 increase to complete installation of the code-required handicap lift at Haines Junction administration building; a $15,000 increase to complete Yukon College staining of siding that was halted due to seasonal weather; $615,000 required for space moves to accommodate departmental changes as a result of the reorganization of government and devolution; $126,000 required to complete work at the trolley car storage facility; $129,000 required for removal, replacement and repair of interior wood beams at Yukon College; $12,000 increase for the renovations of the Cabinet room and $440,000 increase to negotiate the purchase of the Red Line passenger train.
Capital Construction and Maintenance in the amount of $1,367,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
On Association franco-yukonnaise Ė Centre de la francophonie building addition
Association franco-yukonnaise - Centre de la francophonie building addition in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
Total of Other Capital Expenditures in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures in the amount of $5,965,000 agreed to
On Capital Recoveries
Capital Recoveries agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 55, the Department of Highways and Public Works.
Chair: It is the Chairís understanding that we are going into the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Shall we take a five-minute recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a five-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and continue on with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Vote 53.
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am pleased to introduce the 2004-05 supplementary estimates for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Energy, Mines and Resources requests $2,828,000 for the Supplementary Estimates No. 1, 2004-05. Of this total, $2,620,000 is for O&M and $208,000 is for the capital.
Energy, Mines and Resources is helping the government revitalize the natural resource economy. We have been working to create a positive investment climate capable of attracting private sector investment, development and regulatory certainty and partnering with First Nation governments. The increases we are seeking directly relate to this work under operating and maintenance expenditures. The most significant increase total of $1,288,000 is related to the care, maintenance and closure planning for abandoned mines.
DIAND will be providing additional funds, and we are working to ensure that the abandoned mines do not pose a threat to the environment or result in unfunded financial liability to the public.
Yukoners have been employed through contract and direct employment through this work. Delays in the implementation of YESAA and the rush for project approval prior to the November 2004 YESAA deadline, has placed pressure on Energy, Mines and Resources to support major mining projects such as Western Silver and Expatriate, Tagish Gold, Minto, United Keno Hill and other projects, so we have requested a further $350,000 to provide for the management and project permitting of these major potential mining developments.
The $500,000 mine training fund provides for training and recruiting of Yukoners to work in the mining resource sector. The exploration technology training project under this fund attracted many students this year, and 70 percent of the successful graduates worked in exploration throughout the Yukon this summer. $400,000 of this total amount is being relocated to the 2005-06 fiscal year.
The federal government has provided Yukon with $179,000 under the northern geoscience agreement to undertake work that will make geological information more accessible to industry, First Nations and the public by creating digital copies that will be made available over the Internet. These funds are 100-percent recoverable.
Energy, Mines and Resources continues to play a key role with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, industry and Council of Yukon First Nations in the development of a new placer management regime in Yukon, and $100,000 is being provided in this supplementary to carry on the important work.
Within the O&M supplementary estimate, Energy, Mines and Resources has the following revotes: $193,000 for the forest agreement in principleís agreements. Once a final agreement is in place, there will be a business relationship between Yukon and the Kaska and a forest authority will be established that will grant all timber in southeast Yukon on both Kaska and public lands.
$193,000 is for the agricultural industry transition program. These program funds, supplied by Agriculture Canada, are being flowed to the Yukon Agricultural Association for the infrastructure development and marketing needs, as well as strengthening the role of the YAA and its services to members.
$150,000 is for the Kaska resource planning agreement. Resource planning is a commitment under the Kaska bilateral agreement, and these funds will be provided for Kaska participation and resource planning in southeast Yukon.
In the capital budget, the federal government is providing $70,000 under the knowledge and innovation fund for integrated resource management and a surface geology technical study. These funds are 100-percent recoverable.
Within these capital supplementary estimates, Energy, Mines and Resources has the following revotes: $130,000 for forest renewal projects. Funds are required to complete the work being done by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, the RRC and the Yukon government to address the beetle-kill area in southwest Yukon. $155,000 is for the continued support of the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. The coalition has been established and is comprised of First Nation governments along the proposed Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline project. It will ensure that there is a coordinated First Nation approach and response to matters pertaining to the pipeline project as it progresses, and it will also play a collaborator role with First Nations and public government.
The forest inventory is also requesting a relocation of $147,000 of its funds to fiscal year 2005-06, as not all the work could be completed in the 2004-05 year. This supplementary budget will assist the government in reaching its goal of revitalizing the natural resource economy of the Yukon.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, there are several areas of interest within this department, and weíll certainly do our best to try to tackle each one. With oil and gas there are some major issues with respect to the pipeline. Maybe we should just start there. It seems to me that the minister has taken a complete hands-off approach with respect to the pipeline. This is quite unlike the Alaskans to the north and the people in the Northwest Territories to the east. They are actively lobbying for pipelines in their areas, and theyíre actively consulting the people and trying to make the most of it. For instance, the mayor in Haines, Alaska is still looking for a spur line along the Haines Road to serve his township. We hear very little from this minister in the way of leadership with respect to taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so Iíd like to ask him: what exactly is he doing on this file?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To give you an overview of what weíre doing as the Yukon government pertaining to both pipelines ó because weíre working very actively on both files to make sure that Yukon maximizes benefits from the Mackenzie Valley pipeline or the Alaska Highway pipeline. Weíre being engaged with the First Nation representation and all the affected governments, which is very important. We are intervening in National Energy Board hearings in regard to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. We will make specific representation on tolls and tariff models that make north Yukon gas economic, and we will provide revised reserve estimates for the north Yukon basin. In other words, weíre actively working to make sure that north Yukon resources are not shut in by the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
We have placed an agreement with the Northwest Territories that commits to an agreement between the two governments that maximizes employment and business opportunities for all northerners north of 60. So, weíre putting that to bed, Mr. Chair.
On the Alaska end of things, we have made it clear that the Yukon interests must be met irrespective of which Alaska Highway pipeline proposal is endorsed. So, in other words, weíre working with the Alaska government and, of course, the federal government, which has a regulatory overview of this, to make sure that whatever pipeline is decided on, we will maximize our benefits.
In late November I made those interests known in Ottawa during meetings with both the federal Minister of Energy, NRCan, and also the Minister of Northern Affairs.
Last week the Premier met with Governor Murkowski and agreed to undertake joint initiatives early in the new year in both Ottawa and Washington. This is going to be a partnership between Alaska and the Yukon on moving ahead with plans on the pipeline in the near future.
Again, we have five major things in the plan ó five interests have been clearly communicated to proponents and government. They are: (1) Yukon supports construction of both northern pipelines; (2) the need for a clear regulatory process, border-to-border for the Alaska Highway pipeline project; (3) the need for Yukon explorers to have access to either northern pipeline to transport their gas to market; (4) the need for Yukoners to benefit fiscally and socially from these pipeline projects; and (5) the need for financial assistance to help Yukon and Yukon First Nations prepare for a northern pipeline development.
Weíre working very hard to move ahead on a pipeline, whether itís the Alaska Highway pipeline, which is going to come through our jurisdiction, as well as maximize the opportunities for all Yukoners in a pipeline that goes down the Mackenzie Valley.
Also, itís very important that our natural resources arenít shut out by either one of the pipelines. So weíre very conscious about that, and weíre going ahead on that level. Hopefully, at the end of the day, when the pipeline comes, weíll be ready to accept whatever pipeline is decided on in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister rattled on, but I donít really hear an answer to my question in all of that on what heís doing to engage the Yukon public in what is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is a project that has been talked about for decades in the Yukon. Mr. Chair, itís a very significant project that carries with it a giant impact on the territory, both in terms of encouraging future development because of the close access to a limitless energy supply and, in addition, it brings with it a number of immediate concerns. Weíve heard from community members and leaders about some of those concerns.
Some of them have yet to be discussed in the public domain. I see an inquisitive look on some members across the way, so Iíll just take a moment to expound on some of these issues.
Aside from the social impact, which is certainly worthy of a lot of discussion ó because mainly our First Nation people are quite concerned ó the latest proposal I saw involved two construction camps, each of about 3,000 workers. Along the proposed pipeline route there are several small communities and villages, any of which would simply be overwhelmed by such a vast intrusion of foreigners to their regions. That in itself carries a significant social dilemma and itís one we really have to try to prepare for in advance.
There are also some drug issues that go along with the social dilemma. We as members of this Assembly really need to pull up our socks and do whatever we can to address this problem because it is serious now, never mind what might happen with the intrusion of thousands of workers.†
There is another factor that is important, Mr. Chair, and it was brought to my attention by members in the business community, and that is the pressure on the immediate labour market. We know that in the territory there are only so many workers. When they are lured away to the high-paying, short-term jobs offered by a project of this magnitude, there will be plenty of vacancies in the other business sectors, and this will create a worker shortage.
This wonít be the first time it has happened. It happened in Alaska a quarter century ago when they built the trans-Alaska pipeline system, or TAPS. Mr. Chair, we recall stories where even mayors of communities were resigning to go work as labourers on the pipeline. The pay was simply a lot more than they were making. Obviously, some politicians may be bought, but nobody in here certainly, Mr. Chair. So it raises a question: where will the worker pool come from to continue our business economy in the Yukon if a lot of the workers disappear, being simply attracted to the big pipeline magnet. Who will be manning the stations at a lot of the lower paying jobs when people can simply go work as a labourer on the pipeline and probably make $30 or $40 an hour? So there is a huge area there that hasnít even begun to be explored by this government.
Mr. Chair, there are several huge consequences from this major project and we in the official opposition believe this government should be addressing these matters with a higher priority than what it is. As a matter of fact, we hear virtually nothing from this government on preparing for the social consequences of the pipeline. Certainly thereís a lot that can be done. Instead, we hear the government go on about how itís pipeline-ready. Well, thereís a time and place for rhetoric and thereís a time and place for action. Iím suggesting that we replace some of the rhetoric we hear from the opposite side with some action on matters that are being forwarded and recommended by the official opposition, in particular.
Chair: Order please. The time now being 6:00 p.m., the Chair shall report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 6, 2004:
Yukon Human Rights Commission 2003-04 Annual Report† (Speaker Staffen)
Yukon Child Care Board 2003-04 Annual Report† (Jenkins)
Health Care Insurance Programs, Health Services Branch: Statement of Revenue and Expenditures for the fiscal years 1999-2000 to 2003-04† (Jenkins)