Tuesday, May 3, 2005 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Forest Week
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I rise today on behalf of the Assembly to pay tribute to National Forest Week, May 1 to 7, 2005. The theme, “The Boreal Forest: A Global Legacy”, complements this government’s goal of maintaining healthy Yukon forests for future generations. Our forests are one of the Yukon’s truly visible natural resources. They play an important role in First Nations culture and history and provide a variety of outdoor activities enjoyed by Yukoners and tourists alike. Forests also provide critical environmental services, such as clear air and clean water. They provide habitat for wildlife, economic opportunities for trappers and outfitters and the raw materials for the building and manufacturing industries.
Many of our household products, our homes and almost everything around us come from forests and forest products. Forestry is an important sector of Yukon’s economy with direct and indirect benefits.
As you know, the Yukon received control and management of its forests as a result of devolution in April 2003. Since devolution, we’ve been working hard to develop our own Yukon forest legislation and we have been carrying out and implementing strategic forest management plans in partnership with Yukon First Nations. In the past year, we’ve completed the first-ever inventory of forest resources for the central Yukon, which is one of the fundamental information needs to undertake forest management plans.
I offer this tribute, Mr. Speaker, to heighten public awareness of the importance of healthy forests and forestry to the Yukon economy, history and culture. Also, I invite Yukoners to visit the displays in the Elijah Smith Building during this week of celebration and tribute.
In closing, I wish to acknowledge the ongoing commitment of the entrepreneurs in the forest industry, who continue to strive to make the industry a dynamic part of the Yukon’s economy. I wish every success to Yukoners in recognizing opportunities in the secondary manufacturing sector for lumber products. Finally, I have every confidence that our combined efforts will help kindle a new and more sustainable forest industry over the coming months and years.
In recognition of National Mental Health Week
Mr. McRobb: I’m pleased to rise on behalf of both opposition parties in tribute to National Mental Health Week and to all our professionals and volunteers working in mental health.
The Canadian Mental Health Association is a national voluntary organization that promotes the mental health of Canadians through education, public awareness, research and advocacy. There is a branch of the CMHA in the Yukon responding to mental illness, which continues to be one of Canada’s major public health problems.
One-third of Canadians will experience a mental illness some time during their lives. Many mental health conditions can now be treated effectively with drugs, especially when the treatment is combined with psychotherapy. But health is not only the absence of disease or negative conditions; it is a positive state of physical, mental and social well-being.
Mental illnesses are caused by a complex of social, psychological, genetic and biological disturbances. The people around us on a daily basis are important to our mental health and much can be done by our families and friends toward a mentally healthy lifestyle.
We are also beginning to realize the connections between mental and physical health, and this year’s theme set by the CMHA for Mental Health Week is “Mind and Body Fitness”. Regular physical activity improves psychological well-being and reduces depression and anxiety. As well as physical exercise, the CMHA recommends that individuals should use their mental capacities to encourage their own mental health. We should exercise our minds to enjoy hobbies, to daydream, to set realistic goals and share humour. Above all, we should treat ourselves well and carefully and not be multi-tasking all the time. This is especially true in our North American society where people work too hard to try to keep up with economic demands.
We in this House can contribute a great deal to mental health. Everyone needs a proper place to live, an opportunity for employment and opportunities to be part of a community that cares. We should emphasize the benefits for all of us in responding to these basic needs.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to acknowledge May 2 to 8 as the 54th National Mental Health Week here in Canada. This year the Canadian Mental Health Association is asking citizens this week and throughout the year to remember that we need fit minds as well as fit bodies.
Many of us work very hard at staying physically fit. We eat right, we exercise regularly, and we get plenty of sleep. We do many things for our bodies, but what do we do for our minds? Our mental state is an important part of our overall health. It is just as important as physical health but, most times, people tend not to pay much attention to their mental health. This needs to change.
The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not just the absence of disease or illness.
We need to care for our minds just as we care for our bodies, and we still need to work on removing the remaining stigma surrounding mental illness. Mental illness is just that: an illness. It can happen to anyone, and it can be treated successfully. We all need to be comfortable with this; we need to pay attention to our own mental health and the mental health of those around us as we help those around us and ourselves. We need to create support, care, acceptance and trust, and it begins here with recognition by all members of this House for Mental Health Week.
This year’s theme is “Mind and Body Fitness”. It does begin in this House but it will carry on outside of the House if we all commit to looking after ourselves and all others.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling a report of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on travel expenses of members of this Assembly during the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have for tabling the Fleet Vehicle Agency business plan for 2005-06. I also have for tabling the Queen’s Printer Agency 2005-06 business plan.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House advises the Government of Yukon that the current state of the Carcross walking bridge is causing serious concern for the community and that the Government of Yukon respond immediately to the requests by the community to replace this dangerous structure, ensuring the safety of residents and visitors alike to the beautiful Southern Lakes region.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to maintain financial support for children in care who are 18 years of age until they are eligible for social assistance.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the prevent alcohol and risk-related trauma in youth program, or PARTY, has achieved great success in educating our high school students about the risk in substance abuse;
(2) the program helps to protect our high-school graduates by conducting a refresher course prior to graduation;
(3) the program is having funding difficulties and will end unless funding is found soon; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to establish a tripartite funding agreement between the departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Social Services to jointly fund the PARTY program on a long-term basis to enable it to continue and to expand into all Yukon communities.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad feasibility study
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday, the Minister of Economic Development tabled a report from a U.S.-based consulting firm on the potential benefits of a proposed Alaska-Canada rail link. Since last November this firm has received three contracts from this government, totalling just over $130,000. On two of those contracts, the meter was running at approximately $10,000 per week. My question isn’t about this company’s credentials but about how a Boston consultant got hired to tell the Yukon government how it might benefit from a rail link to Alaska.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, for the member opposite’s information, these were not sole sourced. The Boston company in fact has done extensive work in northern British Columbia and is very well aware of the situation and the things that we’ve asked them to comment on.
Mr. Hardy: For the second time in a week, Yukon people are learning about their tax dollars flowing to U.S.-based companies, thanks to this minister. We heard about it last week as well. This Boston consultancy has been described by one corporate database service as a “Dear Abby” for its clients, dispensing advice to law firms, corporations, utilities and other entities. Canadian interests and values aren’t necessarily the same as American interests and values, Mr. Speaker. In fact, when it comes to this type of a megaproject, even Yukon-Alaska interests and values may be quite different.
What steps did the minister take to ensure that the “Dear Abby” he hired was dispensing advice solely in the best interests of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, this was not a sole-source contract. The company that it was awarded to has extensive experience in Canada and in the northwest of Canada. They are very well-respected in their field, and their recommendation is clearly to do further study to create the bilateral commission that we’ve set up. They’ve indicated that it’s reasonable to go ahead and that’s what we’re doing, in conjunction with Alaska and British Columbia.
Mr. Hardy: It makes sense that a consultant would recommend doing more studies. Now a lot of Yukoners are uncomfortable with how this railway scenario is unfolding, especially the thick cloak of secrecy that has been surrounding it up to now. The executive summary of this report talks about privatization and liberalization in the global economy, which are values that are not always shared by Canadian people, or Yukoners as well. We also know, from no less a figure than the former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, that one of the main cargo items for this proposed railway is components for the ballistic missile defence system at Fort Greeley. Canada is not a part of that scheme, which would put weapons in space. Furthermore, the Yukon has long been a nuclear-free zone.
Let me turn my final question to the Premier. What assurance has the Premier received from either Governor Murkowski or Prime Minister Martin that a rail link through the Yukon will not be used to transport military materials that could drastically increase the territory’s risk of exposure to any potential security threat?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, for the member opposite, we kept this project so secret that it has been under discussion since 1942. Maps exist. The original proposal for the highway basically fell off the table because of the shortage of steel during the war and the Alaska Highway was constructed instead. To pick out a few of the member’s favourite questions out of that list, Charles River Associates’ recommendation to continue the studies did not involve them or other private consultants. It recommended that a bilateral commission be set up. For the member opposite, that question was asked during the press conference in terms of the military, and Governor Murkowski made it clear that the materials necessary for that project were already in place and that it had nothing whatsoever to do with this railroad. The main economic benefit of the railroad in terms of overall infrastructure, of course, is to assist in the creation of the natural gas pipeline and transportation materials for that. I’m not really sure where the member opposite is getting his information. Certainly not from public sources.
Question re: Dawson City bridge, tender process
Mr. Fairclough: The Minister of Economic Development let slip yesterday that the closing date for the proposals of the Dawson P3 bridge has been changed from May 12 to May 24. Just an hour before, during Question Period, the Minister of Highways and Public Works had the opportunity to correct the record when specifically asked about the request-for-proposal process closing on May 12, and he failed to do so.
Was the minister not aware of this change, or was there some other reason he didn’t inform the House when he had the chance?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The agreement to extend the RFP proposal deadline to May 24 comes out of ongoing discussions and, in fact, we’re going on that day. We’re not talking about historical events here; we’re talking about ongoing discussions. My information right now is that the 24th is there. It was negotiated as late as yesterday.
Again, for the member opposite, I let it slip so badly that I announced it in this House, on our FM radio broadcast, and on the Internet. Again, there is nothing secret about this. We’re very, very open. In normal persons’ language, it’s called an announcement.
Mr. Fairclough: The Minister of Economic Development should have made the announcement to the Minister of Highways and Public Works because he didn’t know an hour before the minister announced it in this House.
This P3 proposal process has been mired in controversy since it began, and the government, contrary to what the minister says, has been incredibly secretive. Decisions have been challenged, and court action has been threatened in many cases.
So, I’d like to ask the question again: was the closing date changed at the request of the two bidders who qualified, or at the request of the department? Or was it because a third consortium was appealing its disqualification from the process?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The date was changed by mutual agreement of the parties concerned, as I believe it has to. For the member opposite, when he refers to the threat of lawsuits and everything else, I would remind the member opposite that, as a good friend of mine who’s a lawyer said, for $25 you can sue the Prime Minister.
We’re proceeding with this according to the guidelines and the policy we’re developing and in conjunction with the parties involved, as we should. Again, we’re being so secretive we’re doing this out in public at every point, so I’m not really sure where the member is coming from on that.
Mr. Fairclough: We don’t have the information; the Minister of Highways and Public Works doesn’t have the information; why is the information being withheld from the public? It doesn’t come as any particular surprise that the new closing date on the request for P3 proposals falls conveniently after May 17, the day the Legislature adjourns.
This government likes to keep its dealings out of the public’s eye. Time and time again we have seen the government take unilateral action that throws the normal process out the window, even when it involves millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars.
What role did the Minister of Highways and Public Works play in the decision to postpone the closing date for the P3 proposals? What influence did the Premier have on that decision?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I had no involvement in the delay of the process, as the member opposite indicated, and I was not advised by the Premier on making any changes to that date.
Question re: Whistle-blower legislation
Ms. Duncan: The Public Service Commissioner asked in February that we form an all-party committee to review options for the protection of whistle-blowers. I’m sending over my response to the minister and, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to apologize publicly for the tardiness of this response.
My position has been consistent since the election of the Yukon Party: convene the all-party committee on appointments you promised as a priority and I will participate in all the other all-party committees you have promised since.
I’m also sending over to the minister some of my other previous correspondence to the government in this regard.
The Yukon Party has appointed the Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board and a new Chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, without consulting with the opposition parties.
Two of the longest serving members of the Yukon Hospital Corporation have served their last meetings — no notice to the opposition. Equally important, the renewable resource councils throughout the Yukon that have been tasked with working on forestry legislation for the Yukon —
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question, please?
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon Party promised an all-party committee to review appointments to these boards. Will the minister —
Speaker: Ask the question.
Ms. Duncan: I’m trying to, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister and the Yukon Party keep their promise on an all-party committee so that I can help them with whistle-blower legislation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our party has tried repeatedly to come to an agreement with the official opposition and the third party on just what we are working on. It is an all-party committee to move forward on the issue of boards and board appointments, and there are a number of boards that are extremely important — I will agree with the member opposite. But the impediment appears to be terms and conditions imposed on this process by the leader of the third party herself.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that’s very interesting. I’d like to deal with Yukon Party promises made and Yukon Party promises broken on this issue. The Yukon Party election platform said “establish an all-party standing committee to oversee Yukon government appointments”. That’s page 14. Their commitment is to implement effective whistle-blower legislation. That’s not until the next page.
Our government tabled whistle-blower legislation in April 2002. After two years of no work by the Yukon Party, the NDP tabled legislation. The Yukon Party’s response at the time was, “No, we’ll wait for the federal legislation.” Then they said they wanted to meet with the union. Then the Member for Klondike promised all-party consultation over the summer, working with the opposition. The day before the Legislature sat, he delivered the federal legislation. Then the minister asked in 2005 to form a select committee. The latest excuse: I wouldn’t participate.
My question, Mr. Speaker: will the Yukon Party move on their commitment to an all-party committee on appointments before this whistle-blower legislation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: An all-party committee takes the agreement of all parties. We do not have the agreement of the third party on this issue.
Ms. Duncan: My response to the government’s request for participation on all-party committees has been the same since they were elected: get the all-party committee on appointments in place before doing the work on all these new committees they want to establish. Show me the money. Show me the product. Show me that you can work cooperatively on the all-party committee on appointments you promised, and then we’ll get to work on the others.
The fact is, the Yukon Party has not, cannot and will not live up to its election commitment to establish an all-party committee. I have attended the meetings and have been more than prepared to participate as is written in the documentation I provided the minister. Get the all-party committee on appointments established. Will they do it? There are 17 renewable resource councils waiting for their appointments.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite might want to correct the record; there are only nine RRCs in the Yukon. We have a number of examples of all-party committees where the member opposite has put terms and conditions around it that made the whole movement forward in this area untenable. It just didn’t work. We have an example of that just recently when the all-party committee, struck under a different format, was reappointing the Conflicts Commissioner. The third party was out of that equation. We could go on and on. This is an initiative that we committed to. We have moved forward on it, but we cannot get the agreement of the third party. The third party constantly has new terms and conditions they wish to impose on this process.
Question re: Addictions programs
Mr. McRobb: The Health minister keeps boasting about the great things he’s doing to combat our very serious addictions problems, but let’s look at reality. Alcohol and drug services admissions to treatment are down 21 percent. To get into detox treatment, a client has to pay $120 just to get a medical exam.
The government refuses to pay for this. Low-income clients who want to do something about their addiction are out of luck. To get into detox treatment, people are told to get off one addiction before they can be treated for another. Clients can’t get into detox, can’t get into the hospital, and are threatening suicide in some cases.
It appears there are fewer people willing to take the treatment programs offered. That’s what the minister says, but for the wrong reasons. When will the minister finally do something about the catch-22s in his detox program?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I must point out that it was the Yukon Party that reinstituted and established the 28-day residential live-in program, which the previous NDP government cancelled and that the following Liberal government didn’t re-establish. So the 28-day residential live-in program and detox was re-established under our party.
The member opposite is absolutely correct — the statistics are for a very short period of time, and you cannot re-establish something and have anything going forward until there is a wider acceptance of the initiative. We have established more programs for drug and alcohol services; we are moving forward on these very important initiatives, as committed to; and we’re just going to convene a substance-abuse initiative in very short order here in the Yukon, which all parties are invited to.
Mr. McRobb: The minister ignores the fact that the federal government has given millions of extra health care dollars to this government while it took away millions from the previous NDP government. This minister has the responsibility to do the right thing.
Now, he boasts about the five-step program for FASD, diagnoses for children and testing babies, awareness for others — but what about adults with FASD? This House passed a motion unanimously to support FASD adults. We still see them being hauled into court and off to jail, which is the worst possible situation for them.
We still see them wandering the streets without a home. Adults with FASD are being ignored by this government. This costs society much more in the long run.
When will the minister start providing realistic options for FASD adults?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The short answer: we have. We have in a number of ways. Let me share with the House the initiatives that are underway in FASSY. FASSY was just recently resourced with another $70,000 contribution to aid and assist them in the diagnosis of FASD in adults and the various other programs. In addition to that, they have engaged experts and are looking forward to them coming to the Yukon to put in place an FASD diagnostic team.
At the same time, Options for Independence, which is a housing unit that cares for those less fortunate, has been resourced to a much higher level under our watch.
So we’re moving forward on a number of fronts for adults who have this dreaded affliction.
Mr. McRobb: One of the things this government is doing is studying some things to death. We have studies for child welfare, studies for corrections, studies for the RCMP, studies for a bridge and so on. Anything it doesn’t want to do immediately, it seems it studies. We even have a study on addictions, which is finished but not public until it’s convenient for the minister. Now there’s a youth seminar and an addictions summit coming up. Surely the minister knows enough from the dozen studies already done to take some action on the addictions instead of just studying it again.
Will the minister commit to responding immediately after the addictions summit in June and put into place programs that respond to the real need in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to drug and alcohol services, we have established and re-established quite a number of programs in this important area. At the same time, it was the Member for Kluane’s own leader who had a number of meetings in his Whitehorse riding dealing with the issue of substance abuse.
That ended up with an agreement being reached by the leader of the official opposition and our Premier and the third party on establishing this substance abuse conference here in Whitehorse. We’re moving forward on that front also. That is being resourced by our government, and I believe that conference alone is a further $100,000 odd in costs. So when you add up the total packages of initiatives that have taken place under our party, have been re-established under our party and have been further resourced under our party, they are so wide I will have to send over a list to the member opposite so he has an understanding of them, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Occupational health and safety regulations
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, last week in his tribute to the Annual Day of Mourning, the minister responsible for the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board said, “The purpose of the Day of Mourning is to remind us of those who have died or been injured, to honour them and to strengthen our commitment to prevent work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses. We need to all work together to achieve this.” That’s what he said. The minister missed a golden opportunity to strengthen his commitment by announcing that the government would be adopting the occupational health and safety regulations that have been gathering dust under his desk since November 4, 2002, when he was elected. Why does the minister insist on delaying the approval of these important safety regulations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We haven’t, is the simple answer. We have taken those sections that are applicable and needed and put them in place.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, all the regulations are necessary, and they’re not all in place. He has cherry-picked, to use his term, what he wants to see in place. Now, he said he has personal concerns about them. He has communicated those to the board, but he hasn’t communicated them back to the public or to us. And the other thing about the occupational health and safety regulations is that they were out for four years of consultation, and he has chosen to ignore them. He chooses to ignore the consultation. They talk a lot about consultation, but they don’t do anything about it; they don’t listen.
They delayed the act review. He tried to link it to the act review and said they’d do it after the act review and that they would review them again. But time is wasting, and people are getting injured, and people are dying on the job. Why does the minister insist on delaying the approval of these important safety regulations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have adopted safety regulations where there were none or where they required them to be enhanced. They are in place currently.
The Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is concentrating right now on the preventive side, the accident preventive side, with a number of the employer groups and that is an ongoing process. There is also a process for those entering the workforce being aided with a program in that area. When you look at the ongoing work and commitment that is taking place by Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, it has improved and increased tremendously under this government’s watch.
Question re: First Nations education
Mr. Fairclough: It’s difficult to find a First Nation in this territory that doesn’t have issues with this government’s education policies. It has been over a year and a half since the minister responded to a critical report from Na Cho Nyäk Dun on education. He said it was time to expand First Nations’ role in education.
Now, the First Nation put a lot of energy into the working group in good faith, and that working group has now disbanded. Will the minister update us on what progress he has made? We are interested in what progress he has made to resolve the issues raised by the Na Cho Nyäk Dun report.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I have stated on several occasions on the floor of this House that this government doesn’t answer to reports that belong to other forms of government. The Na Cho Nyäk Dun is a self-governing First Nation. They ordered a report done and that report belongs to them.
Mr. Fairclough: If that was the case, then the minister is not doing his duty. He does have responsibility for education of all children in the Yukon, including First Nations. If there’s an issue raised by the First Nation, this government should respond to it instead of trying to hide behind the fact that First Nations have self-government agreements, which they haven’t fully implemented at this point.
Na Cho Nyäk Dun is working on taking over kindergarten to grade 3 because there has been such little response from this government. We’re all aware of the turmoil experienced by my own home community of Carmacks over the school replacement. That First Nation wants to draw down responsibility for education, and the Premier’s view is that this can all be taken care of through education reform. In other words, the government has decided to ignore the Umbrella Final Agreement and the self-government agreements. That’s what it’s about.
How will the minister direct his department to adapt policies to include First Nation education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government has gone well beyond its duties to involve First Nations in discussions with Education. I believe I’ve also stated on the floor of this Legislature before that there will be disagreements in areas and that there is not always going to be a yes to everything. I believe that this government will continue to work to the best interests of all children because that is paramount to this government. We will continue to work to the best interests of all children.
Mr. Fairclough: That was a contradiction because the minister just answered to the previous questions that it is not his responsibility — they are a self-governing First Nation and he will not be responding to reports or questions raised by First Nations. Now he said they’ve gone well beyond their commitment — the government’s commitment, I guess — to respond to First Nation education. Well, that doesn’t say much about what this government is doing. It probably doesn’t know in that department, through that minister.
The lack of vision of this government is frightening. Issues that could be resolved peacefully and positively for both sides are left to blow up in our faces. This minister needs to escape the old Indian Affairs mentality. Self-governing First Nations are governments. They are willing to cooperate, but they don’t have to listen to any minister who decides he knows what is best for everyone.
What is the minister’s next step to respond to the crisis in First Nation education in my riding, a crisis that he has created?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, I would disagree with the member opposite. I never created a crisis in any riding. It appears to me that when this government came into power, there already was a crisis in some of the areas. There’s a school that people tried to build in Carmacks for many years before this government came in. The member opposite was a minister in the government when, in fact, in their term they did not build the school in Carmacks. Neither did the previous Liberal government. This government took upon itself the best interests of the children and has decided to make sure a school is built, and we’ll do that.
The member opposite referred to a statement that this government doesn’t do anything in education. Well, it just so happens that this government’s commitment to education far supersedes that of any previous government. When you look at the figures of an increase in Education of 14 percent, or a $13-million increase, in the Education budget during the tenure of this government in a short two and a half years, I think that’s pretty good.
Also, when we talk about improving education, we talk about community training funds of $1.5 million, education improvements at WCC of $90,000 to $95,000, youth employment strategy of $200,000 —
Speaker: Thank you.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad feasibility study
Mr. Hardy: We have witnessed on numerous occasions this government going out and having reports written to serve their own ends and their own ideological position. The latest one in front of us now, of course, is the Charles River report.
I’ve gone through that report. I’ve taken a look at it. It’s quite fascinating in how it’s written because it does remind me of another report, which I’ll reference: the P3 report that was drawn up by Economic Development. Again, reports were drawn up to promote a direction this government wants to go in.
My question to the minister opposite: why does the government not get a report drawn up that demonstrates a balanced and thorough analysis of the benefits and the drawbacks of the proposals that they’re bringing forward? Why don’t they do that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For the member opposite’s information, of course, this was one of three companies that bid on this project. It’s an incredibly reputable company with a very deep background in transportation technology with Canadian experience and with northwest Canadian experience — northern British Columbia specifically. We look at the best company to make the comments. Certainly it’s not the purpose of this government — and I can’t comment on other governments, but it’s certainly not the purpose of this government — to go out and arrange for a report to be written in a certain way or with a certain point of view. I think that’s an incredibly insulting comment and certainly insulting to a very reputable company.
Mr. Hardy: This is a government that consistently does this, and this went to an American firm. After the invitational tender, then they started handing out sole-source contracts to this American firm. I would think that a Canadian firm would be able to give a better analysis of what is needed in Canada. I really have to question where this government is going on this, because last week they went to another American firm and handed out a large sum of money.
It’s interesting that in their press release the minister opposite says that this report presents clear economic rationale for the rail link. I looked at this report. At one point in it, in making this economic rationale — and they’re trying to find a rationale to build this rail — they base that on 35 mines up and running all at once. So my question once again is: when is this government going to start to engage Yukon people in writing reports that show a balanced view of these kinds of projects before we spend the money?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For the member opposite, some of his comments are precisely the reasons why we were conducting the feasibility study to determine the social, economic and environmental feasibility of the project. This is why we engaged a very well-respected company with extensive experience within Canada. The member once again referred to it as “sole sourced”. He is wrong; he knows that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. You have the floor, Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Again, this is not a sole-source contract. I tabled this report in the Legislature, and it’s available on the department’s Web site for anyone to read. It looks at the rail link in terms of economic development in our communities and regions, through expansion of transportation corridors. It looks at tourism; it looks at mines, although the member opposite seems to be focused on mines, although he mentions that we don’t have a mine. That’s true, but we have an economy — second lowest unemployment rate in Canada. People are coming back in —1,600. I believe 1,680 was the last count. We have an incredibly vibrant economy that is coming back, and the member is right. We didn’t do it with a mine. We did it with a diverse economic strategy. This is one prong of that.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I wish the minister opposite would listen to what I said. I indicated that there was an invitational tender, and then they started handing out sole-source contracts to this company. I’ve got it right here, $20,000 — sole-source contract; $10,000 — sole-source contract. Maybe the minister should find out what’s going on in his own department.
I am asking about value for money. We’re not getting value for money, and it seems that this report was drawn up specifically — as it says in the press releases, these findings support the Yukon government’s position to proceed with a joint Canada-U.S. feasibility study on the rail link.
Mr. Speaker, was the $130,000 contract created just to justify the $3 million for a feasibility study that the federal government should be paying, but this government is going ahead with? And I would like an answer, Mr. Speaker. Also, if this minister can do it, I would like him to give us a position on missiles being transported over Canadian soil, over Yukon’s soil. He did not answer that last time.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: To give some answers to the member opposite’s questions and allow him to catch his breath over there, we are looking at a wide range of diverse economic benefit, the railroad being one of them. We looked at proposals from a number of different companies. Charles River won the competition. It’s a $130,000 or $103,000 contract — I don’t have that right in front of me at the moment — to take a look to see if this is economically viable. There’s full transparency in all contracting.
One of the members opposite from the official opposition referred to 100-percent sole-source contracting in the Department of Economic Development in a previous session, and that is blatantly not true: 84 percent of the dollars expended for Economic Development contracts were sole sourced, but when you compare that to the 94 percent of the general service contracts, this is very much in line.
I would point out that it is lower than similar contracting levels of the previous New Democratic Party government. Economic Development’s average contract dollar amount for 2004-05 is actually $8,642.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members’ business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I wish to identify the motions to be called on Wednesday, May 4. The first motion is Motion No. 459, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge. We’ll then go on to Motion No. 430, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge, and then Motion No. 421, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 13: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 13, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, better known as the 2004-05 Supplementary Estimates No. 2, now be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This act is required to approve several additional expenditure requirements for various departments in the fiscal year 2004-05. These expenditure needs arose after the first supplementary budget for 2004-05 was introduced in the fall. They are identified departmental expenditures that could not be managed within their existing 2004-05 budget envelope.
The total O&M budgetary requirements are $3,926,000. There are no additional capital funding requirements in this supplementary budget. The expenditure amounts required are in the Department of Community Services for $2,500,000; the Public Service Commission for $1,225,000; and the Department of Environment for $201,000. I will explain the reason for these requests more fully during general debate in Committee.
The supplementary budget also provides me, as Minister of Finance, with the opportunity to update the Legislature on the projected fiscal position of the government to year-end 2004-05. The most significant change in the fiscal framework is an increase of recoveries and transfer payments, which total $31,135,000. As a consequence of these changes and estimated lapses, as highlighted in the document, the government’s annual surplus for the year is projected to be $27 million, which is a significant upturn from the forecasted deficit presented in the fall supplementary of some $21 million.
Consequently, net financial resources of the government will increase from $34 million to $77.9 million, which by any measure reveals a very positive and improved fiscal position. Carrying these results forward, the projected accumulated surplus of the government on a full accrual basis is forecast at $436 million. I look forward to the discussion.
Mr. Hardy: I will be very brief on this. I look forward to the general debate and when the minister is going to give us more information on the spending in Community Services and the Public Service Commission. I would like to make a couple of points very quickly. One, of course, is the fact that this is a government that continues to use special warrants in a manner that no other government in the past ever used them. It is far beyond what the public expects out of this government. Special warrants, as defined and as the members opposite know, should not be used in the manner that they’re being used. They’ve exceeded it, and I think it’s just really an attitude that they have developed in which they do not want to be held accountable. They do not want to have that debate in the Legislative Assembly before the authority to spend that money is brought forward. Unfortunately, this is what we’ve been witnessing since this government has been elected.
The other issue I have, and that we all feel in here — and the public is definitely feeling — is the flow of information. They continue to deny that there is any secrecy in their actions, and yet time and time again we come up with examples showing that that is exactly what is happening. I can use the example of access to information. The public is calling us on a regular basis asking us why they cannot access information that other governments, previous governments, used to make available. They have to go through a long process. In going through that process, it often costs them money and time, and they give up. That is an attitude that this government has brought into the bureaucracy and, unfortunately, it is the public who is suffering.
When I look at the supplementary budget, all I can think of is that this is a government that continues to not understand that it’s taxpayers’ money that they’re responsible for. It’s the people’s money that they have to be accountable for, and they have to be accountable to the Legislative Assembly and the people out there, and they continue to deny that.
Ms. Duncan: I am not going to be long in my second reading speech in response to the supplementary budget. I would just like to make a couple of points.
First of all, the Finance minister has noted that the surplus, using the old method of accounting, would be approximately $77.9 million. That’s what we’re now projecting for the March 31, 2004 surplus. I believe that was the figure he gave.
Interesting, because I ask the minister regularly whenever we engage in Finance debate to tell us what the surplus is today. It’s customary to release that information and he doesn’t do it. He has released that today. It’s also interesting because that isn’t much changed. In spite of the change in method of accounting, in spite of the continual assertions by the Finance minister about debt financing, and this, that and the other, and the incompetence of the previous government, the fact is that’s not much changed. Go back and look at October 2002, and the member will see that surplus figure.
There has been a major influx of cash resources to this government that is, in part, realized in this supplementary.
The interesting point that was also made is that not one thin dime — as the Premier is fond of saying — of this supplementary is on capital. The Yukon Party government can also take credit for removing the practice reinstated by the Liberal government of having the capital budget in the fall, a recommendation from the contracting community, which the contracting community appreciated and would like to see happen again.
The other point I would like to make is with respect to the funding announcements by the government. Fascinating that while we’re sitting in this Legislature in a 30-day session, which we have requested be longer to debate this $700 million-plus budget, the Premier is out making $3.1 million funding announcements without bringing them into the Legislature, without bringing in a supplementary, and without notification to the opposition. I can see a special warrant coming. What a surprise out of this government.
I would ask, as the leader of the official opposition has noted, that the Premier and all his colleagues over there remember that this is not your money. It’s Yukon taxpayers’ money and it has to be accounted for. I appreciate the opportunity to do that in general debate.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the Hon. Premier now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I’d like to begin by thanking the members opposite for their overwhelming support of the fiscal position the Yukon finds itself in. But I think it is required that we do some rebuttal, Mr. Speaker. First, the special warrant that reflects these expenditures is important because — are the members saying that we should allow departments to overexpend their spending authority? That’s the reason a special warrant is in place. Mr. Speaker, there is no other special warrant to talk about.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, did I just hear the Premier say: is the opposition suggesting that they exceed their spending? We all know that there is a law in the territory, the Taxpayer Protection Act, that prevents the Yukon government from running into a debt position. In other words, the Premier just suggested we were asking him to break the law and that is clearly against the House rules.
Speaker: Order please. From my perception, there is no point of order. It is a dispute between members. Hon. Premier, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, that is the need for the special warrant in these cases. There is no other special warrant to discuss. As I was saying, the members opposite recently passed the interim supply bill in this House, as they should have.
A lot of what has been put on the floor by the leader of the official opposition is not reflecting why we are here. We are here to debate this supplementary and the reasons the supplementary was requested.
The important factor, though, is the issue of coming to an understanding of how the fiscal position of the government is increased during the fiscal year 2004-05. Since a fall supplementary budget for the fiscal year 2004-05, we have shown an increase in recoveries and transfers to the territory of over $31 million. That is an example of where this government is taking the Yukon Territory financially, socially, environmentally and economically.
Both opposition parties made a great issue out of this as taxpayers’ money. Let’s talk about taxpayers’ money. Let’s talk about the Mayo-Dawson inter-tie, which began under the NDP. Let’s talk about the Energy Solutions Centre, which was structured by the NDP and followed through by the third party. We all know what happened: audits were required and the millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money must now be addressed on the overages.
Let’s talk about taxpayers’ money when it comes to Dawson City. The overextension on Dawson City’s debt and the expenditures in Dawson City began under the former NDP government, and the former Liberal government allowed the City of Dawson to overextend its debt limit by millions of dollars. Yes, let’s talk about taxpayers’ money.
Let’s talk about the investment by the members opposite, when in government, that created double-digit unemployment and an exodus of the population.
Let’s talk about our investments. Let’s talk about an unemployment rate that’s the second lowest in the country. Let’s talk about the growth in population. Let’s talk about the increased jobs and benefits for Yukoners through our expenditure of taxpayers’ money. Let’s talk about the improvement in our education system. Let’s talk about our partnerships with First Nations and other jurisdictions. Let’s talk about how we’ve managed taxpayers’ money in this territory.
The evidence is all over the place, Mr. Speaker; let Yukoners choose who they want to manage their finances.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, one nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 13 agreed to
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 hon. government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, in general debate.
Bill No. 13 — Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It’s my pleasure to introduce in Committee Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, which, as I stated, is more commonly referred to as Supplementary Estimates No. 2.
My comments will be brief, since we explored, to some degree, the need for the supplementary. However, in my second reading speech, I did commit to outlining in more detail the components, by department, of the $3.926 million supplementary funding request.
As I noted earlier, three departments are requesting increases to their O&M budget through this supplementary. The Community Services funding increase of $2.5 million is due to two major items: fire suppression, with an additional cost of $1.46 million, and the City of Dawson interim additional financing of $1,040,000.
In the case of the Public Service Commission, the expenditure increases are in two areas that require funds. One is the employee leave liability account of $1 million. This reflects the actuarial calculation of this liability. This was identified by the actuary in the last calendar year but did not make the first supplementary budget. The other area is the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board premium increase of $225,000. This increase comes about because of changes to the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board premiums that are charged to the Yukon government for our employees.
Finally, there is an increased supplementary appropriation request for the Department of Environment amounting to $201,000. This increase is largely due to the expenditure increase of the management of natural resources and monitoring and compliance programs, which are, in part, offset by increased recoveries in these program areas. Ministers for all three of these departments will be pleased to explore and explain these expenditure increases as they are debated in their individual departments.
Mr. Chair, I am now pleased to take questions of a general nature as they apply to this supplementary budget for 2004-05.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to remind the Premier that he’ll have to take questions of any nature that we wish to put on the table in regard to this. Whether he wants to answer them or not is his own choice, and he has to monitor that himself.
However, I only have a couple of questions — very simple questions, I believe. Could the minister tell me — he mentioned there was $140,000 for Dawson. What exactly was that cost for? It was $1,047,000 — sorry.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That amount was required to cover the financial needs of Dawson City throughout the period. The actual amount was $1,040,000, which is interim additional financing or funding for Dawson to meet its basic cash flow requirements.
Mr. Hardy: I stand corrected: I just misheard.
The other one I just need some clarification on, then I’ll be quite content to move on, is the fire suppression. I don’t have the critic here on this side to ask him, but is there a review of the fire situation from last year? I believe there was a committee struck to take a look at it. What is the status of it, and what is some of the feedback they’re getting?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Given the severity of the fire season we experienced last summer here in the Yukon, and given that this extreme fire season was essentially under our management and control post-devolution, we thought it in the best interests of Yukon to conduct a review of what transpired. As I understand it — and the minister responsible can go into much more detail — we’re at the end of, or close to the end of, the review. We are certainly going to be very diligent in how we go forward from here because there is a situation now where the federal government’s involvement and exposure is decreasing; ours is increasing. I think we all agree that our risk of wildfire each year increases in the Yukon as our forests get older, and we’re dealing with climate change and other external pressures that are having an impact here. So that is happening.
The amount requested is largely due to the fact that this cost came in — as we go forward after the fire season, more invoices come in on a regular basis. I believe this covers all the final costs for fire suppression, but again the minister can be much more detailed in departmental debate.
Mr. Hardy: I know the critic for this area will probably ask questions around this once we’re back in the main budget. That’s probably where the questions will get asked in Community Services, not necessarily under the supplementary. That’s what I’m anticipating.
I thank the minister for the information regarding that. There is no question about it — after devolution and the Yukon experiencing a very high level of fire activity around the territory, to take a look at it and do a review is, of course, a good idea.
I’ve talked to some people out there who generally follow the trends. They have said that we can be anticipating another fire season of higher magnitude than what we’ve seen in the past. My concern, of course, is how we are going to be dealing with that, how we’re going to be budgeting for that, and the role, of course, in the agreement that we have with the federal government and the role they’re going to be playing to ensure that the territory can afford to address the fire needs as they come forward.
I do know there are other issues around fire management. B.C. has experienced some extremely dangerous fires around communities. As we all know, the one in the Kelowna area was one example, but there have been many others. It has caused a lot of expense and a lot of stress for people. My family lives in the Kelowna area and experienced that. Some of them were evacuated. I was very conscious of what was happening down there and the impact it had.
What has come out of that, of course, is the debate around how to manage fires. My hope is that the territorial government is looking at some of the ideas that are coming out of B.C. to address some of those, such as allowing some burns to deal with some of the older areas — as much as possible a controlled burn — and not allowing it to build up to such a state where, when a fire does eventually happen, it’s almost uncontrollable.
I mean, those are just ideas. I’m not a fire expert. I did fight fires when I was a young man; I think many of us did up here years ago. It definitely didn’t make me an expert on patterns or on how to deal with fires.
Anyway, that is probably as far as I’m going to go on the supplementary debate. Many of the questions will get asked in the mains for this year. With that, I’ll pass it over to the Member for Porter Creek South.
Ms. Duncan: The leader of the official opposition and I were chatting briefly about fire suppression, and I didn’t hear what the expenditures in Environment were in the supplementary budget and what the reasons were. Could I just ask the Finance minister to review that part of his remarks?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The areas of expenditure for Environment were a total of $201,000, the increase largely due to management of natural resources and monitoring and compliance programs, which are in part offset by increased recoveries in these program areas.
The Department of Environment or the minister responsible can go into further detail, but this is the area within the department where the overage was incurred, to the tune of $201,000.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the answer from the minister. Unfortunately it wasn’t very revealing, and I will take it up with the Minister of Environment at a later date and find out.
Was the $1,040,000 used for City of Dawson used to pay for the audit or the trustee, or is it strictly operating money for the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This was strictly their operating needs, their cash flow needs. It was to cover that amount for that period. It had nothing to do with other issues. It was strictly on the day-to-day spending requirements for the City of Dawson.
Ms. Duncan: And following up on the discussion of fire suppression, could I just put the minister on notice — I’m not expecting an answer in the debate this afternoon, but when we get to Community Services, there is an additional expenditure of $1,460,000. There is a recovery in fire management of $1,022,000. So I would assume, I believe, correctly, that that is the recovery from Canada, so it’s their portion of the overage in the fire suppression. The Finance minister is nodding his head.
Previously, when we have had debates about what Canada owes us on different issues, for example, in health, the Minister of Health and Social Services has come back to both opposition parties with, “Here’s what we billed, here is what they owe, and here is what’s still outstanding.” Could I ask the minister of Community Services, prior to the Community Services debate, to provide us with that for the fire suppression? I know, per the terms of the devolution transfer agreement, that it’s a sliding scale. There is a fire review in progress, but I would like the current status of our accounts, if I could, if the minister could provide that to us.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The minister responsible for Community Services can certainly get that detail, but there are differences between health and what the arrangement is under the devolution transfer agreement for fire suppression. I believe there is an annual investment of $6 million that goes into the fire suppression fund. Then there is the five-year sliding scale arrangement with Canada. I believe last year their exposure was 60 percent of the overage of the annual invested amount of $6 million. So whatever we went over $6 million, 60 percent was Canada’s responsibility — sorry, last year 70 percent, this year 60 percent. So the minister can give you much more detail in the overall accounting of where it’s at.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that and the devolution transfer agreement also spells out what will be paid, what won’t be paid, and there are specific dates and everything, so I’m just looking for the minister to provide it to me by way of letter. I don’t need it answered. I would prefer a letter rather than a verbal response in the Legislature if the minister wouldn’t mind, please and thank you. I know the officials will be able to do that fairly quickly.
In the debate on the supplementary, we booked $32,395,000 in transfers from Canada. That’s part of the additional money that has been booked. Could the Finance minister spell out what constitutes that amount in excess of $32 million? How much of it is which health fund, and how much of it is which infrastructure fund? Is it all strictly the formula increases? Could he just spell out what constitutes the $32,395,000 increase from Canada?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: For the most part, this increase with respect to transfers from Canada is to do with increases in the TFF, the territorial funding formula. Things like the health care fund were already booked at the start of the budget because it was an ongoing program. Anything that spending authority has not been provided for in Ottawa is not booked in our budgets, so it is for the most part the increase to the TFF with also an increase of $1.192 in recoveries. If we went to the recovery page, we see Community Services. I’m not sure, but it could be the portion of Canada’s 70-percent responsibility for fire suppression. Then the $170,000 for Environment goes back to those compliance and monitoring programs where there was a recovery coming from, I would assume, Canada.
Ms. Duncan: These changes to the territorial formula financing agreements — this agreement is currently coming up before a panel. These are changes to previous years. I believe these transfers would apply to probably one or two years back. They could be undercounts; they could be a review; a look at the formula financing and, “Oh, we didn’t give you enough money in this pot.” The minister is shaking his head. Perhaps he could elaborate on what these changes were to TFF, then.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: These increases are the result of the overall First Ministers’ arrangement reached in Ottawa last winter. I forget exactly what month it was, but as the provinces and the federal government were working through issues on such things as equalization, the federal government and the territories worked out an arrangement on the TFF, which saw an increase of, I believe, $40 million some for this year, with a further increase in 2005-06 by setting the floor for the TFF, and we will be dealing post-2006 with a 3.5-percent escalator. So that’s all part of the First Ministers’ agreement, which saw us also achieve the territorial health access fund, the TFF issues, and subsequent to all that was the northern strategy arrangement as the northern strategy was very much a part of the discussions, though finalized, in terms of the $120-million trust fund, after the First Ministers meeting.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister just update us: has the northern strategy fund passed the House of Commons, or is it in this budget that’s currently under negotiation? As I understand it, the northern strategy money is not booked in the budget currently under debate. Could the minister just verify that it has not passed the House of Commons?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is in the federal budget that’s before Parliament as we speak. It is established as a trust fund for the three territories — equal share. There will be no spending authority if the budget does not pass. But I would point out that this arrangement is a national initiative in nature, in terms of the national government working with the three territories on a go-forward vision and plan for the north. At the Council of the Federation it certainly received what was required from other provinces in terms of support for the territories. In fact, it’s fair to say that the three territories have had the luxury over the last couple of years of a tremendous amount of support from our provincial colleagues. We want to continue that cooperative approach within the Council of the Federation.
The Council of the Federation is a whole new initiative from what used to the premiers gathering, which was much less formal and structured in nature. The Council of the Federation has structure. It dictates that all jurisdictions, whether a province or territory, are equal, meaningful partners in the Council of the Federation. To some degree, where we are at in today’s Yukon can be attributed to the work that’s being done with all our colleagues in the Council of the Federation.
So the northern strategy being national in nature, we would expect, demand and pursue whichever federal government that holds office to proceed with the commitments made by the national government.
Ms. Duncan: I just have to conclude our debate about the northern strategy by noting for the record that support from the provincial premiers for the north has certainly preceded this current Premier. In fact, Premier McDonald made great strides in having Quebec support the devolution initiative of Yukon when he was the Premier of the territory and government leader of the territory, and the support has certainly continued for not only devolution, but also to the Yukon’s initiative drawing national attention to the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. FASD was placed on the national agenda by the Yukon, and it certainly received the support of the other premiers.
I would just like to note that the northern strategy, while it may enjoy the support of the premiers — clearly these sorts of initiatives do not enjoy the support of the Reform Party. I’m certain that will be the subject of coming debate in the forthcoming federal election, whenever it happens. But that’s not our battle to fight on the floor of this House. Our battle is to discuss the supplementary budget, and I’d like to thank the Premier for providing me information on the additional territorial formula financing arrangement, the additional monies that have flowed. I appreciate his forthcoming answers with respect to the other information. I will look forward to receiving information from the Minister of Community Services about the fire suppression.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Hardy: I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all votes, schedules, clauses and the title of Bill No. 13 carried.
Unanimous consent re deeming Bill No. 13 carried
Chair: Mr. Hardy has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all votes, schedules, clauses and the title of Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, read and carried. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
Clauses 1 to 3 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Chair: That concludes Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 13, entitled, Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 15 — First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 — continued
Department of Economic Development — continued
Chair: We will now continue on with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We are in general debate of the Department of Economic Development.
Mr. Hardy: When I left off yesterday, I believe we were talking about Canada Winter Games and we were talking about air ambulances. I have not reviewed the Blues from yesterday; however, at the time I was discussing with the minister some of the concerns about activities around this government and its relationship with Canada Winter Games, the spending and some of the concerns.
One of my big concerns — and it’s around Economic Development and the opportunity the Canada Winter Games has to play in stimulating activities in areas that are not, at the present time, overly active but would definitely benefit from any kind of investment or direction from the Canada Winter Games, and the government’s involvement as well.
One of my concerns was the fact that it seems that the closer-lying communities around Whitehorse will not be benefiting to the significant degree they originally thought they would be, and as good intentions had wanted them to experience. The minister indicated that, just within the last couple of days, it had been brought to his attention that one of the reasons why they were not going to be able to participate or host any sporting events was the fact that air ambulances were not going to be available — or could not be made available — for those communities, which raises a serious question of: why not? It’s a very legitimate question that needs to be asked, especially if the economic activities around the games would have such a positive effect for these communities.
Yesterday, I was addressing two different games. There were very different approaches that two provinces had brought about in having the games. One, of course, was Newfoundland. I was describing that one. It was very closed. When I say “closed”, I don’t mean people not being unable to participate, but there was a closed environment to host the games, which made it quite a benefit for athletes to be able to walk around and participate. Logistically that made it very easy for that province and that city.
New Brunswick definitely had a different approach. They felt very strongly that a multitude of communities were going to experience and benefit from the Canada Winter Games. It created a tremendous amount of logistical issues surrounding transportation and timing. I believe in the period I was down there, there was a cancellation because of weather conditions and not being able to travel on the roads, moving the athletes and officials and volunteers from one community to the other.
I have heard people not support the New Brunswick method, but I would say if you look at it from the athletes’ perspective, maybe it wasn’t the greatest games, because they had to travel in a bus for 45 minutes or 20 minutes or an hour and a half in some cases. If you look at it from the community that benefited from having those events out there, it was good, and there is no question about it. I talked to many, many of the local people who were so happy to be able to be part of the Canada Winter Games. They were so overjoyed about that. We have to ask a question. We constantly have to ask questions. Are the games for the athletes only? Are the games only for the convenience of the officials, or are they for the communities that are hosting them, the people who are volunteering, as well. And if that is the case, then you have to make that judgement based upon including them in your decisions.
I hope we never, ever get to the point where the games are only for the athletes. I hope it never becomes that. I believe it is the volunteers, spectators, communities, families and the athletes as well. If I’m missing anyone, I’m sorry — they should be part of that.
I will just tell a very short story, to give you an idea and put some things maybe a little bit in perspective. The story was told to me by the head coach of the Canadian hockey team, back before they all of a sudden became professional athletes. They were the amateur athletes. They were the best hockey players — many of them went on to play professional hockey, of course — in the Canadian program men’s team that we had. They trained year-round. They were magnificent players, and they competed against other amateur athletes — when it used to be amateur only — around the world.
He told me a story, which he said wasn’t overly uncommon for the amateur athletes and coaches to experience. This one, he said, was a little bit more, but it definitely built character and it really brought the team together.
The Canadian national hockey team went to a tournament in Russia. It had been scheduled for them to play in, I believe, three different cities. This was the lead-up to the Olympic Games or the world championships — I don’t know which one it was. Each one led up to the other. Anyway, there was an invitational tournament in Russia. So they packed up, flew to Russia, and it took 15 or 16 hours — whatever. They landed.
Now, a hockey team has probably a total of 45 or 50 people attached — you’ve got the players, trainers, coaches, support staff, and communications so they can broadcast back into Canada and people can follow what’s happening with their national team.
I don’t remember exactly but I would say that they landed after about 16 hours. They landed in one of the cities. They were taken to a bus. The bus, by our standards, would have been condemned, but in Russia it was a standard bus. It was an old diesel bus that was maybe 30 years old. They had one bus and they all had to pile in there. All their equipment had to go in there, so they were lined up. He remembers looking down the pathway between the seats, and that would be plugged full of equipment. All the seats were plugged full and the players sat on top of that stuff.
So they got in the bus, and of course they asked the driver — who didn’t speak English, so they had to get a translator — how long it would take to get to the city where the tournament was starting. The driver said, oh, five or six hours. They thought, well, we’ve just been flying for 16 hours and now we have five or six hours; the guys are tired and everybody needs a break. Fine, we’ll put up with it.
Anyway, they take off in this old rickety bus, no heat, it was winter, with diesel fumes leaking out, rough conditions. Fourteen hours later they were still in that bus, still trying to get to the city. They had two breakdowns. They finally get to the city, they were put up in pretty rough conditions and they practised in a very dilapidated old building that was about half the size of a sheet of ice, and they played. They went to two or three cities and they played the Red Army, they played the other city teams, then they had to come back on that bus, get on the plane and fly back.
He tells that story to put into perspective why they practise, why they play and what it’s all about, because he said the team was stronger at the end of that than ever before. It’s not about having the most beautiful facilities; it’s not about having the most beautiful beds; it really is about a shared experience.
Many of us can remember the Arctic Winter Games we’ve gone to and what we’ve stayed in. Just because your bed is lumpy doesn’t mean you don’t have a great time; just because the facilities aren’t the greatest doesn’t mean you don’t have memories for a lifetime that you treasure.
It is about sharing. Anyway, after saying all that, I am concerned and I think I am only expressing what I’ve been hearing on the streets and from my constituents about the accountability, the monies, the direction and the involvement the government has with the games. If the minister could give me an inkling of their role with the games at this present time, including the athletes village and the amount of money that’s being spent, I’d really appreciate it. I think it would answer a lot of questions out there for people. I mean, we all hope for the best games. Yukon will put on the best games, because we always rise to the challenge; however, we do have to ask these questions so that we can do that.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Basically, the Department of Economic Development is involved with sports-related business opportunities and initiatives. We have committed, I believe, up to $120,000 to try to maximize these opportunities within communities, as well as Whitehorse, throughout the Yukon, mostly working through the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. So we are engaged on that matter. For the member opposite’s information and such, in terms of the rest of what he is saying, I hope that he provides copies of that to the host society, because that’s their responsibility and not ours. We’re certainly at the post with what we’re doing in trying to develop the economic opportunities around the games.
Mr. Hardy: I’m a little concerned because my initial remarks were about economic activity in the communities and how the Economic Development department can be involved to try to ensure that maximum benefits flow from the games back to them. That was the discussion we had yesterday. I can assure you that all the comments we make in here are available in Hansard. It’s our job to ask the questions and it’s their job to answer as best they can.
Does the minister know of any activities to try to stimulate some activities in the surrounding communities, and have they been involved in that? That’s a legitimate question, and I really hope Economic Development is looking at this area as something where they should be using some of their marketing, some of their activities, some of their knowledge, and maybe get some of their staff in to try to benefit. If the minister can answer that or give me some idea what work they’re doing in that area, I’d really appreciate it. I know the communities definitely would.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As I mentioned earlier, there are funds committed and our regional economic development people and business and trade people are trying to work with this, but the vast majority of what the member opposite refers to again reverts back to the host society and Community Services.
We can look at trying to stimulate individual economic benefits on that, and we’re certainly doing that. Meetings are occurring all the time, and we’re trying to work through the Yukon Chamber of Commerce on that and obviously the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, but in terms of venue, complying with regulations, the issue of the air ambulances and how that impacts — all these things are between the host society and Community Services. We don’t have an involvement in that.
Mr. Hardy: I would hope Economic Development would try to get involved in trying to stimulate the economy in these surrounding areas. Just off the top of my head, I look at the Film and Sound Commission: what role can they play? There’s funding identified in some of these areas. Is there anything the film and sound people will be doing to be involved? How’s that? That’s the broadest way I can put it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That is a good way to put it, but again I have to say that we are involved. We are involved in working with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce in trying to look at all these things. The Film and Sound Commission is certainly a part of this and we’ll look at opportunities, as we have with the Yukon Quest and supporting them for the production of DVDs, et cetera. We’ll look at all these things.
The member opposite does have to remember that, for some reason that still escapes me, the government of the day decided the best way to stimulate the economy was to kill the Department of Economic Development. The department didn’t exist when the Canada Winter Games started with that, so we’re trying to play catch-up on this.
The Film and Sound Commission will certainly be involved in that, and we hope there are some very good proposals we can work with that will be coming in. I suspect there will be.
Mr. Hardy: Well, if the government puts $50 million into an initiative, I really do hope that Economic Development is up and running.
As the minister has indicated — I think he might have misspoke, but I think he meant not the government of the day but the previous government and —
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Okay. I just got that clarified. The department itself did not exist as it’s laid out now. It had before and took a break, and now it’s back again.
Mr. Hardy: I’ll move on. Can the minister supply us with a list — when I say “us”, I’m assuming that the leader of the third party would also want a list — of all contracts presently being worked on within Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thank you very much for that comment, that the department sort of took a break. We look at it as sort of our own version of renewal.
The list of contracts is available. It’s contained basically in the contract document that’s tabled in this, but I’d be happy to send a copy of that over.
Mr. Hardy: I am looking for, I guess, the present contracts.
Let’s go to this one — Partnerships B.C., for instance. I know the contract that exists for Partnerships B.C. is listed, but we don’t necessarily know what activities Partnerships B.C. is engaged in presently, and is there an extension to the contract? Is there anticipation that there will be an extension? The minister has indicated that there was an extension to the bid process from the 12th or 14th to the 24th. So we do know that. Is Partnerships B.C. involved in that process at the present time? Have they done their work and are now sitting back and may be re-engaged to help the next stage of evaluation and assessment of these proposals that are coming forward?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It’s all part of the procurement service, basically, and while I suspect that all these good things in communication are going on, that’s all done through Highways and Public Works as the contracting agency.
Mr. Hardy: There’s no agreement with Economic Development and Partnerships B.C.? Then I have to ask a simple question, and it probably may sound very simple-minded for the minister opposite, because it does get kind of confusing. Why is the bridge project under Economic Development, or why are they involved in this and it’s not all under Highways and Public Works? I’m trying to figure out what the relationship is and how it splits and what the role of each department is on this project itself.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The involvement with Economic Development is to basically look at developing the policy and developing the criteria as we go along. The actual contracts are still with the contracting agency, which is Highways and Public Works.
Mr. Hardy: So then Economic Development is developing the policy. Who is assisting them? Is this being done in-house, or is there a firm assisting them on this?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Basically, yes, it is being done in-house. We’re looking at best practices right across the country and internationally, but it is being done in-house.
Mr. Hardy: I just have a couple of questions, and then I’m going to turn it over to my colleague to ask questions as well. In the supplementary budget there were a couple of comments made about the northern strategy. Well, it’s just basically relying on the budget. The minister mentioned the pan-northern economic fund.
Is that also subject to the passing of the federal budget?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I understand that that is tied up in the budget we hope is dealt with in the next couple of weeks.
Ms. Duncan: There was a comment made just now on Partnerships B.C., public/private partnerships and the development of policy, and I would just ask the minister again to restate for the record: is the Department of Economic Development developing the Government of Yukon policy on P3s? Is that correct and could he elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: P3s are one option as a procurement option, and it’s the best practices that we’re looking at across the board in terms of developing a policy or a best practices policy from that. Hopefully that will become clearer after the 24th when we do see the proposals that come back.
Again, for the leader of the official opposition, the actual procurement is being done through Highways and Public Works.
Ms. Duncan: I know in answering many questions from the media and in formulating questions to ask the minister, this is not clear for the general public, so I would just like to go through it with the Minister of Economic Development.
Highways and Public Works — first of all, the Premier said that before we entered into a public/private partnership, there would be a government-wide policy that guided the use of P3s. Then Highways and Public Works, Community Services, highways, infrastructure — whatever you want to call the department — that department contracted with Partnerships B.C. to examine public/private partnerships for the bridge and for the mobile communication system, or MoCS. The Department of Economic Development is examining all the literature on existing use of public/private partnerships.
This is starting to sound a lot like, “Who’s on first, and what’s on second?” Heaven alone knows who’s on third. My concern is the Yukon taxpayer and the Yukon government. The Auditor General reports from smaller provincial jurisdictions, like Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, said very, very clearly: “Have the policy in place before you contract out for a P3.”
I would like the minister to clarify exactly what Economic Development is doing, who’s doing it — I’m not asking for the name of the public servant, but is it a director of policy? What position has been tasked, and what exactly are they doing — overseeing Highways and Public Works open the bids? What liaison do they have with the Department of Finance on all of this? There are quite clear financial considerations in all this.
Could the minister outline precisely what the process is for policy development — not the contracting for P3s? We’ve seen that happen, and we have lots of opportunity to ask those questions, but what is the process for policy development, and how is the policy development interacting with the tendering process?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the P3 option is one procurement option, or protocol, that is available to us. It’s this option that we’re certainly looking at.
The public information sessions that we’ve had include a discussion on what P3s are, how they benefit taxpayers, what they mean for the private sector, and specifically how risks are shared in a P3 arrangement and situations when P3s are not the best procurement option. We still have that as a possibility. When all is said and done, it may not be the best option.
We continue, of course, to have everyone speculate on costs. In this House and other places, we’ve seen bridges speculated from $19 million to close to $100 million. We would kind of like to open the bids and actually see where that comes in.
The Yukon government entered into a memorandum of understanding with Partnerships B.C. to facilitate the procurement specifically of the Dawson bridge as a pilot P3 project. Partnerships B.C., for those who aren’t aware, is a private corporation owned in whole by the Government of British Columbia. Its mandate is to promote, enable and implement public/private partnerships in British Columbia.
The memorandum of understanding will allow the Yukon government to participate in a P3 and at the same time gain the knowledge and skills required to undertake P3s in the future. What we want to avoid is the simple letting of a contract and a design/build or a design — no, a design/build is the best option. But for something like the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, that actually finished off at the end of the day better than twice what it was originally estimated, that’s something that we have to desperately avoid in the future.
The Yukon government will continue to build on its body of best procurement practices to achieve Yukon benefits. It’s best procurement practices that we have to look at. This will lead to a cumulative sense of best P3 practices that will be used to build a Yukon-relevant framework to guide the government’s assessment of when and how to use P3s. The framework will provide guiding principles and outline procedures to ensure fair and transparent, consistent processes.
What we have put into it so far is hosting meetings and these sorts of things, and looked at various implications on that. But the member opposite is correct: the actual procurement process goes through Highways and Public Works. It has become a process that, in my opinion, has been blown out of proportion, particularly before relevant information is available. Certainly we have to discuss it; that’s not the point I’m making, but we have had one group coming in paid to speak against it complaining about other people who were paid to speak in favour of it. We’d like to sort of split the centre of that body of knowledge and come down on where the reality is, and I think look at the Dawson bridge as a pilot project and something where we can sort of see in our own terms what those options are and how they would apply in a Yukon situation.
At the end of the day, a P3 might not be a reasonable option. We have to be prepared for that possibility, but at the same time I think it behoves us to look at the proposals when they come in and talk about decisions at that point. It’s always better to deal with facts than wild speculation.
Ms. Duncan: There are specific policies that guide the Government of Yukon’s contracting. For example, sole-source contracts over a certain limit have to be signed off by the minister. There are specific contracts for services — I’m thinking of one in particular in Energy, Mines and Resources, where there’s a sole-source contract that’s over a limit, that’s signed off by the minister.
Before Partnerships B.C. sought their first P3, they had a policy put in place by the British Columbia government called the “capital asset management framework”. The minister can easily avail himself of this information. With the limited resources of my caucus, I was able to avail myself of this information and do my own homework on P3s.
The point I have repeatedly asked in this House and which the minister fails to answer is: what policy is in place to guide the use of P3s? The minister has said there is none. It is simply a procurement option they’re trying. They are out there flying without a net, against the best advice of officials and against the Premier’s commitment.
Will the minister recognize that fact?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Policies can exist in a number of different formats, of course, and some policies written in stone have proven to be not worth an awful lot. Policy development is a process. It is something we have to go through, and that’s something we’re going through now in terms of developing that. Part of that process is to see where the request for proposals come in and to evaluate those proposals at the end of the day to see if this is something that does work in the Yukon.
Again, it makes no sense to cut off a very well-metered process to look at the Yukon situation, to sit down in isolation and come up with a process that isn’t practical. It’s not something I’m prepared to do. What we are prepared to do is to go through this at the end of the day, see if it’s relevant, and if it isn’t, we’ll regroup. But again, I’m not prepared to judge what’s going to happen at the end of the day with a lack of information. I think that’s poorly advised.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no shortage of information that recommends, in the strongest of possible terms, from one of the highest offices in the land, that governments get their policy homework done before they do this. There’s no shortage of information. What there is is a shortage of the members opposite accepting that good advice from the Auditor General. But they have embarked upon this process, caring less that it’s Yukon taxpayers’ money, caring less that the best advice of officials is for them not to do this. Unfortunately, that is the sort of respect for advice from the public servants that we have come to expect from the Yukon Party.
The Department of Economic Development officials have, as part of their responsibility, the economic forecast. We haven’t seen one in a very long time. Where is that in the process, and when does the minister expect to publicly table it?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, going through a policy process and analysis, dealing with facts, dealing with information — I think the member opposite is badly advised if this is something that we shouldn’t go through.
Again, if we are looking at the Auditor General, we have to look at the Auditor General’s report on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. It was put out, and it went over almost twice the amount. It was a design/build contract. It was something that was poorly thought out given the resources put to it, and it might not have been the best choice of the day. More and more money was thrown at it, and at the end of the day it cost taxpayers in the Yukon a huge sum of money.
I have problems taking that comment seriously. We take this issue very seriously. We have to look at the data, deal with the data, deal with the data at hand, and with fact. To bail out of that process, as the member opposite is suggesting, and go back to a process that has as many flaws — and I would submit also no shortage of information that that is perhaps not a good way either — we’d like to look at the different options and decide which is the best. We’ll wait for the request for proposals to come in, and at the end of the day I can’t say that one or the other, or perhaps a third option, won’t be in the lead, but I’d much rather deal with fact than fiction.
Ms. Duncan: So would I. I would really like the members opposite to deal with the facts on the table. If they want to continue to discuss the Auditor General’s report on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, then let’s discuss the facts. The members opposite would be well-advised to go read the report. Was the board or the minister or anyone advised that the design/build was not recommended by B.C. Hydro? No, they weren’t. The minister wants to deal with the facts; let’s deal with the facts. The minister has said they’re embarking upon this public/private partnership, a procurement process, without a policy in place. He has said that, and that has been my point. I have not asked the minister to stop the process. I’ve asked him to live up to a commitment made by the Premier on the floor of the House.
Unfortunately, it’s like all the other commitments from the Yukon Party.
I hear the sighs from the members opposite. This is extremely frustrating for everyone concerned, and I would strongly encourage the minister to deal with the facts and the issue at hand. The issue I have asked about specifically — while the procurement process might be with the Department of Highways and Public Works, he has said the policy development is with the Department of Economic Development. They are not, in fact, developing policy; they are observing the P3 procurement process, hoping to develop a policy if it is determined by Partnerships B.C. that a P3 should be recommended for the bridge. That is what the minister has said.
I’ve also asked who — what position — in the Department of Economic Development is overseeing this and whether or not the Department of Finance is involved. Given that nothing is ever lost, by sheer common courtesy I would respectfully request an answer to those two specific questions: what position in Economic Development is involved in the public/private partnership policy development? And what is the role of the Department of Finance in working on this particular initiative?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the member opposite is going off on a tangent here in implying, I think — if I heard correctly — that Partnerships B.C. might have part of the final decision-making process on that. While there certainly is input, and we respect the information and advice, that will be a decision made by this government and not by Partnerships B.C.
We’re applying experience through Partnerships B.C., and we’re not working in a vacuum on this. The member opposite refers to the fact that they were not advised by B.C. Hydro. I have no knowledge of that. I just know that it cost us in the Yukon almost $20 million to cover for that mistake, and we’re sure not prepared to do that one again.
The Department of Economic Development consults with all departments and consults with a wide range of anyone we feel should have input or information to give, and there is no one person involved in that decision.
Clearly we have to look at all aspects of this, but, considering that the request for proposals hasn’t been opened yet, we don’t know where that’s going to go, we don’t know where it’s going to finish at the end of the day and, at the end of the day, we’ll make all relevant decisions based on that. The Department of Finance will have input at that point in time, but at this point, despite the struggles of the opposition to try to get numbers on the table, until the request for proposals are opened, we don’t have numbers to discuss.
Ms. Duncan: Is there any role for Economic Development then in this consideration of the use of public/private partnerships? Is it strictly being seen as a procurement process by the Department of Highways and Public Works? Who signed the MOU with Partnerships B.C. and where do we get a copy?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Department of Economic Development has a very large role in terms of looking at the overall policy procurement method, how it develops, how it goes and what happens at the end of the day. The member is quite right again: Highways and Public Works signed the document.
Ms. Duncan: If the Department of Economic Development has a very large role to play, who is the point person then? Is it a director of policy in Economic Development? Is it the minister? Is it the deputy minister? Is there a deputy minister review committee that looks at this particular initiative by the government? Economic Development has a large role to play: how are they playing that large role?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We do, and I’m glad the member is starting to recognize that. We have a committee involving policy and planning, our research branch and strategic industries. There is a wide range of people involved in this. Again, for the member opposite, there is no one person who acts as point.
Ms. Duncan: Is Economic Development simply reviewing the procurement process by Highways and Public Works then? How is the government going to make a decision? The normal process for contracting is pretty clear. The government, the Yukon Party, if they don’t like the opinion they get, they go and buy another one. That has been pretty clear on the railway so far. How are they going to…? That seems to be their modus operandi on some infrastructure initiatives. Are they using the same one with the bridge and with the mobile communication system? How are these RFPs and RFQs going to be evaluated? What process is going to be used and what role does Economic Development have to play? What very large role — and how are they playing it — does Economic Development have?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I won’t even waste the Chair’s time by pointing out that buying studies is a bit unparliamentary.
In terms of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, for instance, however, I would point out that we would have been happy if they had bought any studies on that. Surely with a 100-percent overrun, something would have come up on the radar screen.
We look at all best practices. We look at all these things and that will be our input — a wide range of studies from other provinces and from other parts of the world — because this is a procurement regime that is involved in many other parts of the world. If you look hard enough, I’m sure you’ll find some that have had problems. That is why we have to develop our own policy and our own view of how this develops in the Yukon. We’re not prepared to sit back and simply pick one, because you can pick any number of different studies. Some are good, some are bad, some are indifferent, but we don’t have any information on how they relate specifically to the Yukon.
We all know that the Yukon is a unique place. That’s one of the reasons why all of us are here.
We have to look at it in terms of that uniqueness. Simply cherry-picking things from other jurisdictions makes no sense. It makes much more sense to develop the policy ourselves as we go.
Ms. Duncan: This discussion with the minister is, unfortunately, going absolutely nowhere. He will not recognize that every single individual in this House has a legitimate right to be here and to ask the tough questions. How come they didn’t do their policy homework first? How are they going to go about evaluating the request for qualifications, in the case of MoCS, and request for proposals? What is Economic Development’s role to play?
We’re not getting any answers to those very real, very clear questions. It’s really unfortunate. I have no wish to waste the House’s time on the minister’s responses, which are not answers to the questions. I have also asked where the economic forecast is, and I haven’t had an answer to that, either.
Let’s try again. As I understood from the opening remarks and from some of the responses to the leader of the official opposition, the department has responsibility and the horsepower, if you will — staff power — to table these economic forecasts. We haven’t seen one in awhile, and I would like a date when the minister intends to table the next one.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The short answer to the last of many is, of course, that the economic forecast is at the printer, I understand, and it will be tabled when it’s available.
The member says that every person in this House has the right to be here and ask questions. Absolutely, that’s right, and we look forward to the hard and relevant questions.
Unfortunately we don’t seem to get many of them, but we do appreciate them when they come in. We did look at other policies. We looked at extensive other policies and the decision was made to use the pilot project, to partner with Partnerships B.C. as a group that has the most relevant and widest range of information on P3 partnerships, and to develop a Yukon policy as we go.
What we have gotten back is wild speculation on prices and a lot of questions that aren’t really relevant to the process. Maybe it’s my background and training, Mr. Speaker, but I like to deal with facts and data, and I’d like to wait for that data rather than wildly speculate. I think that makes much more sense.
Ms. Duncan: I’m wildly speculating and irrelevant, all in one paragraph — pretty amazing. Of course the minister opposite has a far more learned background on this than I do. I’ve only been debating P3s and the use of P3s in this House for 10 years. It’s the Premier who made the commitment there would be a policy in place, and it’s the Minister of Economic Development who just stood on his feet and said we’re going to develop the policy as we go — winging it, so to speak, in anybody’s language and from anybody’s background.
The minister made comments to the leader of the official opposition regarding diversification initiatives from the Department of Economic Development. Do those diversification initiatives include discussions with Yukon’s Crown corporations?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As a matter of fact, they do. We talk with all groups; we talk with orders of government, different governments, Crown corporations and private business. That’s what this department does.
In terms of background, I’m not really sure where the member opposite is going with that, but I’m not sure that debating and leading the shortest lived majority government in the history of the Commonwealth is the highest thing to put on the resumé. We both have things we bring to this House and I do respect the member opposite and her opinion, but again, wild speculation here — and I think they were actually in different paragraphs — on this makes no sense. We’re developing policy and procurement procedures based on where we go on this whole proposal as a pilot project. At the end of the day, it might be possible that that’s not the best one.
We don’t know at that point, but to constantly pick one side of the argument when the facts aren’t known at this point is perhaps ill-advised.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Mr. Minister, nobody is picking sides. Certainly I am not picking sides on this issue. What I am saying is that the government should have lived up to the commitment by the Premier to put the policy in place and not develop the policy as they go. This is not wildly speculative. That is in response to the minister’s own comment on the record that they are going to develop a Yukon policy as they go. That is frightening, because every part of the independent data I have examined, including Partnerships B.C., had a policy framework in place before they started. That’s the problem. That’s not speculative. It’s not even wild. It’s off the minister’s and Partnerships B.C.’s own Web site. It’s off the Auditor General’s reports. It’s crystal clear: have a policy in place. Although there was a promise of consensus and collaboration, it’s the minister’s and the government’s own words I’m asking them about, and they aren’t living up to them. That is a problem, and it is a major problem, because they’re rolling the dice and developing the policy as they go with taxpayers’ money. That is an issue for everybody. It’s no different from what Nova Scotia did with the schools. That is an issue. It is our job to ask the questions about it.
The discussions with the Crown corporations on diversification initiatives that I’m referring to — there is an underutilized MRI in Prince George that we are able to make use of. We have excellent hospital facilities here and the Yukon Hospital Corporation, a Crown corporation of the government, is by all standards a centre of excellence in the north.
The Yukon Development Corporation embarked upon a diversification initiative with the sale of secondary power, unbeknownst to the minister, which is also criticized in the Auditor General’s report and has been since criticized. So there are diversification initiatives out there. The minister has talked about Economic Development having diversification initiatives, and he said, yes, of course they’re talking with the Crown corporations. Would the minister share with the Legislature what the substance is of those discussions? Is it a deputy ministers’ review committee discussion to talk about ideas? Is there a sub-committee? Is there an economic round table that the minister convenes that has the presence of the Crown corporations? What is the substance of these initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The discussions have gone around a wide range of topics, of course, from alternative energy sources to northern innovation clusters, and research clusters is one that we’re looking at right now, utilizing surplus energy, and there is a wide variety of other things in terms of things that we can develop that are Yukon-made or a Yukon product. I’m confused a little bit in that what I thought I heard the member opposite say was — that was Whitehorse General Hospital you were talking about as being the centre of excellence?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Yukon Hospital Corporation. The member referred to the fact about the MRI unit that’s at Prince George that we could utilize. I agree.
The Yukon Hospital Corporation is a centre of excellence. Unfortunately, it’s not in possession of a very, very expensive magnetic resonance imaging unit. It has a computer-assisted tomography unit, sometimes called a CAT scan, but it does not have a magnetic resonance imaging unit. They’re very different machines — totally different — and utilized, in many respects, for totally different purposes.
Using magnetic images, for example, could be extremely disastrous should there be any metal involved in a wound. You could not possibly use it. If you’re looking at a knee injury, a CAT scan — or computer-assisted tomography scan — might be very useful; an MRI becomes less useful. For someone with a brain or hearing problem specifically, or any kind of a brain scan, an MRI is state of the art. A CAT scan is useful — it gets you a little bit of information — but if I were the patient, I certainly wouldn’t accept that as the criteria.
Right now, we have to go to Vancouver or Edmonton, I believe, for an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, unit. The availability of one in Prince George is attractive because, at the moment, it’s under-utilized. If we can re-establish the air link, we have the ability to utilize both. It also brings more into focus, I would think, the utilization of the University of Northern British Columbia medical facility, in terms of retaining doctors and physicians. If they tend to train up here, then the chances are pretty good — or at least better — that they’ll stay here.
One of the things too that the University of Northern British Columbia is certainly looking at excelling at is the training of nurse practitioners — a very, very rare breed indeed, and one that we tend to utilize probably much more in the Yukon or in the north. They can have a very big impact, in terms of the shortage of doctors, a shortage that is right across Canada.
I spent a little time in Winnipeg, and it was interesting that the person showing me around had been there for three and a half years and had yet to identify a family physician in Winnipeg.
But again, Mr. Chair, people like to claim that this is a Yukon problem. It certainly isn’t. There are a number of different ways we can diversify our economy. We can promote film and sound. We can promote, as I say, the northern research clusters. These are the sorts of things that we have to look at. We would like to deal with fact and develop the policy as we go for a Yukon strategy. The policy may well come out at the end of the day that we’re not going to spend any money on it, that it may not be a viable option. But the reality is we have to look at it in terms of that Yukon reality.
Ms. Duncan: The leader of the official opposition and I were sharing a fascinating discussion about human dynamics. I did, however, listen intently to the minister’s response. The minister himself had raised the issue of the MRI in Prince George and the establishment of an air link in a discussion of diversification. I raised it again because I note not that the Yukon Hospital Corporation has a CAT scan versus an MRI, but the issue of discussing diversification and greater use of our resources, diversification of Yukon economy with Yukon’s Crown corporation. They, of course, include — although it’s a loose term —Yukon College — the loose term in terms of a “Crown corporation”. Many of us don’t think of Yukon College as a “Crown corporation”. Certainly the Northern Research Institute has a role to play in diversifying our economy. The Yukon Development Corporation has diversified and worked on some diversification issues. The Yukon Housing Corporation, operating the Whitehorse General Hospital, is a centre of excellence in the north. By far and away, I would argue that of the three northern territories, we have the best, state-of-the-art facility. I note the former Premier of Ontario — a couple of premiers ago — applauded our First Nations health and healing centre that is located at the Whitehorse General Hospital.
That is at the Whitehorse General Hospital. That is, bar none, the best in the country. We’ve had debates in this House, speaking of nurse practitioners, about Yukon College being able to offer this. The minister talked about diversifying the Yukon economy and the importance of that. All Yukoners have talked about that. We don’t want to rely on one mine, one mega-project, one Canada Winter Games. We want many initiatives supporting a vibrant Yukon economy.
My question was: in the Department of Economic Development, what is the substance of their diversification initiatives? Are they commissioning an economic 2000 round table, such as Mr. Penikett did? Are they convening a round table, such as other governments have done? Short of the annual address to the chamber, what are they doing and specifically what initiatives are being undertaken with Yukon’s Crown corporations, over which the government has direct and indirect responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There are so many questions wrapped up in this. Yukon College and Yukon Energy Corporation, for instance, do sit on the committees that are looking at the northern research cluster. A cluster, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a defined area where certain types of research are conducted. It can be research, marketing, et cetera, but it brings expertise from a wide range. There are a number of clusters across Canada; there are none in the north. Certainly in the discussions that I’ve had with Nunavut and Northwest Territories, we seem to have reasonable support. Southern Yukon is probably a good place to put this with the best transportation corridors and infrastructure, et cetera.
Those are certainly examples. Not only that, of course, but we are convening a regional economic summit coming up later this month, I believe, which will look at regional economic development and the diversification there. We also have either representation on committees or ongoing discussions with virtually every industry association in the Yukon. These are the sorts of things that we do.
The technology partnerships program works with the private sector, federal government and First Nations to help increase the capacity of Yukon residents and businesses to develop and utilize high-end skills and technology. The technology funding of 2005-06 — $150,000 has been provided to Yukon Innovation Technology Centre, which is administered by Yukon College; we have $60,000 for Yukon First Nations capacity regarding investment in and use of innovation and technology and to enhance the First Nations economic and business growth; $40,000 to the Yukon Information Technology Industry Society. So we have a number of those different things in what we’re looking at.
In terms of broadband, I had the great privilege of being up in Burwash last Friday to announce bringing Burwash on-line, and one of the last major areas, so to speak, in the Yukon to make broadband available.
It’s interesting to note, first of all, in terms of what we’ve been able to accomplish with this, that we now have 99 percent of Yukon households and businesses with the capability of tying into broadband. The significance of that becomes more obvious when you look at Ontario with only 62 percent — a huge difference.
What does this mean? It means faster loading and everything else and quicker e-mails, but what it also has to do with is the fact that a business up there can take detailed photographs of a product and post it on the Internet. One person had given up after 15 hours of trying to download a file by dial-up and we brought the same file down in 35 seconds the day we were up there. It gives you an idea of some of the things we can open up with in terms of business development in a community like Burwash, which is fairly well removed from the beaten path.
It means a lot of other things too. For instance, a nurse in a small community now, in the remotest of communities, can take an X-ray and, if unsure of what is on that X-ray, can simply digitize it. I’ve done it many times by simply putting it up, turning the lights out and taking a photograph with a cheap digital camera; it works.
It’s not 110 percent, but it’s probably 98 percent. And then take that digitized photo and send it down to Vancouver General or Edmonton or wherever you want, for evaluation. The ability to do that prior to broadband was nonexistent — or at least very difficult, as long as you didn’t mind 15 or 24 hours to get the file over, and then hope that it made it without some corruption.
There are a number of different things that can be done with that. The department is also supporting groups like the Quest on marketing research and economic benefit strategy, and we’ve had a lot of fun working with the Quest on this. It will provide a baseline measurement of the impact of the Yukon Quest on the Yukon economy in developing a broader range of winter tourism. The department will be working with the Quest to develop that impact analysis in the 2005 and 2006 events, and then leading right into and involving the 2007 events and the Canada Winter Games. The Quest has been a real icon, and it gives us a lot of fun to work with this group and watch them come together over the last few years.
One of the other things that we use to diversify the economy, for the member opposite, who is quite interested in this, is to work with the prospector association. Now, the Member for Kluane made a comment that we paid the way for some prospectors to go to the Cordilleran to cheer on the speech. Well, for the record, I don’t think they showed up for my speech. But what we did accomplish is we allowed our prospectors to come to a central point and show what they had to offer and what they had found to a much wider group. It was a great success.
Ten prospectors from Dawson, Faro, Haines Junction and Whitehorse presented their mineral properties in a special Yukon prospectors room, which was set aside specifically for that purpose. The prospectors were able to display maps and rocks and all sorts of information on their properties. The room adjoined the Yukon’s geological survey room, so therefore it attracted a great deal of interest and attention. It was also, I believe, the next room for the Internet mapping site, which the British Columbia government has gone to. So there was a lot of interest in terms of staking and prospecting. Recent follow-up with the prospectors who attended the roundup showed that a number of business contacts were initiated, all during that conference and since that conference, and the discussions relating to investment in the properties showcased at the roundup were ongoing, as we speak.
So, there certainly will be something going to that.
The Canada Export Centre is another initiative we’ve recently taken. The Canada Export Centre just recently opened, and it’s on Hastings Street, I think, in Vancouver. It is a model that has been tried in New Zealand and other countries. I believe it’s private, and it’s a place people can come to look at import and export and to showcase their wares. It’s difficult to get many of these trade missions and trade groups that come over up to the Yukon. If we get them to the Yukon, we get them to Whitehorse, but it’s difficult to get them out into the communities to see the other things Yukon has to offer.
So, the Canada Export Centre is a high profile export development exhibition facility and resource centre located in downtown Vancouver. The facilities and services are part of the Yukon government’s strategy to facilitate the development and export of Yukon products and services and to attract investment. People have the ability to come and see displays, to talk to people who are at least knowledgeable about Canada and import and export, and to take that information and communicate to us, or the relevant business involved, and to follow up on that.
It opened in early April. I believe it was the beginning of the month. We’re currently a member of that, and we’re developing marketing materials and displays. The centre itself is over 17,000 square feet to showcase Canadian products and services. The facility is dedicated to events, courses, and seminars promoting Canadian exports, and it also provides private offices, meeting and boardroom facilities for use by the Government of Yukon and Yukon exporting businesses.
The benefit of this is that, should we decide we want to put on a show, or we want to have a seminar or meetings, it has, I believe, a 70-seat, fully equipped theatre. They also have staff — I’m pretty sure they’re pretty well up to speed right now, in terms of staffing. But they have approximately 14 languages represented at the centre.
Now, it would behove anyone, I think, to get an official translator, if you’re doing any official business. But it is very nice to have, for instance, a Korean group with an interest and to immediately — within moments — have a Korean translator.
It also provides all these private meeting spaces. It means that when government members or private businesses that we can set up are there, they have access to boardrooms, they have access to office space and meeting space and a computer. The whole idea is to promote Canadian exporters globally and it’s providing a permanent, high-profile physical destination in Canada where a wide variety of qualified visitors will discover and engage in trade with our member exhibitors. This involves much more than just government. Businesses, governments and agencies are eligible to become members and exhibitors, and there is a maximum of 370 members. I understand that they’re probably getting quite full down there. The idea in New Zealand has been a great hit, and people coming into the Vancouver area with an interest in looking at what individual areas have to offer are familiar with this concept and how to utilize this concept. It also means that they can go in and coordinate. They can come in and look at what different areas have to offer.
It was developed by the private sector. It is not government owned and managed, and in fact one of the principals in the group is from Faro and grew up in Faro and played hockey in Faro, so they were very pleased to have the Yukon government come on-line for that.
Films have been mentioned several times by the member opposite in terms of another way of diversifying the economy, and Yukon is contributing directly to the film industry. So far we will probably have exceeded $3 million for the 2004-05 fiscal year. The location incentive program supported six productions, which spent a total of $1.2 million and hired 258 Yukoners over 100 production days.
An additional production has been approved under this program, and the department is waiting for final reporting. The department is anticipating an additional three applications to the program prior to the fiscal year-end, and I believe these are in progress.
The filmmaker fund supported eight productions, which will generate $66,000 in economic activity. The film training initiative supported two Yukon students to obtain advanced training in film production, and the production fund supported two new productions — Andrew Connor’s Rock Gods at Miles Canyon and Carol Geddes’ Two Winters. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had the opportunity to see Two Winters, and it is an exceptionally well-done film.
Additionally, Daniel Janke’s Northern Town has been approved under the program. We are awaiting final reporting on that, but I understand that most of the filming has been completed. It is anticipated that, when all is in, this production will have spent $1.6 million and hired approximately 80 cast and crew.
The development fund has supported one production and currently has another application under review. We’re told by the Film and Sound Commissioner that, in the coming six weeks, we have another five productions that will be in one stage or another of production.
We’re looking at an international film festival — another way of diversifying the economy and bringing people in. We are hoping that some of this can be brought out to the communities as well. We’re looking right now at the spring of 2006 to bring all this together. The festival will showcase the Yukon’s natural history, First Nations culture and independent feature-length films and documentaries. The festival will profile the Yukon on the national and international stage, bringing new experiences and contacts for our local industry. Venues are currently being explored to determine film projection capabilities, audience capacity and hosting facilities. We do realize that there will have to be some capital investment into this at some point to make sure that the facilities are all here and readily available. We’re actually having a lot of fun and lot of good success with our new Film and Sound Commissioner.
We are also coordinating with the Dawson Film Festival and the Whitehorse Film Festival, so we’re looking at broadening this out in a much wider range.
So these are some of the things we’re looking at in terms of looking at diversification of the economy. There will be many more, and many more opportunities will come up as they go. We will respond to them as they come up.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has tabled the study, the final report from Charles River on the proposed Alaska-Canada rail link and an executive summary. There are other studies out there. I know of at least one Transport Canada report from 2001 and a recent radio interview, of which transcript we’ve all availed ourselves. I believe there are other studies out there. I would like to ask that they be made available.
The other question I’d like to ask is: who in the government benches is taking responsibility for the feasibility study? The Premier made the commitment for funding and virtually signed the memorandum with the governor. Which minister is overseeing the expenditure of these funds and going to Cabinet to ask for them?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For the member opposite, the person who was on CBC a couple of days ago hardly filed a report, but was asked for an opinion. I’m suspicious that if we asked 22 people for their opinion, we’d get 23 answers. So, that’s not exactly a report. It’s certainly not a report that we would give any credence to.
The Charles River report is a much more complete document. It has looked at a wide variety of possibilities. It has taken time to make metered decisions on all of this. Certainly, that has given a very strong indication that there is a very high probability of this being good and certainly a compelling — “compelling” was their word — argument to proceed.
We are proceeding on this initiative. I would remind everyone, of course, that it is a joint Canada-U.S. initiative but, for the time being, Alaska and the Yukon, with some participation by British Columbia — while they’re in election mode. This will be developing as we go, so I don’t believe there have been any firm decisions in terms of who might be carrying the ball on that, but I’m suspicious that it will be me.
Ms. Duncan: The memorandum of understanding between Yukon and Alaska has terms of reference by May 6, and a committee in place by May 20. If it’s not the minister, who is going to give us the information? Who is going to provide the terms of reference? May 6 is Friday, so Monday presumably we would expect the terms of reference, and perhaps then on Monday the minister would also be prepared to share with us who is being named to the commission from the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: At this point, there are two levels of committees that will be working on this. There is an oversight committee, which will be sort of a senior group to oversee the whole project and ensure that it is moving along in a timely fashion. There will also be a working group that will hopefully be the one that will be in the trenches and producing the studies as we go. At this point in time, the discussions are ongoing. They have been going on this week so far; they will be going on next week. Things will develop as we go with that, but at this point in time we are looking at options, and I don’t believe there has been a firm decision.
Ms. Duncan: The agreement commits that these two groups will be named before the end of this month. It commits that the terms of reference will be done. In Question Period, and in the Legislature, the government has revealed that there are people meeting. They won’t tell us who and at what level. Unfortunately, that is not uncommon with the government.
I understand that there are two working groups. I’ve spelled that out in Question Period, and I’ve read the agreement very carefully. It’s very quickly being put together. Now I’m just going to ask the minister one last time. I can sense the loss of patience with the lengthy answers and, unfortunately, a lack of information. Can the minister tell us, if he’s not the minister responsible, who is? And who is naming the working group? That’s not spelled out in the agreement. It says “two First Nations”. It doesn’t even say “two Yukon First Nations”. Is this where B.C.’s involvement is coming? How are we to know? The difficulty is that no Yukoner need apply, because there’s no process spelled out. There are many people with tremendous expertise who are interested in the commission and in this feasibility study, but the minister — if he’s the minister responsible, and he says, “I think it will be me” — who is going to name the commission, name these two working groups? It’s going to be done this month. Who is going to do it? All of Cabinet or the minister?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, for the record, it becomes difficult when one minute you’re accused of not giving information and the next minute you’re accused of giving too much. Maybe the member opposite will get the questions in order the next time and let us know which she prefers.
The Yukon government is proceeding with this. The Alaska government is proceeding with this. For the member opposite, and for the record, the First Nations that we have named in there are in fact Yukon First Nations. We look forward to hearing from the First Nations on their representatives on this committee. By the end of the month, we should have this done. We will have it done. There is always something that is likely going to pop up, and we certainly have every intention that it should be there and the group working because we feel that this is good news. We feel this is something that we can really try to promote and have that moving.
Mr. Speaker, I am so glad the member opposite says that she knows of a number of people who have an interest in this committee. And I do anticipate and look forward with bated breath to getting some of those names. The member opposite won’t come to any kind of all-party agreements. Perhaps she would at least send a note over under the table.
Point of order
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Chair, I’m going to rise on a point of order and suggest to the member that if he wants to accuse me of not participating in all-party committees, he substantiate that accusation. Otherwise I would suggest he refrain, per Standing Order 19(g), from imputing false or unavowed motives or casting aspersions on other members of the House. Because the member opposite can’t substantiate it, because I was at the meeting and I was there.
Deputy Chair’s ruling
Deputy Chair: Order please. There is no point of order; it is a dispute between members.
Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed with line by line.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Chair, I would respectfully request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 7, the Department of Economic Development, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 7, Department of Economic Development, cleared or carried
Deputy Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 7, Economic Development, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Department of Economic Development in the amount of $6,569,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $9,369,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will move on to the next department. Or do members wish to take a break at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: There will be a 15-minute break.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 and Vote 11, Women’s Directorate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, I am very pleased to announce that this government is tabling another very strong budget in the 2005-06 fiscal year, which reflects our support for women’s issues and concerns.
The Women’s Directorate’s operations and maintenance budget is $810,000, which is one of the highest main estimates the Women’s Directorate has ever had. The Women’s Directorate’s main estimate budget has increased from the 2004-05 main estimates by $184,000. This increase in the main estimates will allow the Women’s Directorate to continue and expand their work in the area of violence prevention, in collaboration with government and community partners, as well as through the First Nations liaison coordinator.
I would like to highlight three areas of this budget. First, I want to highlight the transfer payments to aboriginal women’s organizations. For the second time, our government has committed $100,000 to wellness and violence prevention initiatives. The increase in transfer payments for $100,000 is to continue the aboriginal women and violence initiative that was first announced by the Premier in 2003-04.
These resources are being administered through contribution agreements and are for community-based projects that focus on wellness and the prevention of violence against aboriginal women.
In the last fiscal year, there were six successful applicants, including Selkirk First Nation, Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, Liard First Nation, and the Margaret Thomson Healing Centre in Ross River. In addition to the increase in transfer payments to women’s organizations through these agreements, there is also an increase in the allotment of personnel through the allocation of a full-time equivalent term position, titled the First Nations liaison coordinator. The incumbent of the new position will be working on a long-term public education campaign on violence against women and children and will also provide a cultural lens in the department’s gender-inclusive analysis policy and legislative work.
In addition to increases in personnel and transfer payments, there has been an increase in the allotment of other. This government has added an additional $15,000 for the annual women’s forum, which I had announced this past year. This will fall into the activity area of public education. This year’s women’s forum was well-attended and focused on women and safety and brought women from all over the territory to discuss violence, health, housing, education and employment. This is a key forum for women to work on and develop recommendations that will be brought forward directly to the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate.
Another key highlight within this budget is the allocation of $47,000 for women’s programming. These resources were first allocated in the 2004-05 budget. Our government is committed to continuing this funding along with the support of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues. With new initiatives that creatively address women’s inequality alongside additional resources, I believe that this budget for the Women’s Directorate demonstrates our government’s commitment to women’s equality in the north.
This budget addresses some of the specific needs of aboriginal women throughout the Yukon by continuing to provide resources directly to aboriginal women’s organizations to initiatives of wellness and violence prevention programming.
Our government is also ensuring that appropriate resources are available to begin work on a long-term public education campaign on violence against women and children. This was an initiative that received the full support of all members of this Legislature a few short months ago.
I am very pleased and encouraged by the continued success of the Women’s Directorate to address emerging women’s issues through the engagement and collaboration of other government departments, as well as non-profit organizations.
I welcome any questions there may be from members opposite.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to put a few comments on the record before going into the line-by-line.
We just heard the minister in her comments say how much money is going into this department and what the money is going to be used for. Many of the organizations that are benefiting from these finances are centred mostly in Whitehorse. We have talked a lot in the past few years about addressing women’s issues throughout the Yukon Territory. There was a report on northern women’s issues that was done within the last year — I think in 2004.
I would just like to hear from the minister what kind of feedback they have received from that report. I believe they were looking for feedback on the report entitled Strong Women’s Voices: Rural Choices Report.
I would be interested to hear any feedback they received from that report.
A couple of weeks ago, we in the official opposition brought forward a motion on anti-poverty. We spoke to that motion in this House — the motion was brought forward by my colleague. I think it was fair to say, at that time, a lot of the information that was put out on the floor of the House was that the majority of the population living in poverty is women and children throughout Canada.
In that motion, we spoke to the issues that affected us in the Yukon. Some of the issues were affordable housing. This affects many people throughout our communities, especially the young men and women and seniors. We’ve heard a lot about that issue that’s out there in the last week or so.
At that same time, a report came out from the United Nations confirming the information that the majority of aboriginal people in Canada are living in poverty. In the report on northern women’s issues, I want to note the issues that came from my own community. We talked about addressing social issues on behalf of our community, and many of the women in Old Crow are very vocal and always have been.
It has been a community vision for a long time to try to encourage healthy living, and that means addressing a lot of the issues that families in Old Crow have to address. It’s a personal responsibility. It is also a community responsibility. While we are doing that, we have plans in place. Right now, we have an inter-agency committee that is working on a lot of the social problems that we have to address in our community. We heard much about that again within the last week when we were addressing alcohol-related problems in Old Crow and, you know, we have those problems. They’re very real, and we need a government in power that has the willingness to walk with us to address those kinds of issues.
I know if we’re dealing with those kinds of issues in Old Crow, many of the communities are addressing similar issues. The three most important issues that were mentioned for Old Crow were relearning the traditional Vuntut Gwitchin culture. Mr. Chair, culture for us is the key. It is the most fundamental part of our healthy being. If we do not know where we come from, if we do not know where our families come from and very little about our traditional territory and our ancestors, then we will be lost and we will always wonder if those stories and that information are not shared with us. That is what we’re concerned about today with the young people. We have to make that connection. We have to bridge that connection between the elders and the young people of our community.
We are doing that through schools, through the education system. There was an education fair held in Old Crow a couple of weeks ago, and many people who went to Old Crow for that education fair had an opportunity to visit the culture camp that’s held every spring out at Crow Flats. I had an opportunity to go there when I went to Old Crow two weekends ago, and it’s a beautiful place. It’s an experience.
If one talked to the people who went to that culture camp, and maybe it was their first time out on the land, I’m sure that experience opened their eyes to a larger vision and an understanding of the larger vision, or the long-term vision, that we have for the students within our education system. Why I’m bringing that up is, when we talk about re-learning, I’m not talking about the people of my generation; I’m talking about the future generation. Some of us are very fortunate to have learned that at a very young age, and now we’re trying to pass that information on to the younger generation so that they have the fundamental balance when they have to leave the community.
I see somebody shaking their head over there; maybe they’re not in agreement with me, but that is their issue.
When we’re talking about family violence, drug and alcohol problems, and loss of parenting skills due to residential schools, those are very real.
Those are some of the issues related to all this money that they’re talking about that’s being made available through the Women's Directorate — we see it in the community — to address some of these priorities that the women’s groups come out with. That’s a point I would like to make.
Two of the most important issues are diet and exercise. There are a lot of health problems. The Minister of Health and Social Services can tell us that there are a lot of issues around diabetes, for instance. There are a lot of reports that come out and talk about the different health challenges that we have, especially in the north. Our community is trying to address these issues, but when it comes to it, we need the finances to do that.
Another priority is self-care, and a women’s support group and a club. We have to have awareness, Mr. Chair, of women’s roles in our communities, mostly the traditional roles we used to have and that our mothers had. In today’s world, all that is changing. How do we encourage and empower the young women in our community to hold on to those values, and yet move ahead and become professionals in their own right so they can hold a professional position in our First Nation government offices?
This is probably news to people across the way, but these are some of the challenges we face in our community.
What really surprises me is that the Premier introduced in this House a few days ago a draft Yukon chapter for a northern strategy that was, I guess, addressed by the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut premiers and was to address issues for the north.
At the end of the day, they say it’s a shared vision for the north. In this day and age, they didn’t even contact the women’s groups in the north to get input and feedback for this northern strategy. You know, it took very vocal women, of course, from throughout the north — from all three territories — to make some noise before it was actually addressed. I find that very discouraging — you know, that we still have to do that; that we still have to be the ones who say, “Oh, here, we need to be listened to.” It should just be part of the formal process. In addressing these very serious issues on behalf of northern people, we shouldn’t have to say, “Aren’t we going to be consulted today?” The majority of the people affected are women and children.
We can only have a look at that report from the United Nations and the northern women’s issues report and listen to the news on a daily basis, when we’re talking about violence, sexual abuse, and dealing with residential schools — the list goes on and on and on.
The amount of money that is going into the Women’s Directorate is on the rise. Yes, that’s encouraging. However, is it addressing the problems and the issues at the grassroots level, where it really needs to go? With that, I will just conclude my comments. I will wait for the minister’s response.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The member opposite has raised a number of very important issues, some of which I will attempt to address although there were a lot of different matters that were addressed.
With respect to the comments of the Women’s Directorate and the direction that the Women’s Directorate has been taking and the need to address the issues at the grassroots level, I sincerely believe that the Women’s Directorate has been doing a very good job in this specific regard. I just refer to the aboriginal women in violence initiative, something that was introduced and implemented by the previous minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, our Premier. That was specific funding to be made available directly for aboriginal women’s groups and organizations for aboriginal women to address immediate concerns in terms of violence prevention. So, in other words, these funds would basically be put forward toward initiatives that would be homegrown, grassroots initiatives, as the member opposite would say, with respect to preventing violence in their respective communities.
I think that the distribution of this money — $100,000 — touched a number of different communities, not just Whitehorse. There were also rural communities — Pelly Crossing and Watson Lake come to mind, and Ross River is another community, as well. These initiatives were very well-received by the aboriginal women in those communities, and they went toward some good projects and initiatives. We have heard some very good feedback and are following up with those organizations in the respective communities to see if perhaps there is an improved way of delivering those projects.
How did the projects work? Were they effective? We are receiving feedback on that. As well, we are working in conjunction with the Status of Women Canada as well, to receive their feedback because some of their funding was matched by our funding to enhance some of these initiatives.
Again, we are very pleased to support and continue to work alongside First Nation women and all women in the territory and to collaborate very closely with women to identify the immediate concerns and help address some of these needs, particularly in rural Yukon.
The Women’s Directorate, again, has been pretty active on a number of fronts, whether it is through the Children’s Act review, consultation on corrections, or education reform. Those three initiatives are very large initiatives. They are pillars. We take great pride in pursuing these very important matters.
First and foremost, these are specific partnerships that we have engaged with First Nation governments, through the Council of Yukon First Nations, to help address some of the very important areas in our society today.
When we talk about culture camps, I refer to the consultation on corrections, for example. I have had a couple of discussions with the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. The whole purpose of this consultation is to find innovative, creative ways to reduce violence in our communities, to reduce recidivism in our Correctional Centre and find healthy initiatives that will engage the citizens of the respective communities.
And again, these are initiatives that are made by the citizens of those respective communities, and initiatives that will work for those residents. Again, I’m very excited and encouraged by these specific initiatives going on, in part being spearheaded by our government and also in conjunction with our First Nation governments here.
The Yukon drug summit, for example, is another initiative that the Women’s Directorate is taking a very active role in, in the fight against drugs. Substance drug abuse in the Yukon is certainly alive and well. It’s alive and well, unfortunately, throughout our country. This is something that again I’m very pleased that, through the consensus of all parties in this Legislature, it is a real indication that there is a willingness on the part of all Yukoners, regardless of what stripe they hold or regardless of which community they’re from, that we all want to address this very dire issue in our communities for the longevity and the well-being of our children and ourselves.
Again, through our Department of Health and Social Services, through the Department of Justice, I refer to the family violence prevention unit: they do a great job, and again our Women’s Directorate works alongside the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Social Services, Yukon Housing Corporation, for example, and the Department of Education when it comes to public education on violence prevention. I referred earlier in my remarks to the long-term public education campaign that all parties committed to supporting on violence prevention.
So through the Women’s Directorate and the Department of Justice, we are coordinating efforts with the respective other departments — Education and Health and Social Services and Yukon Housing Corporation, for example — to see where the gaps in services are, how we can better message what we do have in place and also how we can better address some of these specific needs to the respective communities.
So that’s another positive initiative that the Women’s Directorate is very actively working on and spearheading.
I think it all comes down to healthy families. It certainly starts with our families and starts with supporting our families. Through the Government of Yukon, we certainly have many programs and services available to support families to be healthy, to be well and to do well.
Now, the member opposite referred to women in poverty. Again, women in poverty is obviously an issue that is widespread. It crosses various aspects of society today and is something that the Women’s Directorate again — we have the mandate to advance women’s economic equality, and we continue to work on issues of economic security for women in the territory.
Part of this work — the Women’s Directorate has been working collaboratively with the Anti-Poverty Coalition, as well as the Yukon Status of Women Council, on issues of women and poverty. So we have actually contracted the Status of Women Council to conduct some research on our behalf and, again, to provide some information and actually qualified data on Yukon women and poverty to paint a clearer picture of the situation here in the Yukon.
Again, we are working alongside other organizations in the territory in this regard. The member opposite had referred to the Yukon Status of Women Council and the report they had produced almost a year ago, Strong Women’s Voices: Rural Choices Report. I certainly have gone through that report myself, and the Women’s Directorate has.
One of the initiatives that has come to fruition that was a specific recommendation made by the council was the need for self-advocacy training, particularly for rural Yukon women who don’t have ready access to legal aid or an advocate directly in their community. So we have provided $47,000 as part of the women’s programming. Part of this money was to help develop a self-advocacy training course.
So we have been working alongside an advisory committee comprised of Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, the Neighbourhood Law Centre, as well as courtworkers from the Council of Yukon First Nations on this specific project. It is a wonderful project and I believe it will do a great deal of benefit — it will bring a lot of benefit to rural women, in particular. Again, it is another reflection of our commitment to work alongside women’s organizations and to be creative as to how we can better address some of these needs there.
So it is our intention to offer the training course to women throughout the territory, commencing this year within the communities. Again, as part of the money we had introduced last fall, we have also updated a number of publications that will be of great benefit to women in rural Yukon in terms of accessing readily available programs and services they may not have been aware of before.
We are doing a lot of work and we’re working very closely with women’s organizations in the territory.
When it comes to other initiatives, particularly with aboriginal women, we actually helped the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Council as well as the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council host a policy forum on aboriginal women’s issues, and that was held in December. It was well-attended; there were women from rural Yukon. I actually attended the latter part of the conference.
Coming out of that forum was the recommendation to proceed with leadership training, skills development — for example, land claims training for women. So we have contracted Legend Seekers to develop and offer a course focusing on women’s roles in the land claims negotiation process, as well as the implementation of self-government in the territory. This is something I believe is well-received and is an initiative we will continue to provide.
In addition to the contribution agreements that we signed with aboriginal women’s organizations in the territory, there are a number of other things we continue to work on with both aboriginal and non-aboriginal women — whether it’s in terms of developing education campaigns through our long-term public education on violence prevention or whether it’s working with respective departments on some of these very important initiatives, as I mentioned before. Examples are the Children’s Act review, education reform, consultation on corrections or the summit on drugs. These are some very important initiatives.
Again, I am very proud of the work that the Women's Directorate continues to do. We look at improved ways to garner increased collaboration with organizations throughout the territory, how we can better deliver services and how we can better work with the respective departments and agencies in helping to improve the lives of women.
I think that I will conclude. I think I have certainly drawn on a number of different areas. I would be very pleased to address any specific issues that the member opposite has with respect to some of the initiatives I have just mentioned. I would also be pleased to receive additional feedback.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for those comments.
Moving on to some of the services that are provided for women of the territory and which are situated in Whitehorse, sometimes it’s confusing for women who come into Whitehorse from the communities as to which organization does what and where they can go if they need assistance, whether it is in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.
We have the women’s transition home in Whitehorse, called Kaushee’s Place. This home provides protection for women who are in an abusive situation, both women and children. Within the transition home there’s also another program offered called the silent and invisible program. That program offers assistance to older women. That program is a fairly new initiative and I believe they received assistance from the government to carry out their program until the end of this fiscal year. I’m very pleased about that because it was amazing to see the statistics that came out of that new initiative. Sometimes we don’t realize that those kinds of services are needed until they’re out there and then we’re shocked to see how much use is made out of the program.
Another service available for women out there is at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. I believe most of the programs there provide advice and advocacy for women in the Yukon Territory. Again, for those who might travel in from the smaller communities, this centre can be very resourceful, especially if you have to attend court for whatever reason, whether it be child related or if charges have been laid and you’re not aware of how the court process works or you’re a little afraid to go there by yourself. There is some help available.
The reason, Mr. Chair, that I put this on record is because the services that are available in Whitehorse, as I have said before, can be very confusing for someone who comes into Whitehorse from a small community and needs assistance and is not aware of what each place can offer to her.
The advocacy training that the minister referred to is a great initiative, and I would encourage the minister to support any travelling that these types of programs or these types of training opportunities could do. Could they come into the communities? I’m talking more especially about the community of Old Crow, because the services are definitely needed there. You can attend the court any time they come to Old Crow, and there is a variety of situations that are before the court, and some of them are women and some of the services that they may require are not available because they are in an isolated community. So a lot of this information needs to get out there. There was a lot of money spent in the last year, maybe carrying on into this year, on public education. I know we talked a lot in the last fall sitting about advertisements and pamphlets. There was a lot of money put into those kinds of resources.
That kind of information needs to be more visible in the communities. In the right resource office is where someone who may need those services would not be afraid to ask about them with the resource person who may be available, whether it be in a social services department or at the local health centre or maybe at the local police station.
I would just like to acknowledge the staff at the Women’s Directorate and other organizations that assist women throughout the Yukon Territory, whether it be through a long-distance call and encouraging the person to stay strong to address whatever kind of situation they’re facing at that time. You know, that link that you have to the women out there is very, very important because there are situations in the community where the women are still absolutely afraid to voice their concerns and be able to reach out to those services that are there. We need to encourage that. That’s why I always say that this money that you allocate needs to get to the grassroots people and the communities throughout the Yukon Territory need to have access to some of those dollars.
With that, I’ll conclude my statements. I believe the member of the third party has some comments.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite for her comments and suggestions. I very much appreciate her feedback.
With respect to working, particularly with rural women in rural communities, I very much appreciate her feedback, especially when it comes to the rural community of Old Crow. I was born and raised in a Yukon rural community, as well, and can identify with the need to have services, programs and information available to residents of those communities. While we very much strive at all times to make information available, whether it’s through the local health centres or RCMP detachments, I agree there is always room for improvement.
That is one of the reasons for our government proceeding in pursuing this long-term education campaign on violence prevention. As I mentioned earlier, we are identifying gaps where information might not be readily available to residents, particularly in rural Yukon, and identifying where we can improve the delivery of services and information, including how we deliver that information. I think that, by working with our women’s organizations in the territory, as well as working with respective departments, we hope to be able to improve on that.
When it comes to the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, the member opposite had mentioned that the centre is a very strong organization, and I believe that. It has been in place for many years, has provided much-needed support to women throughout the territory and continues to provide real cost-effective programming for all women in the Yukon.
As an example of our government’s commitment to working alongside the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre is the rural pregnant mothers program where the Department of Health and Social Services identified funds for two separate residences for expecting women to be able to stay prior to delivering, and also after. I think that is a much-needed service and it has been well-received by rural women. Again, it’s one example of how we can work with the Women’s Centre in improving delivery of services to rural women as well.
The self-advocacy program — the member opposite’s suggestion to travel to rural Yukon, including the community of Old Crow, is an excellent suggestion. I know that the delivery of training courses to rural women — certainly we will strive to make it out to every single rural community. I think it’s very important to make that training available because it is primarily designed for women in rural Yukon who don’t have ready access to services that may be readily available to women here in Whitehorse. So it’s a very good suggestion and one that we will strive to meet here in the next few months as we roll out the training modules here. I thank the member opposite for that.
The member opposite referred to funding that was made available last fall through the fall supplementary budget, and one of those projects was to develop and come up with a safety kit for women and children fleeing abusive relationships. I really hope to be able to roll that initiative out in due course and make that readily available to services such as, again, local health centres and RCMP detachments — make it readily available and let women know in the communities, particularly in rural Yukon, that this does exist and is available.
In addition, we have been in the midst of revising and updating existing publications and the Yukon Family Violence Resource Directory that I just tabled, I believe, yesterday, in the Legislature. That’s a directory that is an all-comprehensive list of resources available throughout the Yukon that we will also make readily available in the very important areas where women can access this information.
So I thank the member opposite for her comments and for her suggestions. Again, we do strive to improve the delivery of services available, and we strive to always better improve the delivery of programs addressed to better the lives of Yukon women.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to address this particular department in general debate.
I have a question for the minister with respect to how the Women’s Directorate is functioning interdepartmentally with the Government of Yukon. The question arises from the experience of working with the Women’s Directorate from outside of government and within government. The Women’s Directorate has a very long history of working with departments like the Department of Education on such initiatives as A Cappella North and the equity project.
Unfortunately, the flip side to that is that it can often become — “Well, the Women’s Directorate is looking after it, so we don’t have to.” So, I’m concerned about the current status of how the Women’s Directorate is working interdepartmentally. A good example of that would perhaps be if the minister could enlighten us with respect to the family violence and violence against women prevention initiatives. How is the Department of Justice, given their contract with the RCMP, involved in that particular initiative?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite for that question because I can certainly appreciate the challenges in working in government. Sometimes we do tend to work in a stovepipe mentality, so we do strive to break down those barriers and to work more closely with each other. I think we have been able to do so.
There are a couple of different initiatives on which we have been working alongside the other departments. The Women’s Directorate, for example, has been working with respect to the women in trades report, alongside the Department of Education. There is also the drug summit that we are preparing to host fairly quickly. For that, we have partnered with a number of different departments, working as equal partners at the table.
When it comes to a long-term public education campaign on violence prevention, which is a priority of our government and something we committed to during the last election — since we sought the full concurrence of the Legislature in the last fall sitting, I have undertaken to write my respective colleagues, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Minister of Education, as well as the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Minister of Justice, to seek their full support and to provide specific officials in their respective departments to help lead the charge on this education campaign.
I am very pleased to report for the member opposite that we have received the full support and concurrence of the ministers, as well as their deputy ministers. We have resources allocated to that campaign. We are working very closely on that particular area. We have an interdepartmental committee that is inclusive of the RCMP and other agencies, such as the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. So, we are working very closely on that initiative with a number of different agencies, as well as departments.
Ms. Duncan: To whom is the $100,000 grant — pardon me, contribution — being made with respect to the family violence and violence against women prevention initiatives? There is a $100,000 transfer in the transfer payment page. To whom is it being made?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That was the initiative that was introduced by the Premier in his capacity as the previous minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, almost two years ago, if I recall. It was an initiative that was endorsed, making violence prevention with respect to aboriginal women a priority in the country. It received the full endorsement of the respective ministers at the status of women ministers meeting.
Since that time we have made funding available, and this is the second year. In the last fiscal year, $100,000 was made available to a number of different organizations throughout the territory, including the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, Liard First Nation, the Margaret Thomson Healing Centre in Ross River and the Selkirk First Nation, as well.
Those funds were disbursed through an application process. The terms of reference that were referring to the application were made available through an advisory committee that was comprised of a number of aboriginal women and also representatives from the Department of Justice, the Women’s Directorate and so forth. Funds were made available through that, and I would anticipate that a similar process will also be held in due course for future applications to be made available to women in the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to send over to both opposition caucuses the terms of reference for the funding and a sense of what the application looks like? I’ve been asked about this initiative by others, so I would like to have the information. Of course, send them on to the Women’s Directorate, but for my own information I would like to know about the terms of reference and the application process.
In terms of the interdepartmental coordination by the Women’s Directorate, the minister’s response — as I had asked for — dwelled upon the violence prevention initiatives. There was mention of an education one. I’m interested if there are any other interdepartmental initiatives — with respect to Economic Development, for example, there was an active women’s business organization here a number of years ago, and also particularly in health, if there is a liaison there.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I guess what comes to mind is that the Women’s Directorate has been working alongside the Yukon College, for example, and Energy, Mines and Resources when it comes to women in trades — perhaps non-traditional trades — and making more training available to women in the non-traditional trades. Construction and oil and gas, for example, and obviously the respective trades as well.
So we have been working alongside those departments, you could say. Also, the Women’s Directorate is actively involved in the development of the northern development strategy, in conjunction with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada as well. So we are a very active participant in that regard.
There are a number of different initiatives, but I guess you could say primarily with Justice, again, through the family violence prevention unit when we talk about the review of the Family Violence Prevention Act, we have a seat on that interdepartmental committee, as well, where we work alongside the Department of Justice. There is the drug summit that we will soon be hosting and we were able to help provide some funding in conjunction with the departments of Health and Social Services, Education and Justice. We also have been actively working alongside Yukon Housing Corporation on a priority housing initiative.
Chair: Are there any further questions in general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my colleague, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, has suggested that we request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote No. 11, Women’s Directorate, cleared or carried, as required.
Chair: I would just seek some clarification. Is that for both capital and operation and maintenance funding?
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 11, Women’s Directorate, cleared or carried
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 11, Women's Directorate, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Women’s Directorate in the amount of $810,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Women’s Directorate agreed to
Chair: I understand that we’re moving on to the Department of Highways and Public Works. This is Vote 55. For members’ convenience, it’s page 12-2. Do members want a couple of minutes to allow officials to come into the House?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: A request has been made for five minutes.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We’ll continue on with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, with Vote 55, Department of Highways and Public Works.
Department of Highways and Public Works
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am proud to introduce today the Department of Highways and Public Works capital budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year. This year, my department is seeking approval to spend $72 million on roads, airports, technology projects, supplies and services, and property management.
This budget represents a major investment in the Yukon economy and our way of life. The capital dollars spent by the department make the Yukon a better place to live, strengthen our communities, help our families, and put money into Yukoners’ pockets. The capital dollars in this budget are for services and facilities we all use on a daily basis. The money goes toward contracts that improve our roads, our public buildings and our telecommunications.
The Yukon’s transportation system, with its developed network of roads, is unique in the north. I am pleased to say we are investing almost $50 million to maintain and develop our roads and bridges, the foundation of our transportation system.
The Shakwak project is a critical component of our work. The agreement we have with Canada and the United States provides the capital funding required to reconstruct key highway corridors between Yukon and Alaska, specifically the Haines Road and the Alaska Highway from Haines Junction to the Alaska/Yukon border.
The history of the Alaska Highway is unique. It was built very quickly, in just 10 months, to meet the American defence needs. Because the highway was built in war-time rush, corners were cut and engineering standards were not followed. As a result, the Alaska Highway has been under reconstruction since the day it was built. Canada did not work a lot on upgrading the Alaska Highway, but it concentrated its effort on the southern sections, and the northern section of the highway received little attention. The condition of this northern section, including the Haines Road, and its importance to Alaska, led to the Shakwak agreement between the United States and Canada in 1977. Congress gave Canada over $260 million to reconstruct the north end of the highway and the Haines Road.
The Shakwak project continues to be a tremendous benefit to Yukon communities and to the safety of all travellers. This year, over $24 million in Canadian contract dollars are budgeted for work on the Shakwak project. This cost is 100-percent recoverable from the U.S. The department recently awarded an $18.8 million Shakwak contract to Golden Hill Ventures of Whitehorse to reconstruct more than 10 kilometres of road near Sheep Mountain. We expect to tender other Shakwak contracts for BST application, revegetation and bridge construction in the very near future.
The Alaska Highway is the core of our transportation system and key to Yukon’s road infrastructure development. The Yukon government gained responsibility for the highway 13 years ago, and we have been working steadily on its reconstruction ever since.
One of the last remaining areas where major work is required is the stretch between Champagne and Haines Junction. This year, the Department of Highways and Public Works has budgeted more than $10 million for the contract work to upgrade this section of the Alaska Highway.
This includes road reconstruction, applying BST and culvert rehabilitation.
Mr. Chair, to improve our highways for all travellers, the department is continuing to upgrade the road surface, especially in higher traffic areas around Whitehorse. This year, the department has budgeted $2 million to repave portions of the Alaska and Klondike highways. This work builds on the work completed last year on these two highways.
A further $100,000 is budgeted to improve intersections along the Alaska Highway in the Whitehorse area. The department has budgeted $200,000 to apply BST to the Klondike Highway between Callison and Crocus Bluff, near Dawson. The department will spend over $4 million to strengthen and resurface parts of the Campbell, Top of the World and Dempster highways.
To enhance economic opportunities for community-based businesses, over half of this $4 million is targeted under the heavy equipment rental contracts, which are commonly called HERC, guidelines. In 2004, the government successfully piloted the HERC guidelines for a project on the South Campbell Highway. The intent of the guidelines is to provide opportunities for local contractors to work on highway projects near their communities and improve highway infrastructure.
Last year, $1.6 million was spent on the HERC pilot project. This year, the department intends to spend $2.5 million on various HERC projects on the Campbell, Dempster, Klondike and other highways. HERC stimulates local economies. It provides jobs for locals, keeps dollars in the communities and generates growth. These are economic commitments this government made and is keeping.
Mr. Chair, the total budget amount for the Campbell Highway is $2.75 million. We will spend this on rip-rap work on Ketza Creek, applying BST between Carmacks and Faro, strengthening the subgrade and grading.
There is also $1 million in this budget for drift control, resurfacing and rip-rap work on the Dempster Highway between Ogilvie and Eagle.
Our bridges are major links in the Yukon’s highway transportation system. This year, the department is issuing contracts valued at over $13 million for work on bridges. This budget includes $2 million to replace the deck of the Lewes River bridge, $5 million to begin a two-year project to replace the Donjek River bridge, and $4 million to finish replacement of the Beaver Creek bridge. We will recover the cost of the Donjek and Beaver Creek bridgework from the U.S. government under the Shakwak project. This budget also includes $1.2 million for the Takhini River bridge deck rehabilitation. Half of this amount, Mr. Chair, is recoverable from the federal government under the strategic highway infrastructure program, commonly called SHIP. $455,000 of the SHIP funding is also available to finish strengthening the Teslin River bridge at Johnsons Crossing.
Mr. Chair, my department is continuing with a procurement process for the Yukon River bridge at Dawson City. Just under $2 million is included in this year’s budget to complete the procurement work and manage the start of the bridge construction.
We will keep the residents of Dawson informed on our progress on this project, and our intention is to minimize construction impacts during their busy summer season. I have attended public and private meetings in Dawson on this project, and I am confident that the majority of residents want progress. They want a bridge built for a variety of good reasons. Previous governments have talked about constructing the bridge. This government, Mr. Chair, is taking action.
Though it developed in a different and less extensive way than the Yukon road system, the Yukon’s air transportation system is growing connections to the outside world and is progressively bringing the world to us.
Yukon is increasingly attracting visitors from overseas and the Whitehorse Airport is receiving more and more international and transborder flights. Our tourism success means that the Whitehorse air terminal building requires expansion for additional Customs space. The department has budgeted $1.5 million to begin the first phase of expanding the Canada Customs area in the terminal building and an additional $100,000 to refurbish the baggage carousel and the conveyor belt system.
In this post-9/11 world, security is important to travellers and governments alike. This year the budget includes $150,000 for upgrades to security systems at the Whitehorse International Airport. This money will be spent to comply with the federal aerodrome security measures.
The Department of Highways and Public Works is continuing the construction, valued at more than $2 million, of the new air terminal building in Old Crow. This will hopefully be completed this fall and will be three times larger than the existing building. I’m proud to say that this government worked cooperatively, government to government, with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to design the new air terminal building.
The department will also spend $1.65 million to improve the runway service and lighting at the Old Crow Airport. This is federal funding provided under the airport capital assistance program. The new service will reduce summer maintenance and the improved lighting will increase accessibility in poor weather.
The Department of Highways and Public Works is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the Government of Yukon’s substantial investment in information technology. Currently, our IT assets are valued at over $40 million. It is critical to the delivery of government programs that these assets are maintained and upgraded to ensure our IT resources and systems are available and reliable.
Last year, this government made a substantial investment in IT. Again this year, I’m pleased to say that this government is investing $5.8 million in information and communication assets and services. This will create additional opportunities in Yukon’s information technology sector and support the work of the Yukon Information Technology Industry Society, also known as YITIS.
The Department of Highways and Public Works will invest $1.4 million of this amount to improve the government’s central hardware and network infrastructure. It is expected that the Yukon-based IT firms will supply most of the equipment and services purchased through a number of tender contracts. This will help sustain the growth and development of this very important sector.
My department is also investigating options to replace the territory’s ageing multi-departmental mobile radio system. After 2007, the current MDMRS system will no longer be supported. Mobile communication infrastructure is used by many who work daily to protect us, including police, fire, ambulance, highway maintenance, emergency measures and others. Mobile communications is an essential service — it saves lives.
Over the next few years, the value of the project to the territory could be greater than $15 million in service and infrastructure contracts. In addition to replacing the MDMRS, the project includes exploring the provision of cellular service to 17 Yukon communities.
The first phase of this procurement has begun. A request for qualifications to seek interested contractors with the expertise to provide these services recently closed. An expert evaluation team is reviewing the submissions, and soon the government will make a decision on how the project will proceed.
We have budgeted $5 million this year to continue developing this important project for the health and safety and convenience of Yukoners and our visitors.
The Department of Highways and Public Works is also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the majority of government-owned buildings. This includes colleges where we learn, libraries we frequent, and the buildings in which the government conducts its business. These assets are valuable to our government and to our social culture. The government is investing more than $3 million capital dollars to ensure the strength, integrity and longevity of these buildings. The department regularly issues contracts to repair and maintain these assets and the majority of these contracts go to local firms.
It is through planning, maintaining and upgrading our facilities that we protect the territory’s assets, put Yukoners to work and create safe learning and working environments for our youth and our citizens. This year, some of the property improvement budget highlights include making structural repairs to the Child Development Centre building, improving security and fire alarm systems in various buildings, working to make our buildings more accessible to people with disabilities, completing an assessment and protection program to improve water wells supplying the drinking water in our facilities throughout the territory, replacing the fuel tank at the Yukon government main administration building, and interior-exterior painting at various buildings throughout the Yukon.
In partnership with Yukon First Nations and the City of Whitehorse, the department budgeted a contribution of $250,000 toward the Whitehorse waterfront development projects. Together with our partners, we are working to invigorate the city’s commercial, historical and cultural ties to the Yukon River. This project will provide urban development and tourism growth.
Mr. Chair, the department’s capital investment in the Yukon this year will improve the safety of Yukon citizens, invest in the long-term care of our infrastructure, make the territory a better place to live, help diversify our economy and provide more services to residents and tourists. Most importantly, it will ensure jobs and opportunities for many Yukoners.
In closing, I now look forward to answering questions in detail in general debate for the Department of Highways and Public Works 2005-06 capital budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to respond to the minister’s statement on this department. Before I begin, I would like to thank the departmental staff who gave the briefing in this department. We have asked some questions and had them answered. Also, we have had some information. We appreciate that, as some of it will be quite useful. I will be using the information that was provided in a couple of questions I have about this department.
I don’t intend to spend a lot of time in the Department of Highways and Public Works. I do have questions in regard to some of the things the minister has mentioned with the heavy equipment rental, for example. And I listened to some of the debate in the Economic Development department about the bridge and other big projects, where it seems to me the government has decided to move responsibilities around from one department to another, and it is sometimes confusing. When we’re dealing with the bridge, I would expect that we would be dealing with the Department of Highways and Public Works.
I understand that we’re going through a whole phase of developing policy on P3s — or the Yukon government is, anyway, on P3s. Others seem to be taking a lead on this. When we ask questions in the House, for example, Mr. Chair, often we don’t know which minister is going to get up and answer the question.
Often three different ministers get up to answer a question. It’s sometimes, I guess, confusing for the public out there watching and expecting that perhaps the department that is responsible — wondering why they are not responsible in answering questions in the House.
That same goes with — I’m talking about the bridge, but that goes with the railway too. After all, it is transportation infrastructure and the minister has said that Yukon has been working for awhile — including the Shakwak, so I’m just giving the minister a heads-up about where I’m going to go with some of my questions. I’d like to talk about the equipment rental. I’m going to ask questions in regard to the Campbell Highway because the information provided to us by the department is not consistent with the information provided in the little document handed out at the briefing.
I am also going to ask questions about ATIPP, but not many questions. I have some maintenance camp questions and, of course, some about the famous highway signs and so on.
I realize that we are getting close to 6:00 p.m., Mr. Chair, so I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fairclough that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Also, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 3, 2005:
Travel Expenses of Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly 2004-05 (dated April 2005) (Speaker Staffen)
Fleet Vehicle Agency 2005-06 Business Plan (Hart)
Queen's Printer Agency 2005-06 Business Plan (Hart)