††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Wednesday, May 11, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Linda MacDonald
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I rise today to honour and pay our governmentís respect to Linda MacDonald, a dedicated employee who recently lost her battle with cancer. Linda MacDonald is well known in the Yukon business community and in government. Her professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication left a strong impression on anyone she worked with.
Lindaís family ó husband Howard MacDonald, son Scott, and sister Val Stehelin ó have joined us in the gallery today. Howard, Scott and Val, Iím very, very sorry for your personal loss of a dear wife and mother and sister.
Also joining us today are co-workers, Eugene Lysy, Sandra Harder, Bob Snyder, George Privett, and the former director, Michael Brandt. Several of Lindaís clients and associates are also here today to pay tribute to Linda ó the president of the Yukon Indian Development Corporation, Judy Gingell; former minister Scott Kent; former chairman of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Rob Harvey; president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Sandy Babcock; principal secretary, Gordon Steele; and executive assistant to the Premier, Sheila Clark.
Linda and her husband, Howard, arrived in the Yukon in 1974. Gordon Steele hired Linda ó back in the early days, as he put it ó at the land claims secretariat office to work with him. She did a lot of analytical and policy work on both native land claims and development of responsible government in the Yukon.
Linda and Howard moved to Mayo in 1980, where they owned and operated a construction company. They were also involved in several mining ventures.
Linda was very active in many of the communityís affairs. She was the Yukon College campus coordinator and instructor and the economic development officer. One of her significant contributions was in researching, writing and publishing Mayo Historical Societyís book, Gold and Galena, an award-winning, detailed history and photo documentation of the Mayo-Keno area.
After returning to Whitehorse, a new government formed in 1992, and Linda was asked to work with Minister Bill Brewster. It was not long before she became his capable executive assistant. Her professionalism, however, crossed all party lines. She was well known and well respected by many current and former Cabinet ministers of all parties. While Linda was later employed as a civil servant, she worked equally well for all ministers of Economic Development and had the utmost respect for the political office of minister and the elected officials.
Some time after working in the Cabinet office, Linda worked as an assistant to the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation, where she worked on a number of special projects and initiatives.
When the new branch of trade and export was established in the former Department of Economic Development, Linda was seconded from the Housing Corporation by the then new director Michael Brandt. Linda brought her project management skills, dedication and professionalism to the fledgling branch, which soon became a focus for the governmentís economic development initiatives and a window with the business community.
Linda developed strong ties with the business community and had a reputation of serving her clients and associates tirelessly and with dedication. The government later moved the focus of general business interests to a new Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, and Linda continued to bring her skills and dedication to this new environment working with new associates in the department and new staff in the ministerís office.
A new Department of Economic Development was created in 2003, and Linda was involved with stakeholders to develop a new economic direction document. The Yukon economic summit in June 2004 was the last project that Linda worked on for the government.
Linda was a very private person and she touched the lives of many people. With her passing, numerous messages were received from associates and clients who paid their respects to Linda, and Iíd like to share some of the comments with you that depict a very accurate portrayal of the type of person Linda was.
†ďLinda was such an inspiration, especially when the going got tough. Iím sure that everyone fortunate enough to have worked with Linda would agree that she was an absolutely amazing person.Ē
ďShe was a highly capable woman, professional, perceptive, hardworking and dedicated and was an integral part of the small team and large network of partners who worked on a challenging mandate.Ē
ďThough slight in stature and quiet in nature, she could be rather intimidating because of her focus and her principles. She championed Yukon communities and Yukon business and worked passionately, supporting all the activities associated with these.Ē
ďLinda was well respected by co-workers and clients alike, and she was a hard worker dedicated to improving the Yukon business climate. Her sense of humour, trust and positive professional work ethic contributed to her triumph in life, as a member of the community, as a member of the family, as a friend and as a co-worker.Ē
Mr. Speaker, Linda will be very sadly missed.
Mr. Fairclough: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to former Mayo constituent Linda, or Din MacDonald, as she was known.
Now, much has been said already about her history and her background, and I will not repeat a lot of it. But I would like to point out a couple of things.
Ms. MacDonaldís energy and commitment to the history of Mayo brought about the founding of the Mayo Historical Society. If not for Linda, it is probable that Mayo would find itself without its major historical asset, the restored Binet House, which attracts hundreds of tourists each year. Her collection of information and letters formed the basis of the award-winning book Gold and Galena. It is considered by people in the business of publishing local community histories to be one of the finest in the country. Her descriptive prose about the community she loved is unequalled in similar ridings.
We extend our gratitude to Ms. MacDonald. Her legacy in Mayo will certainly outlast our lifetime. Our deepest sympathy goes out to her family and her friends on her too-early passing.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to the late Linda MacDonald. Linda has been recognized today for her contribution to Gold and Galena. This historical volume says in its opening pages: ďIt is a long overdue tribute to the past and a gift to future generations.Ē Linda and her colleague Lynnette Bleiler and the Mayo Historical Society left Yukoners a tremendous gift in the pages of Gold and Galena.
Gold and Galena was in the works when I met Linda. Din, as she was affectionately known, her husband Howard and their son Scott were dear, close friends of friends of mine. Another friend from Mayo recalls Linda as incredibly socially just. She would not diverge from the truth ó ever. That would explain how she and the straight-talking former Yukon Party Minister Bill Brewster worked so very well together at one time in the Cabinet offices.
I appreciated the opportunity to work with Linda as Minister of Economic Development. She was very understanding of the pressures of individuals who occupy those offices and always one of Yukonís respected professional public servants.
Because she was an intensely private person, unfortunately our conversations over the years were limited to pleasant exchanges. I emphasize the pleasant, because behind her beautiful long hair, Linda would reveal the brightest, warmest smile you can imagine. Behind the smile and her private nature was also an artistic individual. Some Yukoners are lucky enough to have lovely pieces of jewellery crafted by Linda. The Village of Mayo has a painting of the Yukon Order of Pioneers hall painted by Linda, and it is hanging in their council chambers. Her artistic side is also very clear in the prologue to Gold and Galena. Linda wrote: ďBy the middle of May, natureís spell has completely won every heart. The creek gravels are laced with gold, the hills glitter with silver and the land is bountiful. People are alive and free in the heart of the Yukon, and thereís no better place to be.Ē
I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy to Howard, Scott and Val, and their extended family, Lindaís coworkers and friends throughout the Yukon. Linda has left us too early, her artistic legacy will not.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have for tabling the crime prevention and victim services trust fund annual reports for 2002-03 and 2003-04.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I have for tabling several documents that were requested during the debate on the Department of Economic Development.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Cathers: † I rise in the House today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to comply with the unanimous request of the western premiers to recognize the spruce bark beetle and pine beetle infestations in southern Yukon and in central and northern British Columbia as natural disasters and provide adequate funding to address this rapidly growing problem, in partnership with the Yukon, British Columbia and First Nation governments, before the situation becomes much worse.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Before proceeding, the Chair will rule on a point of order raised during Question Period yesterday.
Speaker: During his first supplementary question regarding the Kwanlin Dun First Nation memorandum of understanding, the Member for Mount Lorne said, ďThe commitments made by this government are not worth the paper theyíre printed on.Ē In response the Hon. Premier said, ďThe member opposite has just alluded to the fact that the land claims agreements are worthless.Ē The official opposition House leader then rose on a point of order, citing Standing Order 19(g), which says, ďA member shall be called to order by the Speaker if that member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member.Ē
From the Chairís perspective there is no point of order here. The Premier reinterpreted the words of the Member for Mount Lorne. The accuracy of the Premierís reinterpretation was obviously in dispute. However, the Chair cannot find in the Premierís words any attribution of motive to the Member for Mount Lorne.
Disagreements over the interpretation members put on each otherís words will, depending on the context, usually constitute a dispute between members. However, members must take care that their paraphrasing of other membersí statements adhere to other proprieties of the House and are not insulting, do not cast aspersions, or suggest a member is deliberately misleading the House.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Alaska-Yukon railroad feasibility study
Mr. Hardy: Last week, the Minister of Economic Development tabled his departmentís request for proposals that would help make the governmentís case for a proposed Alaska-Canada rail link. That RFP and the letter of transmittal from Charles River Associates both made it very clear that the government was only interested in hearing positive things about this maybe railroad.
Yesterday I tabled another report the ministerís department bought last year, which he didnít seem to be aware of a few days ago. In the interests of full public disclosure, will the minister table all drafts of the report by Charles River Associates and any directions given to the consultants between the draft stage and the final stage of that report?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I believe the use of the phrase ďmake the departmentís caseĒ is inaccurate in this case. What we wanted to know from this report was if there was a reason to go ahead with the feasibility study and to look at where we go from there. We were very pleased that that report came back and said there was, in their words, a compelling case to continue the study. It was a clear indication that such a feasibility study is necessary, and we were pleased with that.
As I have tabled before and as we have discussed before, it was an independent bit of research done by an independent company, and we knew ahead of time that if that report came in different from what we expected, we would have to live with the results.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, this is the third time Iíve asked for the drafts, and this is the third time this government has refused to be open and accountable. The minister has been very preoccupied, checking out the Montreal fashion scene, but he must be aware thereís a growing concern across Canada about this railway being used to support the American military cause.
The government side went to great lengths to block our motion opposing the totally unjustified U.S. war in Iraq, so itís not surprising to us that they donít seem to share that concern. What we find very disturbing is this governmentís attempt to downplay the military role of this railway. There were nine pages in the draft report and only two pages in the final report.
Was it the consultant or the Yukon government who decided the final report from Charles River Associates should pay less attention to the military benefits, and why does the minister think that information should be kept from the Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I find it interesting that the member opposite refers to the Montreal fashion scene. The North American show, which I attended with the senator from Nunavut and our MP from the Yukon, I might add, was to highlight the use of northern furs in the fashion industry, in support of our trappers, in support of that way of life, and in support of our communities.
The member opposite is continually critical of what he perceives as a lack of economic development in our communities, and now here he is saying that this is the Montreal fashion scene. I think he should perhaps realign his thinking. This is a very long-standing traditional way of life, and itís one that this government supports.
Mr. Hardy: Now, this minister completely avoided answering the question. He rattled on about the fashion scene he attended. His responsibility is here in the Legislative Assembly when we are sitting.
Yesterday, the Premier got quite worked up about this subject, which we are talking about and which this minister would not respond to. He went on at length about how dreadful relations with Alaska would be if our party formed the government.
Let me tell the Premier this: the Yukon people have a reason to be concerned with this governmentís relationship with Alaska. They donít want any part of U.S. weapons of mass destruction; they donít want any part of Star Wars, they donít want to be drawn into any kind of U.S. military orbit, and they donít want their Premier to try to recruit them to march in Governor Murkowskiís parade. Why are millions of Yukon tax dollars being used to study a scheme that has an obvious benefit for the U.S. military machine but very questionable benefits for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Maybe I wonít go back at length then and comment on the member oppositeís continued attack on trapping as a way of life and a very long-standing Yukon way of life, and part of the economy in our rural communities.
The railways are the most efficient way and the most environmentally friendly way to move goods. They use less fuel per pound of goods shipped than any other kind of shipping. This becomes more important with diminishing fuel supplies, more expensive fuel supplies and, frankly, anyone who supports Kyoto would have to take a serious look at railways as a viable alternative.
By putting a large portion of the freight that is normally shipped by truck over the Alaska Highway onto rail, we can reduce the wear and tear on our highways. We can spend a fortune every year repairing the highways from damage suffered mostly as a result of heavy truck traffic, or we can also likely have a rail company that will maintain the rail bed, not the taxpayer, and we can look at using the funds from that in further diversification of our economy in other areas. It is something that we really should look at. Thatís what we asked; thatís what we got.
Question re:††† Alaska-Yukon railroad feasibility study
Mr. Hardy: I agree. They asked for it and they got exactly what they asked for.
The Premier is asking the Legislature to authorize the biggest budget by far in Yukon history: $784 million, taxpayersí dollars, give or take a few million here or there. Now, whenever the Premier gets a whim to spend taxpayersí money without asking permission, he goes ahead and does it. Of course the Premier isnít too willing to acknowledge how dependent he is on the federal government to support his spending habits. Anyone who isnít in a coma must realize the federal government is barely clinging to power and could fall any day now without having its own budget in place.
My question: how much of the expected revenue from the federal government that shows up in the Premierís 2005-06 budget is not locked in place and might disappear with a change of government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I donít know how many times the government side has to articulate for the members opposite how we must budget and manage the finances of the territory. We would never, as a government, book monies that we donít have, and Iíve said this on numerous occasions in the House for the membersí benefit. Anything thatís in our 2005-06 budget has already been given spending authority.
This is not about dependency. This is about Yukon getting its fair share as it should be. We are using that investment wisely and I think the statistics bear that out. We are stimulating our economy, we are improving our social fabric, strengthening it, we are improving education, and we are building Yukonís future through wise investments and sound fiscal management.
Mr. Hardy: Sound fiscal management ó my.
Anyway, we havenít seen the last few yearsí final figures on ministerial travel, Mr. Speaker, but by the middle of March, four Cabinet ministers had already overspent their budgets for Outside travel. The Minister of Economic Development alone was more than $10,000 overbudget. The Energy, Mines and Resources minister was $4,000 overbudget. The question for Yukon people is: are we getting value for money?
A few months back, the Premier travelled to Ottawa, side by side with his friend, the Governor of Alaska. They went there to drum up support for an Alaska Highway pipeline and a railway feasibility study. Can the Premier explain why his lobbying hasnít put one thin time of federal money on the table for the railway study and why he is asking Yukon taxpayers to pay for it instead?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, our trip to Ottawa, in partnership with the Governor of Alaska and the State of Alaska, was very constructive. Not only did we get a commitment from the minister responsible that the federal government is onside with doing a feasibility study for the rail link ó because it makes sense as agreed to by other jurisdictions, not only Washington and Alaska but Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta. All these jurisdictions see clearly what this means. Unfortunately, the members opposite simply canít grasp the importance of doing a feasibility study like this.
Furthermore, we have further commitment and a positive response from Canada around the Alaska Highway pipeline, including the chair of the energy committee, the Deputy Prime Minister saying they will soon be declaring what regulatory process will apply to an Alaska Highway pipeline, and we have a commitment from Alaska to ensure that Yukon has tidewater access. I think that is travel well-spent.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier has come up empty-handed, because the federal government isnít convinced the railway is a good idea, and they did put out a study a few years ago that shows that. So obviously the Premier didnít read it. Now, just yesterday Ottawa committed more money to help the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition in Northwest Territories. Our Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources came back from Ottawa empty-handed when he asked for similar support for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition on this side of the border. Maybe the Premier should hire the Premier of the Northwest Territories to lobby for him in Ottawa. He is obviously far more successful than this Premier.
Will the Premier now hold off on his misguided plan to use Yukon tax dollars for the railway feasibility study and tell the Governor of Alaska heíll have to wait until whoever forms government in Ottawa makes a commitment of federal funds.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government certainly will not hold off on investing in building Yukonís future, and we will continue to find initiatives and work on initiatives that will contribute positively to building Yukonís future, and letís look at some of the evidence to date. We have an increasing population: over 1,100 more Yukoners today. Under those governments ó the NDP and the former Liberal governments ó there was an exodus of the population. We have in the neighbourhood of 1,900 more new jobs for Yukoners. We have a 3.7-percent GDP increase ó one of the best in Canada. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, at 4.8 percent; 82 percent of those employed Yukoners are full-time employees. The difference is we have a vision; we have a plan; we are investing in initiatives that build the Yukonís future positively. These are the results. Former governments ó NDP and Liberal ó saw an exodus of the population, borrowed money to pay for programs and services, high double-digit unemployment rates, negativity, no optimism, no vision, no plan.
The contrast is clear, Mr. Speaker. Yukoners can choose our management, our leadership, or that of the members opposite.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Economic Development said recently that the railroad to Alaska has ďnothing to do whatsoeverĒ with the U.S. missile defence plan. This is of course completely wrong.
Let me read from a story written by the Associated Press, the largest news organization in the United States. ďA rail link between Alaska and Canada would enable the United States to support anti-ballistic missile silos and military bases, a new study says.Ē The governmentís own feasibility study ó the Charles River report ó contradicts the minister.
Will the minister correct the public record and admit the information he gave the public was wrong? Will he admit thereís an entire section of the report that details the benefits of the railroad to the missile defence system?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Regarding the question of military use of the railroad, I would remind the member opposite that if we were really looking at the military use of the railroad, we would be looking at the military use of the Alaska Highway, and that already exists.
An Alaska-Canada rail link would create a new means of transporting goods between Yukon and central Alaska and the Lower 48, as well as the rest of Canada. Freight traffic in the region from the south currently arrives in the region via the Alaska Highway already, via containers and trailers on vessels, through the Port of Anchorage and via rail-barge service to the Port of Whittier.
Some of the existing traffic would almost certainly be captured by the Alaska-Canada rail link. This is from the same study, Mr. Speaker. For example, one would expect the railroad to capture virtually all the current rail-barge traffic and a substantial fraction of any long distance truck traffic utilizing the Alaska Highway.
In addition, intermodal rail service might well displace vessels for the movement of some container and trailer traffic into interior Alaska destinations.
Mr. Speaker, we are told by the Alaskans that what the member opposite is concerned about is already there. It has already been transported. It doesnít have anything to do with this proposal.
Ms. Duncan: Last week, the Minister of Economic Development said publicly that the rail line has nothing to do whatsoever with missile defence. That is completely wrong. A week ago, the minister said the athletes village was not going to be ready. He was wrong. He said this winter that public servants had a political agenda. He was wrong. The minister has had to apologize and retract comments before. He needs to do it again.
Will the minister apologize and admit he gave out the wrong information to the public about the contents of the Charles River Associates report? Will the minister admit that the Yukon has now committed $3 million that will help the Americans lower the cost of their missile defence system?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There is certainly no apology for stating the obvious. Even with the athletes village, it is late in the day; we are in a bit of trouble on that, and we will do what we have to in order to come up with a viable athletes village that will serve the purposes of the games. Itís still going to happen, but it might have to be massaged a little bit.
The rail project will complete the Canadian vision of a rail link from sea to sea to sea. It will serve much more than mineral extraction in the Yukon, which is what one study in 2001 looked at exclusively. It will reduce the load on container shipping from Asia, something that report never even looked at. It will aid in mineral extraction from within Alaska. That report never looked at that either. It has the potential to move goods for pipeline construction in a much more efficient way. It has the potential to provide a tourism advantage. The Alaska railroad is best known for its tourism. Thatís what most people know it for, yet the largest part of its revenue comes from freight.
This is why we have to do a much more detailed study to determine its feasibility. To say that the railroad could carry anything, and then try to cherry-pick a couple of things they donít want it to carry ó again, our train is moving forward. Their train appears to be moving in reverse.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Party is desperately trying to downplay the military aspects of the rail project. The Minister of Economic Development even tried to deny that the rail line had any military applications. Thatís fiction. The governmentís own report says so. Even the Governor of Alaska admits the project will help the ballistic missile defence system. Earlier this year, when the minister attacked Yukon public servants and said they were secretive and had a political agenda, he was forced to apologize. The minister has gone out and made some rash comments that turned out to be incorrect. Will the minister simply admit he made a mistake, exercise moral leadership and apologize to Yukoners for his error?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The moral leadership, for the member opposite, is in getting the facts straight and approaching them in a straightforward manner. A railroad, as a highway, can carry anything. Again, to cherry-pick individual things and say that it canít be done ó Iím suspicious that they may, God forbid, carry pistols and firearms. In bond, thatís perfectly admissible and we have those things going up the highway as we speak now. We look at the entire transportation corridor. We look at the facts.
When I was in Montreal, promoting our trapping industry ó which the leader of the official opposition seems to object to ó there was a nice little ad on TV. It showed a highway with lots of trucks moving, and a railroad. It showed the tree reaching over and picking things off of the trucks and setting them down onto the railroad, pointing out that itís much more energy efficient. It helps meet our Kyoto Accord problems. It uses less fuel. Itís cleaner burning. Letís look at the entire package. Letís not simply cherry-pick one little thing and then try to jump to a conclusion. Our train is moving forward. We feel that it is worthwhile to do a feasibility study. The pre-feasibility study indicates that. We are proceeding, and weíre going forward not backward.
Question re: Government office accommodation
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Minister of the Department of Highways and Public Works. It has been brought to my attention that the contract services, information management and insurance branches in this department will be moving their offices from the current location above the Performance Centre on Fourth Avenue to new office space. We would like to know who authorized this move. Was it the minister?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at reshuffling some of our staff around to get them all in one area so we can have better supervision of that department.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer the question. Heís reshuffling staff ó ďreshuffling staffĒ is what he said. The new office space is a built-to-lease agreement located in the former Liberal governmentís one-stop shop on Quartz Road, and the Yukon Party heavily criticized this project at the time. The Premier, when he was on this side of the House said this: ďThe move was a waste of taxpayersí money.Ē Thatís how blunt the Premier was. This is what the Deputy Premier had to say at the time. ďWe have all the government offices moving out of downtown Whitehorse. We are attempting to create a ghost town in downtown Whitehorse. For why? I donít know.Ē That was the Member for Klondike.
†The Yukon Party has changed its mind and now wants to build a 6,000-square-foot addition onto the building. My question again to the minister: who authorized this move? Why did they change their mind, and what makes this a good idea now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in a 10-year lease on that particular property. We donít have a choice. So that particular aspect is that we have to deal with that situation, so weíre maximizing our use of that particular building. Weíre stuck with that building, and weíll work with that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, who authorized the move? If it wasnít the minister, who was it? Theyíre building a new 6,000-square-foot addition, not utilizing the building as the minister said. This move will cost taxpayers a lot more money for the same space they currently rent. The government is now paying about $100,000 a year for rent but will soon be paying about $240,000 for the same space. This government likes to spend heavy when it comes to taxpayersí money.
Whatís more, the ministerís department entered into a long-term contract. Again, who authorized the move? What was the rationale for the move?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are looking at making our Department of Highways and Public Works work in a much more efficient manner so we can control our people in our area. Weíre looking at that particular aspect. Weíre trying to maximize using a facility that we have little or no choice to work from. The lease is for 10 years. We donít have any choice in that lease, so weíre working with that particular entity and weíre looking at an addition to that facility so we can combine all our people in one spot there.
I might remind the members opposite that we are still utilizing that space above the Performance Centre.
Question re: Highway signage
Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up on a question asked a month ago by my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun. He asked the acting Highways and Public Works minister about the confusion within government and the business community with respect to highway business signage.
As the minister should know, his sign policy has frustrated business owners for some time now. In fact, the minister is part of the problem because he announced a new policy early in 2003 but later rescinded it. Heís probably even more confused now, after hearing from the Member for Klondike.
The acting minister said the policy wonít be changing and thereís a policy in place. If thatís true, why are we still hearing from frustrated business owners?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will advise the member opposite that we are working with all the partners involved in signage ó TIAY, the Whitehorse Chamber, as well as the Yukon Chamber ó and we will be coming out with a policy shortly that will address new signage for all the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: One letter I received is from a First Nation gentleman who has carefully followed this governmentís policy. He provided me with correspondence to back that up. This Yukon Party government had assured this person that his signs would be permitted for three years, but now the government has changed its mind and wants him to remove those same signs. Allow me to quote from his letter: ďThe Yukon government says it wants to work with First Nation people on economic development and tourism, but this is sure a poor way of showing it.Ē
What does the minister have to say to this person?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated earlier, we are working with the Whitehorse Chamber, TIAY, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, and we are looking at putting the new process in place that will take care of signage throughout the Yukon, and we intend to do that as soon as possible.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís a heck of a message Iíll deliver to the person.
Thereís another case that I want to bring to the attention of this minister. This business owner is relying on highway signage to advertise his new business. Without it, the business is sure to fail. Apparently the government wonít give him a permit because it has put a moratorium on permits until the new policy is approved. He has also been told that itís the governmentís new policy to waive fees for highway signage. With mixed messages like this, itís no wonder the business community is confused.
In case the minister hasnít noticed, tourism season is upon us now. What will he do to straighten out this mess and allow people to advertise their businesses with highway signs before any more of the tourism season ticks away?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will repeat again that we are working with all the individuals involved in tourism and service industries throughout the Yukon on signage. We are bringing forth signage for this year as soon as possible, and we will try to direct also what the member opposite was talking about for the upcoming tourism season. We intend to do that as quickly as possible.
Question re: Well-drilling program
†Mr. Cardiff: Last spring, the Minister of Community Services announced a well-drilling program for rural Yukon residents. While the program was welcome, it excluded rural residents who lived within municipal boundaries. I asked the minister last spring to make this program available to rural residents who live within municipal boundaries. The minister refused to do that, saying it would be an infringement on municipal jurisdiction.
What is the minister doing to correct this problem with this well program?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I previously stated, residential property within municipal boundaries is their right. Thatís what theyíre working on. I will also remind the member opposite that we were working with the City of Whitehorse on this particular issue to address the concerns for his constituents. We are working with the city, and they came up with a proposal to us. We are also working with all municipalities throughout the Yukon on a venue through which we can provide a service similar to the ones weíre providing out there. Weíve made that option out there, and weíre working on that.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíve asked the minister on several occasions in the past year to work cooperatively with municipalities and the Association of Yukon Communities to find a solution to this problem. The minister needs to realize that municipalities donít have the funds available to offer this program, but the minister and his government do have the money. He just put another $700,000 into the program this year. I was led to understand that he was making some progress on this issue.
Can the minister tell us what municipalities his department is working with to make this program accessible to all rural residents in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Hart: All rural residents in Yukon outside municipalities have the eligibility to apply under the well-drilling program that is currently there. There is nothing else. For the member to deal with rural residents within municipalities, we are working with Association of Yukon Communities on an option for what to do as far as assisting them, and we are getting close to making arrangements with all municipalities.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, for the past year or more, I have continually made the minister aware of my concern and the desires of those Yukon residents who have been excluded on this issue. Iím not just talking about my constituents. He seemed to think that itís just the residents in Whitehorse.
The minister has created a program that discriminates against Yukon citizens based on where they live, and they donít like that. The minister and his department have a responsibility to serve Yukoners and communities. It says that right on the departmentís Web site, and it means all Yukoners, regardless of where they live.
When will the minister take his responsibilities seriously and make the well-drilling program available to all Yukon residents, regardless of where they live?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, before he lights off to Mars, I will advise him once again ó okay, letís try to go back a little bit for the member opposite.
We brought the well program in to try to assist rural Yukoners in getting a well. Itís just an option for rural members outside of municipalities to get water versus the delivery. Thatís a service that we provided, and itís getting in there. Itís based on the rural electrification program, and thatís why we did it, because we are in control of taxes outside of municipalities.
We have to work with the municipalities to deal with the situation of working within their boundaries, and we are doing that, and we have provided an option to the municipalities through the Association of Yukon Communities as well as working through the City of Whitehorse, and we are working on that particular aspect to provide rural residents within municipalities with a similar option, and we intend to follow through with that.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Earlier this afternoon, there was a gentleman in the gallery and it was obvious he had a recording device in his possession ó a recorder with a large microphone. I checked with the Clerk of the Assembly and clearly that is in contravention of the rules of the House.
Itís also my understanding this is a person who is in the employ of the Yukon Party government and he was introduced by the Member for Lake Laberge on April 27. I would ask you to look into this matter, Mr. Speaker, and, if what Iím saying is accurate, try to prevent it from recurring.
Speaker: So done.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Before we begin debate today, would members like a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We will continue with Vote 53, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó continued
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures ó continued
On Sustainable Resources ó continued
On Agriculture ó continued
Hon. Mr. Lang: Welcome back to the debate. In closing yesterday, when we were discussing the agriculture branch of Energy, Mines and Resources, we were talking about issues around land, which is a very crucial issue to the agriculture industry. We were discussing the Agricultural Association, organic growers and how they fit into the picture. We then expanded to what we do with our policy and how we work with the federal agriculture department to expand our resources so we can address some of the issues. Some of the issues are on a national level, relying on funding from the federal government. We have been very positive in working with the federal government. The federal government has partnered up with agriculture issues across Canada ó for example BSE. The cattle producers in this country have been in a situation because of BSE where they canít move product across the international border.
This of course has affected us, because we have elk and bison farmers here in the Yukon, and reindeer farmers at one point, that were depending on a market that we couldnít get to because of the limitations we had at the international border.
The federal government and the Minister of Agriculture federally have come to the aid of Canada and certainly to the aid of the cattle growers in southern Canada. Of course, a lot of the programs we can piggyback on, and those programs are positive for our small agricultural industries that are here in Yukon, a growing part of our economy and, at the end of the day, they as individuals can apply for this assistance and move forward with their operations. This is a small amount of resources, but very large to the independent farmers.
So my job as minister responsible for agriculture is to make sure that we maximize the benefits to the local farmers, the agricultural industry at the gate. Thatís what my job is: minimize costs at one end, maximize the gate receipts for the farmer.
So in Energy, Mines and Resources, as we work with agriculture, as we work with forestry, as we work with the mining community, itís hard not to look back 12 months so that we can look forward 12 months. This budget we put together is a very aggressive budget: $784 million overall. There was a question from the opposition about me being up to the mark on every department ó in other words the $784 million being spent ó and the questions coming back and forth.
My department, Energy, Mines and Resources, is a large department. Weíre not the largest capital expenditure. Weíre more of a regulatory department. To give you a background of what weíve done in 12 months, itís amazing. Weíve had $35 million to $40 million spent in the oil and gas industry in the Yukon in the last 12 months. Thatís the first money spent over 30 years.
In the agricultural end of things, again a small part of a very large department, we take a growing situation, we take the farmers and of course the Agricultural Association ó I guess I was uncomfortable with the fact that we were debating the Agricultural Association, the pros and cons of the Agricultural Association when theyíre not here to defend themselves. My argument on that was ó and from this side of the House and of course from the government side of the House ó that these associations are set up for a purpose. Theyíre set up to represent their constituents, their industry and we have a commitment as government to work with them. Theyíre again reminded that they do have a hired individual who does the secretariat work, does a bit of the footwork. In these organizations, like in agriculture, 90 percent of the work is done by volunteers. That is a large task for a very small group of individuals. At the end of the day, the agricultural industry benefits from that work.
In the arguments about how the Agricultural Association and we, the government, work, when we came to office two a half years ago the Agricultural Association received a $15,000 benefit agreement ó access to those resources ó from the Yukon government.
We addressed that issue because these associations needed more money. We said what we have to do is get an amount of money out there. In other words, every association that comes to us that gets funding should have roughly the same amount of resources. We settled on a figure of $25,000. That $25,000 for the association has proven to be the magic figure because, in fact, it does the job they have to do to get the job done.
As far as agriculture is concerned, itís a very small part of our department, but a growing industry in the Yukon. Itís a growing industry, in the sense that at the end of the day, itís incredible. Yesterday I mentioned the Yukon Grain Farm producing all those potatoes from 22 acres of land in the Yukon ó a huge production. It is a small part of the industry, but a growing one. Now, we have potatoes on the market that are home grown and organically grown. At the end of the day, itís very positive for all of Yukon.
When we argue about the merits of agriculture, what theyíre doing, or how, at the end of the day the Agricultural Association serves a purpose; the argument is very clear. The Agricultural Association does serve a purpose. They work with their membership to work with us, so that we as a government can meet with the association. We donít have to meet with every farmer. We can call in their executive and have discussions on issues pertaining to us and the agriculture industry and, at the end of the day, get the job done.
As far as Energy, Mines and Resources is concerned and as far as agriculture is concerned, weíre working very positively at it. Thereís a lot of money invested in the ground on these farms, whether itís dollars or sweat equity. A large amount of work has to be done. We are first-generation farmers in the Yukon.
The only farm that has been here for two generations is the Pelly River farm. That farm has been a successful farm since the turn of the last century. That farm has been an active farm. It has been utilized as agricultural property since the turn of the last century, sometimes on a family basis, sometimes on a commercial basis. Today I think they run 100 to 150 head of cattle, they sell meat off the property ó grass-fed beef. They also sell large and mixed garden goods ó potatoes and carrots. Three families live off the land at the Pelly River farm. Everybody in the Yukon who has means to get there, when you drive past Pelly Crossing you should turn left. Itís 35 kilometres down a very good road and, at the end of the day, youíll see a beautiful operation. All of what you see at Pelly River farm is what two generations put together.
Moving along, what Iíd like to say in closing is that agriculture is a growing industry and a growing part of this department. Weíre very actively looking at opening more land for the farming community in Yukon. There are some interesting prospects in the Haines Junction area; there are interesting prospects in the Stewart Valley. I remind members opposite that the Stewart Valley at one time fed Dawson City, whether for their animals or the individuals who lived in the Klondike.
The potential is there; itís a growing industry. I admire the individuals strong of back who go out and actually turn Yukon into productive agricultural land.
They are a very independent group of people and are strong of mind and strong of back. At the end of the day, they produce farms that every Yukoner should be proud of. So thank you, Mr. Chair, and weíll carry on with the debate.
Mr. Cardiff: I was listening intently yesterday afternoon, and just before the minister adjourned the House 12 minutes early, he mentioned in line item debate here in this particular line item that there were parcels of land near the Carcross Cutoff that were being surveyed and would be ready for sale in 2005 and hopefully weíll be moving that ahead in a speedy fashion. I did a quick survey of some residents last evening to find out if they knew anything about this land development, and they didnít appear to. Could the minister be more specific about the land thatís going to be available at the Carcross Cutoff, for starters?† Could he tell me where it is?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There are a couple of parcels of land that have potential. We certainly will be going through a public process to make sure that the public has input and also the public knows about the land. So weíre in the process. I can say from this side of the House that there will be public consultation on any land that we put out for prospective agricultural or rural residential land.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister didnít answer the question. I asked him to be more specific about where the parcels near the Carcross Cutoff were that were going to be available this year.
Now, I know that the department is looking at land in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, and there is a process that theyíre going to go through. The hamlet council is happy at this point with the way that that process is proceeding. But theyíre not aware in the hamlet or in other areas around the cutoff of any lots that are going to be available in this year. He said 2005.
I remind the minister that thatís the year weíre in right now. There are only about seven and a half months left, so if itís going to be available this year, where is it going to be? Has there been consultation to date on those parcels that are going to be available this year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can tell the member opposite that certainly I appreciate the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and the work theyíre doing with our department to answer some of the land questions out in their area. I can assure the member opposite that no land will be pinpointed. There will be a process, and the process will work. There will be public consultation on any land thatís available at the Carcross Cutoff. Weíre looking at trying to get land out sooner than later, but the land will not be sent out without public consultation. Mount Lorne will be notified. The residents of the area will be notified, and there will be steps in place to make sure that at end of the day everybody has input. I would like to see land out sooner than later, but there is a process, and we will follow that process.
Mr. Cardiff: I was listening intently and I donít believe I heard ó heís talking about the land that is going to be available in the hamlet, but he wasnít specific about where the lots are that are being surveyed right now. Thatís what he says: ďWe have parcels near the Carcross Cutoff that are being surveyed and will be ready for sale in 2005.Ē Where is it? While heís finding that out, maybe he can tell us where the 1,500 hectares in the Haines Junction area are.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think probably instead of me debating on where things are in Haines Junction or at the Carcross turnoff, I could give the member some details on it that would serve him well to inform him of whatís happening.
Mr. Cardiff: So the minister is committing right now to providing that information to us on this side of the House. Can he provide us with a little detail, at least, and send the maps over?
Mr. Chair, if there are parcels that are being surveyed near the Carcross Cutoff, you would have surveyors out there and you would have to know where those surveyors are. Otherwise the ministerís department isnít doing its job ó it doesnít know where the employees or contractors are. Theyíre out there surveying something and we donít know where it is.
The minister needs to come clean on this. I would appreciate getting the information.
The minister also made a statement yesterday in this department about spot land policy. Hereís what he said, ďCertainly, we have some questions about the spot land policy, but there has been no formal complaint and no formal request that we stop the spot process.Ē
That is ó I donít know if I can say it, but that is false. Thatís not a true representation of the facts. The minister should read his correspondence from the Hamlet of Mount Lorne.
Chair: Order please. In our Assembly, members will often have a different interpretation and a different recollection of the facts, but to impute that another member was intentionally presenting false information on the floor, is out of order. There may be a dispute here about the accuracy of the information.
Mr. Cardiff: I agree with that. There is a dispute over the accuracy of the information that the minister presented. What Iím asking the minister to do is to read his correspondence from the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, to read his correspondence from people who live in Mount Lorne ó Iíve been copied on it ó about the spot land application process and to read the newspaper because there are a lot of problems with the spot land application process. Maybe thatís why it hasnít been very successful. Maybe thatís why, since last fall, there have been 20 applications and only five have been approved. Itís not working and itís causing a problem in the community. Itís pitting people against people. Thatís not helpful. Itís affecting peopleís businesses and itís affecting peopleís family lives.
The minister just stood and talked about all the things they were doing for the agriculture business. What are they doing for the wilderness tourism business?
The minister agreed to provide detailed information on two subjects. He agreed to provide detailed information on the 1,500 hectares in the Haines Junction area, and he also agreed to provide detailed information on the parcels currently being surveyed near the Carcross Cutoff. When can we expect to have that information? Can we have it before the end of the sitting?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to our Standing Orders, the debate is supposed to confine itself to the matter under discussion. Weíre under discussion of the line item for agriculture, not the line item for lands. That has already been passed.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, although we should grant the backbencher some latitude, heís not even in the same world here. Weíre talking about agricultural lands. There is no point of order.
Chair: Mr. Cardiff, on the point of order.
Mr. Cardiff: On the point of order, the minister was talking about it on this line item yesterday, so I fail to see the point of order being raised by the Member for Lake Laberge. If the minister was talking about it yesterday in the Blues ó
Chair: There is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the members opposite going back on the land issue. I as the minister have committed to get back as soon as possible on those issues regarding land in Haines Junction and at the Carcross Cutoff.
My learned friend and I have certainly listened to the Member for Mount Lorne, and we have discussed it. A spot land policy has not been 100-percent successful. It is something that we inherited through devolution. Itís a process. Mount Lorne has communicated with us and wants planned land, and thatís what weíre proceeding to do. They donít like spot land, but in the communication that I read, they demanded that we stop the process. Weíre going to grow out of this spot land policy somewhere down the road in a very businesslike way.
But there are opportunities ó as the member opposite said, 20 applications and five success stories. If we cancel it, the five success stories wouldnít be there. Weíre working with it. Itís not the best system in the world. There isnít anybody in the House who would say the spot land policy is the best policy, but we are working on the issues of rural residential land, agricultural land. Weíre working with rec land. Weíre doing our job and thatís all we can do.
As far as Mount Lorne, weíre working with them very positively on a plan, on some land issues in their area. The hamlet has been informed. The hamlets have been part of this planning process, and we will proceed to do that. Weíre not going to do anything different with Mount Lorne than weíll do with any other part of the Yukon in communicating the information we have at hand. Haines Junction will be communicated with on the land that is outside their community. Weíre going to work with the governments, the hamlets, the First Nation, to try to resolve this land issue. At the moment, weíre working with the hand we were dealt, and we were dealt a hand when devolution came over to our side, to the Yukon. Weíre working with that. As we work through it, weíll get our land policy together. Weíll have an agricultural policy, rural residential, recreational land.
To insinuate that we on this side of the House would do a process differently on the Carcross turnoff, if we have access to some land there, than we do with Mount Lorne or Ibex Valley or Grizzly Valley or Deep Creek, it is not correct. The process is in place to address the issues that Yukoners want us to address. One of the issues is that they want access to land. Thatís what they want.
I hear the opposition ó one minute theyíre talking about access to land; the next minute the member opposite insinuated, or actually asked us to cancel the spot land policy, to just put it on hold; until we get a whole-land policy put together, letís eliminate any access to land.
Iím not prepared to do that, Mr. Chair. Weíre going to move forward; weíre going to do our homework, and weíre going to work with the different governments to get land into the hands of Yukoners in a very positive way. We are doing it; we are slowly working our way into managing the responsibility of the land that we acquired through devolution, and weíre working with the hand we were dealt. The hand we were dealt was what we took over from DIAND and the process we took over from DIAND.
To stop everything in its tracks is moving backward. We have to work with Yukoners to get land out, and we will get land out in a process thatís acceptable to Yukoners, but at the end of the day Yukoners are demanding access to land.
Mr. McRobb: The minister failed to answer the question, so Iím going to go back to the question, but first I have to say to the minister that there are a multitude of issues we in this House deal with in any given department. This department certainly is even greater in the diversity of issues. It covers everything from forestry to mining to energy, oil and gas, pipelines, agriculture, all kinds of issues. So for the minister to stand up and accuse us of going from one issue to another, I donít quite understand it.
If this job is too difficult for him, maybe he should go back to selling turnips or something. He is the minister. He has to answer our questions in here. Thatís all part of being accountable to the Yukon public. We ask questions on behalf of the public.
The minister stood up and said he wants to work with all the local groups, but what he is not working with are the MLAs who represent those same regions. He wonít even tell us what he has got cooking in our own ridings. That is a big secret.
What happened to the four Cs promised by this government ó collaboration, consensus-building, and all that stuff? That was complete political garbage. None of it has panned out. Itís no wonder that the debate in this Legislature has stooped to what it is now.
The minister did indicate that he would provide us with the information. Letís nail that down. Will he provide it to us by tomorrow, or at the very latest on Tuesday? Would he table that before this session ends?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In response to the member oppositeís comments about my job as the minister, my job is to answer questions. I answer them as well as I can and as correctly as I can. Thatís my job. The member opposite sometimes doesnít like the answer, so we obviously have to agree to disagree.
As far as a timetable of when I can get that information together, I will get it together as promptly as I possibly can, working with my learned friends in the department. Iím not committing myself to any day. He will get access to that information. Thatís my job, and thatís what Iím going to do. I will commit to do that.
Ms. Duncan: I have a couple of questions with respect to agriculture for the minister. The Minister of Economic Development is supposed to be tabling the economic forecast. Usually there is a statistic tabled in there ó the percentage of the Yukonís GDP thatís directly attributable to agriculture. Does the minister happen to have that figure?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, I donít have that at my fingertips, but Iíd be interested to see it myself. So Iíll get the information to you.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon has an abattoir at Partridge Creek. Do we have any sort of report on its current operation, and what are the plans by either the Agricultural Association or in concert with the agriculture branch for future abattoir resources in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly have been working with Partridge Creek. As we all know itís an existing abattoir, and I would like to compliment the farm for the service they have offered in the past and will, of course, in the future. Logistically, there are a few issues. For the growers in this area, we have put some subsidies together to make sure that there are some economics in taking animals there and bringing them back. That has been an issue. Of course, the Agricultural Association has been interested in looking at a mobile abattoir. That would be in the process now. What weíre doing as a government and what the Agricultural Association ó theyíre putting a business plan together to see the viability of that concept. We all understand that there is a growing beef industry in the Yukon. There is access to markets if we had that kind of flexible abattoir. Understanding we canít send it across the border ó it would not be at any point, I guess, until we got the volume up, a federally certified abattoir. But it would certainly service the Yukon and, of course, the majority of the people are in Whitehorse, and a growing part of agriculture is selling beef at the gate or selling elk and bison. It is a huge industry for the agricultural industry in the Yukon.
So the answer is that Iím looking forward to seeing that business plan, and Iím going to work with the association to try to address those concerns.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate, as the minister said, that we agree on this point that itís a growing industry. That isnít a pun; thatís the reality of the fact, particularly with respect to meat inspections and the opportunity for people to buy meat at the gate: bison, elk or Yukon beef.
Having been ó and I am ó a volunteer in many organizations and having been the executive director of non-profit organizations, I appreciate the work the executive directors and volunteers do. The problem I have is when you have an organization involved in doing a business plan. In part thereís government involvement, either through funding or whatever. At what point does the public get an opportunity and at what point do the public contracting rules apply?
My concern is that there are a number of people interested in a mobile abattoir or a second abattoir in the territory. Where do they fit into this process? Maybe theyíre not members of the Yukon Agricultural Association, so the minister will get a business plan. Where does the public fit into this?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The abattoir is a question mark, and weíre certainly going to critique whatever the association gives us to make sure that, if weíre involved in it, somebody independently analyzes what the association does. Thatís only good business.
At that point, hopefully through that business plan, thereís something in there where the public has some participation.
Iím going to work with what comes in front of us. Thereís nothing written in stone, as far as the abattoir is concerned. Itís just a conceptual plan at the moment. Until we get some figures in front of us, until we get the business plan and work with the association, weíre not going to limit the conversation to just the Agricultural Association.
As the member said, there are a lot of individuals out there who are not, and have never been, part of or members of the Agricultural Association.
So we will take them into consideration and there will be some public input at that point. I think what weíre doing is just good business. We donít want to get questions out there if there are no questions to ask. If we find that the business plan, once we critique it and look it, is a viable option for the industry, if we can partner or we can do something at that point, then the next step is to go out and talk to the general public and, again, talk to the whole association, not just the executive of the Agricultural Association. At that point we would move to the next step of consultation. Then I imagine there must be a process ó I mean, there have to be decisions on not only whether it is better to have a fixed abattoir or better to have a mobile one, what are the benefits, what are the pros and cons of both concepts. Are we going to kill chickens or are we going to red meat? Those are two different abattoirs. There is a whole gamut of work to be done before we pledge any resources in the sense of building anything, whether itís mobile or stationary. At the end of the day, and at that point, we have to follow a process of bidding. I guess there would be a process where we would take this concept out and get some real prices, and that would take competitive bidding to do whatever we decide and the general public and the industry decide would answer their questions.
Thereís no guarantee thereís going to be an abattoir. Iíve committed to wanting to see that as the minister. I think itís a very positive move. But until we critique this and get the business plan ó Iím not an abattoir expert. You might find that surprising. My learned friend is not an expert either, so we need input ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: In abattoirs. Heís an expert in lots of other things though.
Anyway, at the end of the day, what weíre going to do is get some figures in front of us, get some concepts for what we see at the end of the day and answer those questions. Then the general public, the association, the executive of the association and whoever else will all get together and make some decisions and involve as many people as we can who are going to be affected by anything we do.
Ms. Duncan: So what I heard the minister say, and I would just like to state clearly for the record, is that there has been no money given by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to the Agricultural Association to come up with a business plan on a mobile abattoir? No money has exchanged hands here; itís simply an idea that the minister is interested in, lots of Yukoners are interested in it ó Iíll just wait a moment. Before the minister stands up, the question was: has there been any money given to the Agricultural Association to come up with this business plan? If yes, then Iíd like to know that. And if not, above all else, what I heard the minister say is that his door and the door of Energy, Mines and Resources is open to members of the public out there who are interested in this issue and who may or may not choose to go to the Agricultural Association. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question of the member opposite about the resources, there is some discrepancy about the APF fund, so what I would like to do is commit to get back to you, to clarify if, in fact, through the APF fund we funded any part of this proposal that is coming forward. I do commit to being open and accountable, as our government is, to make sure that we inform as many people as we can about what weíre doing with regard to the abattoir ó outside of the organization as it is today.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will provide individuals who are interested with the phone number of the minister and his learned friendís, so they can speak directly with him.
The Agricultural Association had an outstanding loan with the Government of Yukon. That was much discussed in the minutes. Iím not denigrating the association in any way, shape or form, but I would like to know, given that the MLA for Lake Laberge in the minutes committed to work on resolution of this outstanding loan issue, where it stands today with the department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The association is paying it off, so it is coming back to us. There was some question about the resources and how the money was going to be paid. It was a contribution agreement. It was a deal. They have to pay it back, and they are paying it back.
Ms. Duncan: If the minister could just send over the information regarding the agriculture funding arrangements and any more information he has on the abattoir as soon as heís able to, I would appreciate it. I thank the minister for providing the information and for his answers today.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question regarding agricultural land applications. I know a lot of people are interested in agricultural land in my riding. What I am interested in are the applications that have been approved or are going through the approval stage now. Issues have been raised with the First Nation on those applications ó which ones are on hold, or which ones are now before the courts, if any?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, we can clarify what is happening in his area in writing. For my learned friend, the department is working with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation in the next couple of weeks on how the dispositions work. Weíll give you a commitment to get the information back to you.
Agriculture in the amount of $1,170,000 agreed to
Total Sustainable Resources in the amount of $6,638,000 agreed to
On Energy and Corporate Policy
On Energy and Corporate Policy
†Hon. Mr. Lang: In clarifying the energy and corporate policy branch of Energy, Mines and Resources, personnel is 19.2, so thatís full-time employees and the biggest part of this; itís $1.593 million. We have travel in the territory for $5,000. For travel Outside ó federal, provincial and Alaska meetings ó itís $20,000. There are: contract services, research, analyze forestry and energy issues, $40,000; Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment meetings and honoraria, $15,000; miscellaneous, entertainment, supplies, freight, conference fees, $16,000; communications, $9,000. That brings it up to $105,000 for that section. Then there are contributions, Utilities Consumers Group, which is $3,000, so that totals $1,701,000.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions in this area. First of all, how many FTEs are vacant in the energy branch? Can the minister indicate when he plans to fill any vacancies? Can he give us the name of the energy unit or energy branch, whatever itís formally called now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The vacancy thing is a management thing that is an ongoing issue. The department has roughly a six-percent vacancy. We always are out looking for individuals to fill those vacancies. There are people retiring; there are people who are leaving Energy, Mines and Resources, so as far as the numbers, thatís a moving target. I guess in a real world, or a perfect world, weíd have full employment in the department, but thatís not realistic. A rule would be that there would always be about a six-percent vacancy rate. I think probably that goes for the whole government. Any department would always have opportunities for people to move ahead and also to attract new talent. Of course there are always people retiring, whether itís teachers or Energy, Mines and Resources staff or teachers. All these departments have a small vacancy rate.
I think we do a very good job of attracting people in the Yukon. When you look at the statistics, 82 percent of our workforce is full-time. That is not the thing in bigger centres like Vancouver where they have these big-box stores, and a lot of part-time workforce is out there. Because of our lifestyle, we seem to attract people and talent to come to the Yukon. At the end of the day, we have about a six-percent to seven-percent vacancy rate. As far as the name, itís called energy and corporate policy. Energy ó do you want me to spell that? ó and corporate policy.
Mr. McRobb: So the unit that used to be called the energy branch and then the pipeline unit is now called energy and corporate policy. Thatís it. Thereís no unit, no branch. Energy and corporate policy. Thatís rather strange, because there is not really a noun in there to refer to the name of it.
Itís all a nebulous type of name. Nevertheless, I guess thatís what the minister came up with, so thatís what weíll have to contend with. Whatís the ministerís vision for energy and corporate policy?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Well, for the program objectives, I can read those. We develop policy, strategies and programs and legislative instruments to support resource management and development in keeping with government-wide priorities; to provide policy and program advice to the government on energy matters, including developing a comprehensive Yukon energy framework strategy and a climate change strategy; to provide resource sector input into the land-based initiatives, including land claims agreements, regional land use planning, protected areas and implementation of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, YESAA; to increase the publicís awareness and understanding of the departmentís priorities, programs, policies and initiatives.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I guess that demonstrates clearly the minister has no vision for this, whatever it is ó energy and corporate policy. He has no vision. What the minister did was stand up and read the program objectives, which are on paper in front of us all here, who are paying close attention this afternoon. He provided nothing more. So Iíll give the minister a second chance. Does he have a vision, or is his vision the objectives?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, we have a vision. The department has a vision, and weíre going forward. Certainly, weíre working with Yukoners. Weíre working with the energy and corporate policy branch to make sure that the information gets out there. We have a lot of issues out there that we address on a daily basis. But as far as our vision, our vision is to run a territory that becomes more and more self-sufficient by managing its resources in a proper fashion. Thatís the vision, and thatís what the member opposite lacks.
Mr. McRobb: Whatever that means, Mr. Chair. A heck of a vision that is. I guess weíre not going to get too much more out of this minister on his vision.
I had better be careful not to say anything unparliamentary, Mr. Chair, so Iíll just move on.
Can the minister tell us why the energy and corporate policy branch didnít intervene in the Yukon Utilities Board process regarding Yukon Energy Corporationís application?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I was hoping that today we would be more productive ó I think thatís the word. I hope that is not unparliamentary.
As far as intervening in the Yukon Utilities Board, we looked at it and decided it was in good hands. Itís moving forward and hopefully, at the end of the day, the Yukon Utilities Board will come up with a decision.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís a complete cop-out. Let the record show that I said itís a complete cop-out. Thatís exactly what it is.
This branch, or whatever itís called, is supposed to be developing policy and so on. How can it possibly fulfill its mandate and objectives without participating in the very process that effects change to several energy-related areas? How can it possibly do that?
If itís not a participant in the process, then its voice is not being heard and its position is not being considered when the independent regulator makes its decision. How can it possibly fulfill its mandate and reach its objectives unless it is allowed to participate?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís the member oppositeís opinion. We and our department are working very positively to enhance the Yukonís economy in the energy portfolio. As far as the member opposite, he has his opinion on how it should operate and I have mine. My job as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is to work with the department in a positive way to get product out at the other end.
Mr. McRobb: Again, Mr. Chair, let the record show that I believe the ministerís answer was a complete cop-out. It wasnít my opinion; it was a question. He failed to answer it. Obviously heís too busy with whatever else it is he does ó examine heaps of potatoes, and so on ó to really provide direction and ensure that the Energy part of his department is participating where it should.
I must also add that this is a departure from past practice. This department has intervened in previous applications before this board.
I want to follow up with his comprehensive Yukon energy framework strategy. Can the minister tell us where this is at? After two and a half years, weíve heard nothing about it. When is he going to take this to the public? When is it going to be ready for us to inspect? Is there a draft copy available? What is this thing?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I agree with the member opposite; it has been a slow process. Weíre still working in-house to get it out but, again, we want to bring out factual information to the general public and the public will have input into it.
But again, itís a slow process. There have been stumbling blocks, challenges, but we will address them as we move forward. The general public will be informed. When the member opposite talks about energy and what our department does, I think it reflects very well on what weíve done. What have we done in the last year? Weíve worked positively with the oil industry, the mining community, forestry. We see the reflection in our population. Weíve got another almost 2,000 extra people in the Yukon. Weíve got a workforce of 16,000. This is all directly related to our resource industry. We had $45 million spent in oil and gas this year. That was the first time any of those resources were spent in the Yukon in 35 years. Exploration is up over 200 percent. The number of jobs has increased by 1,900. Again, as I informed the member opposite, 82 percent of those jobs are full-time out of the total job factor of almost 16,000 Yukoners working today. Thatís growth. There is 4.8-percent unemployment in the Yukon. Those figures have never been that low: 4.8 percent of Yukoners are unemployed today.
When the member opposite looks at me and asks what we are doing in Energy, Mines and Resources, guess what weíre doing in Energy, Mines and Resources? Weíre working in harness with industry and First Nations to put all Yukoners to work ó 82 percent of those people hired full-time, 61 percent in the private sector and thatís growing, and 39 percent in the public sector. Thereís a 4.6-percent increase in the average weekly wage. The average weekly wage in January of this year was $802 per week. The average working Yukoner makes $42,000 a year. What are we doing in Energy, Mines and Resources? Weíre working to make those figures grow.
Look at the figures, Mr. Chair. I donít think everything weíre doing is wrong. I think weíre very positive. These figures donít lie. These are put together by an independent organization. These are factual figures. The member opposite doesnít congratulate us on the fact that there are fewer people unemployed than there were 12 months ago ó Energy, Mines and Resources hasnít been doing anything. We havenít been doing anything. But guess what? The figures speak for themselves. They donít lie. Energy, Mines and Resources is growing, the people of the Yukon are going to work, and it isnít because of the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: What has that got to do with my question, which was: after two and a half years, where is this energy policy that I named?
The minister went from left field to outer space in his answer. He gave his opinion on all the great work he thinks his government is doing. I would say from observing him that heís in a bubble. Heís not in touch with reality or the people of the Yukon. Heís in his own bubble and insulated from the real public opinion.
He went on to talk about Energy, Mines and Resources and unemployment. You know, I remember something he said in here not long ago, and that was that governments donít create economy. Yet heís trying to stand up today and take credit for the government creating an economy. So thereís a large disparity between what we hear from the minister today and what we heard recently. There are a lot of contradictions in what we hear.
I want to get back to the question because the minister didnít answer it: can he give us some timelines on this energy policy? When will it be out? When will the public be consulted? For the ministerís information, what I mean by timelines is: can he give us a date and then the stage of the process and so on? Thatís what we need ó some information.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, good news does not bode well with the member from the opposite side. The facts speak for themselves. The Government of Yukon is on the right track for the economic future of this territory. The Government of Yukon is doing the right things to move our economy forward. Government doesnít create wealth, but it makes a climate where wealth can be created. That climate is being created by this government.
As far as the question the member asked, we are working on it. We commit to getting the job done, but weíre going to do the job right. Iím not committing to a timeline but, at an appropriate time, the public will be involved and informed.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, Iím telling you: I have flashbacks of when I was heading the Cabinet Commission on Energy and the Yukon Party at the time was grilling our government on timelines. I remember one time we backed up a little bit in the process to accommodate the public a little more ó we were a few days past the date we gave and, the next thing you know, thereís a press release out from the Yukon Party and the Liberals that we were overextended on our timelines. Yet look at the change we have now that the Yukon Party is in government. We donít get timelines; we donít get dates; we donít get anything ó bingo. Thatís one of the big differences between the Yukon Party and the NDP: this government is in complete secrecy.
It doesnít even give us information thatís basic to the need. I think Yukoners are starting to wake up and theyíre realizing that. They donít want a government thatís so secret.
I want to go to another area about the cogeneration plant in Watson Lake. Iíve asked this minister before about it. Iím getting indications I was not given factual information on previous occasions.
The minister said he wasnít part of any discussions on this. What is happening with respect to a cogeneration plant in Watson Lake? I see the Member for Klondike is going to help him with his answer.
Hon. Mr. Lang: There were many questions in this thing, but in answering the member opposite, Iíd like to point out a couple of other things. Why we donít give timelines is for exactly the reason that member mentioned; you canít keep up to timelines. We put timelines in place we can meet. The member opposite blamed the third party and us for questioning timelines he put in place.
Iím committing to work with the process and to get the thing out as quickly as possible so the general public can take a look at it. Iím not committing to timelines I canít keep.
As far as a cogeneration unit in Watson Lake, I havenít had any discussions about it recently. There is no cogeneration plan in Watson Lake at the moment. I will keep the member abreast of any decision thatís made in the Watson Lake area to put cogeneration in place. So the member can rest easy: there is no cogeneration unit going into Watson Lake. Thatís all I can say at the moment. We will keep him abreast of anything that happens.
Mr. McRobb: What about the coal plant? The minister is denying thereís anything in the works with the coal plant. He put that on record, yet the CEO of Cash Resources has stated publicly they have applied through this government and are working on a coal plant in the territory. What does the minister have to say about that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, when I had a meeting with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Division Mountain, there was no discussion about a coal-fired generation unit. There was some prospect that the First Nation and the corporation had in looking at their coal deposits. That was the discussion.
As far as the CEO going over to Yukon Energy and having a discussion with the Energy Corporation, youíll have to ask the Energy Corporation about that. As far as our meeting was concerned, we talked about the opportunity for the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Division Mountain ó their partnership ó in a potential coal mine at Division Mountain. Thatís exactly what we talked about.
Mr. McRobb: Well, either itís a big secret to this government, or the minister is out of touch. Which one is it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, being the Member for Kluane, why doesnít he talk to the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations ó they were at the meeting ó and see what they got out of the meeting. We had a discussion about the potential of the partnership of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Division Mountain, the potential of the coal deposit that is at Division Mountain. That was the only discussion we had. So as far as clarifying what went on at the meeting, I recommend he talk to the Champagne-Aishihik group.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, he is the minister; doesnít he know? Iím asking him to tell this House whatís going on, and heís pointing the finger, directing us elsewhere. It is his responsibility to know whatís going on in his department. I think he is out of touch, and I think this government is secretive. I think the answer is yes to both of those, Mr. Chair. Otherwise he would stand up and tell us more about whatís going on. What does this minister have cooking with respect to the use of coal in energy policy and generation in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, there is nothing on the horizon as far as coal-fired generation, as far as this government is concerned.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I guess itís a big secret. He wonít tell us. I guess Iíll have to go talk to other people. Some accountable government this is.
I want to ask him about the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Whatís the ministerís vision for using that council?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have a small input on the council. But it is under Environment and Economic Development, and they work with the council, as far as I know.
Mr. McRobb: I understand the membership on the council has been reduced lately. Can the minister update us on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can tell the member opposite that we are going to utilize that council more than the previous governments have. They are an important part of Yukon, and we are going to be using them.
Mr. McRobb: Even if this government fully engages this council between now and the furthest date of the next election, that statement would still be an exaggeration. That council has been used fairly consistently by other governments, and this government hasnít used it at all.
Let me ask the minister: what consultations has this council done in the two and a half years under the Yukon Party rule?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There is a report coming out, it will be tabled, and all those questions will be answered.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously the minister doesnít know. Heís out of touch with his department. Heís the man in a bubble. Whatís the use? Iíll pass the floor to the leader of the third party. I wish her all the luck in the world in trying to deal with this minister.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, under this budget, is transferred out of Environment over to Economic Development, so thereís a funding reduction. In the past, they were tasked by a former Yukon Party government to study the issue of gambling in the territory, for example. There has been a motion on the floor from my learned friends to the right here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, you take them where you can find them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: And left to the NDP. Yes, well, they sit to the right. That doesnít mean their philosophy is that far. They have a motion on the floor suggesting that the issue surrounding the pipeline be referred to the YCEE, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. They have been transferred out of the ministerís department. Has there been a task assigned to them? Is a Cabinet committee going to assign them a task? Is it a discussion between ministers? What is the plan for the council?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the member opposite, the Environment and Economic Development departments have taken the lead on this. If we ever get through Energy, Mines and Resources, weíll have an opportunity to talk to the Minister of Environment, and he can answer some of the questions on how itís going to be utilized. Iím sure he has a plan, and weíre going to move forward with that plan.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, weíll wait to talk to the Minister of Environment. I just have one question on the energy and corporate policy area. It follows up on the question put by the Member for Kluane regarding the current Yukon Utilities Board hearings. The minister wears two hats on this one, which makes it rather difficult to make decisions as to whether or not to intervene.
My question is: where and how ó and perhaps he could ask his learned friend to answer this question for me ó does it get put on the record that the former president of the Yukon Development Corporation and chair of the board both committed absolutely, on the public record, that should there be any cost overruns in the construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, they would be borne by Yukon Development Corporation from the existing money in the Yukon Development Corporation and from within the profits, and that cost overruns would not be sought from the ratepayers? Thatís not to say that a portion of the infrastructure wouldnít be sought from the Yukon Utilities Board, who had quite a lengthy discussion in advance.
My concern is that that public record and very public commitment by the people in charge at the time has not factored, as far as Iím aware, in the current hearings before the Yukon Utilities Board. That concerns me because it was a very clear public commitment and it was part of the rationale and the decision making. If itís not the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources who puts that comment before the Yukon Utilities Board ó and perhaps it shouldnít be because he wears both these hats, but somebody should be stating it ó who is?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís a valid statement. I havenít talked to the existing president or chairman about that issue. I understand the dilemma that theyíre in on justifying the expenditures on the Mayo-Dawson line and how those expenditures will be addressed. That is partially one of the issues that the Utilities Board is wrestling with at the moment. I understand the facts, and Iíve read that in the minutes, and here in this House there was a comment regarding if, in fact, this resource went over and how it was going to be handled. Itís an interesting comment. Iíll talk to Mr. Morrison and try to address it. As you know, the Yukon Energy Corporation will be here in the fall. They will be sitting, and those are some of the questions that we certainly will be asking the executive at that time here in the House.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím concerned with the ministerís answer, because Iím not sure that itís Mr. Morrisonís responsibility.
The Yukon Utilities Board hearing is in this timeframe, and by the time we get a chance to ask questions like why didnít you put this on the public record, the public record will be long past. My concern is: who is speaking for Yukoners to say, hey, wait a minute, you committed publicly that this wouldnít be sought from the Utilities Board. It wasnít Mr. Morrisonís commitment, but it was Yukon Development Corporationís commitment at the time ó very clearly, very publicly. So who puts that on the public record before the Yukon Utilities Board, if itís not the minister and not Yukon Development Corporation? Who is going to do that? Thatís my concern, because itís a very important point for Yukoners, and somebody has to speak for the Yukoners, and my suspicion is it has to be the minister in this case.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the question, I think what we have to look at is that, obviously, itís a Crown corporation and thatís a question. I oversee the Crown corporation from the political arm of this government. We have people in place there to manage that asset that taxpayers own, and there are certainly things the minister can and canít do. Perception is reality, in a lot of ways. Iím sure that Mr. Morrison ó or the president and the chair ó is aware of commitments that have been made in the past, and I hope the corporation and the executive are astute enough to keep abreast of it.
I will ask the chair or the president when I see him exactly that question: what happens when a commitment is made by the Crown corporation and, at the end of the day, how is that messaged out there, or when you inherit those commitments, how does it move forward?
Ms. Duncan: The balance of the question is, who puts it on the public record when you go to a Yukon Utilities Board hearing? The minister has undertaken to ask the question of Mr. Morrison. I would appreciate a written response, if possible, so I then have it. Iím sure it would be forwarded to the official opposition as well. I thank the minister for his answer.
Energy and Corporate Policy in the amount of $1,701,000 agreed to
Total Energy and Corporate Policy in the amount of $1,701,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources
On Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office
Hon. Mr. Lang: Okay, assistant deputy ministerís office ó oil and gas mineral resources, personnel, two full-time employees, $260,000; travel, $27,000; program support, legal costs, $73,000; miscellaneous, $19,000. Those three added together make $119,000. Kaska Tribal Council economic table is $100,000. That gives a total of $479,000.
Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $479,000 agreed to
On Assessment and Abandoned Mines
Hon. Mr. Lang: Assessment and abandoned mines ó full-time employees, six, $456,000; Yukon government support contract, $205,000; travel, $28,000. That makes a total of $233,000. Federal funding ó contracts, $10,709; rentals, $100,000; petroleum, $170,000; other, $93,000. That gave a total of $11,000,081. If you add the $233,000, thatís $11,314,000. First Nation site work contributions, $570,000. Okay, total assessment of abandoned mines, $12,340,000.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with perhaps a piece of paper that identifies who is getting what with respect to the abandoned mine process, and each First Nation and so on for each mine in the territory? Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In cooperation, which this government prides itself on, we will put some legislative returns out so that we can inform you exactly how those dollars break down.
Assessment and Abandoned Mines in the amount of $12,340,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline
Hon. Mr. Lang: Oil and gas development and pipeline ó personnel, 6.5 FTEs, which is $534,000; other is travel, contract services, office space rental and others, which is $88,000. The total O&M for oil and gas development and pipeline is $622,000.
Mr. McRobb: We know the minister has been to Ottawa. When does he expect a decision from the federal government with respect to the Northern Pipeline Agency or greenfield project?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís a critical question. Weíve been working with the federal government. We had a commitment from the federal government that regulatory certainty would come in February. It hasnít come to date, so we are monitoring it to tell the member opposite that itís going to happen next week. Hopefully it happens before next February. I guess we didnít clarify which February. In fact, we havenít got that information at the moment, but weíre looking forward to that decision.
Mr. McRobb: Has the federal government asked for this ministerís preference as to which way to proceed on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes. To remind the member opposite, the regulatory certainty comes from the federal government ó the National Energy Board. That decision is made in-house there. No, I have not been asked whether the green route or the NPA is what we would live with.
What our government is committed to do is live with any decision and work within that decision to facilitate whatever pipeline happens and if the pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is stating that it is the federal governmentís decision whether greenfield will be regulated under the NEB or go with the treaty. Is the minister also saying the government has no preference, so this government has not taken a position on NPA versus greenfield/NEB project?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The only thing we have in front of us is the Northern Pipeline Act. Thatís an international treaty. Thatís the only thing that really clarifies how we would partner in a pipeline that came through our jurisdiction.
The industry has come up with the Greenfield, and theyíre putting their arguments forward to the regulatory agency in Ottawa, but as far as knowing what the offer is in greenfield, we donít have anything concrete in front of us. There isnít anything to pick from. All we have is the Northern Pipeline Act and thatís almost a 30-year-old document that is a treaty that terminates in 2012.
To stand here and ask if we have a preference ó we donít have a preference. All we have at the moment is the NPA. We are told by industry theyíre going to come forward with a green route, but I remind everybody in the House and all Yukoners, weíre prepared to work with whatever concept of pipeline comes through our jurisdiction. We have to live within the regulatory certainty the federal government will issue to us.
Again, we have to work with the cards weíre dealt. The cards weíre dealt is that we have an act in front of us; itís very clear how we can benefit from it; they did an extensive overview from that; Dr. Skinner came up for the federal government, which was funded two and a half years ago, and clarified to the federal government whether in fact the NPA was workable because of the age of the treaty.
He gave a verbal presentation to the federal government. I was not part of that. I have heard from NEB that it was positive. The expert, or the consultant, said that, at the end of the day, the NPA can be modernized, it can work, and it is a workable document. But again, the issue is the green route; there is an issue out there and there is a big question mark. When you get the producers competing with the NPA, the people who own the product in Alaska, questioning whether the NPA is a realistic way of transporting their product to market, I guess that is a decision I leave in the hands of the producers.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I completely understand this discussion. What I wanted the minister to state was whether or not the Government of Yukon had taken a position. The issue is the federal government is having their Cabinet meetings, and Minister Efford and his Cabinet colleagues have got a Cabinet document with a decision in front of them ó do we support NPA? Do we say, yes, we will live up to this long-ago negotiated treaty. Youíd never get one as crystal clear today. The minister and I could read it in less than three minutes, so it doesnít take a long time. You wouldnít get a treaty like that negotiated today.
The question is: what position has been taken? The issue before Cabinet is: which way do they go? Somebody in that room is going to be saying, well, what does the Yukon think? Does the Yukon have a preference? Itís not just the producers, one of which is the State of Alaska. My concern is that while the Government of Yukon sits back and says, ďWell, either way, whatever, just make a decision,Ē thereís no advocate down there, thereís no advocate in Ottawa who can say, look ó and, no, for the Member for Lake Laberge, Iím not saying thereís no advocate in our Member of Parliament. Iím getting to that point. Of course our Member of Parliament is a very clear advocate. Weíve had many discussions on this. As parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, weíve discussed it. It is a tough decision.
Industry is sitting back and saying, ďTwo sides of industry ó youíve got a lawsuit either way.Ē Itís a tough position for the government to be in. They were elected to make some tough decisions, as were the members opposite. Why havenít they taken a position?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess weíll agree to disagree. I think our position is very clear. We as the Yukon government ó again, dealing with the hand we were dealt ó are going to have to work with whatever decision is made. We certainly work with our Member of Parliament. We certainly work with industry. We certainly work with Foothills Pipe Lines or TransCanada PipeLines. Weíre in communication with those individuals.
I canít make the decision for the federal government. Thatís not my job. The government has to get off the mark. They have to give regulatory certainty to whatever decision they make. The decision has to be made, and they committed to make it last February. The decision has not come across the table.
I agree with the member opposite that it must be a very stressful decision to make because the Deputy Prime Minister is the chair of the committee that is going to make that decision. She happens to be from Alberta, so she happens to be part and parcel of a province that will be part and parcel of the industry. The Province of Alberta is in the petroleum business. So I imagine that individual is getting a lot of pressure, but that, again, is why she gets the big bucks ó to make those decisions.
We certainly communicate with the federal government in a very positive way.
As far as jumping on any one bandwagon, at the end of the day we have to work with whatever decision comes from Ottawa. Thatís what weíre prepared to do; thatís how weíre going to move forward on this issue, and weíre not going to complicate it by pretending that we as a territory can pick the winner in this. At the end of the day, we have to work with whoever wins that decision.
Ms. Duncan: Iím fully aware that the government has to work with whatever ultimate decision comes from the Government of Canada and that theyíre tough decisions to make. I might remind the member opposite thatís why, as minister, he gets the big bucks too, to make tough decisions.
Given they have committed to work with whatever decision the federal government makes, in the interests of moving the issue along, whatís the harm in the Government of Yukon being an advocate for one position? Why not? Alberta will benefit regardless. Where none of us will benefit is if we continue to sit on our hands and wait while momentum for a liquified natural gas pipeline grows, while we see headlines in the Fairbanks daily paper that say, ďJobs for Alaskans, to heck with the Canadians and the Alaska Highway pipelineĒ.
I understand that an LNG pipeline is technically far away, but thereís a window of opportunity for the north thatís going to stay open for only so long. I donít think we can sit on the sidelines on this any more. I would encourage the government to quit waiting for Ottawa and be an advocate, move this issue along. One way or another, move, because that window is going to close and Iím deeply concerned about that.
The Yukon Party government has now hired at least two consultants in Ottawa. Bruce Rawson has been hired again by the government. There is another new consultant whose name escapes me. I didnít bring the contract in with me. It was just recently announced. Has the government reconsidered? I guess the need for the advocate in Washington has somewhat passed, but do we have an advocate in Alaska? Whom do we have? Is it just departmental staff, or are there any other consulting contracts the government is letting with respect to this project?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre very keen on the Alaska Highway pipeline issue in our jurisdiction. I have to disagree with the member opposite on the urgency of us getting into a debate about which pipeline should be the appropriate tool to come through our jurisdiction.
What we want to do is make sure that Yukoners are represented. Our government has committed to support both northern pipelines. We support the Mackenzie pipeline and we support the Alaska Highway pipeline. As we noticed, weíre in a situation where the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is meeting some challenges now internally. Again, as I said to the members opposite yesterday, at the end of the day, you donít do an $8-billion or $9-billion project without some challenges. Iím sure those challenges will be worked out between the proponents in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the pipeline will move ahead. Those are called growing pains in this kind of industry.
I understand the federal government. I met with the Minister of NRCan a week ago and he is very concerned about both pipelines.
††††††† So the urgency is in Ottawa to step up to the plate. Theyíre working on this issue, and it is a huge issue to Canada. They are very concerned with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, that if, in fact, there are too many challenges, industry might walk away.
As for the Alaska Highway pipeline ó I agree with the member opposite: if LNG becomes more and more reasonable, if they get access to the Lower 48 ó in other words, areas where they have receiving stations ó those things will all have a bearing on the pipeline. But again, I disagree with the member opposite: by us getting into the fray now of deciding whether itís the NPA or the green route, I think thatís a disfavour. I donít think itís going to be a positive outcome.
I remind the members opposite we have to work with whatever issues come forward, but we want to establish a clear and efficient Canadian regulatory process. Weíre working with the federal government to do that. Weíre working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to make sure that theyíre prepared, as well as we all can be prepared, for the pipeline if and when it comes across our territory.
We want to connect Yukon gas to the pipeline. Weíre going to insist on those things. Access to energy for Yukoners from the pipelines: we want access to bring our product in, and we want access out of the pipeline. We want Yukoners to maximize access to the pipeline. We want to establish fiscal and social fairness. Thatís an important thing. And securing financial assistance from Ottawa for all these things is very important. Why would we settle for anything less than what they get for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline?
The member opposite was talking about the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition talking about issues ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Deputy Chair, I have the floor.
Deputy Chairís statement
††††††† Deputy Chair: Order please. I would ask that all members respect the member who has the floor, and all members know that the use of props is not allowed. Mr. Lang, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The issue is the NPA or the green route. Thatís the issue, that the regulatory certainty of either one has to be chosen. Weíre going to leave that in the proper ballpark, which is that of the federal government. Weíre not going to take the federal government off the hook for doing what theyíre assigned to do.
Have we talked to the federal government? We talk to the federal government on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. The Premier has a working relationship with Alaska, so the Premier works with the Governor of Alaska to make sure that Alaska gets its regulatory house together.
We are in partnership with Alaska. That will answer some of the questions about LNG. Remember, liquefied natural gas is leaving Alaska today. ConocoPhillips has a plant and they ship natural gas offshore today to Japan and to the Asian market, so itís not that itís not happening in Alaska today; it is happening.
We are very aware that we get this pipeline through our jurisdiction and benefit from it. I understand the politics of Alaska. I understand the international problems between Canada and the United States and the question about security. All these issues will be questioned by the Americans, and so they should be. This is a very big budget item, a very large contract, the largest ever. If this goes ahead, itís a $20-billion price tag. Itís huge.
Mr. McRobb: What a speech that was. It had everything in it: apples, oranges, turnips, grapefruit, even the odd pineapple and so on ó just about anything except what was pertinent to the question asked.
Itís too bad because we had an opportunity to debate this department, and the minister goes all over the map in his responses. Couple that with his motion to adjourn the House early yesterday ó we lost time there ó couple that with the Yukon Party bringing in three bills yesterday afternoon for third reading, when there was an opportunity next week, and guess what the result is? Weíre out of time to debate this department, which is a real shame because there are lots of areas Yukoners wanted us to ask questions of this minister about. Unfortunately, we have to bail out now because weíre out of time.
Part of the reason too was that the government House leader shortened the length of this sitting. We wanted a longer sitting. So, we donít have the time to fully debate this department.
Therefore, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all remaining lines in Vote 53, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all remaining lines in Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, cleared or carried
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all remaining lines in Vote 53, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $37,018,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $5,558,000 agreed to
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources agreed to
Chair: The Chairís understanding is that we are moving on to the Department of Environment.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with Vote 52, Department of Environment.
Department of Environment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, as I outline some of the details in Environment Yukonís budget, you will notice that the many initiatives we are supporting this year will go toward improving services to the public, to new partnerships with First Nations and with the private sector, and to complementing our tourism sector in the promotion of the Yukonís natural resources as a visitor destination.
Iíd like to remind all members that the work carried out by the Department of Environment serves to protect and enhance the quality of the Yukon environment. The department manages the Yukonís natural resources in a manner that promotes integration with other sectors, such as economic development, so that optimum benefits can be derived for all Yukon people.
The departmentís diverse programs provide sustainable fish and wildlife harvesting and viewing opportunities for cultural, recreational and economic purposes. This in turn provides opportunities for economic benefits through the sustainable use of fish and wildlife resources.
The operations and maintenance budget is up modestly. This is primarily due to the collective agreement increments and corporate initiatives to strengthen the departmentís strategic focus on environmental sustainability and integrated resource management. The addition of a new assistant deputy minister, environmental sustainability, is in response to this governmentís commitment to improve the departmentís core program delivery.
The departmentís four operational branches ó our parks, our conservation officer services, environmental programs, and fish and wildlife ó have been combined into one integrated program.
We have budgeted $184,000 in personnel and other support costs for this initiative. An additional $79,000 is budgeted for support to the corporate communications unit. A new full-time indeterminate position will help provide improved services to branches and program managers in strategic communications, public consultation, media relations, advertising services, print and graphic design, and interdepartmental support advice and planning.
†There is $30,000 earmarked to meet the needs of the very successful student employment program, known as Y2C2. We will expand the four-month Y2C2 coordinator term position to a six-month seasonal auxiliary coordinator position to attract a suitably qualified and experienced candidate to cover the additional ongoing administrative support and coordination for this very popular program.
There is $50,000 allocated to the deputy conservation officer program with triple the number of deputy COs through the territory from around six to 16. The budget will be distributed throughout the communities as new deputy COs are deployed. This funding is to support training, safety, equipment, vehicles and other program materials required on an annual basis.
We are allocating $30,000 for a joint project with the Yukon River Panel and Holland America to determine the effects of the Yukon Queen II and the resulting wake on the Yukon River downstream from Dawson to the Alaska border. This work will be ongoing, and the government is also contributing $32,000 under the Mackenzie River basin transboundary waters master agreement as one of five jurisdictions that are party to this agreement.
This obligation was paid by the federal government on behalf of the Yukon government prior to devolution. Continued federal funding was not covered in the DTA. We have also earmarked $58,000 for a three-year seasonal term position for a three-year pilot project to be undertaken by the TríondŽk HwŽchíin, Government of Yukon and Holland America in the Tombstone Park. This is to begin this summer. This position will coordinate the work of Holland Americaís interpretive staff and provide additional support to existing interpretive staff at Tombstone Territorial Park.
On the capital side, thereís a slight overall reduction from last year. This is due to last yearís purchase of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
Some of the new and exciting capital projects budgeted for 2005-06 include $1.02 million to design and construct the new Tombstone Park interpretive centre, in partnership with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin. The centre is slated for completion this year. It is estimated that the project will create an additional 520 person-weeks of private sector contracting and consulting.
In Ross River, a one-time project will provide $100,000 for the design and construction of an efficient and compact storage workshop facility to support various Environment Yukon programs carried out by the conservation officer services and the fish and wildlife branch. We have estimated this project will create additional 31 person-weeks of private sector construction in this coming year.
Environment Yukon is budgeting $274,000 to ensure that the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is double-fenced over the coming two years.
We want to provide further assurances to the public that the risk of nose-to-nose animal contact, escapement and/or wildlife entering the preserve has been minimized.
Environment Yukon intends to complete phase 1 of the project, consisting of the design and construction of a single secure fence this year, and move to phase 2 to purchase and install the second perimeter fence next year.
The Chisana caribou recovery project is budgeting $146,000 this year in support of the project to recover and strengthen the Chisana caribou herd of western Yukon and the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park area of Alaska. This genetically distinct population declined from 1,800 to 300 caribou and has annually recruited very few calves over the last 14 years.
The captive-rearing pilot project was successful in ensuring the 100-percent newborn calf survival and improving the herdís wild calf survival by 30 percent. This project received considerable national and international attention and is very important to the White River First Nation people of Beaver Creek.
This bodes well for the many individuals in our department who are leaders in this area and is recognized both nationally and internationally for their understanding of recovery projects with caribou herds. An additional $104,000 will be spent by contributing partners that include the Canadian Wildlife Service, Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the White River First Nation.
Alaskaís contribution as a full participant amounted to $100,000 U.S., including one-third of the staff time. We are continuing our support for the alpine ice patch project by budgeting $50,000 to survey and access rapidly melting alpine ice patches for retrieval of biological specimens.
This invaluable work and the collection of environmental data to examine ecological issues can improve our understanding of climate shifts and how they relate to modern-day wildlife populations.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to put some comments on the record for the Department of Environment. Mr. Chair, I listened to the ministerís comments in regard to the Department of Environment and what kind of progress they are making. Some of the issues and concerns that I have been hearing from people throughout the Yukon Territory ó I have a long list. Many of those concerns I have asked about during Question Period in this House, and I never got any of the answers back that people were expecting. So I will bring forward some of those issues again and see if we can do any better in this round.
Mr. Chair, just for clarification, how much time do I have in each ó
Chair: 20 minutes.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to put on the record that the Porcupine caribou issue is a very serious concern for the people of Old Crow, and I have said that time and time again, and I will continue to say that. The voting that took place a couple of weeks ago in Washington, D.C. ó weíve never heard one issue or concern raised in that regard from the Yukon Party government.
People in the community of Old Crow are wondering why they are so silent about this very serious issue. It impacts the life and livelihood of the people of Old Crow. Weíve depended on the Porcupine caribou for our lifestyle and for our food for thousands of years. Not only are we affected by the decision made in Washington, D.C. without any support from this Yukon Party government, but we are also dealing with the impacts and effects of climate change. Itís not only in the community of Old Crow that that is being felt. It is being felt all throughout the Yukon Territory. That is one of the greatest concerns for Yukon people out there. I have asked that question in this House, and the only answer I got at the time from the Minister of Environment is that we are a cesspool for the rest of the world. What does that say? We are a monitoring agency for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
The communities are concerned. What is this government doing to help the communities deal with the effects and changes of climate change?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite indicated that she has a long list and received no answers. Let me once again go over what this government has done with respect to the Porcupine caribou herd.
Letís start right at the top, Mr. Chair, and lay out what transpired between the Premier of the Yukon and the Chief of Vuntut Gwitchin. They have met; they have met repeatedly, and the Chief of Vuntut Gwitchin asked to be the lead on the initiative of lobbying Washington, D.C., and the U.S. government on the protection of the critical habitat area of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Now, Mr. Chair, the member says the Government of Yukon did nothing. That is totally incorrect. We met at the Premier level and the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin level and resourced a number of their initiatives. From there, the Premier met with the Prime Minister of Canada and conveyed the message to the Prime Minister of Canada and asked him to lobby on behalf of Canada, the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Gwichíin of the northern part of Canada with respect to the issue of the protection of the critical habitat area of the Porcupine caribou herd and the issue of drilling in that area.
Further to that, the Premier travelled to Ottawa and met the President of the United States of America. Mr. Chair, the message delivered by the Premier of the Yukon was very specific and very succinct.
I donít know, but I suspect that never before in the history of Canada has a premier or government leader in the Yukon met with the President of the United States and conveyed a message to him. I know of a number of business people in the Yukon who have met previous presidents of the United States, but I am not aware of any previous Premier in the Yukon having had the opportunity to meet with the President of the United States and deliver a message on behalf of the Gwichíin on the issue of the protection of the critical habitat area of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Now, if the member opposite wants to construe that as doing nothing, I believe the record will clearly reflect that our government has probably done more, directly and indirectly, to assist the Gwichíin in this matter than ever before. What we havenít been doing is parading up and down the streets carrying placards. Weíve been taking the message directly to where the message should be taken ó where it must be taken ó in order to effect a response, and that is to the U.S. government. You cannot get any higher than the President of the United States, when it comes to the Government of the United States of America.
So, Mr. Chair, I certainly have to take exception to what the member opposite is suggesting. The issue of the protection of the critical habitat area of the Porcupine caribou herd was the subject of two motions here in this Legislature ó two motions that, from my recollection, were unanimously supported here in this House.
The message that this Yukon government has been delivering has not changed one iota since those motions were debated in this House. The second motion reinforced the first motion; the message has been clearly delivered. Unfortunately, none of us have a vote in the U.S. Congress. All we can do is lobby.
Mr. Chair, there are two houses in the United States, and both the House of Representatives and the Senate officials have been lobbied. Our government has resourced a considerable amount of that lobbying effort. Mr. Chair, that is where weíre at today. So for the member opposite to suggest we have done nothing is totally inaccurate ó totally inaccurate, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to say for the record that what the minister just spelled out there for us is an itinerary for the Premier. He made a one-minute handshake with President Bush and probably just voiced or said something to the effect that the Porcupine caribou are an issue and didnít do much more than that.
The Premier, this Minister of Environment, and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources have travelled to many meetings across this country. They have also travelled over to Alaska. What we as Gwichíin people in the Yukon Territory would hope and would expect from this government is for them to have a louder voice on our behalf, especially when a decision like this is going to affect us for the rest of our lives.
I would challenge the minister to go up to Old Crow and say to the people ó say to the elders who are worried right now in that community ó that they have done all that they can. Yes, I know of the meetings that were held with Chief Joe Linklater. They have never met with Chief Joe Linklater and his council, and this dialogue did not take place in the community of Old Crow or with community members. That is what our hope is: that this government would be willing to have a louder voice on behalf of the Yukon people with regard to this issue.
If we have to stand outside this Legislature with placards and make our voices known, yes, we would definitely do that. We certainly got the message across when that took place. Thank God we have people who care enough in the Yukon and are able to stand up with us and not be afraid to say, ďThis is what we believe in, and this is what we hope this government is able to do with usĒ and to this day, Mr. Chair, that has not taken place. We can shake hands and nod to each other and have little polite conversations, but donít tell me that that, in itself, states exactly where this government stands.
When they travel and trumpet their relationship with Governor Murkowski and people in those circles, and when they travel to oil and gas conferences, they have the resources. They attend key conferences where they can make that message very clear ó that they do care about what happens to the Gwichíin in north Yukon.
I, too, take exception to what the minister is saying, because we expect a lot more than that from the Yukon government.
†Moving on to the topic of climate change, the Minister of Economic Development made a statement today in this House regarding trapping. He travelled to a conference in eastern Canada with regard to trapping. That was very interesting, because for every session that Iíve been in this House I have asked repeatedly about trapping concerns for my constituency. It hasnít really hit home, I guess, with this government. I was pretty surprised to hear the Minister of Economic Development make those comments. If the minister was attending a trapping conference and insinuated that we on this side werenít supporting trappers out there, I wondered if he paid any attention to the information that I put on the floor of this House. Climate change definitely affects trapping in the north. Trapping used to be the main industry, the main economic driver in our communities. There is a long history in the Yukon with regard to trapping. I know for the community of Old Crow that was the only way that most of the people were able to take care of their families: by the amount of fur they were able to sell after they were out for the winter or for the spring.
All that has changed over time. Because of the prices, situations were happening around the world that definitely had a huge impact on the trapping industry. Weíve seen that happen again just recently for the Inuit people on the east coast of Canada with respect to seals and seal hunting. People sometimes have strong opinions and take issue with how First Nation people live off the land. Maybe they donít have the full understanding of what these traditions mean to the people who are practising them.
So, we end up with these challenges that affect our traditional way of life. Trapping is definitely one of those. Weíre very lucky in the community of Old Crow that some of the families are able to go out and stay out on the land for a couple of months in the spring. I know that some of the serious trappers spend a lot of time out on the land in the winter. In this day and age, itís a very costly thing to do, especially with the cost of gas, the price of food, and all that they require to trap and for how long, if theyíre going to be gone for any length of time.
Definitely more people would like to go. More families would like to go and spend time out on the land with their families, but when the cost is that great, sometimes theyíre not able to do that.
More and more, Mr. Chair, we see the impacts that climate change is also having on the behaviour of animals, and that plays a huge role. Iím not an expert in trapping, believe me, but I speak to the trappers in my community. That is where I learn and where I get the majority of my information. That is another part of our lifestyle that is slowly going away. That is where their concern is. What is going to happen? We have the issue with the Porcupine caribou. We have the issue with climate change that is affecting the trapping, the behaviour of the animals.
Then, at the end of the day, we talk about the challenges that we had to face in regard to fishing in the last few years. The people of Old Crow took the responsibility not to fish for the last two or three years. This summer, I think, is the only time that they are going to fish because the numbers are up.
†Those are the kinds of challenges that weíre facing in the north. Theyíre serious, because our people depend on these animals for our everyday livelihood.
You know, the average person who lives in the city listening might not understand why it is important. We as a people have always depended on our natural resources and more especially the food we can get off the land; it is very serious right now and our people are very concerned. It affects the migration of the animals and it is introducing new species of animals into different traditional territories throughout the Yukon. We have the Department of Environment saying that theyíre just monitoring the situation. I would like to hear from the minister how he is going to help the communities or help the Yukon deal with these changes that weíre seeing due to climate change.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me share with the member opposite how we are helping in this area. First of all, let me point out that the member opposite appears to have a disconnect between climate change and economic change. A lot of the areas that the member opposite spoke to ó and spoke to very passionately and eloquently ó recognize the importance of the Gwichíin people with respect to trapping.
The downturn in the trapping industry is largely a component of economic change. What we had a number of years ago was a tremendous initiative. If we look at fur, the European environmental community was the main focus.
I happened to be in Europe a couple of times during that year, when there were major efforts made by the environmental movement to restrict or eliminate the use of fur in garments of any type. A number of years ago, the Yukon, as well as all the other political jurisdictions in Canada, signed on to an international agreement dealing with humane trapping. The focus of this group was to provide for the humane trapping of animals, so that the trapping industry ó which is a renewable resource ó would be sustainable. In many respects, Canada was successful ó not just the Yukon, but all of Canada. A lot of our aboriginal communities rely on trapping as a major source of income.
This international agreement that Canada signed on to is responsible for over 50 percent of the market today, which has grown significantly. Fur is now coming back into style, and its use is accepted.
On one of my last trips to Europe, the areas supplying the greatest number of furs to the market were the Russian and the Chinese markets.
A lot has to do with economic change. Climate change is another issue and, yes, climate change does have an impact on fur-bearing animals. In fact, it has an impact on all species of plants and animals, including you and I, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Humane trapping was an issue of importance and one of the topics when I had the privilege of chairing the Canadian Council of Resource Ministers when they met in Whitehorse last September. Our government is very cognizant of our role and responsibility. There is a plan in place. It has been developed by Canada, with Yukon as a signatory to the plan, along with all the other provinces and territories of Canada, and the fur market is recovering. That market puts income in the pockets of a lot of northerners. It is a way of life, itís a lifestyle, and itís a very good one.
The traditional use of furs is becoming more widely accepted and recognized and they are indeed some of the best garments produced for our climatic conditions here in the north. Let us not leave that alone.
As to climate change, the Yukon is probably in a very good position, in that we have some of the most well-known biologists and professionals in this field of any jurisdiction in Canada.
If the member opposite wants to refer to some of the initiatives underway in the caribou recovery program, one only has to look at the names of the biologists associated with these programs to see how well they are respected, both nationally and internationally.
So let me reassure the member opposite that the Yukon is doing a lot of things in addressing the very important issue of climate change and, at the same time, addressing the very important issue of economic change with respect to the fur industry. But I would encourage the member opposite to disconnect climate change and economic change and then put them back together. Yes, one impacts on the other, but the member opposite is referring to economic change in the fur industry and not connecting it to the climate change unless the member opposite feels itís important enough to make the case that we arenít attempting to do anything in this area. The opposite is very much the reality of the day. The department is doing a tremendous amount in both areas. We will continue to do so.
Mrs. Peter: I was hoping that the minister would answer my question in regard to addressing the issue of how this government is helping communities throughout the Yukon to cope with the effects and impacts of climate change, especially on the land or animals that we depend on for our livelihood.
I never heard that come across in his answer. He was more worried about differentiating between economics and climate change. Yes, those are important and yes, I do understand the differences; however, right now we are concerned with climate change and the effects and impacts it is having on our land and our animals throughout the Yukon. What is this government doing to help people who live throughout this territory to cope with those changes? The majority of people who enjoy living out in the wilderness and in the smaller communities, and who hunt and trap for their lifestyle, harvest at different times of the seasons. They see those changes.
Traditional knowledge is very important in this area. I think that has finally been discovered within the last year. Our elders have been constantly sharing information with the people in that regard. I believe it was only a year or two ago that it was finally acknowledged and recognized, as opposed to scientific information. That surprised me, and yet it didnít, because the people who lived on the land for thousands of years would have the experience and the knowledge. The descendents of the people who lived on those lands are with us today and are trying to share that information to let people know how very serious it is.
We hear that information shared. There was just a huge conference held over in Nunavut ó I believe it was held in Iqaluit ó and the people in that jurisdiction have a lot to share. I wonder if the minister sent anyone from his department to attend that conference and bring back that kind of information, which is so crucial in making decisions to address those kinds of issues for the people of the Yukon Territory.
Would the minister tell this House if the department has allocated any extra resources to address climate change in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís just back up a little bit in what the member opposite had to say, and let me share with the House what the department is doing with respect to traditional knowledge.
In the Department of Environment we have one individual on staff who addresses this area. Recently this individual attended and participated in a workshop with the elders in Teslin. Being the open and accountable government that we are, all the information that we have and develop on traditional knowledge is posted on the Department of Environmentís Web site. Itís in the fish and wildlife branch. I would encourage the member opposite to spend a little time there.
With respect to databases, weíre working on creating databases and moving forward. We still have some work to do in this area.
The woman who is the regional biologist attends Old Crow regularly and shares with the community the information that has been assembled over the past while. So there is a constant reporting back to the communities. They work with the RRCs, and there is ongoing dialogue between the regional biologists, the RRCs and the communities.
Traditional knowledge is very much a component of the entire equation. With respect to traditional knowledge, that information is the communityís information, and that is shared with the community, and the community shares it with the department.
Thatís where weíre at in those areas. Iím sure when the member opposite reviews Hansard, sheíll come to the conclusion that this government has improved its level of dialogue back and forth between the respective First Nation governments, and we have a commitment as the Yukon government to work cooperatively with the First Nation governments. We are doing so, and we will continue to do so.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our normal time for afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Vote 52, Department of Environment. We are still in general debate.
Mrs. Peter: Before we had the break, we were addressing the issues about climate change and the impact on the land and animals in the Yukon Territory, and the minister was telling us how wonderfully they are doing, addressing all those problems on all our behalf.
In regard to climate change, we have asked the minister about an agreement that they may or may not have with Canada with regard to Kyoto. The minister did not address that question that I asked a couple of weeks ago, so Iíll ask it again. Does the Yukon Territory have an agreement with Canada to address Kyoto on behalf of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the Kyoto Protocol, the Department of Environment is working with Energy, Mines and Resources on a bilateral agreement with Canada on this very important initiative.
The Department of Environment is largely a monitoring agency of compliance, and the Department of Environment is aware of emerging issues resulting from the federal minister, Minister Dion, bringing forward a number of new projects, new initiatives and new undertakings, but the determination as to under what umbrella these are going to be developed and how theyíre going to work is still a work in progress with Canada.
In fact, we at one time were led to believe that the federal government and the Department of Environment had linked a lot of conditions to the monetary issues in the budget. That has come unglued, so I think the federal Department of Environment has gone back to rethink a lot of the initiatives in this area ó rethink them and move forward. I am at a loss to understand why it is taking so long to move these projects forward. It probably has a lot to do with the position that the federal Liberal government finds itself in today. On a go-forward basis, weíre probably not going to see very much happen in this regard until there is some certainty surrounding who is governing Canada with a majority or with an arrangement of being propped up as a minority government. It looks like there is the potential for a federal election soon, which will probably put all these initiatives into limbo for a certain period of time.
But as it currently stands, as I indicated to the member opposite, Yukon, through the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and Environment, is working on a bilateral with Canada on this Kyoto Protocol.
Mrs. Peter: With this work in progress that is taking place, there must be dialogue taking place between the Minister of Environment and the federal minister. If thereís a bilateral happening, there must be correspondence available. I would like to ask the Minister of Environment if he could table that correspondence and share some of that information with this side of the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can confirm that there has been a series of teleconferences between me, Minister Dion, the northern ministers responsible for the environment, as well as the Canadian ministers responsible for the environment, on a number of occasions. Up until four months ago and to date, there was no legislative agenda that was agreed to on how to move forward on this issue. Weíre just going to have to wait.
Iím sorry, I canít share with the member opposite any written communications in this area that we have sent or received other than the federal Minister Dion spelling out what he is doing and what he is proposing to do.
Mrs. Peter: With respect to whatís happening at the federal level in politics, weíre not able to get any commitment of any sort right now from the federal government, anyway. Again, just let the record show that Iím not getting any information to confirm what the minister is saying, that this is work in progress. Am I supposed to just take his word for it and say, ďYes, okay, maybe there is something taking place.Ē
On behalf of the Yukon people listening out there, what kind of confirmation does that give the people who are concerned about this issue? That concerns me because the N.W.T. and Nunavut have an agreement in place with Ottawa. At least thatís a start in the right direction on behalf of their territories. We in the Yukon seem to be way behind in that regard. We seem to be falling way behind in many areas, when you look at the other two northern territories ó certainly one area is addressing the environmental concerns.
So, the minister can tell us that there is work in progress, and weíre supposed to take his word for it, yet we canít share information.
We sure canít count on Ottawa today because itís so unstable politically down there. That just gives me an indication of where weíre at in that area.
Moving on to environmental assessments, this government is very keen on resource development and has many plans for large projects for the future of the Yukon. Weíve been hearing much about the pipeline and the railway. There are many plans in place for mining in the territory and theyíve been aggressively promoting the Yukon for resource development. Again, that has been a concern for people in the territory, especially for First Nation governments.
There are several initiatives this government is eagerly promoting. One of the plans is for a coal mine. I believe the government heard many concerns in that area, and there are other mines that they would like to start up in the Yukon ó and how all this intertwines with other initiatives and concerns the government is talking to the Yukon First Nation governments about.
One of them is in regard to land use planning. The land use planning is well on its way. There is one happening in north Yukon. How can these work in conjunction with each other and then those plans come out in a balance that can satisfy all the stakeholders that are involved? How can you have a land use plan being discussed while in the south, at the other end of the country, you are promoting resource development in practically the same traditional territories? This does not address the concerns of the First Nations involved. That I cannot understand.
The boards and committees that we have in place to try to help us address these kinds of terms are being ignored. There have been many recommendations brought to the Minister of Environment ó both the previous minister and the current one ó and those recommendations have not been followed through or even acknowledged. Itís very obvious that the recommendations being brought to this minister by the boards and committees that are mandated by the Umbrella Final Agreement ó and this was in a press release a month or so ago that said these boards and committees felt like theyíre being disrespected, they are not being listened to.
How can you come to a positive outcome for all stakeholders involved in these processes and think youíre going to move forward? Thatís a concern.
The projects being trumpeted by the Yukon Party government today in regard to the pipeline and railway are major. We can only learn a huge lesson by whatís happening in the Northwest Territories today. Itís not that easy to move these kinds of projects ahead when you havenít done your homework. You have to talk to the people involved. I would like to say that I would really encourage this government to try to understand that from a First Nationís point of view.
I stand here day after day and say that our land and our animals are very important to our livelihood, and that is never going to go away. When youíre planning these kinds of projects, that is first and foremost. I believe that the oil companies are finally beginning to understand that. Whether they walk away from the table or are sitting at the table, weíre always going to be able to bring that message very clearly. Weíve seen that for the last 20 years with the issue of the Porcupine caribou and how weíve managed to win that issue in the United States. That battle is definitely not over by any stretch of the imagination. We just know that itís going to be an extra challenge.
I hope that the minister has that understanding: that all these projects and initiatives that are happening in the territory affect and impact a lot of people. The public needs to be part of the dialogue that is happening out there.
Getting back to Kyoto, he said this Department of Environment is a monitoring department. When I first heard the minister say that, I was quite surprised because I would have believed that this department is the main department to deal with issues regarding Kyoto. To say that they are monitoring the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is confusing for the people in the Yukon. People just donít get it; they donít get why that is taking place. So maybe the minister can clarify that for us here today.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd be happy to, Mr. Chair. I recently tabled the federal governmentís action plan with respect to Kyoto. I would like the member opposite to respond when she next gets on her feet as to whether she has taken the time to review that document. It does not appear that that has been the case, because in that action plan and contained in what the Kyoto Protocol is all about, the Kyoto standard that Canada is hoping to achieve is that by 2050 our greenhouse gas emissions will be 50 percent lower than they were in 1990.
The purpose of Kyoto is primarily to regulate human activity and our lifestyles. The Yukon is currently in an enviable position, in that our greenhouse gas emissions, based on 1990 emissions, is currently 60 percent lower. So weíve exceeded the ultimate goal of Kyoto some 15 years after the 1990 standards were adopted. We still have quite some time to go ó another 45 years to go before 2050. Thatís the essence of it.
Iíd like to know if the member opposite has taken the time to read the federal government action plan on Kyoto and how its implementation is going to take place because, given the line of questioning by the member, it has certainly become abundantly clear that that is not the case.
If you want to look at the overall role of the Department of Environment, itís presently a monitoring responsibility. It may evolve into a regulatory department, but the issue of regulating greenhouse gas emissions was only discussed between Canada and Yukon in March of this year. So weíre moving forward on developing a bilateral ó Energy, Mines and Resources is the lead, and the Yukon Department of Environment is working closely with them.
With respect to resource management and the issue of the various groups and bodies, we are working very closely with the respective groups in the communities on our community-based resource management issues.
Mrs. Peter: The minister made several comments there that I could take issue with and consider them personal attacks; however, thatís not what Iím here for. Iím asking questions on behalf of the Yukon people and addressing some of the concerns that they might have, so whether the minister is concerned about whether I read information or not is really beside the point right now. We are trying to make progress and I am not going to go there with the minister. I have witnessed that too many times before.
There are several reports that this department is responsible for. One of them is the state of the environment report. This report has been seriously delayed. I am wondering when the minister might table that report for the House. There is the Yukon conservation strategy review that the minister said was not a departmental priority. He said that in December. What has been the progress with that review? Itís mandated legislation. Does the minister have any concerns about the delay for that review?
With regard to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, in its March 2004 annual report, the council said it has been unsuccessful in evaluating the Government of Yukonís progress on implementing the Yukon conservation strategy, and no review was completed. Council continues to wait for the completion of the Yukon conservation strategy revision, as well as the implementation of the sustainable progress indicators prior to determining the best course of action regarding this legislated obligation.
So will the council be able to perform a review this year? All these reports are very important to various organizations out in the territory. They like to make progress and move ahead. These reports are due and some of them are seriously past due. Maybe the minister can attempt to answer some of those questions for us.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member asked about a number of reports. Let me share with the member opposite what weíve done. The state of the environment report for 2002 was tabled last fall. The 2003 report will be tabled this fall.
The Yukon conservation strategy is a dated strategy and it has to be brought up to date. It doesnít have anything contained therein on climate change, databases and contaminated sites. This will all have to be reviewed and the strategy will have to be updated to bring it up to where we currently are today.
The role of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment has recently been moved from Energy, Mines and Resources over to the Department of Economic Development, and it is jointly shared between Environment and Economic Development.
These are all issues that the member has identified with and Iím sure she would agree that if she had the time to review the Yukon conservation strategy, it is dated and needs to be brought up to speed before we can utilize it for the purpose it is intended.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions for the minister in general debate of this department. I have been listening quite closely to the debate with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, and I thank her for raising a number of issues.
There is money allocated for legislation development. Could the minister advise us of what legislation is being worked on and whether or not it is intended that this legislation will be available for this fall?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, weíre working on amendments to the Wildlife Act. There are two specific areas. It is to dovetail the final agreements into the Wildlife Act. The other area is the species at risk, which will be part of the Yukon Wildlife Act.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, are they intended for debate this fall?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: How fast we can progress on it depends on whether all the consultation is complete. It is work in progress. I wouldnít want to make a statement that it will be on the agenda this fall. There is a potential.
Ms. Duncan: Another legislative initiative that has taken place over some period of time is the new placer authorization, which, of course, is federal legislation. What position has the Department of Environment taken with respect to the placer authorization? How have they been involved, and is there any record of positions or support to that particular initiative?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon department dealing with fish has been involved and theyíve brought forward scientific data for the use of the officials in making determinations. Theyíve been involved to provide data.
Ms. Duncan: Is this data publicly available? Has it been sent via letter form? Itís at the technical level. Could we have a record of the information that has been sent and if there has been any ministerial correspondence?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There has been no ministerial correspondence on this issue under my watch. The involvement of the Yukon department responsible for fisheries has been through DFO, and most of the initiatives in that area are of federal jurisdiction.
Ms. Duncan: So there hasnít been technical data sent by our Department of Environment; it has been through DFO. I understood from the ministerís initial answer that we had provided some technical information and I was just wondering if that was publicly available.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There has been involvement by our department responsible for fisheries with DFO. There has been an exchange of the information we have ó to what extent, I do not know. Itís done at a technical level and I donít even know if the data is available that has been assembled. I donít know what is available through DFO, by DFO, but Iíll ask the department to have a look and see what is there.
We have nothing to hide and weíre not trying to hide anything. All weíre trying to do is move forward and assist where we can on putting a placer authorization in place that is acceptable to all parties.
Ms. Duncan: My interest is just seeing what role the Department of Environment has had to play and what technical assistance theyíve provided. Thatís what Iím interested in.
Speaking of fish, the ministerís predecessor indicated that there would be a pothole lake fish farm policy to be drafted ó thatís a Government of Yukon news release of September 30, 2003. What happened with that initiative?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is still in process. Justice is making a determination as to how we can secure tenure to the pothole lakes. There are a couple of reviews being done. I just donít know where theyíre at. It is something that weíve asked that they move forward on.
One of the suggestions is a licence of occupation. Leases are being considered, and all the options are being explored. I believe there is a team consisting of Justice and Environment now. I just donít know where that is at currently.
Ms. Duncan: Justice and Environment are presumably working with a series of recommendations from the public review committee and the input. Could we have a copy, or could the minister indicate if we could have a copy of the final recommendations and suggestions that this interdepartmental committee is working on? It sounds like theyíre considering providing some form of tenure to those who are using these pothole lakes. The question, of course, is: who owns the fish in them? Who has the right to fish for those fish? How do we regulate and deal with this issue?
The policy framework was to be developed by a working group composed of fish farmers, the Fish and Game Association, Environment Yukon, RRCs and First Nation governments. Environment and Justice are working on a series of recommendations. Can we have a copy of the recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: When theyíre available, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Well, they must be available now, if Environment and Justice are working on something, based on these recommendations. Or have they not concluded their work?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All of the above. Itís still a work in progress, itís still in draft form and they are still working on it.
Ms. Duncan: What is the time frame for a draft policy, then, to go to Cabinet? What is the time frame for this work to be concluded?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Like a lot of initiatives, I thought it would have been done by now, but obviously we have run into a few glitches. We have had to step back and have officials re-examine a number of areas. The member opposite is cognizant of those areas because she raised some very good points in her preamble.
Ms. Duncan: What happens in the meantime? What do fish farmers who want to use these pothole lakes ó presumably they are operating now in an era of uncertainty, without any policy or guidelines. They only have the knowledge that this working group is out there. That kind of uncertainty can lead to fractious relationships between the fish farmer and those who like to fish in a lake that is being used by the fish farmer to raise their product. What do both sides do right now?
I take it from the ministerís answer that it is a work in progress but that there is no fixed time frame for a report back. What rules apply now?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The same as it has been under the previous Liberal government, the NDP government. These are federal rules, and the ownership of fish in pothole lakes is a national issue. It is under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Mr. Chair. The way the Yukon works in many respects is via delegated authority under the federal Fisheries Act to Yukon. In fact, if you want to look at the issue of granting of fishing licences here in the Yukon, that is done by way of a variance order under the federal Fisheries Act.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not going to get into a fishing argument with the minister opposite. Weíve had enough of the barbless versus barbed hook debates in this Legislature that went on for hours. I would just encourage the minister, the department and the working group composed of a number of Yukoners to continue their efforts in making the policy and encourage the minister to keep the House updated.
The minister had a great number of answers to a number of environment and other issues when he was in opposition, including a position with respect to a particular outfitting concession. Now, the last I heard, that issue was before the courts and then in abeyance for some time. I have asked the Minister of Justice for a list of outstanding court cases; I have yet to receive it. Where is this particular case now?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: My understanding is the same as it was at about a year ago. Itís before the courts.
Ms. Duncan: The minister when in opposition wanted to override that decision and give the concession back. Does he still feel that way?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What I feel, what I do not feel ó I suggest the member opposite is out on a fishing expedition. I have the law to uphold. A few years ago there was the issue of double jeopardy, but today the responsibilities are clearly vested in the minister of the day and I have an obligation to uphold the existing law and the regulations. I will do so. This matter is before the courts: I canít comment, I canít speculate.
Ms. Duncan: I would like the minister to somewhat speculate on the financial situation at the Yukon game preserve. The preserve revenues are down from what was originally projected, significantly down. Why were they so far off? How much is the game farm going to cost taxpayers this year? Thereís a capital investment but, in terms of O&M, what are the specific costs attached with this project?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is $459,000 for the Yukon Wildlife Preserve operating society. This is the total amount of their operating costs for the year.
Ms. Duncan: The capital infrastructure costs of the double fencing that the minister mentioned in his opening remarks, thatís over and above the $459,000?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Ms. Duncan: I didnít hear in the Member for Vuntut Gwitchinís general debate ó perhaps I missed it ó what is the current status of discussions with owners of the reindeer herd?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are no discussions with the owners of the reindeer herd. They appear to have surrendered the reindeer herd to Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: There are no discussions with respect to the years and years of care and the governmentís initial support for this project and the historic value of the herd? There are no ongoing discussions at all? The government is just continuing care and control of this historic reindeer herd?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me share with the member opposite what has transpired to date. A vet has been engaged; the herd has been moved to a different compound under the care and control of the department; the vet examined the herd; as a result, a number of reindeer were put down. The results of further tests are forthcoming. BDO Dunwoody has been engaged to determine the value of the herd and, hopefully in short order, the government will be in contact with the owners of this reindeer herd and provide them with an offer and a letter setting out our position.
Ms. Duncan: If itís not too difficult for the minister or not breaching any confidentiality, why was it a requirement that some of the reindeer had to be put down?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: By and large on the advice and suggestion of the owners of the reindeer herd.
Ms. Duncan: The Marwell tar pits cleanup is, I understand, the responsibility of this department. What is the progress on that cleanup?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I personally have had correspondence with the federal minister in this regard, seeking access to the funding for this purpose ó cleaning up contaminated sites. We are still waiting to hear back from the federal government as to how much they are going to allocate for this specific initiative.
Ms. Duncan: So we wonít be proceeding until we have the money or a response from the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre developing a plan as to how to address it. I donít know where itís at right now. We are moving forward, but the total cost of remediation is significant. Itís going to be taking place over a period of time. The federal government has made an announcement as to the millions of dollars that will be available for that purpose, but the difficult task that our government is faced with is getting the cheque. The federal Liberal government has acknowledged it as their responsibility. It fits into the parameters. We have to have an ongoing dialogue with them until they come forward with some funding.
The member opposite knows the precarious state of the Liberal government currently, and a lot of their funds havenít been approved. Everything contained within our budget is money we have received from Ottawa. We are not waiting on further approvals from the passing or not passing of the federal budget.
As it stands today, we are working with the federal government, hoping they will come forward and provide the money necessary to clean up the Marwell tar pits.
Ms. Duncan: Am I to understand, then, that there is no money currently in this budget for the clean-up of the Marwell tar pits because weíre waiting for a response from the federal government? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member is absolutely correct.
Ms. Duncan: How much have we asked Ottawa for to start with on this initiative? We canít just go and ask for a blank cheque, so we must have asked for a specific amount. What was the figure?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This area is under federal contaminated sites legislation. If we were to enter onto the property, we would be totally responsible for the remedial undertaking of any difficulties that may be contained on that land. The federal government has been encouraged to move forward and come and identify, through their process, what itís going to take, how much money itís going to take, and provide those funds either to ourselves or to a third party to move forward on this initiative.
To date, it has been an uphill battle for me and the department to lobby the federal government to get them to address their responsibility in this area.
Ms. Duncan: Earlier this afternoon, we had a discussion about the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. That was transferred from Energy, Mines and Resources to Economic Development and Environment. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources encouraged those of us in the House to take up the issue with the Minister of Environment. What tasks are going to be assigned to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to review on behalf of the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:††††† One of the initiatives weíre looking at very quickly is the development of the Yukon conservation strategy and a process to bring that up to date to incorporate into the Yukon conservation strategy the issue of climate change, the issue of contaminated sites and the issue of building databases across the Department of Environment.
Ms. Duncan: When does the minister anticipate assigning this task to YCEE?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíve had a number of discussions with the chair. We hope to convey the information after all the appropriate steps are taken sometime this budget cycle.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister clarify what he means by ďall the appropriate steps are takenĒ?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have to outline in specific terms what we are requesting the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to do, and we have to define those and suggest to them a process that they may follow, but hereís what we want as the Department of Environment, hereís what we require, and here is how we suggest you go about it. How they go about it will be more or less their determination, but we have to be specific as to the issues we want the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to address, and weíre determining that now.
Ms. Duncan: I was just seeking clarification as to whether or not one of those appropriate steps was ensuring that all vacancies are filled, if there are any, on YCEE. I havenít followed that as closely as I have followed the number of vacancies on renewable resource councils. There were 17 vacancies at last count. It may be that there was a recent order-in-council that filled a number of these, but thatís very, very difficult for the RRCs because theyíre being asked to review such things as forestry legislation. Thatís a hard thing to do when you donít have all the vacancies filled.
For the public record, I would just like to remind the minister that these are very important boards to the Yukon and he needs to ensure those vacancies are filled as soon as possible. Could he commit to that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue of 17 vacancies is incorrect. The government appointments move forward expeditiously. Where there have been some difficulties is the appointments we make on behalf of First Nations, and there is a lag in the correspondence on occasion from some of the First Nations. This leads to delay in making the appointments on behalf of that First Nation or, in a lot of cases, reappointments. We have a number of RRCs where, if we write to them in January, we donít hear back from them until March. Itís somewhat difficult, as the member opposite points out, but as of the end of March, I believe there were three vacancies on boards, unless weíve received some resignations just recently that I am not aware of.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I will forward that to the RRCs that have raised the concerns with me, and go back and look again at the list of appointments and the list of vacancies. Perhaps there is something that was not updated, but that was the last count we had in our office, and it was verified by members of the RRCs. It took the minister a long time. There was a real lag last year. It causes a great deal of concern for these boards that are tasked with some very important work on the governmentsí behalf ó First Nations and the Government of Yukon.
I would encourage the minister to ensure that the vacancies are filled as soon as possible.
The Tombstone Park visitor centre is scheduled to receive additional capital monies. When does the minister anticipate actually cutting the ribbon on the new visitor reception centre? It has been on the books for quite some time now.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This year.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you.
I have one final question and it relates to one of my favourite subjects in the Legislature, and thatís the issue of the territoryís campgrounds. Perhaps the minister missed the debate when I was speaking at length with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources about the spruce beetle. The recommendation that was made to the Department of Environment was that we do quite a public education campaign in our campgrounds, such as is done at the hospital. The Minister of Health will be very well aware every time he goes to the hospital that there are excellent public education campaigns about spreading germs, who can visit maternity and about the outbreak of SARS. We do a very good job at the hospital, and my compliments to the private sector that does that campaign ó itís very well done. We need a similar campaign about the spruce beetle and pine beetle and related issues, as well as about forest fires.
There has been very good public education regarding forest fires. For example, driving past Pelly, there is the Minto fire. There are very good panels on it. There are highway signs that have the fire, the date and some of the history, which is very useful. The minister thinks thatís funny, but there are people in the Yukon who appreciate it.
There is not a mention of a new campground. It has been a request by the community of Ross River for a additional campground facilities near Lapie River canyon. Are there any new campgrounds, and are there any significant campground improvements scheduled in this budget cycle?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I will just back up for a second, Mr. Chair, and ask the member opposite if she would be specific as to what renewable resource councils she was referring to that have vacancies on them and whether the vacancies are government appointments or First Nation appointments. That would allow us to delve into further detail on the issue of RRC appointments. If she could just send over that information to me when it is convenient, it will probably be received in due course.
I would like to compliment the previous Liberal administration on their tremendous improvements to signage around the Yukon. We now have a number of signs around the Yukon indicating where forest fires took place. That is almost the same as putting a sign up beside a lake and saying this is a lake. This is a mountain over here. So I would like to thank the member opposite for the tremendous efforts of her previous government on signage of forest fires. The one that the member opposite refers to is the 1969 fire in Pelly, which burned just a few short years ago in that area, again in the not-too-distant past.
So, that said, that line of logic is kind of interesting. We now know where forest fires took place so Iíd like to thank the member for her tremendous efforts on behalf of the travelling Yukon public to clearly point these out.
With respect to the parks around the Yukon, there are quite a number of them being opened. The scheduled opening date is May 20. A couple of the parks adjacent to lakes were opened this winter for the fishers so they could go ice fishing and park inside the park area. A number of the gates are now open on the parks where the parks are open. There are no amenities like firewood and the washrooms arenít completely equipped, but the parks themselves are open. We hope to get them open as soon as possible, as soon as the snow disappears.
The official opening is May 13. As I said earlier, a number of the parks are already open and available to the travelling public without all the amenities.
The major capital costs the department is incurring with respect to campgrounds and parks is going to be the Tombstone interpretive centre, and its site plan is pretty well established. The building is going to be constructed out of logs that the department purchased a number of years ago. They are already located in Dawson. Hopefully, the centre will be up and running late this season. There is a very good initiative underway between the parks branch and the TríondŽk HwŽchíin, who are in partnership with Holland America, for visitation into the park.
We can look forward to a very good working relationship developing and underway in this regard. It will provide opportunities for TríondŽk HwŽchíin to provide interpretive guides for Holland America and to take them into this beautiful area of the Yukon. For the park itself and the campground itself, there are a number of changes that will take place. What is being considered and looked at is a wider access and a bus-turning area. There are a number of coaches that will be travelling the Dempster, and Iím sure the Department of Highways and Public Works will be addressing their responsibilities.
Having travelled the Dempster usually once a year, it is a road that is quite well improved over the past few years, even on the N.W.T. side, Mr. Chair. It is pretty interesting when one compares it to the haul road up north of Fairbanks to Deadhorse. It is a very good comparison, when one has an opportunity to travel both of these routes and see what the respective parks branch has done ó at the Arctic Circle, for example, with kiosk and interpretive signage.
The whole area of the north is going to be, in my opinion, receiving more and more visitation and more and more attention in the next little while. Itís one of the areas that people like to visit and not just in the summer season. Weíve recently had movie crews that have spent some time on the Dempster. Itís through the tremendous efforts of the Department of Tourism and various agencies that all of this has come to fruition. We have a great beautiful area. We have a lot of opportunities. Itís to take those opportunities and translate them into opportunities for all Yukoners.
With respect to Tombstone Park, that was created out of a land claims agreement, and that land claims agreement saw the creation of Tombstone Park.
The management plan is currently being worked on cooperatively between the Department of Environment, our parks people and the TríondŽk HwŽchíin. Iím hoping to see that in place in the not-too-distant future.
I think that overall under the Yukon Party watch, the number of parks created will be quite substantial. There is the Fishing Branch, Tombstone and Kusawa. All of them are being worked on as we speak. The Fishing Branch is in place. Its management plan is in place. Tombstone has been established and the management plan is forthcoming.
These are economic opportunities that present a wonderful advantage to our First Nation people and population. I encourage them to seize the opportunity and move forward with it. Iím encouraged by what the TríondŽk HwŽchíin have done in this regard. Weíre hoping to see that duplicated in a number of other areas in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May we have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: 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?
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 11, 2005:
Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund 2002-03 Annual Report† (Edzerza)
Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund 2003-04 Annual Report† (Edzerza)
Economic Development, contracts for: April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005. Prepared by Corporate Services, Highways and Public Works† (Kenyon)